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Duo hopes to harness power of social networks


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POSTED: Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two Honolulu entrepreneurs are hoping to harness the power of social network Twitter.com and Web 2.0 to create a money-making venture aimed at pre- and post-arrival Hawaii visitors and kamaaina.

Fyndhawaii.com involves Twitter, Web sites and opt-in-technology that will deliver streams of merchants' information to users.

“;We're sorta testing the waters with this,”; said Alex Salkever, media veteran and founder of and partner in fyndhawaii.com.

His partner is Tushar Dubey, founder of the Hokulani Bake Shop at Restaurant Row and creator of Pidgin on da Fridge pidgin-English refrigerator magnets.

People use Twitter in different ways.

Some use it for casual conversation, hence all the 140-character “;tweets”; about what they have eaten, which begets great disdain for all the social network's meaningless noise.

However, the portal rose to credible prominence as it was used to spread news of election protests in Iran in real time.

Not everything of value on Twitter need be earthshaking, however.

Salkever sees value in “;one-way broadcasts of specific types of information that can be useful to look at as a stream on Facebook,”; or by other online means, he said.

He checks Twitter for word on traffic slowdowns before heading out, for instance.

“;There are tons of merchants in Hawaii that have a channel problem. It's hard for them to reach anybody in real time,”; Salkever said.

Millions of Twitter users exist and many of them are considering travel to Hawaii or already have booked travel to Hawaii and are looking for deals to take advantage of while here. And then there are we deal-seeking local folks.

Fyndhawaii.com and its affiliated sites and Twitter streams are working to play matchmaker.

Say an air tour company has two unsold seats on a tour that is soon to depart. It could post a deal on the last-minute seats to Twitter via fyndhawaii.com and also could direct the message to people interested in deals for a specific island.

“;It's last minute, but you're better off selling the seats for $50 a pop”; than not at all, he said.

“;There's tons of that kind of expiring inventory in Hawaii but there's not really a good way to move it.”;

Many businesses Tweet about a new menu, a sale or promotion and do it on their own, but Salkever and Dubey intend to build fyndhawaii into a sort of personal shopping service for compelling “;deals, or things with specific calls to action,”; by creating newsletters, RSS feeds or other forms of alerts that deal-seekers can opt in to receive.

At the moment, merchants pay nothing to access the fyndhawaii.com service and it will remain free until the venture reaches some sort of critical mass, or when the partners can determine that the product creates tangible value.

The venture will not replace traditional advertising venues.

“;Nobody's going to say 'I'm going to stop my This Week ads and do this instead,”; Salkever said. “;It won't replace them, but will work in tandem.”;

On the Net:

» www.fyndhawaii.com

» twitter.com/fyndhawaii

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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)