Managing Comments on Social Media

Develop a response strategy map for conversation Management

For entrepreneurs using social media for customer engagement, a response strategy map is a system of responses drawn up collectively by the entire organisation for implementation during engagement with their target audience on social media.

AndrewChowheadshotBroadly speaking, a response strategy focuses on the responses to any comments made by the public. It is an action map created so that everyone in the taskforce knows what to do, how to respond, who to activate during a crisis, and how to close the loop to manage the online conversation. It can be used for managing public relations and should be refined after every major media crisis.

Every company will have its individual response to input from users in the social media space. The template provided in this chapter can only serve as a guideline for your corporate response strategy.

Positive Comments

Positive comments may be few and far in between. People are more inclined to give negative feedback than positive ones, especially in a highly competitive country like Singapore. However, positive comments do come from authentic fans, but when it happens, it is a pity most brands do not know how to magnify the effect to the fullest.

Positive comments are usually overlooked, especially when they are just regular compliments. The comments to note are usually the referrals, good testimonials, and success stories. Whenever such positive comments appear, share them on different platforms.

If you have positive comments originating from your Facebook page, share them on Twitter or your blog. If you can trace the fan’s Twitter account, do not forget to mention him in the conversation. If you are sharing on your blog, you can acknowledge the fan with a hyperlink back to his profile or simply do a screen capture. If there is a compliment for one of your staff’s service, share it on LinkedIn and encourage the staff to get connected with the fan. A good recommendation on LinkedIn may eventually happen because of the connection.

The entire company can be more motivated when staff reads about positive comments for different departments. So share them on your company newsletter. Compile the number of positive comments and their categories into your social media KPI. Your management will appreciate the numbers at the end of the year to justify the ROI on social media. If an existing fan refers someone new to the company, follow-up quickly through your normal sales channel and reward the referrer through your own customer incentive or reward system.

Neutral Comments

If comments are rather neutral, verify if the comments came from your fan. If the commenter is not a fan, encourage him to bring the discussion further and eventually encourage him to become a fan. In reality, everyone who is new to your company or brand and posts on your platform is a potential prospect.

Negative Comments

If you received something negative, always give priority to manage those that came from your fans. Negative feedback usually involves service quality, damaged product, customer service, delayed delivery, long unanswered phone calls to help desk, wrong billing, etc. Whatever the complaints may be, they usually involve at least one department. This is the reason why your page should have one representative from each department to look out for comments related to that department and relay those concerns swiftly.

Close the loop as soon as possible by activating service recovery. It could be as basic as getting on the phone with the disgruntled fan who is a loyal customer. Or it could involve getting the after-sales department to send a replacement to the fan’s house. Whatever it takes to make a loyal fan happy, do it and show it. It will be the most rewarding social media publicity you can have for your brand.

What happens if the comments came from someone who is not your fan? Verify the content of his complaint. If it is valid, resolve it quickly by clarifying and notifying the department or staff mentioned in the comments.

Be humble and do all due diligence to check on the validity of the complaint. If the complaint is not valid and you suspect the person may be out to create fear and confusion, you can choose to ignore those comments. You can even delete them after all the internal investigation is done. Censoring certain negative comments can be a house rule on your platform.

Do not engage in an open debate or discussion with anyone on your platform. Take it offline as much as possible. Remember that it is the end result you wish to show and not the process on how you arrive at the resolution.

If you are using the response strategy map as a tool to handle a crisis, there are two things to remember.

  1. Social media will not help you much if you have not built any goodwill among your customers or the public. A response strategy map yields little results if you have suffered too much bad press or bad mouthing in the marketplace.  The map is just a tool. It is not a magic wand for creating instant goodwill.
  2. Remember that any social media fire must be put out by social media water. A local company once held a dinner and dance with a specific theme. Their staff posted photographs of the event on Facebook which were seen as disparaging to a certain ethnic group. The photographs created an uproar on social media and it went viral and the local press picked up the story. The company’s PR issued a statement to state that it was done in pure fun. However, that made it even worse and it evolved into a full blown discussion in the local newspaper’s forum. Thus, if the crisis began from social media, use social media to engage and resolve it, not public relations.

Negative comments are inevitable and are ever present on social media. The art of persuasion lies in using negative comments to explain your brand more intimately to the detractors. Whenever there are comments, there will be conversations.

Always remember that what is worse than negative comments is no comments at all. Think of your relationship more than just responses. Draw up your own response strategy map (sample below) using your experience, internal standard operating procedure, and staff feedback. This may be a work-in-progress in the first year of embarking on a social media strategy.

Conclusion

Comments are conversational contribution from your online community. It is the right of everyone to share their thoughts, both positive and negative ones. All comments should be followed up appropriately to help the brand stay engaged with their customers.

