TripAdvisor has announced plans to relaunch as a "travel feed", a personalized social media mash-up that delivers to members familiar Twitter-esque, Facebook-like pages. For TripAdvisor, it is creating a new publishing platform for travel brands in the process.
It’s a bold move away from TripAdvisor’s reviews wheelhouse and the ongoing arguments around the validity and veracity of the reviews posted on its site. It raises the question on whether TripAdvisor, like the social media giants, will be in a stronger position to defend itself when asked about responsible content curation.
The new platform is currently in beta, and will "launch globally to the public later this year across all markets and languages where the company operates." TripAdvisor has produced a video which gives an idea of the look, feel and functionality of the new site, based around a couple's trip to Nashville.
The official release from TripAdvisor also includes a link through to a video recording of the press conference announcing the launch.
The new platform expands the TripAdvisor community to include brands, influencers, publishers and friends. When they log-in, members will see a newsfeed that will feel familiar to social media users, and can connect with others on the platform to get advice and inspiration as they plan their journeys.
Stephen Kaufer, CEO & co-founder of TripAdvisor said:
"TripAdvisor is poised to disrupt the travel industry once again as we create a more personalized and connected community. The new TripAdvisor is the one travel site that brings together social-assistive tools, amazing content and our existing booking capabilities to merge the joy of planning and discovery together into a single experience. We are assisting our members at each step of their journey as we become a more personalized, inspirational and useful TripAdvisor."
More than 500 social media influencers, consumer brands, publishers and travel partners are live on the beta site. The company’s TripAdvisor Media group brands will contribute content and its own destination experts will contribute their insights to the platform.
Some big media brands joining include: National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel Channel, Business Insider & Insider Guides, PopSugar, Great Big Story (CNN Travel), Pandora Music, GoPro, Goop, NYC & Company (via their consumer-facing tourism website, nycgo.com), Nashville Music City, and The Knot.
(AMENDED 0930BST19/09/18 - The partnership is directly with Great Big Story, not its parent company CNN Travel. Apologies for any confusion).
Chris Thorman, vice president community products and growth, National Geographic, contributed a quotation to the release, saying that "as a global media company, we're always seeking new opportunities to share our awe-inspiring articles, photos and video content, and a partnership with TripAdvisor allows us to do just that."
Of course, publishers have been keen to join social media publishing platforms in order to draw a greater audience to their online sites. Facebook’s own history with publishers may serve as a guide of the pitfalls that both TripAdvisor and the publishers joining this new platform will want to avoid.
On the whole, it appears a smart move for TripAdvisor, opening up new opportunities for revenue streams in partnerships and advertising, giving its "book now" button a bigger presence, leveraging its authoritative travel footprint.
But the pitfalls of social are real. Wherever enough people gather to share information, they will share misinformation just as quickly. And wherever fraud is profitable—as it is in the travel space—it will go viral. It is possible that creating a ready-share engine will only intensify the review verification problems that the company already has to deal with.
There is another angle to consider if TripAdvisor really plans to become the go-to social travel hub: what happens to the customer touch-point infrastructure that big travel brands have already built on Twitter and Facebook? Specifically, airlines focus so much of their customer care infrastructure around these two social platforms. Will they also have to be ready to address consumer questions and reputation issues on TripAdvisor now?
The reality is that TripAdvisor has had to adapt as social media platforms grew their share of voice not only with travellers but also with the revenue-generating travel brands and influencers. But it's important to remember that people go to social platforms for travel but not for travel alone. Will they spend more time engaging on a social site that is only dedicated to travel or will they simply fall back on the familiar?