Quirky travel companies such as Couchsurfing and AirBnB are building fan bases thanks to their smart use of "social media and old-fashioned word-of-mouth," writes Barbara Ortutay. Users rely on Facebook connections and other social tools to build trust in one another, which also helps to burnish the companies' own brands. "The more you use the sites, the more friends and reviews you get from other users, which further serves to ensure trust," Ortutay explains.

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