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Navigating with Social Media

Jennifer over at the New York Times has a neat story on navigating with social media. Has some commentary from me…

“I have lived on the road for most of my life,” said Andy Lark, 42, chief marketing officer for Dell’s business unit worldwide, who travels almost every week and internationally every three weeks and uses many different social tools. “They make people more accessible, places more accessible and all the possibilities of travel so much more exciting. And it is as much about devices, like smartphones and wireless networks, as it is about social networks.”

Mr. Lark said traveling for business could be a lonely experience and social media tools had helped change that. “We’ve gone from a world where everyone sits on the plane and doesn’t talk to one another and then heads to a hotel room, where it can be hard to understand what to do next. Suddenly, you are plugged into your own networks and you are getting tips and recommendations. Everyone becomes a navigator for you.”

He recalled that on a trip to Hong Kong, he checked into Foursquare to discover that two old friends from San Francisco were visiting at the same time; they were able to get together for a drink. During a recent trip to India, he arrived around 4 a.m. at the Leela Palace hotel in Bangalore, and checked into Foursquare, thinking his wife would be the only one to see what he described as a cheeky comment, wondering where he might find a decent cup of coffee in the predawn darkness. To his surprise, he got an immediate response, recommending a nearby coffee bar. It was from a Dell customer, up early to play golf, someone he had never met in person who had seen his coffee question pop up in his LinkedIn account. It turned out that Mr. Lark had linked his social accounts so one post appeared in multiple places.

“Foursquare had distributed my post automatically to LinkedIn,” said Mr. Lark, who connects all of his personal networks from Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. “These social networks, in and of themselves, have value but there is more value by linking them to each other. ”

He has taken his quest for a perfect cup of coffee to Twitter, as well. While in Melbourne, Australia, he recently asked his followers for recommendations and included a simple hash tag, #coffee. This meant his Twitter update appeared in a stream beyond his personal network, one that was followed by people who shared a keen interest in coffee. “I got a response from someone I didn’t know with a recommendation of an amazing coffee bar with cold-filtered coffee,” he said. “I never would have known about it unless I had used the hash tag. There is a lot of social good in the social world. And a hash tag unlocks some of that goodness.”

For business travelers, Mr. Lark said that he thought that social media was not only a way of keeping up with what was going on during your travels, but was also useful in letting people know at home where you were and what you were doing. “With a young family, checking in, using Foursquare, my wife knows where I am,” he said. ‘It is a great way of staying in touch.”

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