The usage of "social media" has undergone explosive growth in recent months driven by what appears to be an almost insatiable desire to "stay connected." But how have these new forms of media influenced consumer choice when it comes to evaluating and purchasing travel services? The results of the most recent travelhorizons survey, co-authored every 90 days by Ypartnership and the U.S. Travel Association, reveal some intriguing insights.
According to the nationally representative survey of just over 2,200 U.S. adults that was conducted in October 2009, almost six out of 10 (59 percent) of active travelers have visited a social networking site. Their most popular activities while on these sites include uploading photos/videos (49 percent) and rating products or services (46 percent). Roughly one-quarter have visited a chat room and/or posted content to a blog. Nearly half (46 percent) check new postings to their site(s) at least once a day.
Facebook enjoys the highest incidence of visitation (almost half of active travelers have visited, and fully one-third have posted a personal page), while roughly one-quarter of active travelers have visited MySpace. Both percentages are up significantly from just one year ago. And when it comes to searching social sites for content, the incidence of visiting YouTube eclipses that of TripAdvisor by a wide margin.
But to what extent does the content found on these sites influence consumer choice when it comes to the evaluation and selection of travel service suppliers? Right now, not much, because site visitation for travel planning purposes remains quite low. By way of illustration, only one in 10 Facebook users seeks advice about either destinations or travel service suppliers, and just one in 20 has joined a community of users who share common travel interests:
* 11 percent ask advice about a destination
* 8 percent ask advice about a travel supplier
* 6 percent learn about travel deals
* 5 percent get updates on destinations and travel suppliers
* 5 percent have joined a community with like travel interests
That's today, however. How quickly this may change is a matter of considerable speculation given the remarkable rate of penetration these sites have achieved in such a short period of time. Yet, for now, consumers continue to seek and respond to information about travel services and suppliers from more established offline and online media sources.