Social networking isn’t quite everywhere yet, but it’s definitely getting there. The numbers are massive–Gartner projects that the number of people around the world participating in social networks will grow from 118 million in 2008 to 800 million by 2012. Facebook alone has over 300 million users, which means if it were a country, it would be the fourth largest in the world!
Much like the mobile phenomenon, the most interesting thing about social networking is not its size, but how it is changing human behavior. Before social networking came on the scene, people were restricted to one-on-one communication with each other. Today, anyone who wants to can communicate one-to-many, using tools like Twitter. Determined individuals have amassed millions of followers on their networks and have nearly the same influence as institutions. This has implications not just for media but a host of other industries, including travel.
Leisure travelers are finding services like Facebook and Twitter increasingly useful for research and trip planning. Business travelers are using social networks like LinkedIn for business networking, too. As technologies like Facebook Connect and Open ID become more widely adopted, your social network is becoming portable. In an interesting twist, the social graph is becoming ubiquitous. The first services to take advantage of this development have been leisure applications that allow people to interact with their networks using third parties outside their network environment. In the future, we’ll see business applications doing the same thing with business networks like those built on LinkedIn.
What does this mean for travelers?
- You’ll be able to see where the important people in your life are going and where they have been.
- They’ll have more visibility into the same information about you.
- It will easier to communicate with fellow travelers and connect with people while you’re on the road.
- Over time, travel planning will become easier, because the likes and dislikes of other travelers will be more accessible.
There is no doubt that social media is here to stay, and it’s changing travel in ways we have yet to fully realize. Stay tuned to see how this fits into the even bigger Traveler-Centric picture!
Read more about the Traveler-Centric Future: