February 14, 2012 at 12:04 PM EST
Mixed Results for Facebook Among OTAs
Image from: Travelocity / Facebook With Facebook’s looming IPO, the world will know definitively what the market thinks the site is worth. Facebook today is much like the internet itself was 10 or 15 years go: businesses felt they had to be out there, but often built first and asked questions later. Many Online Travel [...]

Travelocity FB

Image from: Travelocity / Facebook

With Facebook’s looming IPO, the world will know definitively what the market thinks the site is worth.  Facebook today is much like the internet itself was 10 or 15 years go: businesses felt they had to be out there, but often built first and asked questions later.

Facebook LogoMany Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have Facebook pages.  To compare their relative successes, Compete first assessed how many unique consumers (UVs) visited these pages and then compared UVs to the same sites’ volume of “likes.”  Using UVs means no double-counting of people that did the same thing twice in a given period (i.e., no false positives) and leverages Compete’s patented normalization methodology.  We also assessed the extent to which a visitor to an OTA’s Facebook page also visited the OTA’s primary site.  We included Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz and Travelocity.

Active Use of Facebook Pages

Travel Kit“Likes” is a common but potentially misleading measure of Facebook might because they are cumulative rather than current.  (Think about how much snow has fallen in total over the past 10 years vs. how much is falling now or this winter.)  UVs to OTA Facebook pages is a better indicator of current engagement.  In December 2011, Orbitz led the set with 16,100 UVs to its page.  Travelocity trailed the set with 4,600.

Volume of Site Visitors to Facebook Pages

While  Expedia  is #2 in Facebook page UVs, it leads the set in terms of “likes” with over 1.5 million (table), far ahead of the other sites shown.  The ratio of Facebook visitors to “likes” is one way to suggest the current “productivity” of all those likes.  On that basis, Priceline leads the set with productivity over 10%.

Ratio of Facebook visitors to “Likes”

Facebook Visitors Interplay with OTA Sites

Most marketing campaigns and outreach efforts are designed to drive business, which in this case would mean booking travel on an OTA site.  Compete next assessed the extent to which each brand’s Facebook visitors in December also visited the brand’s primary site.  Priceline had the greatest cross-pollination, with 77% of its December Facebook page visitors also visiting Priceline.com (bottom part of stacked column).  The rest of the set averaged 30%, which implies the potential to drive more traffic from Facebook to their sites.

Overlap of Facebook UVs and OTA UVs

Next Steps We’d “Like” To See

As expected, measuring the value of and influence of Facebook on a brand is far more complicated than counting “likes.”Princeline For example, there were several “winners” in the metrics assessed here.  Orbitz’s Facebook page has the most unique visitors, Expedia had the most likes, Priceline the best productivity based on “likes” as well as the greatest cross-pollination of its Facebook page with its primary site.

Measuring success is also a moving target as OTAs and other travel companies evolve how they use Facebook.  Several, such as Travelocity, have “votes” on their pages.  Priceline is using William Shatner’s last hurrah in part to promote its Negotiation app.  Some will add booking engines.

Next steps we’d like to see include the following:

  • Quantify the revenue value of Facebook
    • Identify whether those that visit a brand’s Facebook page are more or less likely to book with that brand
    • Hone in on travel sites that actually allow booking via Facebook
  • Validate whether Facebook helps prevent conquesting by rivals
    • Quantify the extent to which people that visit the band site and the corresponding Facebook page are more digitally loyal (i.e., are less likely to cross-shop rivals than are other site visitors)
  • Quantify whether Facebook is creating incremental customers
    • For those visiting both, detail whether research started on the Facebook page vs. Facebook was a step in the process after the consumer was already engaged on the OTA
  • By brand, understand how Priceline has such high cross-pollination and productivity and how Orbitz generates the most Facebook UVs
    • This can help reveal the best way to leverage Facebook collectively. Most notably Expedia with its set-leading bank of “likes”
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