15 June 2010
According to comScore’s latest report on social networking activity in the Asia-Pacific region (excluding China) based on data from its World Metrix service, 50.8 per cent of the total online population in the Asia-Pacific region visited a social networking site in February 2010, reaching a total of 240.3 million visitors.
Facebook.com ranked as the top social network site across the majority of individual markets in the region. As of March 2010, Facebook had passed the 400 million mark with Indonesia at the top of the Asia list boasting over 20.7 million users! Philippines followed behind with over 11.5 million users.
The next most popular social media tool, Twitter, commands over 105.7 million users in Asia alone. It is an efficient and instantaneous way of interacting with customers and is used as both an adjunct to email marketing efforts and a customer communication tool. Tools like Twitter open the way for small businesses such as travel agencies with limited budget to propagate their content and promotions.
There is even a company, uSocial, an Australian social media marketing outfit that tracks down Twitter followers for a fee and followers can be bought in blocks of 1000 for about US$82.
Asians trust social media more than traditional media and enjoy creating content in comparison to their US counterparts. Worldwide, 58 per cent of travellers are influenced by user reviews, 47 per cent by product reviews and 99per cent are willing to pay an additional amount in fares after reading a positive user review.
According to a Lotame ID report on Travel Enthusiasts, they are likely to be ‘influencers’, empowered to persuade travellers and others’ opinions. Key findings from a PhoCus Wright paper on social media in the travel industry showed that 30 per cent of online travellers who use social networks report soliciting travel advice from their networks and those social networks are no longer just for teenagers or college campuses. Nearly 50 per cent of online travellers aged 35-64 have participated in a social network as have 29 per cent of seniors.
Brett Henry, VP marketing, Abacus International, says there is overwhelming evidence that travellers rely on social media for advice and to get feedback.
“Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have this huge opportunity to aggressively connect with travellers and value-add by providing pre-trip information and advice. The people going to social networks are no longer just the younger generation. Granted that in Asia, there is still a market for the 50s and above who are less Internet savvy and prefer to book offline. But if you project ahead, in a decade or less, the internet and social media savvy Generation C would be ruling
Half of all travellers in the same PhoCus Wright survey said that OTAs are influential versus only one third on traveller review websites – to shop for and purchase travel. In fact, OTAs such as Priceline are the largest producers of travellers’ review as compared to online travel review sites such as TripAdvisor.
In the first half of 2008, traveller reviews sites accounted for 51 per cent of traveller reviews and OTAs for 47 per cent; in the second half of 2009, OTAs accounted for 74 per cent of all traveller reviews.
Of all the general social networks, Facebook has been the primary driver behind the immense growth in immediate referrals. Conversion rates on immediate referrals from Facebook far exceed those from traveller review sites to both hotels and OTAs.