In PR, we are all about making connections. Luckily for us, living in the digital age has made it incredibly easy to connect with people across the globe. But it wasn’t too long ago that our communication was limited at best, and only as fast as the mail carrier could deliver. Back then, networking without borders was called having a pen pal.
Writing to a pen pal is a lost art. While social media has made the world an accessible place, there was something special about the one-on-one attention you got from a pen pal. I can remember the feeling when I was little and got letters from my pen pal in Austria (a detail I remember because I thought that meant she lived with kangaroos and koalas). Regardless of my lack of geography knowledge, I was holding a piece of paper that traveled thousands of miles and was once in the hands of girl just like me, only Austr(al)ian.
Today, I don’t even know how one goes about getting a pen pal. Heck, I don’t even know how much stamps cost, let alone international rates. Well, now there is an app determined to give you the one-on-one experience with a person anywhere in the world…that has access to an iPhone and 3g network.
Wander, an iPhone app released mid-December, gives the user that personal experience that you can’t get via Facebook or Twitter. Wander connects two users from different countries to become each other’s “guide” to their city.
Users can choose to decline the person Wander assigns to them, in which you have to wait 24-hours for a new guide. Unfortunately, I was declined in my multiple efforts (something I will reflect on later) but my good friend Martha, who loves to travel and was the one to introduce me to Wander, has had more success.
So far she has connected with a guide in Mexico City and another in Kuala Lumpur. Once you are connected, Wander assigns three tasks that help facilitate the conversation. Tasks range from sharing a picture of “The menu at a local restaurant” to “A guilty pleasure.” Over the course of a week, Martha and her guides exchanged pictures of food, surroundings, pets, coworkers, and fun facts about their home.
While Martha has enjoyed chatting with her new friends, she agrees it is frustrating being turned down by a guide more often than not. Perhaps there is a language barrier, as the majority of my match-ups were not in English speaking countries. There does appear to be a translation feature, but rarely do those convey a clear message once translated.
Regardless, I will continue to search for my future pen iPhone pal. Wander has only been available for a month, so it still has a ton of potential to grow into a new and exciting kind of social network. Give it a try and share your experience with us!