Flying High With Social NetworkingBy Samuel Greengard Print
American Express Business Travel has built an industrywide community where anyone in the travel industry can exchange information and interact with others in the value chain.
Few industries have witnessed as radical a transformation as travel agencies and services. In little more than a decade, paper tickets have all but disappeared, bookings have migrated online and value-added services have become essential for survival.
What hasn’t changed is the way most agencies interact with customers. Phone, e-mail and newsletters serve as the backbone for these interactions.
“There’s been very little change in the tactics used to communicate with employees, clients, prospects and the media,” observes Alicia Tillman, vice president at American Express Business Travel. With $26.4 billion in global travel sales in 2007, the company is firmly entrenched as the world’s largest travel management enterprise. So when it sets out to transform the way it communicates with the travel community, the industry pays close attention.
Last year, New York-based American Express Business Travel decided to get social—as in social networking. This past October, the company unveiled a new business-to-business site, Business Travel ConneXion, which offers news, blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, discussion boards, polls, a resource library and benchmarking tools.
“We’re looking for a way to share information and keep people engaged,” Tillman says.
A lot of work went into building the site and putting all the pieces in place: Business Travel ConneXion required months of planning and programming. American Express had to find a partner that could build the required services and functionality. Then the company needed to locate industry experts willing to blog and create content. Finally, it had to test everything to ensure that the site provided useful information in an attractive package.
“It’s been a learn-as-you-go process, but we realize that we have only one chance to get this right,” Tillman says.
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