Travel social networking sites are generally pretty useful. If you’re looking for user-generated reviews, recommendations or even cautions, any number of websites will fit the bill. 43Places.com is rather simple, but informative. IgoUgo.com, TripAdvisor.com and TripWiser.com also have their pluses and minuses.

Matador Travel LogoBut there’s a new travel social networking site out there that looks at travel a bit differently. MatadorTravel.com, which is still in Beta, is a social network for the culture-conscious traveler. The concept of the site centers around off-the-beaten path travel, whether it be for adventure or for true exposure to the cultures of the visited areas. The founders, two 26-year-old, Bay area entrepreneurs, are both avid travelers, but with what appears to be a more altruistic view of the world than a lot of their VC-seeking brethren. The site encourages volunteerism and outreach while adventuring, as witnessed by the hundreds of non-profits and charity groups that have set up organizations on the site to connect with interested adventure and giving seekers.

“We’re geared more toward getting away from the tours and cruises,” said Ross Borden, co-founder of Matador. “We’re more interested really interacting with people and cultures and hopefully encouraging travelers to focus on volunteering and giving something back to the communities they visit.”

Borden apparently spent some time raising money and working with schools in Africa. His enthusiasm for genuine outreach and do-gooding comes through when you talk to him.

He and longtime friend Ben Polansky gave the site immediate credibility by hiring travel journalists to help populate its content. Site users can submit reviews or even put themselves up for paid travel writing opportunities either as destination experts for Matador on the site’s bounty board where outside travel writing opportunities are posted. Pictures, videos and the like are encouraged as well, but unlike most travel sites you have a profile where you can let other users browsing know what you’re interests and travel history are, increasing the chances of finding those of similar mind.

It’s the focus of the user-generated content that makes the site cool, however. Heart-warming (and heart breaking) tales of volunteering to help rebuild African villages to photos and interviews of Hurricane Katrina clean-up efforts (yes, still) make this little social network one I’d call a “warm and fuzzy.” There’s also some fair entertainment in some of the blogs. While searching for some Katrina information, I stumbled upon this one from a user named Olivebeard that includes the lines:

“New Orleans—by all manner of logic—is ugly. And yet handsomely unique.”

The site launched in August but is growing steadily. It’s built on an advertising model for funding and has the requisite travel booking mechanism built in, so there’s some percentage of income there. Matador also has guest artists designing T-shirts for them you can purchase. These guys may not get rich with this website, but it almost seems like the point is to make the world richer instead.

And bravo to them for giving it a go.

[tags]travel, social networking, travel websites, Matador Travel, Ross Borden, Ben Polansky, volunteerism, cultural experience[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://apps.facebook.com/going-places/ Going Places

    Hi, thank you for a great post.

    The concept of travel networking is truly amazing and yet to be discovered in my mind.

    If you take Facebook for example, it is swamped lately with travel applications, but I think that what makes an application to rise above the herd is how well they leverage the social aspects of travel.

    One great example is the “Going Places” application from TripWiser.com (see link), where you can pick your top destinations world wide and share places with your friends. How simple is that???

    Tomer.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Tomer,

    I’ll check it out. Thanks for the info. I like TripWiser. I currently use the TripAdvisory app on Facebook, though. But thanks for pointing me to another.