Tourism Austria ventured into the Web 2.0 world by partnering with a Media company in the creation of CoolAustria.com, a full fledged Social Travel Website. Karin Schmollgruber asked me for my thoughts.
Well, it’s a very ambitious effort. I have to guess what the objectives of the website are. I assume it’s to create a network of residents and past travelers who generate ideas and assist other travelers, primarily in a younger demographic.
It’s impressive from a technology perspective. It has integrated some traditional community tools such as a message board with Web 2.0. hallmarks such as a tag cloud folksonomy and a Google Map Mashup. Oddly enough, RSS/Atom feeds are missing from the party, but that’s in the works apparently.
Success for this venture will depend on the success of Metcalfe’s law (the value of a network is proportional to the square number of users of the system). There has to be a user population that’s large enough to attract and be of value to passive users and turn them into active users.
To create a large enough user population, the website needs to be useful and usable. Successful social websites on a large scale such as MySpace have reached their population in part by creating a necessity to sign up. It’s useful because can passively read your friends information, but in order to communicate with your friends (additional usefulness), you have to sign up. MySpace doesn’t look pretty, but it’s easy enough to use (usability).
I hope that CoolAustria.com is useful and usable enough to be successful. I hope that there is enough appetite for users to become part of a “traveling in Austria” community. I hope the entry barrier is low enough (e.g. allow for anonymous questions) and the usability of the site is high enough so users who want to, can easily participate. I hope there will be an active marketing campaign to kick-start the community.
CoolAustria.com is a ‘big bang’ approach to create a social network. Our strategy at Tourism BC is to take it one step at a time, and fully integrate the User Generated Content into our official website. I’m going to keep a close eye on CoolAustria.com and I wish them great success.