Author Bio:  Andrew Chow is a Social Media & Public Relations Strategist, Certified Life Coach, Entrepreneur, Speaker and Author in Singapore. Andrew has spoken in many local and regional conferences on Social Media Strategy, Media Management and Personal Branding, and Enneagram Personality.  His authentic presentation style made him a frequently sought-after keynote speaker. Graduated from Thames Valley University, Andrew is fondly called “ideasandrew” in all his social media connections. He has also founded several social networking portals with over 10,000 profiles. He is the author of “Romancing the Media for Business”, “Social Media 247” and co-author of “88 Essential Secret for Achieving Greater Success at Work”.

Andrew will be speaking in the Industry Track at TBEX Asia on The Art of Crisis Management through PR and Social Media.

8 Key Elements For an Effective Hashtag

When it comes down to storytelling, travel brands have a clear edge over organizations in other industries: we sell experiences, memories. And whether people travel for business or leisure, they tend to share these moments on social media, in real-time, via their always-on mobile devices.

One of the big trends that has been shaping how travel stories get told is through repurposing of this content, whether it was originally shared on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. Destinations, hotels, restaurants, transportation companies, attractions… every stakeholder in the hospitality realm can tap into the potential stemming from photos and videos shared online.

But how do you find the good stuff? How can you even know if people are talking about you on their blog or via their social accounts? One word comes in handy: hashtag!

hashtag_v3

8 Key Elements

There are obviously many elements to consider when implementing an effective online campaign, across platforms such as your own website, blogs, newsletters, social media and even offline. But having a compelling hashtag is a key component that should not be under-estimated.So here are eight important elements to consider when you are about to choose a hashtag or launch a campaign centered around one.

Easy to remember

While this may be rule #1, it is often forgotten. Or perhaps I should clarify: a hashtag should be easy to remember for users, not for the marketing person that came up with it. A good example? Discover Los Angeles launched its campaign highlighting the fact there is something to do every day of the year, it came up with #LA365.

A word of caution when using acronyms: they may be easy to remember, but they can also mean different things to different people. For example #TIFF which could stand for Toronto International Film Festival… or just a short for Tiffany…

Intuitive & Significant

To segue from the previous point, a hashtag should be intuitive… for users, first and foremost. When the village resort of Mont-Tremblant, in Canada, wanted to focus on a strong hashtag across its various social networks, it realized users were already using #Tremblant. Thus, it went ahead with this hashtag.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 7.14.42 PM

 

You will also want to make sure the hashtag is significant, meaning it resonates to its target audience. Such is the case, for example, with #DallasBIG, reinforcing the notion and campaign message that everything is big in Dallas (or Texas, for that matter!).

Multilingual

Not always an easy task to cater to different languages, but as a born and raised Montrealer in the French-speaking province of Quebec, I know how important it is for brands to appeal to as many travelers in their native language as possible. That was the thinking behind #QuebecOriginal to promote the destination, with a hashtag that works as well in French or in English (or even in Spanish).

Brand-related… or not!

Here’s another trap we marketers tend to fall into: we always want to make it about us, with reference to our brand. Me, me, me, me! Of course, having a hashtag relating to the brand name should help enhance its awareness, but must we include the whole DMO or hotel name, for example? Not necessarily.

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Many destinations will infer their name subtly, like #AlwaysSF (in San Francisco) or #MTLmoments (in Montreal), but Marriott Hotels launched a successful campaign around the #TravelBrilliantly hashtag, and continues to spread it across its various social accounts.

Think offline

Even if you came up with the best, most intuitive and easy to remember hashtag, not everybody thinks the same way online or offline, in particular across different cultures and languages. It is therefore important to help travelers discover and use your hashtag, rather than leaving them on their own.

mtlmoments

This can mean including your campaign hashtag on destination brochures, at the reception desk, in the elevator or on table tents, on interactive walls during festivals and events or even at photographic hot spots across town. This is what Tourisme Montréal has been doing since 2013 with its #MTLmoments initiative, placing red frames across the city in popular spots, now boasting more than 200,000 media tagged on Instagram alone!

Research

Before launching a campaign and placing all your bets on what seems like a winning hashtag, please do some research to see if your stroke of genius did not occur already in the past. Perhaps many times, and by many users… and sometimes in a context that could be harmful to your brand!

How do you know if a hashtag is already being used? Simply try it in the search box in Twitter or on Instagram and see what comes up? There are more sophisticated tools that can allow you to go back in time to see mentions around a keyword, but a simple search usually will do the trick.

Short & Simple

This is a rule of thumb that remains valid across pretty much all social networks, but even more so when it comes to hashtags. Less is more, folks. Some scientific (ahem!) research published on AdWeek in 2014 said the ideal length of hashtag was 6 characters, but in my experience anywhere between 6 and 15 characters is a valid range. More than that, well, is just not user-friendly in particular on Twitter where we have that 140 characters limit, not to mention if you want to be retweeted.

Consistency

Last but not least, it can be tempting to come up with subtle variations according to seasons, or perhaps niche products or audiences, yet it usually pays to stick with a strong, consistent hashtag. Just like a brand should stick to a strong tagline or signature, travels brands ought to find the right hashtag and run with it consistently through time.

