Thursday, December 18, 2008

travel gets creative with social media

Today, two travel-industry social networks came across my desk and I think they're great examples of putting social networking to use as a creative communications tool. The first--thanks to @guykawaski on Twitter--is a closed social network for guests who've reserved rooms at New York City's Pod Hotel. Designed for use in the pre-arrival stage, the network uses passwords for access and allows guests to connect with other guests, suggesting restaurants, meetups and events they can share. The connectivity has boosted revenues as much as 40 percent this year--with no additional public relations effort. Users lose their access once they register for their stay in person, but can re-enter once they make another reservation. I can see this concept -- a temporary network -- working for professional conferences or any other situation in which people will be gathering in person for a limited period of time. It also combines the best of the high-tech-plus-high-touch approach to social networking by helping people to meet in person, or just get more knowledgeable about their surroundings on a visit.

The second creative idea landed in my email in-box from Amtrak Guest Rewards, a frequent-travel program I belong to. The email offered that I could "make a snowflake" if I clicked through and opened my holiday card. When I did, I found this site (see screenshot above) with interactive tools to help you cut out an electronic version of a paper snowflake and post it with a message. You can search for specific creations or just click on any of the animated falling snowflakes in the landscape opens up another member's artwork and message; email your snowflake to friends and, by providing your email, get responses from other users to your effort; and see how many have been created. While this is just a game, it got my attention. Too bad Amtrak didn't make this part of its Guest Rewards website, so anyone could see it--even if only members can make a snowflake, the engaging animation might've attracted more memberships. But this promotion excels at drawing in consumers and giving them the chance to contribute and share content (can snowflakes be content?), two basic premises that drive social media as communications tools.

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