Best Practices in Tweeting/Blogging About Cheap Travel

There is a right way and a wrong way of doing Twitter. Not having a Twitter page is an awful thing to do. Having a Twitter page and not using it might be an even less forgivable sin. For the people and businesses that do have Twitter, it should be done to get a maximum return (whatever the person or business considers the “achievement”). For some businesses, achievement means being top of mind. Others desire the achievement of turning Twitter into revenue. In order to do that, Twitter has to be managed correctly.

tao-of-twitter

According to the Tao of Twitter, content is king. It could be a photo, video, blog, sale, review, or even a joke. That doesn’t mean a business should always directly sell or advertise people all the time. People have become tired of that, so they tend to tune that out. Mark Schaefer, author of Tao of Twitter, the keys are to ensure you follow a group of people that are providing good content, that you return the favor and share good content to your followers, and that you commit to being genuinely helpful to the community.

Million Mile Secrets

When it comes to blogging and sharing information about traveling for small money, travel bloggers are some of the best at sharing content that is insightful, meaningful, and even makes them a profit. A couple of my favorite blogs are Million Mile Secrets, The Points Guy, and Mile Value.  These are my go-to sites and follows on social media. What puts them at the top of my list is their wealth of knowledge and real world experience when it comes to credit card points, airline miles, and more. If not for these websites and others, I would never be able to travel as I do for as cheaply as I do. What’s best about these bloggers is that I don’t have to physically go to their site to check for new content because it comes to me on social media.

These bloggers are also some of the most regular bloggers out there. Typically, you’ll find at least one post a day. Other days, you may find multiple posts, but very rarely will they have a day without a post. Secondly, you will also typically find them in the comments section replying to readers with questions. This helps with all sorts of questions that might arise. I’ve learned almost as much from the comments and answers as I do reading the blog. This is a tremendous way to create value for the reader to read the blog and participate in the conversation.

I hope I can do the same in my own blog.

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Airlines: Be Careful How You Use Social Media

Obviously, my thoughts and prayers are with those lost in the two recent Malaysia Airlines tragedies. There are no words for how tragic the events were.

In the airlines industry, social media is a huge benefit and can be a huge negative. On July 23, Malaysia Airlines sent out the tweet below:

Malaysia Airlines

I don’t know if there’s any better way to put it. Of course, I can’t imagine what the families have gone through in these tragedies. Often times, social media can make things worse, but Malaysia Airlines nailed it here. The airline needed to be careful that it wasn’t offensive to the lost souls and families of Malaysia’s aircraft. This would be something you shouldn’t tweet.

Hard to transition into something else, but here goes…

British Airways was victim of the risk of being on social media. British Airways had a Twitter nightmare on its hands when a sponsored post was created by a Twitter user to complain about his father’s lost luggage. Naturally, this message spread across Twitter like wildfire. British Airways had to publicly apologize to the user. Of course, British Airways doesn’t want that kind of message to be spread around because it casts them in a negative light. British Airways had to manage the challenge of an unhappy customer when all of the Twitterverse knew about it.

In another example of an airline having the time of their lives with luggage is United. Musician Dave Carroll watched United baggage handlers abuse his luggage that contained a $3500 guitar. Obviously, a guitar is pretty important to a musician who plays guitar for a living! Over nine months of fighting with United got him nowhere, so he did what any musician would do: make a song about the experience! Without social media and YouTube, how would we ever have this gem?! I guess United could have done better in the customer service department with this one.

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Choose Your Seatmate on Your Next Flight

SCHIPHOL-VLIEGTUIG-KLM

Have you ever been on an airplane with a seat open next to you? As the other passengers entered the plane, did you cringe and hope THAT person didn’t sit next to you? When I travel without my wife, that’s my attitude about things. I cross my fingers I don’t get someone sitting next to me for various reasons. It’s like middle school all over again. I know I’m not the only one, so don’t you deny it! Luckily for some travelers, you can choose who you sit next to on your next trip!

Since 2012, KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines, has allowed you to choose your seat on select flights using Meet & Seat!  Using your social media profiles (Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn), you can allow other passengers on your flight to see you. From there, you can see other users’ information and decide if you want to sit next to them. Let’s say you’re a single guy. You might want to sit next to an attractive, single female. That can be done. Let’s say you love crocheting. It just so happens that someone else loves crocheting on the flight. Now, you can move assign yourself to sit next to the desired person and have an enjoyable trip talking to the person next to you! Don’t like your seatmate? You can remove your profile from Meet & Seat and stealthily move your seat assignment away from that chatty Kathy that loves cats.

KLM Meet & Seat

The big score here is that you can do this on a computer or on your mobile device (once your profile has been connected). That means you can change your seat assignment anywhere you are. Let’s say you used to like Lady Gaga, but now you don’t. You certainly wouldn’t want to sit by someone who dresses like her now, right? With a few touches of your finger on your phone, that’s not a problem any longer! However, Meet & Seat is becoming the LinkedIn of the sky as people are using it more and more to network with people in similar industries.

Has the program been a success? Absolutely! However, it doesn’t seem that one size fits all for the airline industry. I’ve found this type of program to be non-existent on US carriers. For KLM, it works. KLM started this service on only a handful of flights from Amsterdam going to San Francisco, New York and São Paulo. Two years later, it’s available on EVERY flight out of and into Amsterdam. I’d say that’s a success. Plus, with more and more people networking on the flights, perhaps fliers are choosing KLM over a similar airline in and out of Amsterdam.

