At their core, business travel and social media are both about the same thing: making connections and fostering relationships. So it’s not surprising that business people are using social media as a way to enhance and augment their travel experience, whether for work or pleasure.
“Social media at its most basic level is something to do while you’re waiting, and travel is often about waiting,” says Kaitlin Villanova, partner and vice president of partnerships at Digital DUMBO, a Brooklyn-based event series for professionals in the digital marketing, new media, and communications industries. “I often travel alone, so social media helps me stay connected to friends and co-workers when calling or waiting until I get back to the hotel aren’t options.”
Keeping in touch on the road is just the tip of the iceberg. Social media is also a great way to connect to members of your network in person and research dining and entertainment recommendations from your contacts. Here are a few suggestions from Villanova and other experts for maximizing business travel with social media:
- Choose your services. There are a myriad of social media services out there, and while each has its advantages, how you use them is up to you. “I use Facebook for my social connections, while Twitter [www.twitter.com] is more of a source for news and information,” Villanova says. For business networking, the go-to service remains LinkedIn. When it comes to seeking, say, restaurant reviews, “I’ll always take my friends’ recommendations over a review site’s,” she notes. “If I do look to a service like Yelp [www.yelp.com], I’m more interested in the number of reviews –which indicates popular interest in a place—than I am in star reviews, which don’t really mean much to me.”
- Share your plans. Simply making your plans available to your network invites people to recommend restaurants, hotels, and other attractions, and may garner a few networking opportunities from those contacts who will be in your destination city while you’re visiting. TripIt [www.tripit.com], an excellent itinerary-management service, lets you share this information automatically on your LinkedIn [www.linkedin.com] profile. For those closest to you, consider sharing flight information so they (and you) can track exact departure and arrival times with services such as FlightAware [www.flightaware.com].
- Use Hash tags. A Twitter search that includes a city name, (e.g., “restaurants in #portland”) “is a great way to see what’s being talked about locally,” Villanova says. A similar search on a photo-sharing service such as Instagram [www.instagram.com], she adds, can offer a “visual walk-about” in a city you might not have time to explore fully. “If there’s something really intriguing, though, I might make a point of seeing it in person,” she notes. What’s more, many organizers of conventions and other industry meet-ups publish specific hash tags for each event, which attendees and speakers use in their tweets. Following these tags lets you keep up with event-related news and comments whether you’re attending or not.
- Respect boundaries. Searching your social networks for possible face-to-face meetings is a great way to build and strengthen relationships, but that doesn’t mean you should invite a distant connection you’ve never met out to dinner. “I wouldn’t necessarily reach out to someone I didn’t know personally,” says Villanova, who adds that she rarely connects with those she hasn’t met, even online. Stick to those contacts you’ve already met or done business with, and keep the invitation unobtrusive—say, a cup of coffee or quick office appointment. If there is someone you’re dying to meet but don’t know, see if you can wrangle an introduction from an intermediary; (LinkedIn is great for this).
- Share, but don’t over-share. Narrating the high points of your trip or posting photographs can keep your network engaged, but tweeting about the weather will just cause them to tune out. Villanova also cautions against over-glamorizing. “There’s a tendency to paint a somewhat disingenuous picture,” she says. Finally, keep it professional. Share links to interesting articles you’ve read on the plane, or thoughtful comments about an interesting presentation. That photo of a colleague wearing a lampshade? It might just as well go un-posted.