Travel marketers find social media just peachy

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					Travel marketers find social media just
By: Dianna Dilworth
June 09 2008

As Summer nears, travel marketers are pushing deals online, using social aspects of travel to
convince consumers to spend on a summer vacation.

The Georgia Tourism Board has revamped its travel site to make it more about the social
experience. “The consumer really wanted us to plan their trips for them and provide them
information like they'd find on Trip Advisor,” said Fred Huff, marketing director at Georgia's
Department of Economic Development. “They wanted to have a reason to come back again,
rather than just an online brochure.”

The site features potential in-state trip ideas. Much of this information has been collected by
other travelers. As the site is updated this summer, it will allow consumers to share their favorite
photos from trips and write captions for existing photos. A contest for the best photos and
captions is also in the works.

The state is also using MySpace pages to connect with potential travelers. Georgia will have a
MySpace page for each of the nine different regions of the state. “This makes it a little more
familiar and less institutionalized,” said Huff.

Pushing travel via social networks is nothing new. “Travel is by its nature a social experience
and [people] embrace it along with fellow travelers and then come back and talk about it,” said
Raghu Kakarala, VP of strategy for Engauge Digital.

Another example of the vertical going digital is on Facebook. STA Travel began using the site
with a sponsored group in March 2007. The student travel site has had a Facebook profile since
fall 2006 that now has almost 20,000 friends.

“We are focused on the student and youth market,” said Kristen Celko, VP of marketing and e-
commerce for North American headquarters at STA. “When we first got started, we were hoping
to push transactions, but over time found that the benefits are more about branding.”

STA uses Facebook to spread the word about its monthly ticket giveaways. On STA, students can create profiles and share experiences about travel via photos, videos,
blogs and a Q&A board. The site was created by the Night Agency in New York. membership has surpassed its Facebook profile members, reaching more than

The site is not transactional, but it does list product specials. “There is a tremendous amount of
research that you do up front when you are planning travel,” said Celko. “It's a place where
people can get recommendations and advice from other travelers.”