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SOCIAL MEDIA


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The use of social media by business travellers is growing. How should travel buyers respond to this phenomenon, and does it have a place in the policy?


F


OLLOW ANY MAJOR TRANSPORT PROVIDER’S Twitter account and you are almost certain to see a regular stream of complaints from pas- sengers on a range of topics – delays, seating and check-in problems, queues at the airport or station, bad wifi and even flights running out of alcohol hours before they land. Social media has helped to equip custom-


ers with an immediate and very public forum for voicing their dissatisfaction when their journeys are not as seamless as they would like (or as advertised by the service provider). To be fair, most major airlines and rail companies are usually quick to respond to an unflattering tweet or post – normally along the lines of: “We’re sorry about this, give us some details and we will check it out.” It’s probably a fair assumption that a good proportion of these passengers are travelling on business (even if their social media accounts stress that their views are personal). But what impact do social media posts have on the way organisations manage their travel programmes and relation- ships with preferred suppliers who may be on the receiving end of negative feedback?


FEEDBACK LOOP This issue can be even more heightened in high-profile sectors, such as entertainment and broadcasting, where the traveller in question can be a celebrity with social media followers measured in the millions – meaning that a negative tweet or post is unlikely to go unnoticed by the airline or travel service supplier. George Grund, global travel director at broadcaster ITV,


WORDS ROB GILL 68 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019


says: “Managing social media is not so much about managing our staff but more how to manage our travel suppliers when talent tweet a complaint that negatively affects their company. This can be a real complaint or sometimes an un- founded comment, but when talent have millions of followers this can easily negatively affect our suppliers.” In these circumstances, Grund adds: “This is all part of us working with our suppliers and making them understand how to work with the entertainment industry, what we need from them and what they can do to better manage talent, cast and our guests. On the flipside, one of our celebrities recently posted a positive tweet about an airline I was in the middle of negotiating a deal with, and that definitely helped me.” But in less conspicuous sectors, what should buyers do when their travellers may have voiced their displeasure with a preferred supplier on social media instead of talking direct- ly to the travel department?


buyingbusinesstravel.com


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