Pinterest Jumps Onboard the Travel Planning Trend

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The world of travel planning is rapidly embracing social media and the presence of websites like Trevolta (which I wrote an earlier blog post about) and Airbnb are proof that travelers are increasingly turning to their online peers for support, advice and accommodation. Gone are the days when websites like Expedia and Hotwire ruled the online travel agent world. Today it’s all about user-generated content.

While Pinterest is already known for its collection of creative recipes, DIY projects and impeccably styled outfits, on November 20th they added a new service to their deck: travel planner. Pinterest’s new “place pins” now allow users to tag pictures they post by location. For example, if I’m drinking a coffee at my favorite local coffee shop, Verve, and I upload a picture of my beautiful latte to Pinterest, I now have the ability to tag Verve onto a map. The new map is similar to the current boards; continuing on with this same example, I could create a map titled “Santa Cruz Local Favorites” and pin locations like Verve that I enjoy. The hope is that other users can then use these curated maps to plan their travels, based off of others experiences.

To test out the new feature, I searched “Santa Cruz, California.” Sure enough, a curated map came up that highlighted the must-see spots for any visitor.

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The map didn’t just include restaurants and shops, it also compiled a list of great beaches and hikes that shouldn’t be missed.

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This map is just one example of how the new “place pins” are being used. When I searched for place boards there were hundreds to choose from, ranging from the very general “Italy” to the  targeted “Vibrant Street Markets.” There were also specific maps for family travel and honeymooners and for the foodies out there, plenty of restaurant recommendations.

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The new “place pins” are a great opportunity for businesses to take advantage of Pinterest. Not only will they get recognition when a “user” pins an item from their store or restaurant, they also have the ability to curate their own maps, focusing on a specific theme that would best highlight their business. One of the most ingenuous uses of the new feature that I saw while perusing the website was by the University of Michigan. They created a map that was an online tour of campus, providing pictures of buildings, landmarks and student hangouts. Universities aren’t always as present on social media as they should be, so it’s great to see one utilizing Pinterest in such an effective manner. Keep up the good work, Pinterest!

https://vine.co/v/hUnbx1lbu59

Trevolta: The Latest in Online Crowd-Funding

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Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have made a name for themselves by helping entrepreneurs, artists and musicians use the Internet to help fund projects ranging from documentaries to restaurants. The success of these fundraising campaigns depends on the generosity of strangers, how strongly people believe in each project and what sort of incentives are offered for donating. The incentives are what makes Kickstarter so successful–people are much more willing to give money to a project if they are going to get something out of it.

 

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Example of Kickstarter incentives

 

Enter Trevolta. Unlike Kickstarter and Indiegogo which fund projects and products, Trevolta specializes in crowd-funded travels. Their tagline:

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As an avid traveler, I was immediately drawn to the concept beyond Trevolta. But after my initial excitement, I couldn’t help but wonder: who would pay for me to go on my dream trip? The website is still in beta mode and only a select group of users are currently online creating trips. There’s still plenty of information available and after snooping around, I found some information about what types of trips are most likely to get funded.

 

1. Over the top, crazy adventurous trips

2. Inspiring trips that have important meaning

3. Traveling for research

Since Kickstarter focuses so much on incentives, I wanted to see what kind of perks Trevolta would ask users to offer. Instead of receiving t-shirts or signed books, donators are allowed to list specific tasks to be performed during the trip. While at first I thought this was a unique idea, I went on to read that the tasks are optional. Essentially there isn’t any concrete incentive–just the ability to make someone’s dreams a reality.

Picture 9Breakdown of Trevolta Users

A feature of Trevolta that sets it apart from Kickstarter is its use of sponsors. Brands or companies can chose to sponsor a trip of their choice and according to Trevolta, grab the attention of millions on their website and in traditional media as well. I think trying to attract corporate sponsors in an excellent idea and is definitely beneficial for both parties. Trevolta is more likely to have successfully funded trips if they are able to get sponsors who have a lot of money to donate and if companies are able to find a trip that really lines up with their brand, it would be a great marketing move to fund it on Trevolta. They could have the travelers blog about it on the company website, tweet out updates through the Twitter account and even give them sponsored clothing to wear while on the trip. After all, for a free vacation I think most people would be willing to do pretty much anything.

