How to Turn Twitter into a Feed Reader

 

I hate feed readers. Always have. Frankly, I just don’t have time to read every single post by every single blogger I like, not even close, so I only log into my feed reader once every day or two. Because I follow so many people, that means that every time I log in, my feed reader shows a billion unread posts. Some days, it looks so daunting to clear ‘em all out, that I just close my browser without reading anything.

I keep TweetDeck running all day though. I thought to myself recently, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could combine Twitter and feeds to make a column just for people’s new blog posts.

I mean, I know a lot  of bloggers out there tweet their links, but they often get lost in the shuffle of conversation. And not everyone has their Twitter account tied to Twitterfeed (or a related service). And some people tweet links to multiple sites, both their own and others, or tweet links from the archives, etc.

It gets confusing. Yet, somehow I don’t think it will work to contact every blogger I like and saying, “Hey, will you create a separate Twitter account JUST for your feed so I can follow that account and put it into a group just for feeds?”

But, duh…I can do this myself. Kind of. With a little hacking (and I use that term loosely, because this involves no actual hacking, just ingenuity), you can turn Twitter into a Feed Reader!

STEP ONE: Create a new Twitter account. I’m using @allisonsreading, for example. If you don’t want people to see what you’re reading, set this account to private. If you make it public, I also recommend putting your real Twitter ID in the profile with a message that you won’t be replying/tweeting from this account – that it is purely links. DO NOT follow anyone from this account or you’ll be missing the entire point of setting up this account.

STEP TWO: Sign up for Twitterfeed, or sign in if you already have an account.

STEP THREE: Authenticate your new Twitter account with Twitterfeed.

STEP FOUR: Add a new feed by going to a site you like to read, clicking on the RSS button, and copy/pasting that URL into Twitterfeed. For most sites, the blog URL, followed by “/feed” works too if you can’t find a button.

STEP FIVE: Click on the advanced options link in Twitterfeed and add the site’s name or blogger’s name to the prefix box. This will make it easier to see who wrote the link that’s being posted. Personally, I also change the settings so it only tweets the title, not the title and description, but you can do whatever you want. You could also put the blogger’s Twitter ID in the prefix or suffix box so it pings the author, but that’s totally up to you.

STEP SIX: Repeat this for all the blogs you’d normally add to your feed reader of choice. Manually doing this takes a long time. Someone out there who is smarter than me should totally run with this idea and automate the service, as I bet it would make a lot of money if marketed correctly.

STEP SEVEN: Open TweetDeck or whatever you use and add your new Twitter account. Create a new column for “all followers.” Since you aren’t actually following anyone, it will only show your tweets. AND GUESS WHAT? Your tweets are ONLY the feeds you want to read!

Voilà! Your very own feed reader directly within Twitter. I’m currently in the “add all my feeds to Twitterfeed” stage. Seriously, someone should create a service to automate this process and thread it through feedburner (so as to not mess up bloggers’ feed counts).

If there are certain blogs that you love so much you HAVE to read every single post or you like categories, you could easily make more than one extra Twitter account and have multiple columns going on TweetDeck.

There are definitely some downsides to this kind of feed reader. Definitely the manual input is a drag. Beyond that, you’re also likely going to miss posts as they fly by if you add more than a handful of feeds. This is more for someone like me who just wants a non-intimidating way to look at what was recently posted by my favorite bloggers when I have a moment or two to read something.

Fun Possibility: You could add this account to your blog’s sidebar instead of a traditional blogroll! I hate blogrolls because they get outdated to quickly and tend to grow at an alarming rate. This way, you don’t have to keep track of broken links and you’re still promoting the sites that you like to read. It also takes up less real estate on your sidebar and is constantly changing, so people are more likely to quit. I would LOVE to be on someone’s “blogroll” this way instead of being on a traditional blogroll.

Also…income stream possibility? Create an account just for Sponsored Feeds and place the widget on your sidebar (clearly marked as “sponsored” of course). People would pay for their feed to show up on your sidebar this way. This is just a really just a random thought I had – I haven’t looked into it at all to see if this would break any sort of Twitter rules or be a no-no with Google. Look into it before you run with that idea.

Will someone please pay me to just sit around and think of ideas? In all honesty, I’m sure that some smart cookies out there are already doing this, but I haven’t seen anyone talking about it, so I wanted to pass on the idea!

Hope it helps some of you – RT this post if it does (feel free to cc: @allison_boyer – I’d love to know who is using this idea!).

Note:  This post was originally published on the NMX blog in Dec 2010. Since then, I’ve seen a number of other people using this technique or a similar technique to make Twitter a feed reader!

TBEX Sponsored Speed Dating at ITB Berlin

 

ITB Berlin 2012 Flags at Entrance North

If attending ITB Berlin, the world’s leading travel trade show, is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, here’s the scoop on getting your media accreditation and getting registered for the TBEX sponsored Speed Dating at ITB.

