Social networking was the most popular online activity in 2011, and it will continue its momentum in 2012. As a consequence, many companies will include social networking features, to enhance user experience, and to keep up with an increasingly competitive market.
For the travel industry, 2011 was social as well, and here are the top 5 companies that make travel planning a fun social experience.
The most celebrated of all, Gogobot, helps travelers plan itineraries based on personal recommendations from friends and other travelers. Requests for recommendations can be asked directly on Gogobot, and via Facebook and Twitter. Based on these, and popular places for each destination, the user can browse the videos and plan a trip to suit personal tastes and preferences. And this is where the cool factor stops: although Gogobot does offer a “print” button, printed trip plans lack aesthetics, and come without maps.
This is where Stay.com scores bonus points. The travel site of 2010 according to TIME’s magazine, Stay.com offers a social experience too, by allowing collaborations on users’ custom destination guides. Unlike other sites, Stay.com harnesses the power of social network Facebook in a more private way: only confirmed friends can receive requests for suggestions. The coolest thing about Stay.com is that the map itself becomes a social experience: users have to use the map to suggest a place for their friends’ travel guides.
As Stay.com uses both Google Places and its own proprietary search engine, users can find any business registered in the city on the map. Even personal places can be suggested (like home addresses) – simply by dragging-and-dropping a marker onto the map.
The media darling of 2011, Wanderfly has recently partnered with New York Times Travel, to offer destination recommendations. But beyond strategic media partnerships, Wanderfly can be described as an “inspiration platform” that managed to influence 4 million trips from users from 217 countries in 2011 alone. Even Wonderfly allows users to post on Facebook for advice, but the “social” experience is less obvious than on other networks. The inspiration comes mainly through content grabbed from Wanderfly partners like Rough Guides, foursquare, and others.
And speaking of foursquare, this is one of the most popular travel apps of the year, with thousands of users posting location updates via Facebook and Twitter. Like all of the above, foursquare allows people to create destination lists, but unlike many of them, it cannot be used to add your own destinations, unless you are on location and have the foursquare app enabled on your smartphone.
We cannot conclude the list without mentioning Schemer, Google’s own attempt to disrupt the social travel market. Still invite-only beta, Schemer will allow users to discover new things to do, share schemes with friends, and find destination ideas based on tips from Google+ friends, celebrities and travel experts such as travel writers, journalists, business owners, and so on.
2012 will certainly bring more players in the niche, and a vast array of tools to help people refine their travel experiences in new and innovative ways.