By now you may be familiar with sites like Couchsurfing, AirBnB, Global Freeloaders, and Hospitality Club. Those of you who are more aggressive social media users also probably leverage Facebook on a daily basis to help organize and socialize your life. When finding a restaurant our generation often fires off a tweet, pulls up Yelp, or posts a quick Facebook status inquiry. Most of us have read The Four Hour Work Week and books like Never Eat Alone. We understand and appreciate the value of our social network and regularly interact with our friends and contacts on a local level.
Yet, when it comes time to travel, we often set all of this knowledge aside and revert to making the same basic mistakes. We often have travel questions or needs, and would love opportunities to connect socially with long distance contacts. As we prepare for our trips we talk and post about them in general terms but, almost never make active inquiries.
If you were looking for a job, you’d leverage your social network. If you needed a new roommate you’d reach out to your social media contacts. If you had a nagging question you couldn’t find an answer for, they’d be your logical ‘go to’. So why not make similar inquiries when preparing for a trip?
A plethora of recent startups revolve around connecting us socially with people nearby. From Foursquare to Facebook check-ins, it has never been easier to keep in touch once you’re at a destination. These do little, however, to prepare for the trip to that destination.
So, before you take your next trip, don’t just tell your Facebook and Twitter friends that you’ll be visiting a destination. Ask them who lives there, who can host you, who is free to show you around, meet for coffee, and perhaps even introduce you to other near-by must see places. It doesn’t matter if it’s a place you’ve never been to before or a place you’ve visited 100 times. You have an amazing resource at your finger tips. Use it! I guarantee you’ll be surprised by the power of your network. And above all, don’t be afraid to act on the introductions your friends and contacts offer to make. It’s one of the best ways to enrich and enhance your travel – and who knows, it might even save you a small fortune in travel costs.
Still need a conventional resource? Head on over to Amazon and snag a Lonely Planet Guide for your destination.
We just wrapped up the 2nd Arizona Travel Tweetup and I’m thrilled to say it was an absolute blast. We added three new faces to the group and spent a couple hours exchanging travel stories, wisdom, and doing more than a little brainstorming. You can see the original event announcement here.
Who made it (make sure you’re following them!):
Kerri who tweets at @khegre and is a passionate travel micro-blogger.
For those looking to connect with fellow Arizona based travel people please make sure to look over my AZ Travel list on twitter (if you’re not on it post here or shoot me a tweet).
What We Talked About
I was really excited by how much ground we covered over a relatively short period. For those of you who were not able to join us – here’s a taste of what you missed:
Travel stories and photos – No surprise here right? We had some great ones from an amazing long duration sailing trip, to stories about culture shock in Africa, crying babies, and the woes of traveling with young children. @patriciaelenie brought several stunning photos from her recent SEA Semester program where she sailed for several months around the Caribbean while @BikeLady brought several copies of her recently released Backroads and Byways of Arizona guide.
Twitter – It’s not really a tweetup if you don’t talk about twitter and we did! From general discussions about social media, to more specific discussions about how we use and rely on twitter as a tool we had what i found to be a very informative discussion.
One of my favorite tips came from @khhegre who suggested the creation of small twitter lists consisting of category driven favorites. She’s used this as a creative way to overcome the challenges that go with the forced feed sampling approach which happens as you break 200 follows. The creation of lists still allows you to sample general tweets, while making sure you’re able to filter it category or emphasis when the mood strikes.
We also discussed the ways in which twitter has changed how we follow and consume blog content. The general consensus was that while many of us previously had favorite blogs/blog feeds which we followed, that our general approach had changed. Now the emphasis was on people, individual articles and information feeds, over the blog feed itself. Our new approach has evolved into sampling what looks interesting from our twitter feed which if reflective of general twitter users (Which I believe it is) shows a fundamental shift in how bloggers need to position themselves, distribute their posts, and share with the community. It looks like you’ll need to be even more social and pro-active in the future if you want to put your content in front of people.
We also discussed a few other basics, things like how we choose who to follow, the impact and importance of your following/follower ratio, and the power of twitter as a tool to build new relationships and friendships. Especially for travelers! I found @SmithTempe/@VisitTempe’s insights into how Tempe has been pushing into Social Media and really re-defining their relationship with the travel community to be really informative and exciting.
LinkedIn, TBEX, Tripitini – As a community focused event, the question of communities came up. We talked about three of the largest concentrations of general travel discussion. LinkedIn was a new one for me, but apparently as a very vibrant travel discussion community. We discussed Travel Blog Exchange in some depth including a break down on the recent TBEX conference which @khegre had been able to attend as well as Tripitini a more recent community on the scene that is very similar to Tripitini and has an active travel community.
Facebook – We spent some time brainstorming on the way we use and interact with Facebook as well as its potential for improving social interaction, building/maintaining travel contacts/friendships and as a traffic/community building tool. The consensus? Facebook has done amazing things for empowering travelers and giving an easy way to meet and stay in contact with friends made on the road. We also looked at how Facebook is increasingly becoming one of the primary traffic drivers for independent bloggers and community sites. Probably in no-small part due to the same shift we’re seeing in Twitter as people move from individual blog loyalty to a focus on people’s recommendations and individual links.
Hostels and Couchsurfing – We had a fun chat with a few comical adventure stories about what hostels are, who they’re right for, their positives and some of their drawbacks. We also discussed Couchsurfing (with a quick introduction to what it is) and different tools for reaching out to travelers as they visit Phoenix/Arizona.
Lots more beyond that, but those are the highlights that jump to mind! Hopefully they serve as good food for thought for those who were not able to join us. If they’ve sparked a thought or question, don’t hesitate to keep the conversation going in a comment here on this post.
Thank you again to everyone who came out. I hope to get a 3rd Arizona Travel Tweetup organized for sometime in late September or early October. I look forward to continuing to build the community and helping put real faces and names to twitter/blogs/websites.