Users’ 5 Needs When Seeking eWOM in Online Travel Communities Part 2

With its online travel communities Flying Blue Club Africa and Flying Blue Club China, the Dutch airline KLM offers its business travelers a digital meeting place to connect and network with fellow travelers. On the platform #1 social needs are addressed as customers can share experiences, either travel- or business-related, maintain valuable contacts as well as learn from others’ insights into the Chinese/African business world. The stimulated knowledge exchange fosters the required reciprocity and social ties. By starting discussions, the airline attempts to promote communication and the integration of members. This form of active moderation needs to be considered critically, though as users might feel disrupted in their freedom of posting travel experiences or opinions and thus, possibly perceive the brand community as an implicit advertising tool. The airline places strong emphasis on stimulating #2 intellectual needs. KLM considers its online travel communities as rich sources of expertise which allow the exchange of invaluable experiences and knowledge (KLM, 2015). Several steps are taken to ensure high-quality: the continuous monitoring of user-generated content as well as the airline’s effort to thoroughly check travelers’ subscription first in order to keep the brand communities’ nature of exclusivity and expertise.

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Users’ 5 Needs When Seeking eWOM in Online Travel Communities Part 1

Times are gone when travel experiences only started at the chosen destination. In times of online travel communities like-minded users can already build relationships, share travel experiences, information and tips during their planning process. The Web has turned into a ‘travel square’ (Wang et al., 2002) that allows the stimulation of interaction and exchange, also known as electronic word of mouth (eWOM), to happen on a common platform. Speaking of those, travelers can choose from numerous opportunities such as social networking sites, fan sites, travel forums and blogs or brand-based sites. Focusing on user-generated content in online travel communities, special emphasis is placed on the latter, namely brand communities in the tourism sector. This form of firm-consumer-consumer interaction represents a renewed version of traditionally applied firm-customer engagement methods.

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