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Social Media Fare Sales

Without social media, how would you know when there are sales on airfare? If you say you see it on TV, can I wager that it was a Southwest Airlines commercial (my favorite) that you saw? I watch for anything travel related to pop up on TV, the Internet, etc., and I’m hard pressed to find any of the legacy carriers (United, American, Delta, etc.) promoting fare sales of any kinds. Do you care about fare sales? I certainly do… even in a world of me collecting airline miles like a hoarder collects trinkets.

While Southwest may be the king of airlines on TV, I like to see what the other airlines are doing as well. How do I do that? Sure, I sometimes get emails from airlines, but what I notice the most is social media posts (mainly on Facebook in my case) about sales. Could you go to one of the online booking sites (Expedia, Priceline, Kayak) to book your flights? Yes, but don’t forget that Southwest will never be listed. Here’s something you didn’t know about online booking sites: They don’t always offer you the best flight!

Let’s imagine I wanted to travel to Miami for a little fun in the sun out of Louisville, KY. Louisville is a city with regional access (even if it does have “International” in the airport name) around the country. If you want to go anywhere out of Louisville, you’re often victim to the hub and spoke model of going to Chicago or Atlanta before you get to go anywhere. Indianapolis, Louisville’s cousin to the north, is less a victim of hub and spoke. To get from Louisville to Miami, you will find limited options and expensive airfare. Indy might be a better option in this case with a direct flight from Indy to Miami! Flights from Louisville to Indy can be as cheap as $50. If your ticket from Louisville to Miami is $100 or more greater than a ticket from Indy, wouldn’t it make sense to travel to Indy first if you’re going to make a stop anyways?

Using social media, the airlines can help you book the best flight for you and put it back in your hands. Social media is widely used by airlines, so why not make it even better? Instead of spending money on costly TV ads, airlines can make their customers aware that their social media outlets are THE place to watch.  There’s no debating the cost of advertising on social media is far cheaper than an ad during the biggest sports game of the year.

Vacations are a sought after priority for all of us. Why not make it cheaper?

As always, you could just hate your favorite airline on social media as well.

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Social Media Tools Used in Travel

In my life, there are a few things that I love. One of those things is free and/or nearly free travel. Who doesn’t love doing things for free? One day in October 2013, I read this article on Mashable about traveling very cheaply all the way around the world. In the article, it referenced MileValue, a travel blog, as a source of information that led on this quest. I was officially hooked. I had just returned from a wedding in Tulsa, Oklahoma (my home market is Louisville, Kentucky) and thought hard about why I wasn’t collecting the airline miles off of trips such as these. I couldn’t come up with a good answer.

After I read the Mashable article, I studied extensively for several days about what it would take to start traveling for free. I knew I was getting married in March 2014, and I wanted to travel with my new bride. We had been on several trips together as a couple, but I wanted to do it more often. Being as frugal as I am, it’s tough to travel if you don’t want to spend money. So my studying and researching began. One night, I stayed awake until the early morning hours, consumed every bit of information I could, and began my trek.

The key to traveling cheaply is credit cards. There’s just no two ways about it. Signup bonuses are your friend. You’ve also probably heard that applying for multiple credit cards can hurt your credit, I’m here to tell you that what you’ve heard is all wrong… sort of. As you’ll see in this fancy graphic below, this is how FICO determines your score:

Does_Lowering_Your_Credit_Limit_Help_You_Get_Approved_For_More_Credit_Cards_01

It’s true that your credit score drops a few points per credit card application, usually 3-5 points or so per app. However, in the long run (and in the short run), your score will improve to higher than what it was originally if you’re smart with your credit. A higher available credit line with the relatively same amount of debt does well for your credit score.

I could go on and on about how credit cards have earned my wife free flights on Southwest for two years as long as she’s with me on the flight, two free trips to Las Vegas this year, a trip to Pittsburgh in October, Hawaii planned for next year as a graduation present to me, and Australia in early 2016 (our dream vacation) all for nearly free. We’ll have other free travels, but we just haven’t booked them yet. I can also elaborate on how to meet minimum spending requirements without actually spending any money and other tips and tricks to make all of this possible. I’m also able to give out referral links to be sure you’re getting the best possible credit card signup bonuses on select cards. My wife says I should write a travel blog about all of this stuff as others do as a job. Maybe this is the start of that!

As you can tell, my blog will be about traveling frugally. Social media plays a big part in making this happen. Without knowing the latest and greatest deals, you could be at a disadvantage in spending less money out of your pocket (well, less electronic money out of your bank account). Many travel blog writers use social media (particularly Facebook) as their platforms. While they have their own sites, they will often auto post their blogs to their Facebook pages. Instead of scanning multiple websites seeking frugal travel advice, you can have a one stop shop on Facebook to see all of the stories of the day in one place where you can decide what stories to read from each blogger.

A tool I saw used perfectly recently was Twitter by United. Many airlines have accounts on Twitter. This allows for quick customer service or ads by the airlines. Shortly after the Master’s golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Rory McIlroy was headed to another golf tournament in Ireland. Rory tweeted at United about his lost clubs. United was quick to respond. Within two hours of Rory’s initial tweet, his bags were located by United and were being sent directly to the golf course. How’s that for service? You can read a story in USA Today about the exchange here.

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