This doesn’t mean a destination won’t want to run individual campaigns with #restaurantweek or #operafestival for example, but ideally this will take place concurrently with the destination, hotel or attraction core hashtag as well.

What are some of your best (or worst) experiences with hashtags in the travel sphere?

TBEX NOTE:  Come see Frederic speak at TBEX North America 2015 in Ft. Lauderdale. His session title is:  Why Travel Brands Must Embrace Visual Storytelling.

Author bio:  Frederic Gonzalo is passionate about marketing and communications, with over 19 years of experience in the travel and tourism sphere. Early 2012, he launched Gonzo Marketing and works as a strategic marketing consultant, professional speaker and trainer in the use of new technologies (web, social media, mobile). He writes a regular column on etourism for TourismExpress and PAX News magazine, and collaborates to influential sites such as Social Media Today, Business2Community, Skift, Tnooz and ehotelier. He was ranked most influential blogger for etourism and travel in the province of Quebec (Canada) and among most influential bloggers for marketing & social media in Canada in both 2013 and 2014.

From 2008 to end of 2011, Frederic was Vice-President, Marketing at Groupe Le Massif. He spearheaded Marketing, Sales & Communications for Le Massif de Charlevoix development project, crafting the strategic planning to turn the ski hill of Le Massif into a year-round destination including on-hill accommodations, introducing a touring train between Quebec City and La Malbaie, and the opening of the hotel La Ferme in Baie-Saint-Paul (summer 2012).

Between 2005 and 2008, Frederic worked in the loyalty and relationship marketing fields, first at VIA Rail Canada where he was at the forefront of the VIA Preference Program for frequent train travelers. Then, with Fido Rewards, where he worked on the relaunch of this unique loyalty program in the Canadian telecom industry landscape.

From 1995 to 2005, Frederic worked at various levels of the hospitality and travel sector, including front line in various Club Med resorts (1995-1998), managing PR & Entertainment at the winter resort of Valle Nevado, Chile (1996-97), sales agent at inbound tour operator Receptour Canada (1999), Sales representative for international markets at Tremblant (1999-2000) and finally managing international market development for VIA Rail Canada (2000-2005).

How to Rock TBEX and Walk Away with New Friends & Business Partners

Speed Dating floor at TBEX in Toronto

Speed Networking floor at TBEX in Toronto

Whenever I’m on the road and meeting a travel blogger who is just starting out or wondering how to take their blog to the next level, I always recommend they come to TBEX – and not just for the sessions.

For TBEX, like many other successful conferences out there, one of the things that keeps people coming back year after year after year is the opportunity to mingle with people in the same profession, trade ideas, and form relationships (a.k.a networking).

At a conference for solopreneurs I attended earlier this year (past TBEX keynoter Chris Guillebeau’s Pioneer Nation), one of the most highly tweeted and repeated main stage talks focused on how the hottest new online business training website came from a relationship struck up at a conference over a mutual love of the esoteric Italian amaro Fernet Branca.

While the speaker, Chase Reeves, happened to be in the right random place at the right random time, the truth is that you can make your TBEX experience jam packed with these business-changing, core relationship-building moments with some advance preparation.

Every successful business, whether a blogging couple team or a multi-national corporation, has someone in charge of “business development,” which, at its core, is building relationships your business needs to grow and thrive through networking. But the difference between the multi-nationals and most bloggers is the amount of advance thought and research that goes into those relationship-building moments.

So whether you’re still at home packing or you’re already building relationships with fellow bloggers with sunset drinks on Santorini or bumpy car rides in Crete, here are 5 ways to walk away from TBEX not just with some new friends and contacts, but the ones you want and need to grow your blog or business.

BloggerBridge Part 1: Let Your Profile Reflect You

Have you set up your BloggerBridge profile already? If not, now is the time. If you have, it’s time to take another look.

Your profile is a static image of both you and your work, but that doesn’t mean it should just be a third person description! It’s the first opportunity people have to understand your personality, and, in the case of bloggers looking for work, your writing style.

Above all, one of the most important things it should do is tell others why you are at TBEX and what you’re looking for. This tweak alone can bring in tons of business opportunities.

After you explain what you’re all about, include:

  • whether you are looking for new destinations to travel to or information on travels you have coming up. BloggerBridge has a way for you to include these as well.
  • if you are available for contract social media, photography, or blogging work, and if so, what type you are looking for.
  • if you are a company, what you are looking to get out of TBEX and speed dating in particular, so bloggers know if they should approach you and about what.

BloggerBridge Part 2: Find the People You Need to Meet

While many have long used BloggerBridge just to set up speed networking appointments, it’s capable of so much more. I won’t recap the excellent recent sessions on how to go about performing searches, but it’s something that you should set aside 10 minutes or an hour (or honestly as much time as you can spare!) to do before TBEX so you know who is going to be there that you want to get to know.

