How Has Social Media Changed Traveling?

Traveling is not as it used to be. In today’s world of instant access to any kind of information, travelers have changed the way that they approach traveling. They no longer rely on – most of the times out-of-date – guidebooks or user-generated review sites that usually lack in credibility and accuracy. Social media sites have a great impact on people’s travel plans and we will discuss why. But before that, we need to talk about the other sources of information in order to better understand why most people reject them.

Share

 

Guidebooks

Guidebooks

Let’s begin with probably the oldest source of travel information. Guidebooks are printed-on-paper books of information about a place. These books are written by professional travel writers and usually include information about sights, accommodation, restaurants, bars and activities. They have been the most traditional resources for travelers; however, our entering to the world of digital travel information has negatively affected the sales of printed guidebooks. New online books and apps gave the opportunity to millions of people to access travel information for free resulting into the gradual “death” of the guidebooks.

Should you trust guidebooks?

trust guidebooks?

Guidebooks can often be out-of-date. Updating only the cover of the guidebook is a trick that many publishers use in order to save money. It may look updated, but, in reality, it isn’t. The best way to tell if the publisher revised the whole book is to look at a previous version and compare it with the ‘edited’ one, or read some of the reviews of the specific guidebook online. Perhaps someone will notice if the guidebook is still the same, even after its update, and will leave a comment about it.

User-generated Review Sites

User-generated Review Sites

This source of information is relatively new compared to guidebooks. They are guides that you can find online for free and are still evolving as credible sources. User-generated sites are divided into two general categories: forums and review sites.

Forums

Forums

Forums are online discussions concerning traveling, where people can share thoughts, ideas, or ask for help in the form of posted messages. Travelers ask questions about their future destination and expect tips and advice from people who have already visited this place. They can be really helpful places where you post your question and have an instant reply, but this is not always the case.

Should you consider forums as credible?

Should you consider forums as credible?

To some extent, forums can be helpful. However, a major drawback of this kind of resource is the fact that they are totally unstructured; the topics vary and are not organized around a specific hotel, restaurant or activity. People discuss various things and, as a result, you have to scroll up and down all the time in order to find the answers – if there are any – to your question. Not to mention the negativity that can be found in places like that. Along with the helpful comments with meaningful information, you will not miss the disappointing comments of people who are being ironic and are name-calling others. Consequently, useful information is being lost in a chaos of comments.

What is more important about the forums is the fact that they usually lack in accuracy. They are based on random people’s opinions which make the information highly subjective. No one verifies the content on these forums, so anyone can post whatever they want, no matter if it’s true or not. So, it is advisable not to trust entirely the information you read on such places.

 

Review Sites

 Review Sites

Review sites include number ratings or awarding stars to individual places, hotels, restaurants etc. This means that you can look for a specific hotel and find its rating according to other people’s opinions.

Are review sites more trustworthy?

Are review sites more trustworthy?

Review sites are supposed to be more trustworthy than forums and they are definitely more organized. However, once again, there is no verification of the reviewers who often remain anonymous. Most review sites make little or no attempt to verify the posted information. Even though the sites have several reviews and look legitimate, it still doesn’t mean that they are credible.

How to distinguish the real from the fake information?

real or fake information?

 Ignore the top and bottom of the reviews. Positive reviews are sometimes written by employees and people related to this company, while negative reviews may be written by their competitors or anyone who dislikes the business for any personal reasons. In both cases, the comments are definitely not objective or real.

 Detect the fake reviews. If you see a suspicious account, then ignore the advice. Even though many sites have algorithms designed to electronically detect the false reviews, they are often unsuccessful.

 Check reviewers’ previous posts. If someone posts a positive review about a hotel or restaurant you want to visit, check the person’s previous comments. If that same person has reviewed a place you have been to, and you disagree with him, then you’d better ignore his opinions in general.

 Check if the business reacted to any of the reviews. If the business replies to a negative post, it is a good sign that they care what customers think and that they will try to improve.

Social Media Sites

Social Media Sites

Now let’s focus on our main topic. Social media has changed the way we travel, since it no longer serves only as a place for posting pictures with friends or photos of ‘artistic’ meals. It is now becoming a tool that offers social media users the opportunity to share pictures of their latest vacation as well as their experiences, displaying lovely sights and beautiful landscape (read:How to Document Your Trip Abroad).Today’s travelers go online in order to plan their next trip and 90% of them actually make plans based on travel-related content posted by their friends.

