12 January 2010

Italy Heaven on Twitter

In the downtime after one of my recent snow-cancelled flights I signed up to Twitter and despite my doubts I've found it a useful tool for travellers. If you're already on Twitter you can follow Italy Heaven here: http://twitter.com/italyheaven. If you're not signed up, but you're curious, read on.

Twitter is a very basic means of communicating within a network of people. You can
1. Publish very short comments or status updates ('tweets') from your computer or mobile phone
2. 'Follow' other users - that is, read their tweets.

You don't need to contribute anything yourself in order to benefit from Twitter. Once you're signed up - it is free to use - you can search through the website finding people or businesses to 'follow'. You could find them through keyword or name searches, from their website or from lists created by other Twitter users.

When you log in to Twitter, your Twitter homepage will consist of a list of tweets from users you are following, in chronological order. By refreshing the page you can keep completely up-to-date with tweets.

Since joining Twitter I've found it very useful for keeping abreast of travel news, weather updates, airport closures and special events. Instead of visiting many different websites to find out the latest from BA, Gatwick, train companies etc, I simply need to check my Twitter page, which I can keep open on my computer. If you travel a lot, or are planning a holiday, this kind of service is very valuable. Italy isn't very well connected to Twitter yet, but you will still find some news websites and plenty of English-language Twitter users providing destination information.

My two big successes so far are:
1. getting through to Easyjet customer services from Venice Airport when all else failed (http://twitter.com/easyJetCare)
2. getting a bargain opera ticket in a special offer 'tweeted' by the Royal Opera House (http://twitter.com/RoyalOperaHouse)

Twitter is essentially very basic. Tweets are only up to 140 characters, and are public. There are conventions and techniques for more advanced use, if you wish to get more involved. You can offer or request information, make new contacts, chat with strangers, 'retweet' interesting posts... if you want to. Even if you don't want to interact, though, I'd still recommend it as a useful source of information. I wouldn't go so far as several newspapers, which have tried to plan holidays entirely on Twitter. But it is a good tool.

Italy Heaven tweets at the moment are mostly about new features on the website, to suggest off-the-beaten-track destinations, provide Italy travel updates, or simply comment on my own travels (lately mostly consisting of cancelled flights). Since I'm still trying out the feature, there may be more uses in the future. You can see my latest tweets in a feed at the foot of the Italy Heaven homepage, on this blog or at http://twitter.com/italyheaven. See my 'following' list for some useful Twitter profiles relevant to Italy / travel.

> Twitter
> Twitter can help you plan your holiday - Telegraph
> Twitter trip to Paris - Guardian
> Using Twitter for travel complaints - NYT

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