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I’ll be curious to see whether Trevolta’s model will prove to be as successful as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. While I think they may have to tweak their incentives model, they are off to a great start with their corporate sponsorships. I can’t wait until I can see if my trip will get funded on Trevolta!

https://vine.co/v/hUhM02ivKQz

https://www.trevolta.com/

 

 

 

Starbucks Takes Twitter to a Whole New Level

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It seems that Starbucks is consistently at the forefront when it comes to their social media savvy and overall customer engagement. The Starbucks mobile application not only allows you to locate nearby stores and check your reward status, it also lets you refill your card and even pay at the register. Regardless, I was still pretty shocked when I heard about their newest endeavor: allowing you to tweet a redeemable coffee to your friends. While Starbucks has always had a way to send virtual gift cards, this is the first time they are expanding the ability onto social media. It sounds like a nice enough concept: connect your Twitter to your Starbucks.com account (required), send a tweet-a-coffee to a friend and they will get a notification to redeem their $5 gift card.

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What makes me feel a little uncomfortable about Starbucks’ new promotion is how much information you are giving them by allowing them to access your Twitter. Not only do you have to give Starbucks personal information by creating on account on their website, but now if you want to send a coffee treat to a friend, you have to give the company access to your social media as well. That means that Starbucks can now see who you follow, what you tweet about and even what your friends and followers are discussing. That’s a whole lot of information that their marketing team now has to personally target you as a Starbucks customer. I’m still on the fence as to whether I support Starbucks’ new use of Twitter as a sales platform. While I can’t deny that it is an innovative approach, it raises concerns about privacy that are constantly debated when brands use social media.

https://vine.co/v/hDEe2Lx6lzQ

Instagram Puts a New Filter on Photojournalism

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When I’m scrolling through my Instagram feed, I’m used to seeing the same sort of thing. Shameless selfies, gourmet meals and a classic sunset photo made all the more beautiful by the selection of the right filter and careful, precise placement of the “blur.” Recently, however, I started following National Geographic (@natgeo) on Instagram. While I love looking through their feed to help at least partially satisfy my travel bug, I started noticing that they would often tag the names of the photographers and it  got me thinking. Photojournalists…on Instagram?!

We’ve seen how brands and celebrities have successfully used Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms to raise awareness and interact with their fans and consumers. Even newspapers and magazines like National Geographic are turning to social media as a way to share content. That said, I hadn’t really considered the ways that Instagram could be a tool for instantly sharing news with followers around the world. After doing a little exploring of my own, I’ve found a photojournalist who is using Instagram as a major means of communication from one of the most unique and closed off places in the world: North Korea.

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Central train station, Pyongyang, North Korea

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A traffic police woman in Pyongyang, North Korea

David Guttenfelder (@dguttenfelder) is the Associated Press chief Asia photographer and get this–he is using only an iPhone to capture and share images during his time stationed in North Korea. Instagram has enabled Guttenfelder to share his images with nearly 200,000 followers instantly. Gone are the days of having to wait for a special feature. News happens in real time and photo-sharing apps and websites like Instagram have allowed photojournalists to continue to have a voice in the 24-hour news cycle. Additionally, by sharing his photos on Instagram, Guttenfelder is able to reach a more diverse audience and provides access to an entirely different country and way of life simply by pressing “share.”

https://vine.co/v/hDFtFKzXqOF

WordPress #8

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The history of Marvel comics is quite interesting and something I had not known anything about previously. Marvel comics was originally founded in 1939 under a different name, Timely Comics. The company was founded by Martin Goodman, a magazine publisher. The first publication featured the characters “The Human Torch” and “Namor the Sub-Mariner” (World Collectors). Captain America was created by Marvel Comics in 1941, the brainchild of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Captain America was a huge creative breakthrough because he was the first patriotic superhero to be created. A few other heroes that were created in Marvel’s early days include The Whizzer, Miss America, and Powerhouse Pepper (World Collectors). The comics industry in general reached a standstill in the 1950s but began to revive in the early 1960s, especially with the creation of “The Fantastic Four” in 1961. This new genre of superhero, produced by Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, and Stan Lee, was more realistic and relatable (World Collectors). Overall, Marvel comics was extremely successful throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with the introduction of some of the comic world’s most famous characters: Spider-Man, the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and the X-Men, to name a few. What made these comics especially unique was that the creators focused a lot on character development, giving each of the superheroes a unique flaw (World Collectors).

My favorite superhero is Wonder Woman. I think it is awesome that there is a female superhero out there! When I was in elementary school, my friends and I would always fight over who got to be Wonder Woman when we played superheroes. I like that she is portrayed as such a strong woman who can completely keep up with her male counterparts. I think she is one of the most unique superheroes and definitely stands out, not only because she is a woman but also because of her unique strength and connection with animals.

