I often write about how social media can help your voluntour organization attract new volunteers, but unfortunately the effect is relatively unquantifiable. It is difficult to discern what factors are inspiring volunteers to travel. Is it the company’s website, their twitter feed, word of mouth, or Facebook? Organizations struggle to keep up with all of the latest tools, convinced that they’re working… somehow. But, according to some, it’s not impossible to quantify the effect of social media on travel booking, it just requires a bit of a shift in the way we think about our measurements. It’s more about measuring activity and interest than it is about identifying a direct link between fans and customers. So, it would rather obviously follow that the more you can inspire engagement, the better. There are also some exciting new tools available for measuring engagement—from KLM’s Meet & Seat application to Trippy which allows users to solicit advice from friends about their travel plans.
Reuters recently reported on a company called Bmibaby, a budget British airline that flies to destinations in the UK and Europe. They flew users of Instagram to Amsterdam (say that ten times fast) so they could use the photo-sharing app to conduct a photo walk around the city. “We measure the effectiveness of our social media through levels of engagement, rather than ‘bums on seats’,” said Julian Carr, Managing Director of Bmibaby. This makes intuitive sense: social media creates buzz and that leads to popularity. Surely, Bmibaby can look at trends over time and see how a greater social media effort has resulted in more sales. But they are also soliciting interest by partnering with Instagram—another popular social media tool. And, in a further demonstration of cleverness: They used the Instagram images generated on the trip on their website to inspire future travelers.
Meet & Seat and Trippy work on multiple levels. For example, they integrate social media into their existing infrastructures by involving Facebook in the booking process. They improve engagement by giving users cool new ways to involve friends in their travel plans and to meet people as they travel. They also generate data… cold, hard facts about who is using the applications, how often, what their preferences are, and whether or not they follow up with a booking. This is the information travel companies have been missing in the social media universe (and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that it gives me some privacy-related pause). Still, with data like this it becomes possible to accurately understand how effective social media is—what tools work and what tools don’t—so a company can focus their efforts on the most productive platforms.