[caption id="attachment_4936" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Vtravelled ad in Virgin in-flight magazine"]
Virgin Atlantic is embarking on a new round of development work for its much-hyped VTravelled social network and says only after that will it focus its marketing efforts on passengers.
The site was launched in June 2009 to coincide with the 25th birthday of the airline and aimed to be a destination guide-trip planner coupled with sharing facilities for user generated content and photographs.
Virgin will not say how many people are registered with the site ("we have increased registrations by 55%") but those listed on the site stretching from before VTravelled launched to December 2009 reach around 1,660.
NB: Virgin assures us that this figure is only those that registered to have public profiles.
Officials say "communications have been focused primarily on our staff and crew" as well full page ads in the airline's in-flight magazines.
Creative director for Virgin, Lysette Gauna, says the aim of the first phase is to evaluate how users interact with the site and obtain feedback before launching a second wave of development, scheduled for completion by March 2010.
"Lots of travellers have already registered on the site but we do not have set targets in this first phase as the objective has been to work with the founding community to determine what needs to be done in order to deliver an experience that really does take the frustration out of planning and sharing travel."
Virgin also says that it has bought in some travel content for its country destination guides, rather than solely rely on the site being wholly user generated.
VTravelled, first announced in January this year, followed the launch of a similar attempt by bitter rival British Airways to introduce a digital social networking service for passengers under the MetroTwin brand.
Built on the principle of connecting travellers on a single route (London to New York), rather than an entire network, MetroTwin has since launched a sister site MetroTwin Mumbai.
Although it is uncertain - given the somewhat suck-it-and-see approach by airlines so far - whether 1,660 registrations is a solid number for the five months from launch, some social-based experiments in travel are looking a long way from the panacea of engagement many thought they would be.
The fantastic-looking hotel review site, Oyster, which also launched with a fair heap of PR around it over the summer this year, is reported this week to be laying off those that were supposed to be driving the strategy which would make it different from the likes of TripAdvisor et al.