Hotels, airlines and other segments of the multibillion-dollar travel industry are aggressively tapping into social media, ramping up their use of online sites such as Facebook and Twitter to build loyalty to their brands.
Airlines are maintaining a presence on YouTube and offering deals through social-mapping networks such as Loopt. Hotels are promoting their properties through bloggers, and they're using social-networking sites to gather feedback, monitor trends and provide concierge services.
"I definitely think that social media is about to change the way we do things entirely," says Jill Fletcher, social media and communications manager for Virgin America. "We're able to admit over social media if we've made a mistake or if there's a weather delay. So we're able to communicate much faster and more effectively."
Social media are being incorporated at a rapid rate into every part of a journey, from making the reservation to finding out where to eat. For instance:
•As of August, Delta passengers can buy tickets on Delta's Facebook page.
•Southwest has three staffers dedicated to monitoring and responding to queries made through social-media channels.