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Last month, we were joined by the insightful Jeremiah Owyang to talk about converging paid, owned & earned media in our May installment of Social Savvy.   While preparing, we talked about the rapidly emerging trend of “sharing” and how it is impacting both the economy as a whole and brands in particular. Jeremiah recently wrote a post about how, more and more, brands are being disrupted by the idea of sharing, borrowing or swapping rather than the transaction of buying. We are moving into a new model that creates what he calls the “collaborative economy” – this includes companies like Airbnb, Rent the Runway, Relay Rides and dozens of others who are going to pose threats to companies like Hyatt, Nordstrom’s and Hertz.  I couldn’t help but notice that this trend definitely showed up in our latest installment of the Brand Passion Index, this time focusing on social’s favorite travel booking sites. With summer vacation finally here, the time for travel is upon us so I checked out what social had to say on these seven brands: Expedia, Airbnb, Priceline, Orbitz, Hotwire, Travelocity, and Hipmunk and the results are really fascinating to me and support Jeremiah’s commentary on where the collaborative economy is headed.

In the graphic above, the amount of chatter about a brand is indicated by the size of the bubble, while the placement of the bubble shows the sentiment and the intensity of passion.

The well-established Expedia generated the largest share of buzz with 29% of the overall chatter, but only had the third highest Passion Intensity (51) and one of the lowest Net Sentiment scores (43).  Online consumers complained about its high prices and lackluster customer service.

Expedia has some truly awful customer service – tried three days in a row – I have sat on hold for 20+ minutes each time. #callmebackjerks

Expedia customer service was abominable. In the process of a simple matter of rescheduling a connection due to one airline changing its flight schedule, I spoke to over 10 representatives, spent 12 hours on the phone, had my flights fixed, then cancelled, then reinstated and then duplicated.

I thought the Expedia site was the most expensive. I rarely use travel operators as I don’t find their prices competitive.

i’ve noticed expedia has become very expensive recently.

As the model of the collaborative economy suggested, it was the newer wave of travel sites which focus on sharing that ended up in the upper right hand quadrant, better known as the love zone: Airbnb and Hipmunk stole the show. Hipmunk emerged as most-loved with the highest Passion Intensity (84) as well as the highest Net Sentiment (73). The newcomer only had about 2% of the overall chatter, but consumers still raved about the ease of use and functionality of the Hipmunk website.

Hipmunk’s price graph function is amazing! And the little chipmunk loading icon… too cute.

Hipmunk’s airfare alerts are amazing. Love this service.

I love hipmunk for looking up flights. It is clear and concise.

Love hipmunk. I will never go back to the columns of times/numbers other sites show.

I love Hipmunk.. great aggregation site, and the giant charts are really useful when planning trips.

Close behind Hipmunk was Airbnb, which amazingly generated the second largest share of buzz with 22% of the overall chatter, as well as the second largest Passion Intensity (77) and Net Sentiment (60). During the course of my analysis, the brand’s metrics took a slight dive after legislation in New York questioned the legality of the property-renting service. Still, the verbatim I surfaced showed that online consumers love to compliment the company’s customer service and uniquely designed interface.

Officially @airbnb has the BEST customer svc out there. Responsive&Timely, Personal&Authentic. Couldnt ask for more. Youve got a user for life!

So it seems the consensus is that @airbnb is the best thing ever. I’m sold.

Love the @Airbnb Xmas email I’ve just received. Quite original =).

I’m loving the new @Airbnb’s web design. #goodjob

My experience with airbnb has been excellent. They also guarantee your money and say they will work hard to find an alternate place if your first one falls through.

So who’s your go-to for booking travel online? Let me know!

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