 

(image originally from: http://www.popcrunch.com/wonder-woman-makeover-wonder-woman-new-costume/wonder-woman-original/)

 

Works Cited

“Marvel Comics History and Marvel Comics Background.” World Collectors Net. Web. 11 Apr. 2012. <http://www.worldcollectorsnet.com/features/comics/marvel-comics/&gt;.

WordPress #7

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I thoroughly enjoyed both Pride and Prejudice and The Piano. I had not seen either movie before, so I was not entirely sure what to expect when I started watching them. There are a number of similarities and differences between the two films. They are both romances, and involve, at least to a certain extent, unrequited love. Pride and Prejudice definitely takes the more traditional love story route whereas The Piano had a lot of twists that I did not expect. One of the major differences between the two movies was the differing roles that language and visual imagery played. In my opinion, I believe that Pride and Prejudice relied more heavily on dialogue to develop the plot and characters while The Piano focused more on intense imagery and symbols to communicate the story.

I think that part of the reason Pride and Prejudice relies so heavily on dialogue is because it was originally a novel, written by an extremely talented and renowned author, Jane Austen. To change Austen’s words too much would be sacrilege and the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy would not come across in the same way. The banter between these two characters is one of the most engaging parts of the story and it could not be told as well with images. The characters in Pride and Prejudice have a lot of wit and the long dialogues are really how the plot develops. That is not to say, however, that the images in Pride and Prejudice have no importance. I think they do an excellent job conveying the overall “feel” of the movie and set the scene for what the upbringing of the Bennet girls must have been like. The period costumes, hairstyles and decor obviously play an essential role in anchoring the story.

With regards to The Piano, I think the rich images are vastly more poignant than the dialogue, especially since the main character, Ada McGrath, is mute. While other characters in the movie speak and we hear Ada’s thoughts communicated, it is very different from a movie that has constant dialogue. The images play a main role in character development. The dark lighting and sparse  landscape help to communicate Ada’s feelings of helplessness. I found this movie to be very haunting, both the story and the manner in which it was filmed.  In The Piano, I felt that the dialogue was secondary to the images in terms of understanding the story and conveying the overall message. 

(image originally from: http://esotericsips.blogspot.com/2012/01/top-ten-film-adaptations-and-fictional.html)

(image originally from: http://filmreviewsnsuch.blogspot.com/2010/04/dvd-review-piano.html)

 

Visual Literacy #6

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Dragons represent a number of different things in China, all of them very important to their culture. Historically, dragons have been credited with having powers that relate to water, particularly rain and the ocean. Dragons also have the ability to bring people to the “afterworld” following their death (China Culture).  One of the essential elements of what a dragon represents to Chinese culture is their complete connection to the natural world–they are not seen as something out of a fairy tale like they are here in the United States. In terms of more abstract representations, dragons are associated with characteristics of adaptability and transformation (China Culture). Interestingly, “when two dragons are placed together in opposite directions, they symbolize eternity, i.e. the famous Yin-Yang symbol” (China Culture). Other characteristics that dragon imagery can convey include power, valiancy, boldness, nobility, and heroism (China Culture).

While the dragon is represented in many different ways in Chinese culture, there are nine main types of dragons, named according to their “cosmic tasks” (Dragons Inn). The Celestial, or heaven dragon, is the most powerful and is often depicted a ruler, as it is in charge of protecting the heavens and the deities that inhabit them. The Spiritual dragon is in charge of the weather and is the dragon that was usually on imperial clothing (Dragons Inn). The Earth dragon is in charge of rivers and the Underworld dragon is in charge of precious stones within the earth (Dragons Inn). These four are the “main” dragons but there are five more minor ones as well. The Horned dragon is considered to be very mighty and the Winged dragon is the only one who has the ability to fly (Dragons Inn). The Coiling dragon lives in the ocean, the Yellow dragon is meant to display intellect and the Dragon King is actually four dragons each meant to rule over one of the seas (Dragons Inn).

A Celestial dragon (photo originally from http://dragonsinn.net/east-2.htm)

Sources

“The Almighty Dragon.” ChinaCulture. Ministry of Culture. Web. 07 Mar. 2012.<http://www.chinaculture.org/gb/en_chinaway/2004-02/25/content_45896.htm&gt;

“Asian, Oriental Dragons.” DragonsInn. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://dragonsinn.net/east-2.htm&gt;.