Fast Company

Work/Life: Business Travel and Social Media

Do you really want people to know when you're not home? Or where you are going to be? You need to consider that if you are using online tools which circulate that level of detail to a social network.

I'm sure a lot of businesspeople leaped without looking when TripIt and LinkedIn launched their new social travel service features last October. I think travelers should have taken the time to mull over the implications, however, because as much as I like the idea of spontaneous meetings on the road, I'm not so sure it's a good idea to broadcast my plans to my network. I think it's just too easy for that sort of information to seep beyond my network. I guess all of those cases of identity theft I've heard about cause me to be careful in sharing news on the Net. In law practices they call this "exposure."

After all, your network isn't just the people in your network ? it's all of the people in their network, and so on down the line. The Six Degrees of Separation principle says we are all more connected than we know.

Don't get me wrong ? the itinerary planning and linking capabilities of TripIt are powerful, useful, productive, and time-saving. Like any other social media application, however, it has both benefits and downsides.

The fact is, TripIt does allow people to sync up meetings. The question I have is, Can you circumscribe your network enough to ensure that the information you want to share ? and only that information ? stays within your network. Six Degrees of Separation theory says no.

Social networks like LinkedIn, TripIt, and Facebook offer business travelers tools that didn't exist just a few short years ago. It's like traveling without my BlackBerry: I almost can't remember how we did things before PDAs came upon the scene. Social networking gives business travelers ready access to information faster and at a level of detail they couldn't have dreamed of in that pre-PDA era.

For example, if you're traveling on business to an unfamiliar city, that city need not be unfamiliar at all if you use social networking tools to learn what restaurant are recommended by your network, what's playing when, and where important events are occurring. An excellent Wall Street Journal review of travel applications (for the ubiquitous iPhone) includes one such tool that tells what's all around you in a strange city. It's called, appropriately enough, AroundMe.

LinkedIn continues to be my primary business travel-related social networking tool, but that application has competitors. Every business traveler has to decide what works for them, through trial and error, although, like most people, I gravitate toward those applications that friends and colleagues have recommended. But isn't that what social media are all about? They are supercharged word-of-mouth vehicles that put the details you need at your fingertips.

Yes, there are security issues for all social media. Perhaps we never will have security resolved to our total satisfaction, but that's not going to slow the move toward online information-sharing. TripIt and applications like it are the face of the business traveler's future.






Road Warrior • Miami • www.us.amadeus.com

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