Sign up for media accreditation

ITB Berlin requires that all bloggers complete the media accreditation process. It’s a fairly simple process, but very structured, so you’ll need to know your analytic numbers and plug them into the required fields. There is not way to list more than one blog site, with the accompanying statistics, nor is there a “other” field to list additional blog information.  Choose one blog, or use the aggregate, and be prepared to follow up with data should you be asked.

You will also be asked for social media numbers (Twitter followers, Facebook fans), but again, have no ability to reference more than one account. Since most bloggers use both a personal and blog account on social media, you’ll have to decide, again, whether to choose one account’s numbers or aggregate.

Speed Dating by TBEX

You will need to pre-register for Speed Dating. You can do so before you receive your media accreditation response, but you will to complete both registration processes. Only accredited bloggers will be able to participate in speed dating. Speed dating pre-registration is open until mid-January, so don’t put this off.

You may sign up for one or two days of speed dating in your pre-registration. Appointments will be set based upon the number of participants.

The information that you enter on your pre-registration form will pre-populate the matching tool that has been designed by ITB. You will also be asked to provide a description of your blog once the pre-registration is completed.

Exhibitors will have the first option to select time slots to meet with bloggers. This will occur in early February, following by bloggers having the option to request meetings to fill their remaining time slots (mid-February). After that process is complete, ITB will match the rest of the available slots according to other requests and needs. Appointment times may change during this process.

One week prior to ITB all participants will be emailed their appointment schedule. You are expected to keep all appointments on your schedule.

Tips

ITB will be held March 6-10th, 2013 at the Messe Berlin in Berlin, Germany. In addition to the Speed Dating event, a full schedule of education and trade show events and press conferences are offered. Bloggers might find eTravel World to be especially informative. Although that program is still being put together, many travel bloggers from the TBEX community are currently scheduled to speak. The exhibition floor is huge, so allow plenty of time to walk the show floor to meet and learn from exhibitors.

You must register for BOTH media accreditation and speed dating; they are two separate forms.

Speed Dating is offered on two days at ITB, March 7th and 8th, from 4:30-6 pm.

Speed Dating appointments are pre-scheduled and timed and are an ideal way to make new business contacts and to discuss interesting offers. Make the best use of your limited time by being prepared – do your research and come ready to talk business. Bring plenty of business cards, copies of or links to your media kit, and any other information that might be helpful. Remember, though, that most exhibitors are just like you and don’t want to lug a bunch of paper around.

TBEX and ITB representatives will be on hand during Speed Dating to answer questions, solve problems, and make sure appointments run on schedule.

Spring airfares are often at their lowest shortly after the holiday season. Start pricing out your air travel now and keep an eye out for any fare wars.

ITB Berlin does not have a hotel block for attendees, instead referring everyone to Visit Berlin where you can book over 360 hotels in all price ranges. And, of course, travel bloggers have their own go-to sources for finding reasonably priced and conveniently located places to stay.

Messe Berlin is accessible by the city bus. A shuttle will also be available from partner hotels to the venue.

We’ll be sure to let you know as updated information becomes available. Now, who’s planning to be at ITB Berlin?

Photo credit:  Courtesy of ITB Berlin

Happy Holidays, TBEXers!

 

Happy Holidays to the entire TBEX community, from everyone on the TBEX and NMX staff! We hope your holidays are full of good food, relaxation, and time spent with those you love – and, of course, plenty of travel planning.

We look forward to being a part of your travel blogging world in 2013 and beyond!

globe ornament via Peace Love and Decorating

The Instagram Exodus: Photo-Sharing Alternatives (and a Warning)

 

As soon as the details of Instagram‘s new Terms of Service were announced, users started jumping ship. I can’t recall how many people I’ve seen in my own Twitter and Facebook streams saying they had already deleted all of their photos and their entire account, but even if I’m extrapolating from that small sample size it’s pretty clear that plenty of people were irritated enough to instantly take action.

There were several changes made to the Terms of Service, but the one that seems to have angered most users says that while you own all the photos you post via your Instagram account, “you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service’s Privacy Policy.” In other words, some interpreted, Instagram could use and sell any of your photos for any purpose they wanted.

To their credit, Instagram responded pretty quickly with a blog post entitled, “Thank you, and we’re listening” in order to clarify some of the (admittedly confusing) legalese in the updated Terms of Service – including this (emphasis added):

“Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.”

The good news here is that the new Terms of Service don’t officially take effect immediately (they kick in on January 16), which gives Instagram users a chance to voice their opinions and the service a chance to respond. (This makes me wonder whether, in this age of instantaneous reaction-and-response, immediately deleting one’s account might be a wee bit rash. I mean, give ’em a chance to respond, right? But I digress…)

Alternatives to Instagram

Okay, so if you’re dead set on never using Instagram again, but you’re hooked on sharing photos you snap on your mobile phone, what are your non-Instagram options? Here’s a rundown of some of the apps/services currently out there – note that I haven’t tested all of these, and you’ll probably need to play with a few until you find the one you like best. And if your favorite part of Instagram was the community you found there, then you’ll probably need to wait to find out which app your community gravitates toward the most.

