Professional social network LinkedIn is hoping to establish a greater presence in the UK travel industry touting its ability to offer a more targeted audience for commercial partners.
Head of category Laurie Kirschner is to address the Travolution Summit on October 11 in a session focussing on social media and also involving TripAdvisor and Facebook.
Kirschner, who helped judge this year’s Travolution Awards, said it was still early days for travel firms seeking to take advantage of the network as a commercial opportunity.
But she said firms, including Marriott and Cathay Pacific, are pioneering use of the network with display advertising and by sponsoring certain targeted groups in the US.
Kirschner said LinkedIn offered access to a premium, highly qualified network of often affluent professionals for firms looking to drive business through advocacy and recommendation.
“Cathay Pacific wanted to push advocacy of their new business class service so they ran a campaign to really drive recommendations to a specific audience.
“Marriott in the US set up a sponsored group of ‘road warriors’ – on the road sales reps – and they were able to start a conversation about what they thought of the product.
“The group then takes on a life of its own with members swapping recommendations. This drives up loyalty to the Marriott brand. We are starting to talk about those kinds of things in the UK.
“The focus will be very much on the people who want to target the authenticity of our data, and see value in their marketing activity of the viral nature of their earned media.
“We are in talks with a few partners who will do some really inventive stuff and lots of people who will do very general company page recommendations.”
LinedIn is conscious of its reputation as a more professional social network and accepts it needs to be careful about how it introduces advertising into the mix.
But Kirschner said, done in the right way, its members will accept recommendations about certain products and services.
“It’s about allowing brands to reach consumers using our targeted capabilities. It’s utilising all the social and professional graph data that’s included in our profiles.
“We can also use information such as geographic location and make sure we are directing messages to the right people.”
Kirschner believes the luxury leisure sector represents a big opportunity, with members aspiring to holiday with brands successful professionals associate themselves with.
“We are all about making people more productive and successful [in their professional lives] but people are not driven to be more productive and successful for the sake of it.
“What success to them means is free time, the ability to take a nice holiday, or buy a nice car. Placing a consumer message in that space is aspirational, even if they are in a business connectivity mindset.
“We are very careful about what forms of advertising are used. The user always comes first, we will never have anything that’s massively intrusive.
“The ads that perform best for us are the ones that are really integrated in the page and utilise the data we have – social ads that show people in a network who has recommended a product.
“That makes it more personal and it does not look like an ad. It brings it into your personal network.”
Kirschner believes LinkedIn is clearly differentiated from competing social networks like Facebook, saying simply: “You would not want your Friday night to meet your Monday morning”.
While both Facebook and Google Plus have attempted to address that problem with custom filters such as Google’s Circles, Kirschner believes LinkedIn inhabits a distinct niche.
“My competitor pitch is against the likes of the Financial Times or the Economist. It’s more business-specific.
“Despite being able to compartmentalise, people are still way too concerned about information slipping through the cracks if you start pulling personal contacts into your professional network.”
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