Hotel chain Best Western just announced the launch of a Facebook app that allows travelers to reserve a room via the social network. According to the PR contact, Best Western is the first large global hotel chain to offer this capability.
“More than ever, Best Western’s customers are integrating social media into every part of their personal and professional lives,”said Dorothy Dowling, Best Western’s senior vice president of marketing and sales. “It’s imperative that we answer the call from our customers to make it easy to research, book and share travel experiences through their preferred channels.”
While I have nothing against Best Western (I recently stayed at a Best Western Plus in Houston and enjoyed the experience.), I don’t think this is all that remarkable. Here’s my rationale.
Best Western is not the first hotel chain to add a booking engine app to its Facebook page. Trump Hotels did so well over a year ago, according to an April 2011 NY Times article. Hilton also sports a similar app on its page. In addition, other companies – Delta and Ticketmaster, for example – have attempted similar approaches with minimal results. Both companies have revised their respective strategies to place more emphasis on friends sharing with friends.
Delta recently introduced an app called Delta Away We Go that enables friends to plan trips together. Ticketmaster created an app to make it easy to discover upcoming concerts from Facebook friends. Neither company has done away with its ticket purchase apps, but both have come to realize that there is more to f-commerce than that.
Our belief is that f-commerce has moved to a phase where friend-to-friend recommendations prove to be of greater value than brand-to-fan – a trend we refer to as fan-commerce.
Best Western does offer an app called Be A Travel Hero that is inherently more social. It’s a campaign that gives users the opportunity to win a “dream vacation.” What makes it social, and therefore a good fit for Facebook, is that I can invite friends to join the trip. Any friend who accepts the invitation ups the ante on my chances to win the vacation.
(Now that Best Western has switched its page to Timeline, I noticed this app is not included on the list of the 12 that are available for fans to view. I don’t know if that means the company plans to discontinue use of the app, but, for now, the only way to access it is via the unique URL.)
While I don’t fault Best Western for making reservation capabilities available from within Facebook – and perhaps its customers will take advantage of the opportunity – it’s a “been there, done that” scenario in terms of current trends in social commerce. If there is redeeming virtue, it’s that brands have come to realize Facebook is more than merely a social network, but a web portal that facilitates other types of activity, including booking hotel rooms. Still, it’s Social Commerce 1.0.