In addition, social media helps businesses interact with the customers more directly and offer them great deals. Wanderlust is everywhere around social media and, consequently, it has a great impact on how people choose their future travel destinations and also the services, such as hotels, restaurants, airlines etc. that they will use. Social media is a tool for getting inspiration but also inspiring others to travel to new places. Here are the most influential social networks:

Facebook

  Facebook

Facebook is the top social media network for sharing travel-related content. It lets you exchange vacation information and travel photos with your family and friends from all over the globe. It is a powerful tool that makes over 55% of Facebook users dream about going on a journey, even if they aren’t planning a specific trip. Facebook allows you to use a hashtag (#) in order to find related posts to what you’re searching. For example, you can type #NewYork and find everything that has been mentioned about this destination on the network.

Facebook also gives users the opportunity to interact directly with businesses, such as hotels, restaurants etc. and plan easier and faster your trip. It is a fact that businesses reply more quickly on social media. However, it is important to be careful when companies offer “extraordinary” travel deals. We advise you to make a research on other sites and other sources of travel information as well, in order to verify if these “too good to be true” deals are valid or to look for reviews posted by other travelers.

Instagram

Instagram

Instagram, dedicated exclusively to images, is a social network where people share millions of photos per day. It is becoming probably the most influential social media network when it comes to traveling since it can introduce users to new places around the world. More than 50% of users draw inspiration from Instagram in order to discover their next destination.

Except for the professional photographers and travel companies that you might follow on Instagram, there are also some other accounts that belong to photographers and travelers, the so-called travel influencers. They usually partner with airlines, travel agencies or other businesses and they publish sponsored posts for them, either pictures or videos. The influence of these travelers is phenomenal, because people are extremely interested in their glamorous lifestyle; we could even call them jealous. However, keep in mind that some influencers tend to present traveling in an unrealistic way, with places much more colorful and vibrant than they really are.

Twitter

  Twitter

Twitter is another social network where you can follow travel experts who share photos and comments on their travel experiences. There is also the possibility of using a specific hashtag in order to find information about the destination you are interested in. Twitter allows users to request recommendations and suggestions about a destination, restaurant, bar etc.


Pinterest

Pinterest

Similarly to Instagram, Pinterest focuses on the images. This social network offers a variety of pictures on numerous topics so you have to stay focused on the “travel” category in order to avoid getting lost. The only drawback of Pinterest is the fact that it doesn’t offer the possibility of exchanging ideas and tips, making it one of the least useful social networks.


YouTube

YouTube

Many people use YouTube as a way to seek inspiration for their next destination. In the last few years the use of YouTube in order to watch travel-related videos, has rapidly increased. The most popular travel videos are the vlogs (video blogs) that feature personal travel experiences of professional travelers. Just like with Instagrammers, vloggers are usually sponsored by businesses who want to promote their services through them. Of course, these influencers are most of the times connected to all types of social networks, so it is certain that you will find them at least on the most popular platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

According to a Google report, travel vlogs get 4x more social engagement (likes, comments, shares, favorites and subscriptions) than other types of travel content on YouTube, such as official travel brand channels or official travel networks and publications. People believe more in the vloggers’ opinions and in the authenticity of their contents. Some of them focus on different aspects of traveling: local cuisines, cultures, risky adventures or far-off destinations.

Should you trust social media?

social media

Social networks, just like every source of information, should be used collectively. This means that you should not base your plans on a single post or vlog, but instead, gather as much information as you can in order to verify which opinion is more trustworthy. As have been mentioned before, most of the travelers that influence people cooperate with business and have, of course, a profit by the impact they have on social media users. This means that their opinions are not always objective.

Tip:

Use social media as a way to improve your trip, without letting it detract you from it. Do not live your vacation through your camera trying to capture each and every moment in order to share it on social media. 

So which is the most trusted source?

people ready for vacations

It might have already crossed your mind that the most trusted source of information is, undoubtedly, word-of-mouth recommendation from someone who knows you. Friends or family is the source that consumers rely one and is above any other form of advertising. This kind of advice is not the same thing as the one typed into a platform, and shared online by people that you barely or don’t know at all. Word-of-mouth recommendation can also come from a travel agent who, according to people who have used one, helped them save time and money. However, not all person-to-person advice can be useful. In order to make sure that the advice is accurate, consider these factors:

 Your relation with this person. The closer this person is to you, the more likely it is that he or she knows your likes and dislikes. An acquaintance or a person from your working environment might not know very well your preferences, and unwittingly, propose to you a hotel or restaurant that is not your type.

 When this person visited the place. Businesses often change, and the attractions or restaurants that he or she recommends may no longer exist. Make sure that the advice is not from a long period ago.

As it has been mentioned before, the best way to plan your trip is to gather information from a variety of sources. Never trust a single review, blog, post or recommendation from a friend, but always check if their advice is also written somewhere else. If you do this, there are no doubts that your trip will be an unforgettable experience!


Edited  by Eleni Gkovedarou

 

 Share this post 

 

Comments:

Sign in to leave your comment