  • Twitter – You can add filters to photos you upload directly to Twitter now, although you can’t share with multiple social media accounts at once.
  • Flickr – Flickr recently overhauled its mobile app to include filters (to almost equal amounts of praise and derision), and you can share photos easily across platforms.
  • Camera Awesome – This is a great camera app in general, allowing for all sorts of photo editing and then sharing across multiple platforms.
  • Pixlr-O-Matic – This is a photo editing app with a plethora of photo editing overlays and effects, including a “randomizer,” plus sharing features.
  • EyeEm – The EyeEm mobile app boasts a simple design for users to snap, edit, and share photos quickly and easily.
  • Snapseed – Snapseed’s app offers lots of photo editing options, plus the ability to share across multiple platforms. (Note that Snapseed is now part of Google.)
  • Starmatic – Starmatic allows for shooting, editing, and then sharing (but only on Facebook and Twitter).
  • PicYou – With the PicYou app, you upload photos, add a filter, and then you can share it with multiple platforms.
  • TaDaa – TaDaa lets you take photos, edit them with several editing features, and then share across your networks.

Choose Another App at Your Own Risk

But y’know what? No matter what service you’re using, you may eventually run into the same issue Instagram fans are facing right now – because you’re using someone else’s service, and they can (and will) change the rules on you. No matter how benevolent your overlords of choice may seem at the moment, there’s no telling when they’ll turn to the dark side (AKA get bought by Facebook or Google or something). After all, these companies exist to make money, right?

If this Instagram incident has served as a wake-up call for you and you’d rather keep your photos on a platform over which you have more control, then consider setting up your own mobile photoblog. This post explains how to set up a mobile photoblog on WordPress.com, but tech-savvy bloggers may want to futz with doing something similar on their own domains.

And if you’re still eager to ditch Instagram for something else – whatever that “something else” is – then here’s some information about exporting and downloading your whole Instagram photo backlog before you pull the plug.

UPDATE: I just this article about a new site that will migrate all your Instagram photos over to your Flickr account with a few clicks. Quite handy.

What do you think?
Have you already deleted your Instagram account? Does the company’s response do anything to change your opinion of them? And if you use a different photo sharing app/service than Instagram or our list above, please let us know what it is!

Familiar TBEX Faces on the NMX Stage

 

As most of you know, TBEX was acquired by BlogWorld & New Media Expo earlier in 2012. What you may not realize is that there was already a bit of overlap between the two conferences in terms of the people who grace the stage. Many TBEX speakers have been presenters at past BlogWorld events – including yours truly – and there’s a host of TBEX speakers in the line-up for the 2013 New Media Expo event next month in Las Vegas.

Here’s a rundown of NMX 2013 speakers who have also been TBEX speakers, plus what they’ll be talking about at NMX in January.

    • Amy Porterfield – Amy delivered a keynote about Facebook marketing at TBEX in Girona, and her presentation on “companies that hit the bullseye with their social campaigns” is part of BusinessNext.

 

    • Andy Hayes – Andy has been involved with the travel blogging community for years; his NMX presentation is called “Live Website Critiques: When You’re Too Close, You Can’t See It.” He’ll be doing a live walk-through of a few websites as a demonstration of what to look for in terms of usability.

 

    • CC Chapman – CC’s an incredibly passionate and energetic speaker (as anyone who saw his sessions in Girona will attest), so I’d bet that his NMX presentation on “How To Add Photography Into Your Marketing Mix” will be a fun one.

 

    • Gary Arndt – Gary’s been a speaker at several TBEX conferences. His NMX presentation is called “How To Compete Against Billion Dollar Media Empires and Win.”

 

    • Monica McCarthy – Monica led a session on video at Keystone, and her NMX presentation is called “Got Video? How to Get On-Camera Ready.” If you’d like to be more confident on camera, this session should help.

 

    • Rand Fishkin – The super-smart Rand delivered a great keynote at TBEX Keystone. His NMX session is called “The Future of SEO – Social Meets Content.”

 

  • Spud Hilton – Spud’s focus at past TBEX events has always been on the storytelling, so it’s no surprise that his NMX talk is called “Road map to storytelling: Writing that turns visitors into loyal readers.”

There are a couple other travel-y folks on the 2013 New Media Expo speaker roster – including Ellen Gerstein, formerly with the publisher of Frommer’s guidebooks, talking about where a book might fit into a blogger’s existing platform, and Lou Mongello, of the popular WDW Radio program, talking about finding sponsors for your brand.

There's a huge array of NMX speakers from whom TBEXers can learn enormous amounts.
Are you going to be at NMX in January 2013? What sessions are you most looking forward to? Who from the NMX speaker list would you like to see on a TBEX stage?

