New Insights for Corporate Use of Social Media

New research by American Express Business Travel (AEBT) found that corporate travel professionals are increasingly using social media to communicate with travelers and to stay on top of latest travel industry information.

The new survey found that half of the respondents said that their company uses social media to some extent to support travel management. Mid-size companies ($3 millino to $10 million in air volume) were the largest adopters (59 percent) to date. Many respondents (44 percent) indicated that staying on top of the latest travel information was the most important social media benefit, AEBT said.

AEBT reports that respondents also held high expectations regarding their companies’ future social media usage plan, reporting that, within the next year, forums, webcasts, and online video are the most likely to be implemented by businesses.

“As businesses around the globe alter the way they communicate and receive information from clients and prospects, social media has also proven to be a useful and effective tool to share pertinent information with employees and drive change in organizations,” said Christa Degnan Manning, director, eXpert insights, AEBT.

Many respondents indicated that the primary benefit of social media in supporting managed travel is educating themselves or their organization about the market. In addition, 43 percent said suppored using social networking to learn and communicate best practices and reduce business travel costs, AEBT said.

Other findings include:

*    42 percent use social networking to look for preferred vendors and services from travelers
*    34 percent seek to uncover travel patterns that could lend to better vendor rates and services
*    27 percent look to gain visibility into traditionally siloed business functions/departments
*    26 percent use social media tools to encourage travelers to network with each other
*    18 percent network with other travel manager/procurement officer peers

Of those survey respondents who do use social media to support travel management, when asked specifically what features or functionality would they add if they could design their own social media tools for professional use, the majority (61 percent) indicated they wanted flexibility to accommodate business travel management processes. Other top ranking features/functionality include:

*    Real time updates such as mobile application, the ability to push out notifications and alerts (39 percent)
*    Supervision of the entire social media sharing process and specific monitoring of those who are using social media tools (35 percent)
*    Reporting ability – notification to website abuse, comments and security issues (29 percent)

Even though the global economic crisis curbed spending, financing was not the main social networking adoption barrier, AEBT reports. In fact, only six percent of respondents cited lack of funding as the most significant barrier or challenge to adopt social media tools.

The most significant barrier to adoption of social media as an organization has been the lack of direct benefits realization. Twenty percent found the business case for social media tools and usage within travel management programs unclear. Lack of strategy or understanding and lack of support from upper management each followed at 15 percent respectively.

Notably, only five percent of respondents indicated that they have had no barriers or challenges to adopt social media tools as an organization, AEBT said.

“While companies have a way to go to embrace widespread social media acceptance, they are very involved in evaluating how to use these new technologies rather than simply dismissing it particularly as younger generations enter the workforce and move up the corporate ladder,” said Manning.



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