Finally, a social media study that focuses on the users and goes beyond studying companies in the sector. Allianz Global Assistance, the travel insurance giant, has come out with a study of Twitter usage among travelers and the kinds of requests that they have related to travel. It collected 25,000 tweets in March this year, and did a mix of software and manual analysis on these tweets to come up with these 10 types, all of which we’re familiar with as heavy Tweeters ourselves. Of course keep in mind Allianz is an interested party in this, selling its own services for assistance to travelers & companies.

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The lowdown on these 10 types of assistance requests:

1. Activities: Travelers ask for advice about what to do or see that same day, or in the immediate future. The most cited city is London. Berlin, Houston, Jakarta, and Sydney.
2. Advice on organizing a trip: Before leaving travelers seek more general advice rather than advice about a very precise part of the trip.
3. Flight refund: Travelers complain about their problems with airlines with the aim to get a flight refunded and sometimes they send their tweets directly to the airline company for compensation.
4. To get directions on travel: When they are lost, travelers tweet in real time and request help with directions, in a city, in a country or at the airport.
5. Help finding a hotel before the trip: Travelers use Twitter for help in selecting a hotel usually before they leave. In their tweets, they mention when they will be travelling and needing a place to stay.
6. Help finding a hotel/lodging tonight: Many terms are used to qualify or specify the type of lodging the traveller is looking for: cheap, reasonable, big, asap, house, patio, etc.
7. Exchange rates: To get the exchange rate, many tweets directly address a specific person and mention that person with a @. Euros, US and Canadian dollars, and English Pounds are the most cited currencies
8. Finding a place to go or thing to do now: This is more in-market: Travelers use Twitter to ask for advice about what restaurants, bars, or nightclubs to go to, or museums or other places of interest to visit.
9. Choosing the destination: Travelers also use Twitter to decide where to go on their next holiday. Sometimes they spell out exactly what they’re looking for: sun, cheap, chilled, exotic, etc.
10. Advice about getting a visa: Travelers also use Twitter to get advice about visa issues. Countries for which visa requests are the most frequent are: the UK, India, the USA.

Beyond these types of help asked, the study also noticed that that Twitter is rarely used in an emergency situation: car accidents, requests for repatriation, emergency hospitalisations, etc, which is obvious considering the person in the situation is shaken or injured or in imminent danger.

More than one third of all tweets that it analyzed were sent directly to a professional with the help of a @. and those were the tweets that got most response. On average, more than one third of tweets receive a response. This percentage increased to 46 percent if the tweet is sent to a particular person.

For now, this study by Allianz is a small sample, over a short time period and hampered by need to do a lot of manual work. Lot more automated analysis can be done long term, with better understanding and results.

Methodology and results of the full study, embedded below: