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.