No longer just a buzz word or misunderstood trend, social media is here to stay, and it is affecting business travel dramatically. As the traveler demographics bell curve continues to swing towards a younger generation, social media is becoming a prominent part of business travel. But the question is: how will it be integrated into corporate travel, and more importantly what kind of role will it play in a managed travel program?
Travel managers, along with TMCs, have been searching for a clear answer to applying social media practices to managed travel programs. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” approach. The application of social media to travel programs will vary from company to company as variables such as demographics, culture, social media policy, corporate image, and software utilities need to be taken into account.
Whether or not your company is offering any sort of solution to your travelers, they are using social media. With nearly 20,000 travel apps in existence and countless ways to utilize traditional social media for travel, they have many options.
Universal adoption of these media to a corporate travel population has been a hurdle for many solutions such as TripIt. As Concur bundles the TripIt solution to their customers, the ball is now in the court of the travel manager to encourage travelers to utilize the tool on his or her own to manage itinerary. Many companies have seen low adoption rates to these technologies at the start, but as churn continues to the younger generation this is expected to increase.
Getting travelers on board is the key to success when rolling out a social media application in a travel environment, and this can only be achieved by showing the travelers the “WIIFM”, or “What’s in it for me?” factor. There will always be some hand-holding when a new technology is introduced.
Security & Duty of Care
One way travel managers are taking advantage of social media is by improving security and focusing more on duty of care. Many social media and apps are offering tools on how to help keep travelers safe on the road; GPS signals sent from most electronic devices are utilized. They offer travel managers the ability to locate travelers in an emergency and send communications when phone networks may be down.
The constant stream of information doesn’t stop at status updates. There are a multitude of social media and applications that give your travelers the ability to reduce stress on the road by avoiding traffic, finding places to eat, tracking flights or booking last minute hotel rooms.
Travelers have a culture of their own, and sometimes it doesn’t match that of their counterparts back home. Some social media, aimed at connecting like-minded travelers, can serve as a culture-building and collaborating tool, especially when administered by a travel manager or influenced by human resources. These media can connect travelers that are from the same company during trips and boost morale.
The social media solution to compliance issues are simple: communication. All social media in a travel program serve as a direct communication tool to travelers. If travel managers can utilize social media to communicate better with their travelers, compliance will naturally increase. According to an Invoke Media Study, 60% of business travelers prefer to stay in contact with family and friends on trip via social media than over phone or email. Traveler managers can utilize their travelers preferred method of media to offer a two-way communication path. This may be as simple as setting up a private Twitter account and inviting only travelers to join and tweet during their trips.
Data & Analysis
Enterprise social media solutions for travel programs can offer improved business intelligence and predictive analytics. A function of big data, these solutions can offer insight to a traveler’s behavior to better understand preferences. With these unique data points, travel managers can better streamline their travel programs and find ways to reduce costs.
Social media is a powerful and ever-changing tool. With new utilities popping up almost daily, keeping up can be a challenge. Despite this, staying current is essential when integrating into a travel program. These tools will not only improve the experience for travelers, but also improve travel programs and potentially make a travel manager’s life easier. The challenge is choosing what media to implement. While there are so many practices, travel managers must consult the habit of their travelers and consider what’s best for their program prior to roll out. Take solace in the fact that all travel managers face the same hurdles, and that ACTE is providing excellent insight into better practices.
This article is also published on the ACTE Connect site for access by ACTE members.