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Amanda Pensack

Social Road Trip and The Power of Building an Online Community 

Amanda Pensack
Social Road Trip and The Power of Building an Online Community 

It started as a joke: a smart off-the-cuff comment in a weekly Twitter chat between myself, a female in her mid twenties, and two men I have never met offline.

“I have so much fun in these chats! It’s like I know you already!” I tweeted to one of the guys. “Wouldn’t it be fun if we rented a camper van and road tripped across the United States visiting all of our social media connections?” he tweeted back.

Over the course of the Twitter chat we started bouncing ideas around and people took notice. The idea of connecting with our Twitter friends whom we have never actually met offline through a road trip took off like fire among the chat's participants. Chiming in with, “visit me in my city!” or “you should totally check out (blank) location on your road trip,” our fellow Twitter chat community members started engaging.

How could we make this fantasy a reality? Before we knew it, our idea had a name: Social Road Trip. What began as a humorous quip of a tweet has now grown into a social movement, a catalyst for sparking online connections to become face-to-face meet-ups offline. The common denominator of this concept? The power of community.

Social media today has evolved the way people communicate and engage with one another. Now more than ever, people are beginning to connect in ways that lead to more collaboration, innovation, and more importantly, relationships. Finding a community that has like-minded members with similar interests and goals allows for open dialogue and free flowing thoughts to be exchanged.

Starting Social Road Trip

Social Road Trip stems from collaboration among like-minded people with a vision. Entirely people-powered through social media, we instill a sense of ownership to our own community by encouraging individuals to post openly on our Twitter and Facebook pages, letting other Social Road Trip group members know of their weekly whereabouts.

Members can empower change by organizing their own offline meet-up. Social Road Trip simply acts as the catalyst for sparking these offline meet-ups and connections, but it's our members who make it work through active engagement.

The one-off comment that was made during this particular Twitter chat sparked engagement from two connections I have never met offline before. Despite not knowing them other than through Twitter, I see these guys almost every day – just on social media!

We have gotten to know each other through attending the same weekly Twitter chats and tweeting to each other outside of the scheduled chats. These guys don't feel like strangers to me but rather very close friends! To be honest, if we rewinded time back two or three years ago I would have never believed social media would have brought me to where I am now.

Twitter connections who were once unfamiliar and strangers to me have now become the people who I talk to on an hourly basis. I talk to my Twitter friends more than most of my local friends!

Using Social Media for the Planning Process

Fast forward a couple of weeks of direct messaging back and fourth (also known as “DM’ing”), we added in another Twitter connection who was to become our fourth and final co-founder. This particular connection could help us execute on the idea of Social Road Trip in ways we hadn’t even thought of and brought fresh ideas to the table about engagement and building a community.

After constantly messaging, we decided to take our efforts face-to-face over Google hangouts. These hangouts, we found, led us to having more fluid conversations and allowed us to really get to know each other's personalities. Together, we were able to effectively communicate and map out where we wanted to take the direction of our turbo-charged idea.

Currently, Social Road Trip is growing and evolving into a fully-fledged social movement. With nearly 400 Instagram followers, a weekly interactive Twitter chat, and a Facebook group where people can also post what city they will be in any particular day or week to meet up with other social connections who may also be in that area, Social Road Trip is just beginning.

We will be holding our first-ever Social Road Trip weekend in Washington, D.C. from August 7-9 for our social connections in the area (and for those who are flying in from out of town).

What I've Learned

What I’ve learned from ramping up my social media presence and digital footprint on Twitter specifically is that we are all humans. Every single one of us – besides the lurking bots, of course!

Major brands are really just humans like us tweeting from behind a popular Twitter handle. What sets us apart, however, is our ability to engage with one another and with like-minded connections. The power of community, especially on social media, has limitless potentials.

I urge everyone to find a community on social media, listen to the conversation that is taking place around you and then engage. Add value. Contribute. Start a discussion. Raise a question. But most importantly, take your relationships offline and make the effort to grow your network with the right individuals, not necessarily the most.

Those who are able to do this effectively will realize the potential of online communities and growing relationships.

Who knows, maybe you will decide to collaborate with three strangers and start YOUR own business/side project, too! I was also recently interviewed for a major podcast called “Why I Social” and discuss Social Road Trip in-depth there, too.

For more on Social Road Trip, connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Social Road Trip's weekly Twitter chats are on Sunday nights from 8:45 - 9:15 p.m. with the hashtag #SocialRoadTrip.

Amanda Pensack is the Marketing Director for ECM Solutions, the largest independent insurance agency in Charlotte, NC. Before coming to ECM Solutions, Amanda worked as a Digital Producer for Charlotte's top television news station, WSOC-TV. Amanda is also the Co-Founder of Social Road Trip and the creator of @TravelWithRoxy, a popular travel Instagram account.

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