In its latest issue of the Wanderlust Report, travel and destination marketing company Wanderlust examines the state of social media in the year 2011: Its promises, how it can and cannot be used to sell, and its future in the travel and tourism marketing mix.

A social phenomenon born in a perfect storm
The social media boom coincided with four key market influences: 1) the worst economic recession since the great depression; 2) the corresponding reduction in advertising budgets; 3) the sudden growth in smart phone and tablet computer use, and; 4) the seemingly endless supply of free, new-media technologies. The travel industry (like shell-shocked marketers everywhere) were in desperate need of a new solution – and social networking burst forth on the scene at the precise moment of our darkest hour.

The social revolution’s early promises
Back in 2008, the early promises of social media marketing seemed too good to be true. It promised to level the playing field and help smaller destinations and those with limited budgets compete with the big brands. Like never before, social media put the consumer in charge. It empowered people to pick and choose the messages they received, and provided a channel for loyalists to spread the love for their favorite brands (or flame against brands that wronged them). Social media foretold the end of mass marketing as we knew it; the imminent demise of traditional advertising, print and broadcast.

Get on board or get left behind
Social media marketing was foisted upon us. The boss said, “Figure this out. Oh, by the way, you’re budget’s been cut.” It was an unknown, but new and exciting. We felt like we needed a Facebook page to compete. What would happen if we didn’t? Many jumped in without sound strategies, best practices or any understanding of how social media fit into otherwise integrated marketing communications plans. What choice did they have? It was join in or risk being left behind.

Read the full report at Wanderlust (hint: navigate through the report via the navigation on the left column on the site)