Social Media and Travel Programs

It’s official: Travel programs that incorporate social media are better. Period.

By Pauline Mitchell

Like many other companies, global corporate travel management firm BCD Travel has, for several years, used Facebook and Twitter for marketing purposes. But now BCD is using social media for an entirely different purpose.

Atlanta-based Katrina Bentley, director of product marketing for BCD Travel, admits the company was reluctant at first to even refer to their new platform, Chatter, by cloud computing company Salesforce, as social media, preferring to instead call it a “business or enterprise collaboration tool.” To say BCD was an early adopter understates the situation. They were part of the beta group beginning about eighteen months ago and stared a phased rollout across the organization at the end of last year. BCD in Canada was part of the initial beta group.

Chatter looks and functions very much like Facebook but it’s a private communication network within a company. Sarah Patterson, director, product marketing for Chatter in San Francisco describes it as “social enterprise collaboration.” Says Patterson, “We went to Facebook and asked for advice about how to set it up so that users would intuitively know how to use it.” As with Facebook, Chatter allows you to follow people, groups, and information in real time.

“What really solidified things for BCD was the earthquake and tsunami in Japan,” says Bentley. “It was a great tool for that crisis and we were able to get information across the organization in real time when other communication was impossible. We’ve now established a Chatter group just for crisis situations, and we have other public and private groups set up that let us service our clients better.”

Bentley adds, “We can collaborate with our colleagues at any time.” In addition to customer service support, BCD also uses Chatter now for virtual meetings and special projects and Chatter stores all the documentation and communication. “It’s cut down our emails by about 35 per cent and unlike email you don’t have to save it; you can go back and search it on Chatter months later,” says Bentley.

Think of it as an enterprise-specific social media tool. It’s catching on fast. Launched about a year ago, Patterson says about 80,000 companies are already using Chatter to enhance their organizational communication.

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