Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 2, 2009 7:28 PM

Twitter For Travel

Social media can put you in good company, especially when you're making connections on the fly.

A few months back, I had a two-day conference in Dana Point, California. I had never been there and did not know a soul who lived in the area (or so I thought). After a quick search on Twitter, I was able to "meet" the CEO of the local Chamber of Commerce as well as a member of the city council. It was an opportunity that wouldn't have existed without social media.

Don't listen to those who dismiss sites like Twitter as stupid. Social media and online social networks are about much more than just collecting more "friends" than the person in the office next to you. Social media is the great connector, and it's the ultimate business travel companion.

Even if you're experiencing some Twitter fatigue (and that's understandable given the press it's received), the micro-blogging platform continues to be one of the better ways to leverage the power of online social networking to meet and connect, and even to grow your business while on the road. Yes, you get the mundane tweets like "Pizza, movie, sleep and then a 6 a.m. flight to Calgary." So what? Don't follow these people. But there are plenty of mobile business people using the service to either connect and build their personal brand or simply be that much more efficient while on the go. Companies continue to expand into social media channels as well. From airlines and travel consultants to restaurants and entertainment spots, you can find tons of immediate and live information, customer service, special opportunities and, yes, even travel tips.

I'm a fan of Twitter specifically because it's fast and easy to use on a mobile device and, more importantly, because of how powerfully contextual it is.

Curious if anyone else is at SFO and would like to grab a coffee? Do a simple Twitter Search on "SFO," and you'll know exactly who is there at the same time as you are. I can't tell you how often an anticipated night of room service and YouTube turned into a real-life meet-up because of a simple tweet out to my network. The mobile versions of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are also great ways to stay connected while in a cab or waiting to board a flight. They're a veritable stream of consciousness - from business news to random insights - of the people you have chosen to follow and connect with.

The last (and most powerful) function of the mobile versions of these online social networks for travel is the wisdom of crowds. If you're lost in a strange city, not sure about a currency conversion or looking for a quick restaurant meal, a simple status update or tweet to your crowd becomes the ultimate live and real-time human search engine. Those who complain about the banality of social media have it all wrong. It's like dismissing all TV because of the bad shows. The trick to social media is in making the right connections and having the right people follow you back.

You can feel free to follow me on Twitter here: @mitchjoel.

The above posting is my monthly tech and gadget column for enRoute Magazine called, Ultraportable. I cross-post it here with all of the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

- enRoute Magazine - Twitter for travel.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Rick Frank
    Mitch Joel

    Absolutely agree. Online social translates well into offline social.
    It is a networking tool and a highly effective one.

    Yes as you mention you get the banal at times, but since these are real people, they are not 'on' 24/7. Seeing how they are 'off' is a window into their character.

    Some people babble about pets, others media (books, movies, TV, whatever), other follow news issues of no concern to you & fanatically tweet.

    But in the telling we learn about them. I, for one, find the study of human nature fascinating. Babble away peeps, it doesn't all have to be utilitarian, it can just be fun as well.

    But then again I'm a researcher not a marketer :-)
    My interest differs perhaps.

    Cheers

    Reply
  • You've identified interesting uses for Twitter. Unfortunately, some corporate IT policies block access. You can tweet via email using ping.fm, but can't receive tweets :(

    The following can be blocked too: LinkedIn, Facebook, texting, Gmail mobile, Friendfeed, Blogger, Typepad, Picasa, Flickr, ...

    What's the workaround? Perhaps a personally-owned netbook and unfettered mobile Internet.

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    • Sadly, the best workaround is to change jobs. It's hard to believe that in 2009, there are companies that block employees responsible for marketing and communications from the tools/channels/platforms where most of the marketing and communications is actually happening.

      I realize, it's not easy to say "quit your job" when considering the economy, so yes, the workaround is to go out, invest around $1000 and get yourself your own laptop, mobile device and connection.

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  • Philippe Carrier

    Mitch, for those of us reticent to use Twitter because of all the garbage that seems to come with the occasional golden nugget, could you recommend (maybe in a subsequent post if that's better!) 5-10 folks that you follow and highly recommend for those of us interested in many of the same things as you are?

    Reply
  • Posted by RobertKCole
    Mitch Joel

    Glad you pointed out the benefits for using Twitter as a tool for travel. I typically approach the issue from the other side - how the travel industry can simplify and improve the traveler's experience - before, during and after the trip.

    There are countless opportunities for social media and social networks within the travel space - and the travel industry is only scratching the surface.

    One would be hard pressed to find better experts than those running travel-related businesses in a city - they just need to get a bit less focused on their specific product as the center of a travelers universe and start sharing their unparalleled knowledge of the destination.

    When I speak on the topic, I have found it best to break down the phases of the travel experience into a seven-step process: Inspiration, Research, Planning, Validation, Booking, Travel and Sharing. You focused on the "travel" phase, but I have seen others get great assistance with the research, planning and even inspiration phases of the cycle.

    Right now it is predominantly consumers helping each other, but The travel players that "get it" will be able to better engage their customers and differentiate themselves from the pack of competitors who seem to be currently focused on commoditizing their brands through one-dimensional discount price promotions.

    Thanks again for pointing out Twitter's benefit for travelers - I hope the travel industry is listening.

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