For experienced bloggers:

  • Search by country to find company representatives from or bloggers who specialize in places you plan to visit soon and send them a message. Ask bloggers who have visited both what they recommend and if there is anyone on the ground you should definitely be in touch with.

For new bloggers:

  • Search for other bloggers with a similar focus as you (whether a country or a type of travel like ecotravel or family travel) and use the number of years blogging feature to find someone just a couple years ahead of you. Check out their site, and if they seem like a good match, ask if you can interview them about their experience for your website or just grab a coffee or drink and chat about how they got to where they are today.

For companies:

  • Don’t wait for good bloggers to come to you. Many bloggers who would make great guests or regularly contributors to your site are extremely busy and not able to take the time to seek you out. Search for bloggers who specialize in your area and reach out and ask if they are available for a trip or some blogging work.

You can also look up people you see tweeting on the #TBEX hashtags through BloggerBridge and send them a direct email.

Research Your Speed Networking Partners

After years of speed networking at both TBEX and ITB Berlin, where TBEX also organized a blogger speed networking event, the biggest factor that I’ve seen affecting how useful the event is for both companies and bloggers is how much homework they do beforehand. Here are my recommendations: 

  1. Look up each of the people you’re going to meet on BloggerBridge, and from their profile, decide what you want to discuss with them and what your goal for the meeting is.
  2. Take the time to make a small one-page sheet or PDF you can show on your phone about what you can offer as a blogger (including relevant stats) or company to the people you’re going to meet. Give it to the other party to look at when they first sit down.
  3. When you arrive, first ask the other party what they are looking for, so you can fit that into your goal for the meeting and make the most of your short minutes.
  4. Leave the meeting with a specific agreement, whether it’s to send more information about something or work out appropriate dates for a trip.

Maximize Your One-on-One Time During

It’s always a pleasure to use TBEX as one-stop shopping to catch up with travel friends that you don’t often see, but there are several parts of TBEX that are particularly great for cultivating new connections:

  • short pre-BEX tours
  • lunches at TBEX
  • evening events and parties
  • long post-BEX trips

Looking at the TBEX schedule is dizzying, and if you’re not spending time in Greece before or after the event, it can be hard to figure out times to meet all these people you’ve identified on BloggerBridge to connect with. Use seated times like tour bus rides and meals for one-on-one chats during.

When you’re looking for people to connect with on BloggerBridge, ask if you can chat over lunch, or chat up people who attended the same pre-lunch session as you who asked interesting questions or who are on your “to meet” list after the Q&A so you naturally walk to lunch together. This works just as well for the walks to a bus on a pre- or post-BEX trip.

If you’re in town after TBEX and not on a post-BEX event, organize a dinner out or at your apartment if you have one with some great people you met. Tell them to bring friends. You can have more face time with them and other people you didn’t get a chance to meet during the event.

The Devil is in the Follow Up

There are several great posts here on the TBEX blog about follow up, but the most important thing is this: do it quickly.

In the short days of TBEX, we all meet so many people that no matter how great the conversation, it’s easy to fall off someone’s radar. To keep that from happening:

  1. In the time between speed dating and the evening event, write quick emails to all of your speed dating partners for the day, thanking them again for their time, reiterating what you discussed and rearticulating the next steps.
  2. When you get home, tweet at people you spent time with during the day, or email if you had a really great connection.
  3. In the week after TBEX (since the post-BEX trips make it hard for many to do it right away), go through all your business cards and add people on Twitter and LinkedIn, with a note with your LI invitation on how nice it was to meet them and any follow up about a future meeting or work opportunity.

Author Bio: Gabi Logan is a travel journalist and blogger who specializes in blogging/ghostblogging, content management and social media management for travel companies and destinations. She also coaches travel writers and freelancers of all stripes.

 

The #1 Thing Every Travel Blogger Should Be Doing on Twitter

 

There are a number of things bloggers should be doing to showcase themselves and their blogs on Twitter. Here are three of the most important:

  1. Have a Clear Profile Picture: People want to see what you look like, especially if you’re providing travel advice or if a DMO or brand is potentially interested in working with you. It’s also much easier to relate to a photo than it is to an icon, or the dreaded egg symbol which displays when someone doesn’t upload a profile picture.
  2. Stunning Header and Background Photos: This is an excellent opportunity to highlight your photography skills and these are areas that someone sees every time they click on your profile.
  3. Bio That Reflects Your Writing Style: Whether it be humorous, factual or poetic, your bio makes it easy for people to see whether they want to connect with you and for DMOs and brands to quickly analyze whether you might be a potential fit.

But there’s also another thing that very few people are doing on Twitter. Not only is it a missed opportunity, it can be done in a matter of seconds.

A Pinned Tweet

 

pinned tweet example

A pinned tweet is a tweet that stays at the top of your Twitter feed. It will be the first tweet that everyone who clicks on your tweets will see. It’s a great opportunity to expand upon your bio and brand yourself.

