Social networking brings travel its greatest challenge

The online travel industry faces possibly its greatest challenge – and an opportunity to match – in working out how to exploit the social networking revolution that is changing the way people use the Internet, according to Cheapflights CEO David Soskin.

Soskin told the Travolution Autumn Conference there is no doubt that social networking sites like WAYN will be a “huge” recipient of travel advertising dollars, but there will have to be major advances in search technology if the industry is to address the head-ache of personalisation.

Soskin acknowledged the difficulty of pinning down personalised search in an industry that is so subject to the diversity of seasonal and consumer permutations.

“But social networking is personalisation,” he said. “Amazon does personalisation better than any of us in the travel industry.

“There are some interesting things going on but we aren’t there yet. It isn’t nearly good enough.”

One of the hurdles is that the social networking medium is changing so rapidly that nobody knows what the week’s hottest technology is, said Antony Mayfield, head of content and media at digital marketing specialist Spannerworks.

Mayfield said online travel companies must steep themselves in the social networks and learn from the format, adapting to the need to move quickly and create content that people want – very fast.

“Content needs to be set free so it can travel across the net and be used in all the ways that consumers want it. You need to be thinking about how you can create service offerings that can be imported to Facebook. Be useful to the networks and be prepared to adopt a pull rather than push model.”

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