Social Media Hitchhiking: Audi Sends College Student Cross-Country Using Only Digital Networks

Social Media Hitchhiking: Audi Sends College Student Cross-Country Using Only Digital NetworksUniversity of Pennsylvania grad student and blogger Lindsay Rule recently hitchhiked across the US using only social media and online networks, as part of a partnership between Architizer and Audi’s Urban Future Initiative.  Rule’s assignment was to travel across the country – from Boston to San Francisco – without spending any money (ok, there was a $100 emergency fund) by using social media to coordinate free rides and places to stay.

Rule used a combination of Facebook, Craigslist, Ridejoy (a ridesharing service), and CouchSurfing — plus some old-fashioned in-person social networking (aka people skills).  The trip was completely unplanned, relying on digital networks and the kindness of strangers.  According to Rule, “This would have been impossible without social media.”

Rule blogged about her journey daily on Architizer, and her posts were featured on the Audi Urban Future Initiative Facebook page.

 Social Media Hitchhiking: Audi Urban Future Initiative Facebook post

Audi’s Urban Future Initiative examines the convergence of mobility, architecture, and urban development; the trip began at the offices of interdisciplinary firm Höweler Yoon Architecture, which is collaborating with Audi to rethink infrastructure in a sustainable way.

Audi Urban Future Initiative Facebook page

The luxury car brand realizes how easy it’s becoming to travel in the U.S. without owning a car, according to Fast Company. “Mobility in cities is getting more and more relevant to us,” says Dominik Stampfl of the Audi Urban Future Initiative. “In the future, we’ll need more than cars.”

Was relying on digital sharing networks a success for Rule?  “I had confidence in it. I’d do it again,” she said.

Young adults are buying fewer cars, and this experiment is a (rather extreme) example of how social networks and smartphones make carsharing – and apparently couchsurfing – a more viable opportunity for those seeking mobility with little (or no) cost.

The idea is innovative and fun – but what’s the bottom line for Audi?  Is this purely a CSR campaign, stemming from the brand’s “commitment to urban mobility as a whole,” and “belief that today’s mobility challenges can only be solved in a collective and interdisciplinary context?”  According to the Initiative’s homepage, the goal is to “change both thought patterns and corporate culture” around urban mobility.

What do you think – is this a successful way for Audi to build its brand or expand into new markets?