ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Filling Rooms with Social Search.
By Vijay Dandapani
Monday, 15th February 2010
Aardvark is the name of a kind of an African anteater but is betterl known as being one of the first entries to appear in many encyclopedias and even  dictionaries and many a business has used the name in the pre-digital age to ensure primacy of positioning. It also is the name of a social search site which claims that "When you want trusted information — product recommendations, travel suggestions, local tips, or career advice — a real conversation with a friend (or friend-of-friend) can be much more helpful than searching the web." 

The site currently has about 90,000 users (as of October last year) and lets users create their networks by importing contacts from their email accounts, instant messaging services and Facebook (won't be long before it is expanded to include linkedin, Plaxo etc). Aardvark's search engine considers people's profiles, connections, people's favorites things and location when matching questions with respondents.

Evidently, Google thought they were on to something and acquired them for an undisclosed sum of money (estimated by techcrunch at $50m) as the search giant shares the Aardvark's view that it "has defined a new kind of social search: sometimes you want a person, not a web page, to answer your question." That would fulfill a human desire for human contact that never really went away but got buried under the deluge of (often times suspect) information in the world wide web.

Among the advantages Aardvark has over a traditional (although there is nothing traditional about Google) search engine is that it only has to pair the searcher with a person who knows about the topic and doesn't have to worry about actually finding the answer. That allows for more flexibility in the phraseology of the query.

While some experts have panned using Aardvark as a search tool for travel they, nevertheless, acknowledge its potential for impacting the travel industry saying that "we know that a lot of people will like Aardvark and Google's scale is a good fit, especially with the launch of Google Buzz which is a great fit." The company generates revenue by charging some users to serve as specialists in particular fields and provide "sponsored answers." It also takes a cut on transactions recommended by and acted on through its service.

An expert quoted by Ecommerce times even thinks that ""Aardvark will start inserting contextual advertising into peer review queries" That could be really meaningful not just for hoteliers but just about any purveyor of goods and services.

Vijay is Chief Operating Officer and part-founder of Apple Core Hotels- a chain of 5 midtown Manhattan hotels offering value and comfort in the heart of the city.Member of the board of Directors - Hotel Association of New York.

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