 

Are You Cheating on Your Blog?

 

Blog Marketing Up Close Word Blog Graphi

Twitter. Facebook. Google+. LinkedIn. Pinterest. Email. Sometimes it feels that by the time I’ve checked all my social networks, I don’t have any time left to actually visit my own blog. It’s only a matter of time before I’m caught with lipstick on my collar, so to speak. I love my blog, but sometimes I feel like I’m cheating on it.

There are only so many hours in a day, and most of us suffer from shiny ball syndrome. I should really write some new posts today. Ooo, look at all those new pins. Ooo, someone sent me a funny email. Ooo, I have new messages on Facebook. Ooo….

Our blog feels stale and boring with all the interesting things to do online. And we tell ourselves that our blog will always be there, waiting for us when we get home.

But we all know that isn’t the case, don’t we? If we don’t give our blogs enough attention, one day, we’ll come home to find that the house is empty and there’s a note on the kitchen table telling us it’s over.

Now really, a blog can’t just get up and leave like a scorned lover, but if you’re “cheating” on your blog by spending more time on social media outposts, email, etc., any success you find will be short-lived and packing a suitcase before you know it. Blogs need to be nurtured, or readers won’t remember you.

A see a lot of bloggers saying, “I only write when I have something to say.” That’s great. You don’t have to have a strict blogging schedule to have a great blog. But if your blog isn’t in the forefront of your mind, you haven’t given importance to it and you’re not going to suddenly think of ideas. If you haven’t had anything valuable to say on  your blog for two or three weeks, why are you maintaining your blog at all? Put your blog first and you’ll probably find that the ideas start flowing.

More importantly, all the social media outposts that you love don’t actually belong to you. What would you do if Facebook suddenly disappeared? You don’t have control over whether or not your content stays live on those sites, and you certainly don’t benefit from advertising on other monetization efforts on these networks. You blog needs to be your home base and the place most important to you online. It’s cool to connect with readers elsewhere, but you want to always encourage them to interact with you most on your blog itself.

They won’t if you aren’t there. Be aware of the difference between not having time and not making time. Don’t lie to yourself. If you had time today to play Words With Friends, you had time to check your blog.

If you’re guilty of being a dirty cheater, the good news is that you can rebuild your relationship with your blog. Here are a few things you can do to recommit:

  • Right now, do all that maintenance work you’ve been avoiding. Update to the new WordPress. Clean up your sidebar. Add that new plugins you’ve been hearing so much about. Redo your header. All those little tasks that have been piling up in the corner aren’t going to do themselves. If you’re really short on time – hire someone to do them for you.
  • Write a post at least twice a week. I can appreciate the “only blog when I have something to say” mindset, but if you don’t have something to say about your niche at least twice a week, why are you even blogging about that topic in the first place? It’s about putting your blog to the front of your mind. When you do that, rather than just wait for ideas to strike like lightening, you’ll be amazed at just how much you actually do want to write about.
  • Start your day on your blog. Before you check your email, social networks, etc., check your blog comments and stats, get some writing done, and promote a link or two. Again, it’s about putting your blog in the forefront of your mind.

And don’t be afraid to let it go if your blog really isn’t that important to you. You aren’t a quitter and you certainly aren’t a failure by admitting that you just aren’t that into your blog anymore. Move on to projects you do care about instead.

Photo credit:  Maria Reyes-McDavis via flickr

Plenty of Reasons to Stay in Toronto Longer

 

Toronto skyline at night

Our host sponsors for TBEX 13, Tourism Toronto, tell me that there’s plenty of reasons TBEX attendees will want to stay in Toronto for awhile. Take a look at these major events and top performances taking place in the greater Toronto area during May and June, 2012. Whether you’re looking for cultural performance, family friendly exhibitions, neighborhood festivals, or a little of it all, I think you’ll want to stay in Toronto for awhile, too.

May 2013

Big at the Royal Ontario Museum – Until September 21, 2013.  On Saturday, November 3, 2012, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) unveils BIG, the newest installation in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume on Level 4 in the Museum’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. A stunning display, BIG is exclusively drawn from the ROM’s collection of nearly 50,000 textiles and costumes. Showcasing 40 artifacts from around the world, this unique exhibition includes objects assuming their BIG status in a myriad of ways. With some objects publicly displayed for the first time, the installation offers a fresh, new way of exploring the ROM’s renowned collections.

Giant Pandas at the Toronto Zoo – Spring 2013. It’s true – two lovable black and white giant pandas are coming to the Zoo in 2013 and already the excitement is building. As part of a long-term conservation partnership agreement between China and Canada, signed by Hu Jintao, President of China and Mr. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, China will loan two giant pandas to zoos in Canada. The good news is that Toronto Zoo will be home to the breeding pair for a minimum of five years, beginning in the spring of 2013. The pandas will then relocate to the Calgary Zoo sometime in 2018. However, in the event that breeding is successful while the pair are at the Toronto Zoo, the pandas and offspring would remain in Toronto until such time it is approved to move them.

