Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Social Networks and Travel Planning

With another summer weekend approaching, it seems a good time to think about travel. It’s pretty much accepted that the booking of travel has seen a huge shift to the web. When I ask my students they look at me like “is there any other way?” Penetration is not complete, however, as this recent chart from eMarketer (newsletter, June 3, 2008) shows. The Internet is a huge factor, whether or not travel is booked online. Describing results from a study of American families conducted by AOL the newsletter says that, “Almost three-quarters said they used the Internet for vacation planning. Of these Web-savvy consumers, 72% browsed search engines, 58% went to online booking sites, 26% visited consumer testimonial sites and 19% browsed travel information sites.” The web is clearly an important source for these family vacationers, and they are consulting user-generated content as well as travel industry content.

The social aspects of this reminded me of a site a friend brought to my attention when she was planning a business trip several weeks ago. Dopplr is a Finnish site; I was especially interested in the fact that the invitation was delivered by LinkedIn. When I investigated the site, I found that the site allows travelers to share itineries with contacts from Gmail and Facebook, and perhaps others—as well as from LinkedIn. Or you can invite people and create your own network on Dopplr (names in the graphic are not real names).
So this is clearly cool. Most of us have dined alone or attended a concert by ourselves in a strange city, so this is attractive. Whether it’s worth the effort is another question. My guess is that it is not unless you are extremely social or—more likely—a frequent traveler. It’s also nice to see who is going to be in your own city also in case you want to do some networking.

But something else occurred to me. A few companies have pages on LinkedIn; not long ago I wrote about Basho and their LinkedIn Group. It seemed like a cool idea to network B2B customers, but I couldn’t see that there was a lot going on. LinkedIn makes it possible to ask a question to find if contacts are going to be, say, at an upcoming conference. It clearly works but doesn’t seem terribly efficient. Among other things, it seems to depend on people checking their LinkedIn messages. I wonder how many others don’t do that very often.

I’m not sure exactly how to do it, but if a B2B firm or trade organization could use the Dopplr technology to allow people to network at conferences, that seems to be a useful addition to conference services. That would seem to be an idea whose time has come, and Dopplr appears to have the technology to do it!

2 comments:

Javier said...

Hi Mary Lou,

Wayn (http://www.wayn.com/) is another social network focused on travel that I found very interesting when doing the assignment research.

Id say this type of sites have enourmous growth potential and I reckon we will see some more entering the market, perhaps in association with some of the leading social networks.

Rdgs,

Javier Mendez

Mary Lou Roberts said...

That's an interesting site, Javier! Among other things they have an interesting approach to CRM and acquiring new members from their existing members. Travel is indeed more social these days!
ML