Thanks to Facebook, we're no longer six degrees of separation from everyone. We're now only four friends-of-friends away. In other words, most pairs of Facebook users are socially connected through four intermediate other Facebook users. How can travelers take advantage of this level of interconnectedness? Three new sites aim to help.
Certainly anyone can use social networking site Facebook to post a status update asking friends and family for advice about a particular destination—and then wait for the responses to roll in. But nowadays, hundreds of messages clutter people's Facebook news feeds, so your message may get lost. Sometimes it helps to instead take a more targeted approach to tapping Facebook friends for travel tips.
A few new Facebook applications aim to help travelers get the most travel advice and help out of the site without spamming their friends.
Uptake: An easier way to ask for trip advice from your Facebook friends
Earlier this month, Uptake, a travel information aggregation site, debuted a free tool for more easily sourcing travel advice from friends. Go to Uptake.com and sign in using your Facebook account username and password. You'll be then be invited to type in a destination name. With one click, Uptake will show you pictures of your friends that probably have travel advice about your destination, based on Uptake's scanning of their Facebook profiles.
For example, when I type "London" into Uptake's search box, I find out that about a dozen of my friends know something about it. If you like, you can ask Uptake then to ask these selected friends about the destination by posting a question of your own wording directly on their Facebook walls—a technique that increases the chance of your friends actually seeing your message.
InBed.me: A tool for choosing a hostel that has a crowd you'll feel comfortable with.
Officially launching next week after a few weeks of beta testing, InBed.me is a new "social booking site" for 25,000 properties—hostels, beds, and couches—worldwide. Before budget-conscious travelers visit a city, they can visit InBed.me to check out the top hostels in each city according to other travelers. The site allows backpackers to do a little bit of screening to see who else will be at a hostel they're considering on booking. Facebook integration is a key part of the process, though you can use InBed.me without it.
Using the site is straightforward: Enter a city to see listings of hostels and homes. Click through to see amenities, rates and online booking availability, a photo and profile of the host, and information on any other site users who may be visiting.
Twigmore: Connect with locals at your destination, through friends, to get the inside scoop while planning your vacation.
Earlier this week, Twigmore arrived as an app for Facebook. After a few months of testing, the tool claims to have built up a database of more than 1.7 million local contacts in over 38,000 cities around the world. The idea is that when you search for a destination, you can find locals on the ground who can offer you helpful advice.
Booking a trip to Bangkok, for instance? Type "Bangkok"
"India" into Twigmore, and it will reveal a friend of one of your Facebook friends who lives in the city—assuming that such a match exists. Check out their profile details to see if you share anything in common, such as music interests, and reach out for advice.
What do you think of the new wave of social networking apps? Helpful, or do they create more "noise" and "spam"?
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