You can take an existing tweet and pin it as shown below:

 

pinned tweet how to

Or even better, you can craft a new tweet that reflects why someone would want to follow you and what type of tweets they can expect from you. It’s worth including a photo as well since tweets with photos receive five times (source) more engagement than text only tweets.

A pinned tweet allows you to show what type of impression you want to make, without leaving it up to chance, where your most recent tweet is shown, which may not even be to your content, but a retweet of someone else’s content.

Unlike pinned posts on Facebook, pinned posts on Twitter stay until you change them, and it’s worth changing them regularly to keep your Twitter feed looking fresh.

This one simple, easy step is one you can’t afford not to take!

Join Laurel at TBEX Athens for more tips when she speaks on Twitter Tips for Advanced Users on Saturday, October 25th at 10:45.

Author bio: Laurel is an award-winning travel blogger at MonkeysandMountains.com, named after two of the things she loves most. She’s also Chief Conversation Starter at Monkeys and Mountains Media, which provides the travel industry with solutions to getting the most from Twitter in the minimal amount of time.

10 Reasons Instagram Should be a Major Part of your Social Media Strategy

 

colmhanratty-tbex-guestpost-main-imageWith so many social networks out there these days (who’s already got an Ello profile?), it’s hard being active on all of them. Twitter and Facebook are the two obvious ones, but then there are many more to choose from between Vine, Pinterest, YouTube and others. But the one other channel that you should make sure you’re active on if you’re online and in the travel space is Instagram. Here are 10 reasons why:

1. It’s quick

I love Instagram for many reasons. One of them is that it’s quick. Once you’ve something to take a photo of, or if you have a bank of images you can upload, you can have a presence on the world’s number one mobile-specific social network by using just ten minutes a day of your time.

2. It’s engaging

Because Instagram is all about images, it’s rich, engaging content. This means users can really get a taste of your coffee, food, office, daily routine, current destination, past destination via a #latergram or more.

3. Your followers don’t need to devote too much time to engage with your photos

Do you know why the most talked about and increasingly popular social networks over the last two years have been Pinterest and Instagram? It’s because people don’t have the time to commit to reading a blog post, listening to a podcast or watching a video. But present a photo to them and they can spare those five seconds to engage with it or not. Instagram isn’t just quick for you – it’s quick for your audience too.

4. It makes your photos look cool

I’ve been a budding photographer for years, but I’ve never sat down at my computer and touched up my images using Lightroom or Photobox. Now, because of Instagram, I don’t have to. Adding a tilt shift effect here and a Lo-Fi filter there means it’s touched up within seconds, resulting in my photos looking that little bit sharper. Here’s an example:

colmhanratty-instagram-example

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5. Growing your following organically is easier than on other social networks

A phrase that has been doing the rounds in social media circles for a while now is ‘the free ride is over’. Anybody who has been using social networks such as Facebook and Twitter knows that growing your following and having wider reach organically is harder than ever before. Since Instagram hasn’t introduced an advertising model yet, this isn’t the case. Upload quality photos regularly, laden them with hashtags and you’ll see that follower count growing slowly but surely.

6. Instagram can generate content for other social networks

How many times have you come across posts like ‘Dublin, as seen by Instagram’ on travel blogs? Or Pinterest boards titled ‘My Instagram photos from around the world’? Without Instagram, this content wouldn’t exist. Regularly share photos on Instagram and you’ll regularly generate content for other social channels.

7. Instagram’s Hyperlapse app

This app caused a bit of controversy among videographers when it was first released because videos created on Hyperlapse might not really be hyperlapses – they’re simply timelapses. My answer to that is ‘so what?’ If there’s an app that makes my walk down a street of a city look cool, by way of a timelapse video or otherwise, I’m all for it. Here’s one I shot of my hometown recently:

8. It’s fun

Taking a photo of a landmark, colleague, new product or cup of coffee, adding a filter to it and coming up with a catchy narrative to go with it is a lot more fun that writing a thousand word post on anything. Instagram shouldn’t be seen as marketing your brand or your blog – it should be seen as a fun thing to do that happens to also be marketing your brand or blog.

9. It’s all about mobile

Once you have a smartphone with a half-decent camera and a sense of what type of imagery you want to share, and once your followers have a phone that has Instagram installed, you’ve got yourself presence on this platform. It’s that simple.

10. You can produce videos as well as photos

Almost exactly six months after Twitter released Vine, Instagram introduced video. Different to Hyperlapse, Instagram’s videos are free-flowing video footage that can last up to 15 seconds. Similar to Vine videos, they can be an amalgamation of a series of shots while still giving you functionality such as filters and auto enhance. One app; two types of content (three including Hyperlapse).

Author bio: Colm Hanratty has been in the online travel space for over 13 years. He first got involved when he made a personal website about backpacking around Australia in 2001 before working in Hostelworld.com for almost 11 years. Today he runs digital marketing consultancy sixtwo digital, continuing to work with travel brands that collaborate with travel bloggers. He’ll be speaking on Friday at 12 noon in the Commerce track on outlining a 12 month plan to building better blogger relationships.

