How many hours a day do you spend scrolling through social media? It can be overwhelming at times. A flood of news articles alerting you to the newest devastation. Eerily specific ads for items you only thought about. A series of obnoxious engagement, wedding, and baby announcements from all your friends — even your ex — always competing for your immediate attention.
One of the best aspects of social media is how it connects us to one another and helps to develop communities. Yet with current social media apps, it can be difficult to cultivate those relationships.
Steller, a travel-inspired storytelling social platform, achieves that goal while also weeding out the nuisances other social media often produce.
The Kirkland-based company, co-founded in 2014 by former Microsoft executive Richard McAniff and adventure travel expert Richard Bangs (the duo that originally launched Expedia through Microsoft), along with Pete Bryant, Karen Poole, and Scott Greenberg, is different from other social media platforms in that there are no algorithms, and it’s specifically designed for travelers — and daydreamers researching where to visit first.
Steller is built by travelers, not machines, said its CEO and co-founder, Pete Bryant.
“The voice of the traveler is really important because there’s almost too much information. Information is heavily manipulated by advertising, and the voice of the traveler has kind of been lost, and we would argue that it’s never been more important than it is today to hear from other like-minded travelers, on their experiences, whether it was a weekend trip to Idaho or a weeklong trip to Austria,” he said.
This method, Bryant said, is far preferable to spending hours on Google researching places and reading hundreds of often-unhelpful reviews and advice.
With Steller, travelers can not only build and be part of a community, but they also can become content creators. “From Steller, I can publish natively into all social channels, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, (and) I can post out onto the web because we have a native web player. The content goes everywhere,” Bryant said.
Steller is a partner with Google Web Stories and has more than 1,000 stories on that platform, Bryant said, making it an amplification platform for those seeking to efficiently publish their stories outward.
“We have over a million users from 180 countries that we’d love to hear and share each other’s experiences, so it’s become this community of travelers, but in there is a smartly connected platform so that I can actually build my own itinerary off of other people’s stories,” he said.
Steller is more than just a community of travelers and a source of inspiration. It also streamlines travel planning and booking, helping travelers easily find comfortable and affordable places to stay while they’re on their adventures.
Like most industries, travel and hospitality took a huge hit when the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns went into effect. Since travel and connectivity are what fuels Steller, it had to change in order to still engage with its community. Bryant said Steller had to change its narrative to focus on local travel. Steller launched the campaign #LoveWhereYouLive in Australia, as well as other campaigns around the United States, promoting road trips and visits to national parks.
“The cool thing about travel is it’s really about experiencing something, anything, and you don’t have to go very far,” he said. “Explore your backyard, be a tourist in your own city, and create content about it. That’s been very well-received.”
Going forward, Bryant said Steller is looking to continue promoting local travel until the pandemic improves. The app also has undergone changes, implementing new features to better assist users in sharing their stories. Bryant also said Steller is looking to partner with more agencies to offer virtual tours around the world.
Despite the stress and the inconveniences brought on by COVID-19, Bryant said he’s incredibly proud of Steller and its users. “I think every morning waking up and opening the app and seeing new news stories from all over the world, seeing (that) everyone everywhere loves to travel at some level is the most rewarding and inspiring,” he said.