Social networking and social media have become the business buzzwords of the 21st century. Even when we started WAYN back in 2002, in the hangover period of the bubble bursting, the internet was still very much the platform of choice for most business innovations.

The internet allowed people to find information, draw comparisons and discriminate based on price, quality, features and service by simply finding the different sites that offered that product or service and making a comparison with a click of a mouse.
Google led the way by dominating Search, and it soon became a requirement for every business to become an expert in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

That appetite and interest remains in place today, as search and search referral traffic have become the staple way for people to find what they are looking for. However, social is the next step and offers something truly different. Facebook is the probably the most notable as one of the world’s most visited sites – so popular they made a film about it! But why has social media proved so popular? As a social species, it allows us to tap in to the ego, has become an extension of status and taps in to an inherent primary need to belong and for recognition of personal success.

Why does investment in social media drive influence in travel buying decisions?
1.    Recommendations from friends help define where to go, what to do and who to meet
2.    Reciprocity drives engagement. Engaging with prospective and existing customers is key to influencing decisions and understanding what they want
3.    Authority leads to credibility and brand reputation. Gaining a huge following and popularity are good indicators of this
4.    Scarcity – offering things only to those who are in the top bracket (Mayors, VIPs etc.) drives advocacy.
5.    Advocacy – getting others to vouch for you, is the best form of referral as it appears objective and independent

When it comes to adding social to our business strategies, we still have a lot to learn about the clear financial return it delivers but its importance is evidenced by the current share price of Facebook and Linkedin. Ignore it at your peril.

How useful is it really? That depends on how well you navigate the social waters. Reputations, as we know, can take years to build and can be lost in a second. One thing we can be sure of, the potential to influence consumer behaviour is huge…

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