TBEX: What’s That?

 

Ironically, the first time I heard about TBEX was just after it had wrapped up in my hometown of Toronto in June 2013. One of the bloggers I was following had attended and written about it. Although it would have been economical for me to attend, since it was in my own backyard, it was too early as I hadn’t yet launched my blog, BigTravelNut, a website about budget travel for women. It wasn’t until the second time that I heard about it , that I decided to seriously consider joining hundreds of other bloggers and travel industry professionals at TBEX.

In the fall of 2013, I was told by Mike Richard of Vagabondish that bloggers’ conferences are a good place to meet lots of people and find business opportunities – even relatively young bloggers (less than a year old) could snatch sponsored activities or trips through speed networking. Soon after, I subscribed to the TBEX newsletter. I looked forward to the announcement of a TBEX conference in 2014, and in early April I decided to lock in the super early bird price and booked myself a spot at TBEX Athens!

acropolis parthenon athens greece

Not only will this be my first TBEX conference, it will be my first bloggers’ conference.

Getting Ready – Plan and network

As the date draws nearer, there are many things for me to do to prepare for a travel blogging conference like TBEX. I’ve already designed new business cards for my blog. My next step is to put together a media kit (both online and in print).

This worries me a bit, as my numbers (from Google Analytics and social media) are not where I would like them to be. They are gradually and consistently inching up, but not fast enough. It is tempting to get discouraged when you see other bloggers’ numbers, but there is nothing I like more than travelling and writing so I have decided to take it as far as it can go!

I also plan to establish clear goals for the conference. This shouldn’t be too difficult: learn as much as possible about the business of blogging, meet new people, and try to establish a few partnerships with people in the travel industry. How often do you get dozens of representatives from travel companies and tourism boards all in one room? Even though you do “meet” a lot of people online through comments, e-mails and social media when you’re a blogger, nothing beats meeting people in person and establishing real relationships. I believe this is the quickest way of becoming known and being remembered: good ol’ fashion face-to-face meetings. Attending a conference also proves that you’re serious about your craft and can help distinguish you from the hobbyists.

Building Anticipation

I have already signed up for a pre-conference day-trip, Cultural and Culinary Sailing in the Saronic Sea. This will be my third time in one of the world’s oldest countries but attending the conference gives me reason to explore a new area of Greece I haven’t yet explored. Cape Sounio is high on my list.

I expect the conference itself to be exciting but exhausting. As an introvert, large crowds and noisy environments sap my energy, so I will need to make sure to get a lot of sleep and find a way to take quiet breaks every now and then to re-energize myself. I have heard many people say that they came out of TBEX buzzing with new ideas and renewed energy. I really hope this will be the push I need to take my blog to the next level, to create better articles, grow my traffic, and monetize.

Athens here I come!

Author Bio:  Marie-France Roy is a travel blogger, freelance writer , photographer, and member of Travel Massive (a TBEX partner). Her blog, BigTravelNut focuses on budget and independent travel for women. Since 1992, she has travelled to 55 countries and seven continents. She officially resides in Toronto, Canada, but now spends about six months of the year abroad. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Evie Robinson discusses Building the Nomadness Travel Tribe

Evie Robinson’s Interview on Building a Tribe

Evie Robinson Nomadness

Evie’s success has been quite phenomenal. In this interview, she shares what has worked for her to increase her reach and build her community of travel bloggers.

@TBEXevents: What does the word “tribe” mean to you?

@evierobbie: Tribe has a direct connotation to ‘family’ for me. In regards to Nomadness Travel Tribe, it’s about me building an international community of like-minded travelers.  

@TBEXevents: What were you dissatisfied about or super-passionate about that triggered your idea to create Nomadness?

@evierobbie: As a twenty-something year old African American woman, I felt that there was no representation of us, in the travel community, in mass media.  I kept seeing the same demographic, doing the same thing, on the same channels, and I felt it was a rather miniscule view into who travelers are. Backpacking and living in Asia, I saw a more diverse representation of who we are, and I wanted to create a space where we could come together. 

@TBEXevents: What gave you the clarity that there was a niche to carve out for yourself?

@evierobbie: The reaction people gave to my first webseries episodes. The actual production was horrible, but I was doing what I could with what I had while living in Japan. It was the content and my own unique point of view that resonated with people. I realized there was an opening there and built on it.  

@TBEXevents: What are the main topics you’ve used to rally your tribe to you?

@evierobbie: Travel is the glue that binds. It is the parent topic to any other conversations that we engage in on the day-to-day.  

@TBEXevents: How long has it taken to develop a significant following once you were clear on your target market and what you had to offer? Or did those two things happen separately (developing the target market and developing your value to that market)?

@evierobbie: I was clear on my market going into it, because I AM my market. I knew what my peers and I needed so it was easy to connect.

Nomadness grew very, very fast. It started with 100 people. Now we have grown to more than 8000 in less than three years. Our first meet-up was three weeks after starting in NYC, and almost 40 people came out.