Game On 2.0: An Exhibition at the Ontario Science Centre – March 9 – September 2, 2013. Play your way through the history and evolution of video games with over 150 influential games. Game On 2.0 focuses on key game developments between 1962 and today, and takes a global perspective at gaming’s fascinating past and limitless future. From Pong to Gran Turismo, explore over 50 years of electronic gaming. Play through the past, present and future of global gaming, from the very first commercial coin-op game to the latest in virtual reality and 3D technology.

Hot Docs – April 25-May 5, 2013. North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market, will present its 20th annual edition. An outstanding selection of 180+ documentaries from Canada and around the world will be presented to Toronto audiences and international delegates. Hot Docs will also mount a full roster of conference sessions and market events and services for documentary practitioners, including the renowned Hot Docs Forum and The Doc Shop. In partnership with Blue Ice Group, Hot Docs operates the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, a century-old landmark located in Toronto’s Annex neighborhood.

The Book of Mormon, Mirvish productions – May/June 2013. Nine 2011 Tony Awards® say it’s the Best Musical of the Year. Vogue says “It’s the best musical of the last 25 years.” And The New York Times says, “It’s the best musical of this century.” It’s THE BOOK OF MORMON, the Broadway phenomenon from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez.

Carassauga: Mississauga’s Festival of Cultures – May 24-26, 2013. Experience the tastes and sounds of more than 64 countries at the largest multicultural Festival in Ontario.

Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival – May 1-31, 2013. CONTACT, the world’s largest annual photography event, is a month-long festival of photography with over 1000 local, national and international artists at more than 200 venues across the Greater Toronto Area.

Canadian Opera Company’s Dialogues des Carmélites – May 8, 11, 14, 17, 19, 21, 23 and 25, 2013. Bringing the season to a close is Francis Poulenc’s operatic masterpiece, Dialogues des Carmélites.  This performance has been described as “subtle, yet gut-wrenching.” Dialogues des Carmélites’ beautiful music sets the tone for the story of an order of Carmelite nuns caught up in the terror of the French Revolution. Dialogues des Carmélites runs for eight performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts and is sung in French with English SURTITLES™.

Patti Smith: Camera Solo at the Art Gallery of Ontario – Until May 19, 2012. A glimpse into the world of legendary musician and artist Patti Smith through an intimate exhibition featuring photographs, personal objects, and a short film. This is a rare opportunity to experience a different side of this rock icon – best known for her profound influence on the nascent punk rock scene in the late 1970s and 80s – through her poetic expression in the visual arts. This exhibition highlights the continual connections between Smith’s photography and her interest in poetry and literature. For more than four decades, she has documented sights and spaces infused with personal significance. Her visual work possesses the same unfiltered, emotional quality prevalent in her poetry and music lyrics: their allure lies in their often dreamlike imagery; their modest scale belies their depth and power. The exhibition features approximately 70 black and white photographs taken with Smith’s vintage Polaroid camera, presented here as gelatin silver prints, alongside personal objects. The exhibition also features Equation Daumal, a film directed by Patti Smith and shot by Jem Cohen on 16mm and super 8 film.

Musicfest Canada – May 13-18, 2013. MusicFest Canada is celebrating its 41st annual festival at the University of Toronto in downtown Toronto. During the week-long event MusicFest “The Nationals” will bring together more than 10,000 of Canada’s finest young musicians in 300 ensembles. They will represent their schools and communities and will perform for national recognition. During the Festival, MusicFest will present concerts and mini-concerts featuring guest artists from all over the world.

Doors Open Toronto – May 25 and 26, 2013. Toronto was the very first city to host Doors Open in North America! Over 130 architecturally, historically, culturally and socially significant buildings open their doors for the weekend and highlight the people who built the city. All for free!

Waterfront Blues Festival– May 31-June 2, 2013. The Waterfront Blues – Metro Toronto’s only genuine Blues festival – will once again be presenting top flight talent! And this year they continue to uncover some gems of the Blues. Many performers, vendors, food (BBQ, etc.) and more.

June 2013

The Streetsville Bread and Honey Festival – Dates not confirmed at this time. Where’s the best place to go for sweet goodies, excitement and a whole lot of fun for the whole family? The annual Streetsville Founders’ Bread & Honey Festival. This year the celebration will feature bigger and better live entertainment and a wide selection of rides and games for the whole family, including a massively popular village-wide parade, three stages filled with activities for everyone, a Rotary Pancake Breakfast, hands-on educational demonstrations, free Bread & Honey and much, much more.

Carmen, National Ballet of Canada – June 5-16, 2013. The very title conjures up images of sultry, physical passion, unleashed emotions and anguished eroticism. Davide Bombana’s 2006 one-act interpretation of the Carmen story, so familiar to audiences through Bizet’s opera, brought all of these qualities to the stage in an unforgettable flourish of dazzling balletic intensity.

