Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How FareCompare Uses 170 Twitter Accounts, ITA Software for 'Dramatic' Uptick

FareCompare, the metasearch site, has more than 170 departure-city based Twitter accounts and it is using them to leverage a calendar-based search, powered by ITA Software, for what CEO Rick Seaney claims is a "dramatic" increase in ticket-sale percentages.

FareCompare, of course, doesn't handle any bookings, but passes off consumers to sites like Orbitz and CheapTickets for reservations.

In the last two months or so, FareCompare began tweeting fare drops using 170 Twitter accounts, such as flyfromEWR, based on the 170 cities in North America with the highest outbound passenger traffic. You can read more here about what FareCompare is doing on Twitter.

The vast majority of the tweets are automated, but FareCompare occasionally has some real-life humans toss in breaking news or other morsels.

So, when flyfromEWR tweeted yesterday "$511r/t Newark to Moscow, fall or winter down 20% [] #EWR, the #fare," the link starts a flexible, calendar-based search after you enter the month, desired length of stay and number of passengers.

A calendar-based search, powered by ITA Software in the background, checks for seat availabilities using 180 queries (30 days and six lengths of stay), saving the consumer all that "hunting and pecking" that they would have to do to find a seat with a particular fare otherwise, Seaney says.

"We do all of that typing in one shot," Seaney adds.

Using a proprietary algorithm to cull ATPCO pricing-departure data to find fare-drops in tandem with the calendar-based search from ITA, Seaney terms the process "a culmination of four years of work."

"We think this is the right way to shop to save time and money if you have the flexibility," Seaney says.

FareCompare has embedded links to the calendar-based search in its e-mail alerts for around three months, but he views Twitter as more effective than e-mail marketing because the fare drops are tweeted in real-time.

The calendar-based search currently is in a soft-launch phase on FareCompare, and will be getting some home page presence within a week or so.

"Using Twitter as a real-time communication backbone that can touch people in a social network with relevant, actionable information instantly -- is absolutely the next generation in air travel bargain-finding," Seaney said.

Of course, all of that searching using ITA Software is expensive. In addition to referral fees to suppliers, FareCompare makes money, like everyone else, through the advertising around the rails.

Seaney wouldn't provide any precise figures on how significantly ticket sales for FareCompare's suppliers actually have risen, and the company only has been using the 170 Twitter accounts for about two months.

flyfromEWR only had 170 followers today; flyfromLAX had 338 as of this writing.

Still, from the tweet sound of it, it appears that FareCompare is onto something.


Britgeekgrrl said...

I follow FareCompare's Twitter IDs for my local airports and I think it's a good idea. Some fare specials are *so* short-lived that by the time my email subscriptions from various consolidators/airlines arrive (the other way I track sales/bargains) the best fares are gone - so hearing about such things in near-real-time is great...

Claude said...

Very impressed by the use of Twitter.

In US you are so far away from us in France & Europe about social media and Twitter use in the travel industry.

Best regards