That was when I knew something was brewing. Three months later we were on our first trip together, in Panama. Five months after, we were featured in Ebony Magazine. The press came fast and we have had a large following ever since.

@TBEXevents: What have you been able to accomplish with this tribe?

@evierobbie: We have over 8000 members, living in over three dozen countries around the world. We have been able to crowdfund over $40,000 through three successful campaigns on Kickstarter.com, which has also led to my being a consultant with Crowdfunding Mastermind.

We have a successful online store with apparel that members have used to identify other members all around the world. Our most popular is the shirt “I have more passport stamps than you.”

We have done a cross country College RV Tour, speaking to college students about diversity and travel. We are approaching our 14th group trip in three years, and almost 100 meet ups around the world. 

@TBEXevents: What digital platforms do you focus on to grow and reach your tribe? Why?

@evierobbie:Facebook is our main platform while we build our own social network site. We have recently started our Nomadness #NMDN Monthly Twitter Chat series as well. And Instagram has been great for us because we have amazing travel photography from our trips. It’s great to have a visual platform.  

@TBEXevents: Do you outsource parts of your business?

@evierobbie: The only outsourcing that happens currently is merchandise manufacturing. It’s necessary to having top quality and still keeping your balance. You can’t do everything and be effective.  

@TBEXevents: What has been the most difficult part of building your community?

@evierobbie: Dealing with 8000 personalities on any given day.  

@TBEXevents: What has surprised you about the process?

@evierobbie: The speed of growth has been surprising. I simply started a Tribe to have a place to vent about what I was going through after living abroad. I had no idea I was creating a business model. 

@TBEXevents: What keeps you going when you’re tired, discouraged or disappointed?

@evierobbie: Passion.  A dedication to living life my way. 

@TBEXevents: What’s been the best part of building your community?

@evierobbie: Being an international connector and bringing people from every part of the planet together. I can honestly go to any country now and know at least one person there already.

@TBEXevents: Anything else you think would help other travel bloggers or any other entrepreneur using the leverage of technology and the internet to build their business?

@evierobbie: Find your lane, and stay in it. Don’t split yourself up too much trying to be everything to everyone. Find your niche, and focus.

Thanks, Evie, for your time and insights! You’ve accomplished a lot in a short time. Continued success to you!

Are you Distributing your Blog Correctly?

If you have taken the time to sit down and read this blog post then chances are you are a blogger yourself. It is also likely that blogging is more than a hobby for you – it may even pay your bills. If this is the case then one could assume that you spend a large amount of time devising blog post ideas, writing said blog posts and then optimising them for SEO – these are the most important steps in blogging, right? Wrong.

michael-collinsOf course it is important that your blog is well written and has a hook to catch the attention of the reader – this goes without saying. Aside from these two very important elements there is one essential step which can make the difference between having one reader and having 100 readers. This step is distribution.

At TravelMedia.ie we write weekly for our own blog, sometimes bi-weekly. We also contribute to a number of blogs on behalf of clients. Considering we spend so much time writing we want to know that the blogs we write are reaching their respective target audiences. To ensure that they are, we spend a sufficient amount of time on the distribution of our blog posts.

There are a number of things to keep in mind when distributing your blog – all of which I plan to tell you about during my speaker session at TBEX Athens.

For now, I would like to share some things that we have learned along the way:

1.  Once is never enough

Post, tweet, share, repeat.

You have taken the time to write a good blog post, so take the time to make sure your social audiences see it. When distributing on social media, posting once is never enough – especially when posting on Twitter.  The Twitter timeline is not user friendly – Twitter is aware of this and have tried, and are still trying, to develop it. With so much content, which moves so fast, you need to make sure your followers see your tweet. You are also gaining new followers all the time who have not seen previous content that you have distributed. This is why re-tweeting is essential.

2. How are your hashtags?

The now infamous hashtag was first brought to Twitter in August 2007. Nowadays it is common place to see hashtags in tweets. However, using too many can diminish your chances of engagement. Using the wrong hashtags can also result in your tweet being wasted on an audience that you did not want to reach.

3. The impact of influencers

Want to make sure that the influencers in your arena see and read your blog?

You can make sure they know that your blog exists – how? By telling them! Find out their twitter handle and send them a direct tweet to with a link to your blog. If they like it they will share it, if they don’t, they won’t – simple.

4. Engage with other bloggers

How often do you share other people blog posts and content from your social platforms? Mention other bloggers work and use their handles. People are more likely to share your blog if you have done the same for them. Asking people to guest blog for you is also a great way to open up your blog to a whole new audience.

5.  Back to basics

We all know that social media is great. But what about those contacts and colleagues that are not social media savvy? Send a monthly update to all of your email contacts informing them of your recent blog posts.

Just because it’s been six months since that tourist board sent you on a trip doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t get touch. Maybe they are looking for a writer for an upcoming trip? Use your blogs as a way of making sure they keep you in mind.

Also, make sure you have a subscribe button on your blog, so those that want to be kept informed of new posts can do so.