Woofstock – June 8 and 9, 2013. When Woofstock launched in 2003, the Toronto Star called it “the summer of canine love”. What else can you call 300,000 dog lovers and their four-footed friends coming together each year for this wildly popular doggie love-in. Woofstock is the largest outdoor festival for dogs in all of North America. One year it was beamed around the world on CNN for the entire weekend.

North By Northeast – June 10-16, 2013. North by Northeast (NXNE) has become the Canadian festival destination for emerging artists and major-label headliners, for music filmmakers, and for digital interactive innovators bridging the gap between technology and the arts. Seen as the most anticipated summer music event in Canada, NXNE Music, NXNE Film, NXNE Interactive, and NXNE Comedy are an essential gathering for artists, industry, and fans. For five days and nights, NXNE Music offers the hottest music and the freshest music-related ideas—all within a few km of each other. NXNE 2012 presented over 650 international, national and local acts at 50 official festival stages in downtown Toronto’s famous club district. NXNE Film screens 40+ of the year’s best music-themed features, documentaries, shorts, and experimental films from around the world. NXNE Interactive (NXNEi) is a digital interactive media conference like no other. It brings together content-creating artists, tech entrepreneurs, digital marketing gurus, web business experts, and social media aficionados for four days of workshops, presentations, and panels that explore the newest ideas in bridging the gap between creativity and the interactive world.

Luminato Toronto

Mississauga Waterfront Festival – Dates not confirmed at this time. Voted one of Ontario’s Top 100 Festivals nine years in a row, MWF has set new standards for excellence, earning accolades from industry peers, business partners, media and attendees, and is known for presenting the best in Canadian and International talent. The children’s stage is home to popular TV stars like The Backyardigans, Max & Ruby and Dora the Explorer while the Family Fun Village offers everything from stilt walkers and fire-eaters to exciting water shows, family carnival, interactive sports activities, delicious food and unique crafters and vendors.

Luminato-Toronto’s Festival – June 14-23, 2013. Luminato has taken centre stage as the world’s newest international multidisciplinary arts festival encompassing a broad spectrum of creative expression including music, dance, theatre, film, literature, visual arts and lectures. (in photo right)

Redpath Waterfront Festival Toronto – June 20-23, 2013. A unique festival that provides on-water and on-land programming, while positioning and promoting Toronto locally, nationally and internationally as a waterfront destination. This summer, the Festival brings the East Coast to Toronto! At HtO Park – “Toronto’s Urban Beach.”

TD Toronto Jazz Festival – June 20-29, 2013. 1,500 musicians at 40 locations. The TD Toronto Jazz Festival has become known as one of North America’s premier jazz festivals produced annually by Toronto Downtown Jazz. What began in 1987 as an eight day showcase of jazz now attracts in excess of 500,000 loyal patrons annually over 10 days. Attractions include more than 350 performances with over 1,500 musicians performing at approximately 40 locations around Toronto.

Dragon Boat Race Festival – June 22 and 23, 2013. This festival combines a sporting event with loads of entertainment and events that have a multi-cultural flare. It’s held on Toronto Centre Island and approx. 200 teams with over 6,000 paddlers compete in over 100 races over the 2 days.

Toronto Pride Parade

Toronto Pride – Dates not confirmed at this time. As one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world, with an estimated attendance of over 1 million people, Pride Week celebrates our queer community’s diverse sexual and gender identities, history, culture, creativity, friends and lives. Pride Week features 10 days of world-class arts and cultural programming, community activities, one of the world’s largest street festivals, Pride Parade, Dyke March, Family programming, Blackness Yes and Youth and much more.

Digital Dreams at Ontario Place – June 29 and 30, 2013. A Canada Day weekend celebration.

Sound Off:
What catches your eye and makes you want to come to Toronto early or to stay longer?

Photo credits:  Courtesy of Tourism Toronto

The Seven Deadly Sins of YouTube

 

As a content creator, I’m a YouTube newbie. I’ve made the occasional video here and there, but I’m more of a consumer than a producer in that field. And maybe that’s a good thing for a post about what you should and shouldn’t do on YouTube.

youtubeOf course, different viewers are going to like different things, but there are a few general mistakes that I see a lot of YouTube-ers making. Today, I’d like to share with you the seven deadly sins of YouTube – seven mistakes that will prevent me from subscribing to your page, checking out more of your videos or even finishing the video I’m currently watching.

Pride

Pride may be a cardinal sin, but I do think you should take pride in your work! It only becomes a problem when you have an inflated sense of how awesome you are. Confidence is cool. Arrogance is not.

On YouTube, this pride manifests itself when a vlogger takes for granted that people will still know who he/she is. Sorry, but no one is that awesome. Every fan you have was a first-time viewer at some point, and even if your stuff is really cool, they probably aren’t going to Google you to find your blog or other non-YouTube profiles. If you’re lucky, they’ll subscribe, but unless you encourage them to find out more about you with a link in the description, that’s probably as far as it will go. Visitors to sites you own are much more valuable than viewers on YouTube, since you can get them to sign up for your email list, make purchases in your store, and more.

