Wednesday, August 3

Trusting Strangers: The Influential Collective

Barfly AdviceWhile the findings won't send shockwaves through social media, Skyscanner recently released a study that says 34 percent of all travelers have made a decision to visit a destination suggested by someone they only 'know' online. The study frames up the finding as evidence that 'virtual strangers' are growing increasingly influential.

While we might argue that people you become familiar with online are no more strangers than the people next door (number 10), Skyscanner says that the survey goes one step further — people are placing their trust in the anonymous nature of many travel sites and online review forums rather than their friends, who they don't want to hold accountable for bad decisions. (This finding also alludes to knowing "influencers" as not as important as anonymous reviewers.)

"We are increasingly adventurous as a nation, but part of us always wants reassurance that we have made the right choices," said Sam Baldwin, editor for Skyscanner Travel. " Social media helps people to extend their research and have more confidence in the decisions they make."

According to Bladwin, more than 13 percent of people are most worried about whether or not they have made the best decision online. Reviews, even anonymous, help increase their confidence. In fact, online travel recommendations are important to 8 of 10 people surveyed from a pool of 800 travelers.

Along with what people say about a place, attraction, or designation, the survey also found that photos are even more influential than recommendations. More than 21 percent of respondents claim to have made the decision to visit a location based on a picture seen on the photo-sharing site Flickr.com alone. This falls in line with another survey conducted by Skycanner that found more than 50 percent of travelers have made a decision based on Facebook photos posted by friends.

Travelers are also very likely to "like" or "follow" a place they will visit or have visited on a social network (56 percent) and smart phones are a leading tool (41 percent) to help them make restaurant, bar, and beach decisions after they arrive. No matter how you frame it, the survey demonstrates how important social media has become to consumers, especially when it comes travel, even if it is only a tool to help them find peace of mind.
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