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TripAdvisor’s Social Strategy: What does it mean for you? [Part 1]

Jamie Conroy is TripAdvisor’s Sr. Director of Social Product. We recently asked him some questions on how TripAdvisor’s social strategy has evolved over time. 

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I’ve been with TripAdvisor for four and half years and oversee our Social Product team. We’re focused on making trip planning a richer, more social experience, and are responsible for the on-site TripAdvisor Facebook integration, the TripAdvisor and Local Picks Facebook apps, as well as helping to expand our social features to every other part of TripAdvisor. Before TripAdvisor, I held various roles in the technology industry both in the US and overseas. Most recently, I ran the public web presence for ZoomInfo.

What’s the relationship between TripAdvisor and social media?

Jamie Conroy, TripAdvisor’s Sr. Director of Social Product

Jamie Conroy, TripAdvisor’s Sr. Director of Social Product

Travel is an inherently social activity. From pre-trip planning, to the trip itself, to sharing your experiences upon returning, travel is something you experience with other people. At its core, TripAdvisor is a social media site, and we focus on enabling and enhancing those types of social interactions. It’s a public forum where people write hotel reviews and property owners respond for everyone to see.

When did TripAdvisor first incorporate advice from a user’s friends? How has it evolved?

The first incarnation of highlighting friend travel advice was the TripAdvisor Traveler Network, which you’ve probably never heard of. The idea was to create a social network where travelers could connect with each other. Your connections’ content was surfaced to the top when you were browsing the site. It never caught on — people didn’t want to join yet another social network —they were quite happy at the time with MySpace and others! However, the underlying idea of combining opinions of friends with the deep base of TripAdvisor content of the “wisdom of the crowds” was very powerful. When Facebook came along, it offered a rapidly-growing network that we could use. So, we took a calculated risk and developed a new strategy around it.

Today, social media has really grown to be a mass-market channel. The depth and breadth of the wisdom of the crowds is no less important, but it’s now complimented by the wisdom of your friends. For example, if you’re planning a trip to Florence, we can tell you which of your friends have already been there, where they stayed, restaurants they loved, and can’t-miss attractions – powered by TripAdvisor content and the Facebook social graph. This functionality is really powerful to both travelers and property owners alike because it helps provide relevant content that may have been missed if a traveler didn’t know that one of her friends had been to Florence.

What is the TripAdvisor Facebook app? What’s the value for businesses?

Our Facebook app is based on the idea that travel helps to define who we are – where you’ve been, what you liked about the trip, where you’d like to go. These are all things that people want to share, want to tell their friends about.  And our Facebook app helps people tell their travel stories and share them with their personal social networks.

For businesses, the app, which is the most popular travel app on Facebook, broadens the reach of TripAdvisor content to the more than a billion monthly active users on Facebook. It makes it easier for users to develop and share with a wide range of friends, even when they’re not actively planning their next trip. It also may help to inspire that user’s friends who are ready to find their next getaway—a friend’s opinion is heavily weighted in travel planning.

What’s coming up for your team in the next six months?

Mobile continues to be a very strong focus for TripAdvisor and for my team as well. We’ll be looking to facilitate more social interaction on the mobile side. We’ll also continue to work on driving engagement with Facebook.

On a lighter note, what was your favorite vacation?

My favorite vacation was a three-week trip to New Zealand. It sounds like a lot of time, but my wife and I visited both the North and South Islands, and would have loved another three weeks to explore. It’s gorgeous – like walking through a movie set. The interesting thing was all of the extreme activities they offer: bungee jumping, jet boating, off-roading in canyons, adventure sports … All crazy ways to risk your life while being surrounded by the country’s beautiful scenery.

Check back soon for more from our interview with Jamie. He’ll share his insights on social media and its impact on the hospitality industry as well as tips for businesses. Part 2

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