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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How TripIt and FourSquare have changed my travels (aka Robert Cole are you following me?)


My travel is forever changed by Social Media.  I now have a running battle with Robert Cole as to which one of us is following the other one (literally)! 

A few weeks ago I was in Washington DC for the launch of a new project with a new client and a few days in advance, saw a notice on Tripit that Robert was traveling.  So he was my first official "meetup" due to social media. 

For those not familiar with Tripit.com, it is an amazingly useful tool that allows you to email your various and sundry itineraries to their plans@tripit.com email address (once you have your account set up of course) and they will extract the itinerary components out of it and put it into a trip file.  Tripit also has an application on LinkedIn so you can alert those who follow you about your travel.  You control what you feed to Tripit, so if for some reason (can you say clandestine M&A activities?) you don't want anyone to know about a trip, you don't have to send it to them.

You can also set up "friends", hence my affiliation with Mr. Cole, and be alerted as to their upcoming travel plans.   If you happen to be planning on travels to the same city, then voila!  The meetup can occur.

TripIt was founded in San Francisco in October 2006 andlaunched in September 2007. The company has raised $6.1 million from investors that include O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV), European Founders Fund and SabreHoldings.  Greg Brockway is the President and co-founder.

Then last week I was invited to attend an analyst conference for global outsourcing firm NIIT in Boston.  I have been playing around a bit with Foursquare on my iPhone and as I checked into the Boston Airport and to the Hilton, I saw a note from Robert commenting on how it was great to stay in a hotel where you could literally walk from the airport terminal.  I actually laughed out loud.  Twice in the space of three weeks I connect with the same person via social media, in two different cities using two different social media tools.  What are the chances of that happening? 

Foursquare is a relatively new on the scene, launched in January of 2009, but is growing like wildfire.    It is amazing what $20+m in venture funding can accomplish.  Last month they had 1.5 million unique visitors to their website and are #18 in the social media category on the mobile "app" download list published by topappcharts.com

Foursquare is considered a "geo local" application and competes with the likes of Gowilla (paling in comparison with just a quarter of a million unique visitors to its website and #90 on the social media app download chart).  

Here is a list of some of the other players in this space.   Of course, to succeed, it is all about volume and about your ability to "go viral". 



Foursquare is moving out of the digital realm and cementing their viral success with "check in here" window clings for businesses that have a lot of Foursquare check-in activity.  Smart.

The moral of the story is that I am not alone in the impact of social media on my travel.

Social media and geo local applications are changing travel on both a local level and for traditional travel on a global level.

If you don't yet have a smart phone, get one.   If you aren't using at least some of the more popular applications such as foursquare and tripit, get on the bus.  It is leaving with or without you.
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