With almost 1 in every 4 UK holidaymakers using Tripadvisor to research their holiday before booking, the success of TripAdvisor is undeniable in terms of SEO value, word-of-mouth and trusted reviews. And the valuation of TripAdvisor at nearly $4bn is testament to its success as a social travel site, highlighting the value of social media for the travel industry.
Although Expedia no longer has the main social arm of their business, this doesn’t mean they’re abandoning social media altogether; quiet the opposite in fact.
In a recent article in Businessweek, Expedia highlighted how it hopes to use the power of social media to re-design the way people shop for their holidays by incorporating transactions into a marketplace driven by social networks.
With people trusting their friends opinions more than that of a company, Expedia is trying to emulate in the travel industry what Amazon has done in the consumer space with regards to personalisation and recommendations.
Expedias goal is to make planning the entire trip – from flights to hotel to transportation, to restaurant selections and amusement park tickets – an integrated shopping experience.
For example, say your family is planning a trip to Mexico. After booking flights, your hotel search would incorporate friends views on particular properties. If someone from your family had been to a particular restaurant, youd get their recommendation or caution. And all those Facebook photos that people post after a trip? Expedia want to mine those to help consumers make decisions about their own travels, just as TripAdvisor does with hotel shots its users submit.
In essence, this means your friends, family and social network connections become the equivalent of the traditional ‘bricks-and-mortar‘ travel agent, providing both timely advice and warnings about certain elements of your holiday.
Expedia also plan to harness the power of blogging more effectively too. Expanded posts on travel adventures, supplemented with user reviews and comments, might draw in more travellers. And while they aren’t looking to add a roster of bloggers to its payroll, the company is likely to fund trips for bloggers it deems influential. They they would then use the bloggers videos, photos, and writing on the Expedia site, without influencing content.
So what can other travel brands learn from Expedia? Given that there’s ever-growing research to support the fact that social media impacts holiday choices, travel and leisure brands need to think about their social media strategy and how effective it is at actually delivering value to their company. Still in its infancy, Expedia is really only focusing on two key areas of social media – customer ratings and reviews and influencer marketing through their proposed blogger programme. Travel and leisure brands would do well to follow Expedia’s example and to focus efforts on the specific areas of social media give real business benefits.