The Bottom Line: Don’t assume people know who you are. Give newbie links to find more information about you.

Envy

Whenever someone has anything resembling success on YouTube, about 500 other people try to replicate this success. It’s not going to work. Unless you’re doing a spoof (which can be quite funny), taking too much inspiration from another vlogger just makes you look like a copycat. Envious of another person’s success? You can have it too! You just need to come up with your own idea.

The Bottom Line: Be original.

Wrath

YouTube is the bottom of the comment barrel. Seriously, I have no idea why, but on that site in particular, people leave the most vile, nasty comments! It’s easy to get sucked in by the trolls. Wrath takes on a whole new meaning when you virtually wrestle with someone calling you racist or homophobic names.

But if you stoop to that level, it reflects on you too, not just the initial immature commenter. I’m not saying to avoid defending yourself, but before you respond to a negative comment, give it a few hours of thought. Often, people will come to your rescue so you don’t have to step in at all! But if they don’t and you feel compelled to reply to a troll, make sure the comment you leave in return is classy.

The same goes for other YouTube videos. If you uploaded a cool video, I might click on your name to see where you’ve left comments on other videos. If you’re acting like a troll elsewhere, I’m not going to support the work you do.

The Bottom Line: Mind your manners in the comment section and avoid feeding the trolls.

Sloth

There are a lot of lazy YouTubers out there. Yes, it takes a little extra time, but YouTube is one of the biggest search engines out there. Take the time to title your video well, write an accurate description with links, and add tags. More importantly, do a little research on how to make a good video. Here are a few places to start:

If you’re not lazy and actually take the time to do your research, your video content will be much better.

The Bottom Line: Everything is better if you take the time to do it right.

Greed

Few things annoy me more on YouTube than those silly little bubble links popping up every two minutes. I know that you want more viewers and subscribers, and I can appreciate how important it is to remind people to check out your channel…but I don’t need this kind of crap interrupting the video I’m trying to watch. I’m less likely to share or subscribe if links keep popping up, because it makes you seem greedy – like you’re only interested in me watching your videos if I’m also going to check out all of your links. Save the linking and subscription messages for the end of the video instead. I just want to sit back and enjoy the content you’ve created before I make decisions about that kind of thing.

The Bottom Line: Let me watch your video before trying to upsell me.

Gluttony

Traditionally, we think of gluttony as eating too much, but this term can be used to describe any kind of excess. In videos, the excess that bothers me the most is length. If you’re creating videos, you need to learn to edit them well.

This definitely doesn’t mean that every video you make needs to be under three minutes long. What it does mean is that you shouldn’t take 12 minutes to say something you could have said in half that time. Nothing will make me click the back button faster than someone rambling. So as you’re creating videos, keep this in mind and cut out anything that isn’t essential to the goal of your video. Shorter is better if you want people to watch to the end.

The Bottom Line: Learn to edit your videos to keep the time as short as possible for your content.

Lust

Lastly, we have everyone’s favorite sin: lust. In videos, I actually think most creators don’t have enough lust! Okay, not that kind of lust. More loosely, lust means passion, and I see a lot of videos where people just don’t really care about what they’re recorded. The reason someone like Jenna Marbles, for example, is so popular is that she is passionate about what she’s talking about. You don’t even have to be covering a controversial subject to show passion for your topic. Even a how-to video on someone boring can be made better by a host who’s clearly excited about the topic. If you don’t care about what you’re doing on camera, why should I?

The Bottom Line: Be passionate about your video topics.

Photo credit:  Rego Korosi via flickr

Why Going Niche is Good for SEO

 

Most of us have probably had the experience of seeing either glazed, uncomprehending stares or looks of outright contempt when we mentioned the word “SEO.” As today’s guest post author Shannon O’Donnell explains, not only is SEO not a bad word, there’s a very important component of SEO that has nothing to do with manipulating search results and everything to do with content.


Introducing myself to new people in a business context is often tricky, because I never know which of my many hats to start with when someone asks me what I do for a living. Like many who attend TBEX, I am a travel blogger/writer/photographer but those are just single aspects of what I do … and they’re not even the most lucrative. I wrote a book. Again though, that’s not where I make the money that allows me to travel. No, the thing I hesitate to say is that I am an SEO and marketing consultant.

It’s not that I am ashamed of my work; I work hard and my clients all come away from a consult with dozens of ideas on how to make their sites better. The reason I hesitate is because of that one flash of incredulity that sparks in someone’s eyes when they hear the word SEO. Years ago, the word SEO equated in most cases to spammy link building, keyword stuffing, and poor quality sites. In the past several years, however, I think SEO has become a much more positive term, but it’s still not where it should be.

