FLYING HIGH WITH
BUSINESS TRAVEL HAS
BUILT AN INDUSTRYWIDE
ANYONE IN THE TRAVEL
INDUSTRY CAN EXCHANGE
INTERACT WITH OTHERS IN
THE VALUE CHAIN.
travel sales in 2007, the company is
firmly entrenched as the world’s largest
travel management enterprise. So when
it sets out to transform the way it communicates with the travel community,
the industry pays close attention.
Last year, New York-based American
Express Business Travel decided to get
social—as in social networking. This
past October, the company unveiled a
new business-to-business site, Business
Travel ConneXion, which offers news,
blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, discussion
boards, polls, a resource library and
“We’re looking for a way to share
information and keep people engaged,”
A lot of work went into building the
site and putting all the pieces in place:
Business Travel ConneXion required
months of planning and programming. American Express had to find a
partner that could build the required
services and functionality. Then the
company needed to locate industry
experts willing to blog and create content. Finally, it had to test everything
to ensure that the site provided useful
information in an attractive package.
“It’s been a learn-as-you-go process,
but we realize that we have only one
chance to get this right,” Tillman says.
BY SAMUEL GREENGARD
FEW INDUSTRIES HAVE WITNESSED
as radical a transformation as travel
agencies and services. In little more
than a decade, paper tickets have all but
disappeared, bookings have migrated
online and value-added services have
become essential for survival.
What hasn’t changed is the way
most agencies interact with customers.
Phone, e-mail and newsletters serve as
the backbone for these interactions.
“There’s been very little change in
the tactics used to communicate with
employees, clients, prospects and the
media,” observes Alicia Tillman, vice
president at American Express Business
Travel. With 26.4 billion in global
Making a ConneXion Count
It’s no secret that social networking
has flashed onto corporate radar—and
computer screens—in recent months.
As the popularity of Facebook, Twitter,
LinkedIn and other sites has mushroomed in the consumer space, business executives have recognized that
the power of people can propel their
products and services to new heights.
That message rings true for
American Express Business Travel.
In October 2007, Tillman and other
executives began to ponder ways they
could better connect to their network of
travel agents, travel managers, hoteliers
and others. Virtually all of them already
had Facebook and LinkedIn accounts—
a fact that convinced the executives that
social networking had arrived.
“We wanted to create something
more valuable than another static Web
site,” Tillman explains. “We set out to
assemble a robust community where