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Opinion Piece: Is TripAdvisor a social media platform?

January 5, 2018

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 The question: Is TripAdvisor a social media platform and should we treat it as one?

 

I love a holiday, a beach and an all inclusive hotel as much as the next person (obv 🌴) but, should we start tailoring TripAdvisor into our social media strategies?

 

I looked up the directory definition of ‘social media’:

 

social media

 

noun

 

websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.

 

Pretty simple right? But, it seems us marketers are still a little hazy on the topic. By definition TripAdvisor fits easily into the 'social media' category. Its functions and features act accordingly, but this still doesn't necessary mean users treat it as a social media platform. 

 

TripAdvisor has a kind of ‘feed’ or ‘wall’ feature, added to by comments and stories, just like other social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. So, does TripAdvisor's familiar user interface and inviting nature make it a cousin of Facebook or Twitter? Or, does its lack of broader functionality make it a place people only visit when necessary, when they actually need to.

 

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, TripAdvisor is not a place people visit to leisurely (and sometimes subconsciously) spend their free time. People use Twitter and Facebook as a pastime, as a way of engaging in humour and fun and interacting with friends and family. In recent times, news outlets play a huge role in the majority of Facebook content. This is where TripAdvisor differs. When was the last time you found yourself scrolling on TripAdvisor for the 4th time in a row whilst waiting at the bus stop? You haven't, right? It's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram we turn to in times of boredom, to find funny memes, tag friends in inappropriate GIFs and engage in spontaneous digital activity. 

 

 

Social media is a place where people and brands can share interesting stories and content. Social media isn’t a ‘one way thing’. In fact, it’s not even a two way thing. Social media is about millions of people coming together to discover, represent and engage. This is where TripAdvisor and Facebook are similar, both are vast communities of people coming together to share life experiences. 

 

Another similarity TripAdvisor shares with the likes of Facebook and Twitter is ‘fake news’. Take the recent Vice story that demonstrated how a journalist was able to list his shed as a top London restaurant. By forging reviews he bagged himself the top spot within his local area. Fake photographs of 'food' which later transpired to be neatly present inedible household objects (such as toilet bleach) completed his faux restaurant listing.

Facebook and Twitter have also been the subject of vast fake news allegations with major political stories such as 'A Rigged 2016 Election' proving viral, yet false. These social media giants have been forced to take strict action on the distribution and support of misleading news content. 

 

Below are some of the photographs that helped said Vice journalised score the top spot on TripAdvisor with his rustic, yet fake garden restaurant. 

via Vice

 

Here are the top 10 fake news stories supported by Facebook in 2017, according to BuzzFeed.

 via BuzzFeed

 

There's a debate, that's for sure. And it seems TripAdvisor has both its similarities and differences with more obvious social channels such as Facebook. However, if I have to make a definitive decision, I'd say TripAdvisor is not a social media channel. For me, in summary, social media channels are 'bus stop pastimes', busy digital spheres that attract users no matter where they are, or what they do. In my opinion TripAdvisor doesn't quite cut it.

 

However, TripAdvisor is an important channel and should not be neglected by hospitality and leisure brands. For many it's a reliable source of information and marketers should ensure reviews are always managed. TripAdvisor is a great way to publicly demonstrate how great you are among your competitors. Or, how you as a brand can put a wrong right to ensure satisfaction among customers. (Read more on customer service on social media and how to measure it).

 

Where do you stand on the TripAdvisor debate? Social media, or not social media? Let us know below.

 

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