It's just after 10 on a chilly Saturday night, and the acolytes are arriving on cue. Faces bathed in the glow of iPhones, we dutifully form a line that snakes across an empty nightclub parking lot in this seaside enclave of Los Angeles.
The object of our desire: the Kogi Korean BBQ truck, one of L.A.'s newest tourist attractions and a roving tribute to the social-media steamroller known as Twitter.
Launched five months ago, Kogi's two mobile taco trucks — dubbed Roja and Verde — roam the L.A. basin dispensing such mouth-watering concoctions as chocolate Oreo balls and tortilla-wrapped short ribs slathered with soy sesame chili. But it's the way Kogi markets and communicates its locations to customers that has made them famous: via Twitter, the explosively popular, Web-based service that lets users send and receive messages ("tweets") of up to 140 characters each.
Derided as an avalanche of self-absorbed, stream-of-consciousness updates that reads like a foreign language to non-participants, Twitter has nevertheless hitched a ride among cyber-savvy travelers looking for real-time inspiration, information and deals.
What I learned by trolling the Twittersphere for tips before and during a recent L.A. getaway:
kriswallsmith Embassy Hotel & Apartments. Very pleasant and quiet. Wouldn't stay anywhere else. #santamonica Http://twitpic.com/1vi0r
I don't know Kris Wallsmith from Kris Kringle. But when I turned to Twitter for a place to stay, I discovered the Portland, Ore.-based Web developer's review by using a Santa Monica hashtag (a word or phrase to target others interested in the same topic). Intrigued by his description and photo, I surfed over to TripAdvisor.com — and found mostly positive reviews of the Embassy, a reasonably priced, 1927 Moorish classic just two blocks from oceanfront Palisades Park. A follow-up tweet from Santa Monica travel writer Alex Beauchamp (@alextravels) confirmed my choice, and led me to a tips-packed blog post about her hometown at hyggehouse.com.
So far, so good.
laurably Alaska Airlines may be touting in-flight wifi (without power outlets), but they're not on Twitter. At DC counter: "what IS it, anyway?"
Travel businesses from museums to visitor bureaus are now using Twitter as a viral-marketing tool — something I was reminded of when posted that tweet at Washington's Reagan National Airport after querying check-in staff and scanning a current in-flight magazine column that described the airline's high-tech services but never mentioned Twitter. By the time I landed at LAX five hours later, my original missive had been re-tweeted several times. And I learned that Alaska did, indeed, have a Twitter presence — from a tweet sent by the airline itself (Twitter account @AlaskaAir).
Among @AlaskaAir's recent tweets to its 6,000-plus followers: daily updates on which of its flights have trial Wi-Fi, news of a one-day, 30% off sale on flights to Victoria, B.C., and a reply to a swine flu query from @vegaskim that "aircraft arriving from Mexico are being disinfected per CDC guidelines."
BkwdGreenComet Bar Pinxto, very friendly small tapas bar just off Ocean Ave on SaMo Blvd http://www.barpintxo.com/— also Babalu @ 10th/Montana