Photo credit: Catherine Normandeau

The Mobile Generation

We tend to trust the people we click with—our friends and friends of friends, our social networks, both real and virtual. Social media has shrunk the world and, along with the sharing economy, radically changed the way we travel and how we share our experiences while we’re away from home. This is especially true for young, hip travellers who instantly share photos of their adventures on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. It’s not only how we share our travel experiences that has changed, the experiences themselves have been transformed.

AirbnbÜberTripIt … they've all transformed the travel experience,” explains Aleece Germano, a social media expert and instructor at McGill University’s School of Information Studies who uses Kayak and Expedia regularly. “Imagine getting to see who you know has booked the flights that you're looking at and then reserving your seat on the same flight as them, possibly even in the seat next to them. When you land, you get a lift on demand from a driver who your social network trusts. Then you check into a friend of a friend's fabulous apartment for your stay, and use the money you've saved on a hotel for dinner at a swish local bistro personally recommended by an insider—your host.”

The mobile generation wants an instant, customized experience that gives them an intimate entrance into the place they’re visiting. They want to hold the world in the palm of their hand and, using social media, they do. From booking the best and cheapest flight using an app or service like Google Travel, to renting out the apartment of your choice in the neighborhood of your choice (or renting out your own apartment while you travel), to finding things to do and places to go, there’s an app or site for that. Long gone are the days where you entrust your precious time and experience to a travel agent and stay in a beige hotel, especially when you can find a better deal online and through your social network. Even the way we work when we travel is changing. Need a quiet, professional space to meet a client in another city? Breather, which rents out workspaces by the hour in cities across North America, has what you need.

Discovering Trust

“Social media made us more aware of how we're all connected,” explains Germano. “The sharing economy extends that connection both online and offline, enabling trust through the social graph. Travel is highly personal, so it's no wonder that travelers prefer a recommendation from a peer with similar tastes and/or travel styles.” Not only do you benefit from the wisdom of your friend, but a site like Airbnb gives you the opportunity to stay at unusual places—from a tree house overlooking San Francisco Bay to a chateau in France.

Trust is at the heart of the social economy and the influence of social media. The traditional travel industry can benefit from allowing both current and potential customers to share their experiences as a way to build trust. “Brands that aren't afraid to let their audience lead-in with their own authentic interpretation of the experience will reap the biggest gains in social media,” explains Germano. “However, those that try to control the message too much by trying to squelch negative reviews or over-censoring photos will find it challenging to gain credibility with social audiences.”

“Social media is largely about discovery, so it's a great way for a brand to gain visibility with a new and younger audience, or even start a movement with the help of its brand advocates,” says Germano. Today’s Young & Affluent, adventurous travelers are looking for a vibrant social experience and they’re quick to give a thumbs up to people, places and brands that deliver. Travel is about having new experiences, meeting people and getting to know new places; social media and the sharing economy deliver these instantly and directly, making a big world small. Grab these Young & Affluent travelers’ hearts and minds, gain their trust, and you’ve got a friend for life.