Only 23 percent of online users are on Twitter. That means 77 percent of you are losing out on the single best source of travel deal information. Today I hope to change that.

Where the Deals Are

Mr. Pickles takes his morning coffee break. Photo by Dia Adams via Team Pickles.

Mr. Pickles takes his morning coffee break. Photo by Dia Adams via Team Pickles.

An informal survey of my mom community verified my suspicion: almost all of them love Pinterest, but shy away from Twitter. It’s true, Pinterest is great for planning, dreaming, and organizing your thoughts, but if you want immediate news, such as where to find the best travel deals, Twitter is where it’s at.

Twitter, of all social media, is the one most in real time. Tweets spread like wildfire because it’s so easy to respond or re-tweet news.

If there is a hot travel deal anywhere, chances are it will be shared on Twitter first. Bloggers use Twitter to put out or share information that is too time sensitive or just not right for a full post.

Crazy cheap airfare?  Twitter.

Unbelievable room rate at that 5 star hotel?  Twitter.

How I got from Seattle to Rome last August for $1400 round trip in Business Class? Say it with me…Twitter.

Tweet Huh? At Who? Hashtag What?

Here are the basics of Twitter and how to use it to find out the best travel deals.

Simply put, Twitter is a micro-blogging site where individual posts (“Tweets”) are limited to 140 characters. An account is identified by the @ symbol so if I’m trying to get the attention of a specific person I address the tweet @TwitterName. A hashtag (#) is used to identify a topic of interest.

For instance if you want to easily see what going on with the Traveling Moms, search for the hashtag #TMOM and all of the posts containing that hashtag will appear. It’s an especially easy way to find info about a destination: #italy, for instance, will bring up posts about Italy or hashtag #familytravel will bring up, you guessed it, family travel. Days of the week also have their own subjects and hashtags. The most useful for our purposes is #TT, or Travel Tuesday.

When you join Twitter, you “follow” the accounts whose information you want to see. You do NOT have to post or have anyone follow you. Many people use twitter not as a communication tool but more like a news bulletin.

Brands on Twitter

Companies (at least those that do it right) use Twitter to engage with customers on a personal level. The best at social media use Twitter to build brand loyalty by offering contests or other perks to followers.

They also use twitter to quickly respond to problems because no company wants to win the United Breaks Guitars award. In 2008, United, you guessed it, broke a guitar and the guitarist in question took to social media with a catchy little ditty. As of February 2015, “United Breaks Guitars”  had been viewed more than 14 million times.

If you’re having a problem with an individual company, follow that Twitter feed and Tweet your issue.  The social media teams can be your best friend in a jam, especially with airlines. Hyatt even rebooked me a room over Twitter.

Contests on Twitter

The contests deserve special mention. Since so few people are on Twitter, your odds of winning are really good. Over the last year I’ve won 3 hotel nights just from Twitter promotions. Best of all, over Christmas break we spent a weekend up in Baltimore that happened to correspond with Hyatt asking on Twitter “Hey? Anyone staying at a Hyatt tonight?”  I tweeted that we were and we arrived to this enormous Harborview suite.  Merry Christmas to us!

The kids make the most of our suite upgrade at the Hyatt Baltimore.  Photo by Travel Hack TMOM

The kids make the most of our suite upgrade at the Hyatt Baltimore. Photo by Travel Hack TMOM

Let’s Party!

A “Twitter Party” is a virtual meet and greet organized under a hashtag. Cindy, our Empty Nest TravelingMom, does a great introduction to twitter parties  so I won’t re-create the wheel. I’ll just remind you to be at the ready at 9PM EST on Mondays for #TMOM because you’re guaranteed to learn a ton and have fun doing it!

Who to Follow

This list is for folks just starting out who don’t want to sift through a ton of posts.  I follow MANY more than I’m listing here, but then again I live on Twitter.

Of course, start with @TravelingMoms! You can also follow me @thedealmommy.  I also suggest following the TravelingMoms you read regularly and those that write content that relates to your life. You can find their info on our “bloggers” page.

Travel Blog Networks: These are sites that link to all posts in their network.  By following a network, you don’t have to follow each blog. I follow a bunch of individual blogs as well, but am keeping this list simple. My list leans towards blogs that cover logistics–miles, points, planning, saving money- as opposed to destinations.

@Saverocity (my home network)

@TheMrPickles

@BoardingArea

@Prior2Board

@First2Board

Travel Deal Sites

@theflightdeal

@AirfareWatchdog

@dansdeals

@secretflying

@FFBonuses

American Express: @AmexOffers deserves its own line because of the frequent promotions you can attach to your card via Twitter. Check out the details here.

Fellow Twitter fiends, what makes your must-follow for Beginners  list? Please leave your suggestions in the comments.