There was a time when the thought of Twitter made my stomach turn. All those yuppies suddenly talking about 'tweets' and 'tweeple' made me want to gag. Facebook I had less of a problem with but since I had just sort of ended my relationships with MySpace and Friendster (remember Friendster?), I was slightly bitter and promised myself that there was no way I would become friends with anyone I didn't know personally. I was determined that Facebook would never become more than a place where I would keep up with friends and family and that I would never become one of those twit people at all.
Oh, but how things have changed. I'm a firm believer in Twitter now and while I've kept to my guns and not accepted friend requests from anyone I don't know personally on Facebook, I have to admit that I've started to 'like' things pretty indiscriminately. While all of this may sound like it is leading to a social network confessional, that's really not the case.
In fact, I have a greater purpose in the writing of this piece. I want to share a recent discovery that I've made about how to use both Twitter and Facebook in order to score cheap travel. Ever wonder how to get last minute fare deals, off season hotel specials, or super discount tour packages? Read on my friends.
One of the things that makes budget travel more possible today than ever before is the ease with which travelers can find information about flights, hotels, hostels, and tours on the internet. With mass booking sites, it's easy to compare the many prices that are available for flights. Something as simple as entering your destination and 'deals' into a search engine will bring you back tons of results, but one thing that travelers often forget about is to use their social networks to find great trips, advice, and travel bargains.
One of the problems with using a search engine like Google is that you are likely to get filtered to sites that are no longer active, sites that are set up to feed you spam, and third or fourth party websites that are taking a hefty commission and thus charging you more than you should be paying. How do you avoid that? It's easy, just use social networks like Twitter and Facebook to find the latest offers from the vendors or great bargains that other travelers are writing about.
Most of us use social networks in our daily and personal lives to keep up with friends, family, and colleagues and so when an idea like using Twitter to find a last minute airfare bargain comes up, it sounds odd. The truth of the matter is that travel companies have discovered the power of social networking and have made it one of the first places you can find bargains. If a $1 flight between European countries or a $45 hotel room in London sound impossible to you, maybe it's time for you to look where I found these deals. Twitter and Facebook.
There are other social sites that are heavily populated by travelers too such as Foursquare and Loopt. Don't think that it is only for travel or accommodation though, you can also find bargains on tours, cruises, and even restaurant coupons and promotions in the city you will be going to. These sites are the first stop for companies who find themselves with unsold inventory or new promotions they want to get the word out about.
So, how do you find the deals? First of all, make sure you have a Twitter and Facebook account. After you have signed up (as if anyone hasn't already!) do a search for the companies you like to travel with. This includes your favorite restaurants and tour companies. When you find them, just like or follow them. After this, the companies latest news and alerts will show up in your feed. This is the fastest way to find out about every new promotion, travel deal, or other perks. Twitter is where I found out that Ryan Air was offering $1 flights. I found the $45 London room on Facebook. Some companies, such as Hilton offer Facebook only specials.
Once you are signed up with your favorite companies have a look at some of the top experts in the budget travel industry. Rick Steves offers some of the best tourist advice out there and by following great media like the New York Times Travel feed on Twitter, you get the news as it is written.
I'll be honest though, my stomach still turns a little bit when I hear people talking about twits, tweeple, tweets, and all the other twitter lingo. I wish they could have called it something that sounded less annoying, however, it seems that we're stuck with the name unless some miracle baby like Facebook comes along and dethrones the emperor of the microblogs. Until then, I'm stuck telling you about the 'tweets' of United, Delta, Virgin Air, Jet Blue, and other major airline companies.
At this point, it's important to give a word of warning. There are an incredible number of scammers, marketers, and frauds on all of the social networks. It's important that before you send your credit card or payment information, you verify that you are dealing with the company you think you are dealing with. One way to do this is to make sure that you are using the secure booking forms on the actual domain of the the company you are booking through such as hilton.com. Reputable companies will never have you book through say hilton.xyofudiui.gh. This is an important factor, since Twitter is especially dangerous in terms of using services such as tiny url to mask the actual domain. If you have any doubts at all, notify the company in question.
That's all for now, I'm going to find a cheap flight and hotel for a weekend getaway someplace sunny. See you 'tweeple'later.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.