I’d like to start by noting that SEO is not a dirty word. In fact, without hesitation I can say that every single site on the internet benefits from someone at the ground level on the site having either natural SEO knowledge (which comes from those with a good head for marketing and a solid web designer), or having hired an SEO person to make sure the site is best optimized for its topic.

In our world, we all have the same topic: travel. That makes it tough to easily see how we are different from our peers and the other travel bloggers. Each blog is different, however, and within the broad travel topic are niches. And it’s within the niches that I want to focus, because this is where I see the most growth potential for both new and established travel bloggers. All bloggers should look to their specialized knowledge and then run with that niche knowledge.

At TBEX Europe this year in Girona, Spain, the SEO talk focused on a broad overview of each of the major SEO aspects. My co-presenter, Matt Kepnes, covered how to build strong backlinks and on-site optimization like having your headers, titles, and the meta data correctly optimized—these are all essential parts of taking care of your site in the long-term. This is the core basics of good SEO and many aspects are easy fixes, use your SEO plugin, and build natural backlinks. Beyond that though, let’s talk about an area people only vaguely connect to good SEO: great content. Content that makes your brand and your site shine for your unique specialized knowledge and that narrowly points to the topics and keywords you naturally talk about on your site.

What’s Your Niche, Specialized Knowledge?

As the travel blogger space crowds with more bloggers, more personalities, and more noise, it’s those bloggers who have differentiated themselves who are beyond the competition in many ways. If every travel blogger out there was looking to place first for the keyword “travel blog,” it would be a long and fruitless race … and everyone would be missing one of the core points of SEO:

SEO is not about choosing the most popular keywords, it’s about choosing the keywords that best describe what your site offers.

We’re not all alike, and many of our sites offer a specialized version of travel—this is where we as bloggers are able to really allow our sites to shine, and if they’re shining then there is a good chance Google and the search engines are paying attention, too. What about your style of travel, of photography, or even your travel philosophy makes you stand out from others? Are you a hula hooping travel blogger, connecting to the hula hoop communities all over the world? Or perhaps you’re a BMX biker and you travel with your bike in and out of countries and to festivals, events, and races all over the world. Your blog is different! You have specialized knowledge in both of these instances that someone else might need, even if they are not duplicating your trip.

This is what I mean by niche: what are you doing, thinking, learning about travel for which you can become a go-to source on the internet? Why would another blogger recommend your site and not their own? How is your information and story different?

How Can You Showcase Specialized Knowledge?

Your niche is important, because it then translates into what you should be writing about. If you have figured out some problem or obstacle to travel, or researched a certain topic or destination in a way you think others might enjoy, write about it. But then, take it a step further and build yourself cornerstone content around your niche.

Cornerstone content is one part of SEO every new and established blogger should have on their site. If you’re not sure what I mean by this term, Chris Garrett has a really great free e-book on the topic called Killer Flagship Content and I recommend you start right there with your brainstorming session.

The main idea behind cornerstone content is something that will last, something that is thorough, well researched, and very specific. Become the “go-to” person in the travel industry for your knowledge. In my earlier example, if you are the BMX biker, this could mean creating a page on your site that details out every single piece of knowledge you need to travel with a bike—carry-on requirements, whether you can bring your bike into every country, what the major BMX bike festivals are, and whether there bike laws in other countries a traveler should know about, etc. The idea is, if you had to do the research chances are someone else will too, and if they are searching in Google “how to travel with a bike” you want to make sure Google knows that you are an expert on that topic.

And how does Google know? Because you have an entire page full of resources and so full of information it’s a piece cornerstone of your site—you’re the guy who travels with a bike. If you as a site are that identifiable in the community, there is a good chance that you the search engines will notice it too.

It’s worth noting that none of this required search engine manipulation. Instead it’s using your knowledge to create cornerstone resources on your site, pages that become pillars of information on that topic. If you have a niche page like that, then you likely have it full of valuable keywords too. And that is good SEO. When you have pages about your niche, content and information about your specialized topic, then you are telling Google and the search engines “hey, this is what my site is about, so if you’d please send some people my way, that’d be great.”

And if it’s a strong resource, and on a good topic, then it will help people and Google will send people to it. Once you have those resource pages up, there are more SEO ways to support it (linking to it in your author bios in guest posts is the easiest way), but that is the start. That gets you on your way toward having a specific site, in a specific travel niche keyword.

This is the easy beginnings of strong SEO for your travel blog and hopefully it’s not even painful to write, but instead a bit of fun to create such a useful piece of pillar content for your site.

Now it's your turn!
What’s your specialized knowledge? And if you have a cornerstone page, leave it in the comments so we can all have a look at the page!

Author Bio: Shannon O’Donnell is a travel writer, speaker, and SEO marketing consultant who lives mostly on the road, and occasionally in Florida. Her travel stories and photography are recorded on her travel blog A Little Adrift, she published her first book, The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook in October 2012, and she can be found on Twitter @ShannonRTW