BOSTON — Every marketer says the same thing these days: Any time you have a conversation with your customer, it will help your brand. But when you have 340 million unique visitors each month, as travel-planning and -booking site TripAdvisor does, you need a higher level of discourse.

Chief Marketing Officer Barbara Messing told VentureBeat’s GrowthBeat Summit today that one technique for handling mass conversations is building all of its own technology tools in-house. Founded by an engineer, the site tests multiple versions so they fit users’ needs.

The Summit is being held today and tomorrow at the Langham Hotel in Boston.

Personalized trip suggestions are a key part of the conversations, and the site offers recommendations in many of the 80 million emails it sends weekly.

For instance, the site will recommend “the Langham Hotel in Boston because you liked the Plaza in New York City,” Messing said. A Just For You feature, introduced in December, suggests trip options based on what other people like you preferred.


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It’s not moved beyond “the creepy line yet,” she said, in large part because users planning a trip want their preferences factored in.

Reviewers occupy the highest level of personalization, and receive what she described as “a highly personalized stream” of emails.

The conversation with reviewers has to factor in motivation, since reviewers power a large part of TripAdvisor’s appeal. Why do people spend their time writing reviews of hotels?

Most reviewers want to contribute in order to “thank the community,” she said, contributing to something larger because they have similarly benefited.

“People want to feel what they do matters.”

“Once we understood that insight,” she said, the site developed a program to give them “something for contributing to us,” such as badges.

Messing herself has used the community conversation to plan her own trip, such as asking users how good the beach is for swimming at a particular hotel.

As a mother of young children, that’s a key concern, and both the community and the hotel responded.

In addition to monitoring site comments, hotels participate in the ongoing conversation through regular communications with TripAdvisor’s in-house B2B team.