AmEx Business Travel took BTX, its on-line community for cor
porate travel out of beta testing, and started it live. In the year or so since the concept was launched, the site, dubbed BTX, or Business Travel ConneXion.com
, has been intended as a free membership site to share best practices, build relationships, and do all the other things that social networking sites are supposed to do. But BTX will rely on members to supply just 60% of the content. The other 40%, a mix of editorial content and 'advertorials', will be supplied by the site. Over 950 industry members have joined the community, says Charles Petruccelli, president, Global Travel Services for American Express
. Content providers include the National Business Travel Association
, Executive Travel, PhoCusWright, Rearden Commerce, in which AmEx has invested heavily, and freelance industry writers. Some parts of BTX are intended for American Express Business Travel clients; for instance, the site's 'Product Lab' will allow feedback on new and existing products, but only from AmEx clients. Initially, it will seek feedback related to the design of the latest release of its Axis information solution. Petruccelli will run a live chat with members on November 20th.
When we looked at BTX last summer, after it was put on show at the ACTE (Association of Corporate Travel Executives) session here in Washington, we were not excited: it seemed to us to be largely a corporate tool, rather than a community, and as much as we think AmEx does good work, it seemed to be about, by, and for AmEx and its clients. So we are pleased that the final version has stressed the site's relationship with NBTA.
We were and still are slightly more inclined to look at a site called dopplr.com, a year-old social networking site intended for frequent business travellers.
We hear that dopplr, which also relies on ads, has a following among worker bees at IBM, Nokia and Sun. But it's very hard to overestimate the marketing power of the AmEx brand.