Posted on 17 February 2009 by Norm Rose
In spite of tough economic times, the microblogging site Twitter continues to receive funding. I have to admit that even though I have a passion around all things related to emerging technologies, I have had some trouble understanding how Twitter fits into the mix and how it can impact the travel industry. That recently became much clearer.
The concept of microblogging began in March of 2006 when Facebook introduced status updates. Twitter came along in July of 2006. In May of 2008, Twitter raised 15 million and another $35 million in February 2009. Considering current economic conditions, many VCs still see an opportunity.
In an article on Techcrunch Erik Schonfeld begins with this question. ” What if you could peer into the thoughts of millions of people as they were thinking those thoughts or shortly thereafter?” He goes on to state that Twitter is the “crude beginnings of the “now” search engine.”
Mining twitter feeds may provide some insight, but from my perspective the interesting thing about Twitter is not so much the content but the influence the individual can have on any given subject provided enough people follow the person’s tweets. To me the main issue is around reputation within a social network.
Twitter’s impact was felt in a big way in late 2007 when Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook was being interviewed by Sarah Lacy of Business Week at the South by Southwest Interactive conference. The audience did not like the way Ms. Lacy was treating Mr. Zuckerberg and they immediately let the world know through Twitter.
The relationship between Twitter and blogging is also important. A blog allows a subject to be discussed in detail. A tweet can point to a blog article. Also I believe Twitter on mobile devices is a great match between device and application. Even with the most advanced smartphones, writing a blog entry on a mobile device is challenging. Writing a tweet on a smartphone is easy.
So what impact will Twitter and its corporate enterprise siblings, such as Yammer, have on the travel industry? The bottom line is that if a given individual has a strong opinion about something, the world soon learns this view provided the person has established themselves as a thought leader in the an industry sector or within the company. This has obvious implications for both suppliers and intermediaries in the travel industry. Long gone are the days of responding to customer complaints through standard form letters. People will voice their opinion immediately on Twitter and if they have a strong following, a given travel vendor’s product or service may be impacted by this influential person. As Twitter style applications come to the enterprise, influential tweets from key corporate players can also have a significant impact provided the person has a significant following within the company.
I have just begun to tweet myself and I hope to use the effort to provide some more instantaneous feedback on industry events.
Posted on 26 March 2008 by Norm Rose
American Airlines announced today the release of a widget for Facebook in an effort to “understand how consumers interact with one another”.” The tool allows Facebook users to share trips within their network and comment about their experiences. American has always been a leader online going all the way back to the late 1990s when they introduced an early attempt at personalization with BroadVision (later replaced by ATG) on AA.com. I doubt the agenda is really to understand customers as AA has extensive research on customer behavior both at AA.com and through more traditional survey methods. It is more likely the widget’s purpose is to understand how AA can work within a social network to help influence future bookings. AA is also working with Microsoft on delivering ads in Facebook. As with any social network effort, sometimes the results are not what the vendor expects. For example, here is the first comment on the TravelBag Facebook page: “The design sucks. It should allow the end user to control what shows on his/her profile page. Get rid of the goofy suitcase. It eats up about an inch of screen space and adds absolutely nothing to the user experience [just add “American Airlines” into the box title].” And this comment “Disappointed as a loyal AAdvantage member that this can’t pull in my existing reservations from AA.com.” These comments point to the challenges of creating widgets for social networking and the need to integrate the widget with the existing reservation process. That being said, I applaud AA’s effort to find a place within the expanding role of social networking.
Posted on 28 November 2007 by Norm Rose
Facebook’s attempt to exploit its social network for advertising purposes has raised some major concerns from their users. The Beacon advertising platform is designed to broadcast purchases made by users to their social network. The issue has been taken up by the progressive political organization, MoveOn.org claiming the program violates privacy. Over 50,000 Facebook users have signed the MoveOn.org petition complaining about the privacy issue. The primary problem seems to be in the opt-out strategy taken by Facebook. There is no question that social networks are here to stay and they do influence purchases, especially for travel. The “Where I’ve Been” application (now owned by Trip Advisor) has been one of the most successful applications on Facebook. Behavioural targeting is also becoming a mainstream advertising strategy that is designed to deliver specific content based on the implicit and explicit behavior of the user. Earlier this year one of the largest players in the behavioral targeting space, Tacoda, was purchased by AOL demonstrating the importance of this emerging advertising trend. Mobile advertising is beginning to become major force as well. Whether planning a complex vacation or buying a HDTV, the opinions of my friends and colleagues do make a difference. The key lesson here is that no matter what the platform (social networks, behavioural targeting or mobile advertising) the user must be in control. Opt-in is the key, not opt-out.
Posted on 15 October 2007 by Norm Rose
The BEAT recently covered my NBTA presentation on Web 2.0 and the release of my new study “Corporate Travel Technologies: Today and Tomorrow“. In the article Jay projects a somewhat skeptical view on whether social networking apps will ever appear in the corporate travel industry. I understand Jay’s skepticism. Throughout my 25 years in the corporate travel industry, I have seen many so-called revolutionary apps announced at trade shows, but never implemented. When it comes to social networking, this trend transcends any specific industry, and thus is a phenomenon that will impact all travel industry segments, even corporate travel! I was talking this morning with the CEO of a new European based social networking platform, Dopplr, that allows individuals to identify other people in their network who are traveling to the same destination. Dopplr’s focus is primarily on business travel. With recent PhoCusWright research that shows that 1/2 of all business trips include an extension for leisure activity, identifying other social networking contacts who are at the destination becomes important. Even from a pure business enterprise perspective, identifying other corporate employees who are at the same destination could have additional value for the traveler. Social Networking is here to stay. Still not convinced? Then perhaps it’s an age thing! PhoCusWright research also shows that people under 35 are much more familiar with social networking apps than those over 35. This generational gap will be most prominent when the current college age Facebook users enter the workforce.