Businesses have increasingly climbed onto the social networking opportunity in recent years, promoting their brands on sites including Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. The latest entrants in significant numbers are the online travel websites in India, leveraging themselves to engage fans to vote in contests to decide the most popular vacation spots, and promote air and hotel deals to those destinations.
These businesses are planning such engagements during vacations and sending deals to their followers every day along with trip tips.
“You need to capitalise on the social networking tools that are available today, and keep abreast of the new trends as they happen. If you do not have a Facebook page, you're probably not worth looking at,” said Nikhil Ganju, country manager, TripAdvisor.Most of the travel websites are introducing a social networking tool on their own websites where the purchase of a deal or the other details of the package can be shared with Facebook and Twitter friends.
“We already have a social networking tool and a single click takes us across hundreds of consumers,” said Ganju.
Expedia, the world's largest online travel agency (OTA), counts more than 11,21,651 fans on its Facebook fan page. It also uses Facebook to build a community of reader comments and feedback about travel opinions and tips. “We are trying to build long-lasting relationships with the much more evolved consumer. Reading reviews by friends (for a certain destination) are obviously more trustworthy than a review website. Incorporation of social media through a tool at our site brings in the trust factor," said Manmeet Ahluwalia, marketing head, Expedia India.
According to Hrush Bhat, founder, Cleartrip, a local travel website, consumption of travel information through such social networking is more of a conversation driver and then a sales promoter. “Consider this: a consumer plans a package with us and posts it on Facebook. A bunch of other friends may plan to go with him or separately after reading his post or link. That adds to our consumers or at least creates a tickle,” said Bhat.
Most of the OTA companies including Expedia, Yatra, Cleartrip and Trip Advisor use Twitter to tweet travel deals that alert followers to nationally-promoted sales. Expedia and Travelocity also use social media as a means to improve their customer service. As competition and growth for travel websites intensify, there are bound to be more and varied activity on social networking sites.