Very few social driven websites demonstrate the effects of customer engagement like TripAdvisor.com. This community based website features the results and ratings of consumer experiences at many Hotels, Resorts, Restaurants and Holiday package destinations. All of these reviews are online, for any potential traveler to see and review. With links to Facebook, Twitter and Travel Forums, it has become the leading go-to website for travelers and deal-seekers worldwide. Few vacationers consider purchasing a vacation package, or book a campsite even, without first looking it up online. TripAdvisor has become the vanguard internet site in this regard.
TripAdvisor claims to be the most popular and largest travel community site in the world, with more than 32 million members and over 100 million reviews and opinions of hotels, restaurants, attractions and other travel-related experiences. As part of a larger group of destination and travel websites, TripAdvisor boasts a beehive of trustworthy and honest reviews. TripAdvisor, as a user generated forum, pushes the boundaries of transparency in social media, by putting the consumer in the position of reviewing and choosing the product they deem the best. A poor result, will no doubt result in less bookings and interest, therefore, providers are compelled to respond quickly to bad reviews and are encouraged to provide good service from the get-go, not knowing who may be watching and, indeed, who may be reviewing their service.
One might consider TripAdvisor as an independent review based community, however recent tie ins with American Express and even a spinoff of an independent IPO, raise the question as to whether consumers can really trust the apparently ‘Social’ driven platform as being independent. Or is it merely an otherwise ‘commercially’ driven enterprise, created to ‘drive-sales’, ‘generate business’ and obscure the reality of the experience. Coupled with the accusations for allowing unsubstantiated anonymous reviews to be posted, and hotels bribing guests to leave positive reviews, users should perhaps be wary of so called user-generated content.
Live Free or?
If consumers are to believe that peer based reviews and communities are independent of commercialization, perhaps brands should distance themselves from the conversation, for better or worse, and let the community decide who is best. How long until most free social media platforms become mere commercial, even ’user fee’ driven commercialized media. The jury is still out, however, if you are planning a nice trip or a vacation package, who would balk at the chance to see what others are saying, or even, score a good deal??
Lessons for others:
-The customer is always watching, and reviewing.
-Transparency will find business, no matter what
-Trust is earned
Submitted by: Dave Mazur – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo.
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.