Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Say what you like about social networks - they are popular and travel can surely find a way to harness their potential

Ok, it seems like there are two camps of Facebook people at the moment: there are those that have completely embraced the concept and also those that use it by are trying desperately hard to find ways to criticise it and predict its imminent demise.

Let the debate amongst new media and travel professionals continue, but for a second take a look at some incredible statistics out of the US this evening regarding the phenomenal growth of Facebook and other social networking sites.

The latest figures from Comscore show sites such as Facebook have seen monthly user numbers leap from 14 million in June 2006 to 52 million just a year later (that's a rise of 270%).

Even MySpace, which here in the UK is in danger of losing its way/being overshadowed by Facebook, has seen numbers globally increase to 114 million from 66 million over the same period.

Hi5 is up 56%. Friendster 65%. Orkut 78%. Bebo 172%.

Bob Ivins from ComScore hits the nail on the head here:

“A fundamental aspect of the success of social networking sites is cultural relevance.

“Those doing well in certain regions are likely doing an effective job of communicating appropriately with those regions’ specific populations.

"As social networking continues to evolve, it will be exciting to see if networks are able to cross cultural barriers and bring people from different corners of the globe together in fulfilling the truest ideals of social networking.”

For travel brands there must be a way to seize upon this growth (and opportunity) with more than applications in Facebook and pages on MySpace.

We wrote about this a few weeks back, following comments from Alex Bainbridge.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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Sam I Am said...

There's a few examples of travel apps within FB where you can already see how travel sites have harnassed the power of these numbers.

Travbuddy is a great example. Before their 'visited countries' app, they had maybe 60 000 members from 2-3 years of running. 3 or 4 weeks later they have nearly 800 000 registered members! The hardest part is to get the users who register on your site as part of adding the app, to actually start using YOUR site, instead of FB (or any other referrer). I'm not sure how many blogs were started on travbuddy before their FB app, but they've got about 10 000 started now according to their home page, so the difference in user interaction is phenomenal. That said, if you need a way to boost membership numbers quickly (looking at a sale perhaps?) it's a very smart way to go!

From a personal pov, I can echo similar experiences from Travellerspoint where, although our app is not nearly as popular as the travbuddy one (both later to the game and extra work involved for members setting up trips decently), membership numbers have never been this high, but takeup in other areas of the site lags.

All things considered though, a great way to get the brand name out and let's face it, Facebook wins big time on this too with all the free apps + hosting costs covered by the developers. Smart move by them without a doubt :)

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