6.  Infographics

When was the last time you did a blog post which was based around an infographic?

With so many free online tools available nowadays it is easy for someone with no photo shop skills to design an eye-catching infographic. When distributing the blog on social media you can then embed the infographic, making your post stand out on the newsfeed.

7.  Use every platform available

While Twitter and Facebook are the obvious distribution choice for most people, it is important to remember all of the other social platforms that offer you different types of audiences. LinkedIn is a perfect example of a social network that offers many different audiences within the one site. Post your blog link on your own profile and then post in any travel related groups that you are a member of – make the most of what LinkedIn offers.

Google+ is also a must when distributing your blog posts because your posts will show up in Google search results.

These tips are of course just a teaser to what I will be speaking about during TBEX Athens. During my session I will delve deeper into the items listed above and will also discuss some other things that you can do to ensure that your blog is being read, and being read by the right audience.

Come along on the day and you will be guaranteed to leave with a new secret weapon – the art of distribution.

Author bio:  Michael loves to travel. He is based between Dublin and Paris. Michael has worked in the Irish travel and media industry for 14 years. During this time he has worked as a travel journalist, editor and publisher, editing and publishing the magazines Backpacker Europe, Abroad and Irish Business Traveller. He has also worked in television and radio as a presenter and travel expert. Today Michael runs TravelMedia.ie, representing international tourist boards, hotels, airlines and tour operators in the Irish market and further afield. Today social media is now the majority his client work.

 

Six Ways to Exchange Details When Your Business Cards Run Out

 

Imagine this:  You are at a conference. You finally get the courage to say hello to the person you specifically came to the conference just to meet. You reach into your pocket where you keep your business cards and there are no cards. You are out; you gave the last one away just moments ago. Now what?

I’ve been there many times. So what do you do? Panic? No.

Kerwin-McKenzieWell, here are six things you can do to keep in touch with that person (after apologizing that you ran out of cards) the next time this happens to you:

1.  Ask for their card. This is the easiest way out, but what if they’ve run out as well or don’t want to give you their card. Yes, it happens, the fact that you want to give someone your card, does not always mean they want to give you theirs. You can usually tell this is the case, by how much fumbling goes on to try to find the card or how uncomfortable the whole transaction is. If they’ve also run out as well, read on.

2.  Add their details to the Notepad application in your phone. Also, very easy, plus you can write notes about them at the same time.

3.  Send them an email using your phone. Ask for their email address and send them an email from your phone. You can also take a photo with them and attach it. People love to see photos of themselves, so the propensity to open that email is higher. Make the photo memorable.

4.  Follow them on social media. If they have any kind of presence on social media, this is a great way to quickly keep in touch with them. The particular social media will send them a notification. Try to get them to do the same or respond to your follow request right there and then when your username is fresh in their minds. Don’t be pushy. Usually if they are active on social media, they will reciprocate. You don’t have to do all social media touch points, just one is enough as typically once you find them in one location you can use that one to find the rest.

5.  Add their details to your phone’s contact list. If you have a smart phone, there is a contact application built in. Just add their details there. Then send them a text or call them depending on if you are both local or not. If they allow it, take a photo and add it to the contact file. They may be in a rush though, so be prepared for them saying I have to go, how about we link up later. If you don’t have a smart phone, read on.

6.  Find a pen and a piece of paper. A good rule is to always carry a small notepad and a writing instrument with you to every conference. You never know when your electronic devices will run out of battery. Go old school and write the details down. You could hand one piece of paper and a pen to the other person and while they write down their details you do the same.

What are some ways you’ve handled this situation in the past? Please leave a comment below as I’d love to hear from you.

TBEX NOTE:  Kerwin will be speaking about How to Network without Being Annoying at TBEX Athens. You’ll learn more practical tips from this master networker in his session. Register today.

Kerwin McKenzie is a Travelpreneur who creates travel-related solutions for travelers. He also runs a service at TravelBlogger101.com specifically to help Travel Bloggers get started.

 

 

5 Lessons I Learned At TBEX Toronto and How It Changed My Life!

 

I cannot believe that a year has passed since I attended TBEX Toronto!

When I look back and think about my newbie self, with my oversized backpack, my point and shoot camera and my self-made media kit walking into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre with nothing but a dream – I kind of cringe a little. I knew nothing about the business of blogging, had no travel blogging friends and was totally lost in a sea of bloggers all talking shop around me. I listened, wrote a full notebook worth of notes and started making new friends. I didn’t know it at the time, but TBEX was about to change my life forever!

Mendelaoui_Sharon 2014 April_25_smallHere are some of the life changing lessons I learned at my first TBEX conference.

Lesson #1. I Can’t Learn Everything About The Business of Blogging in one Conference

When the TBEX Toronto schedule came out I knew one thing for sure: There were a lot of different sessions held during TBEX and there was no way to attend them all. So I decided to really go through the schedule and the speakers profiles to figure out which session in each time slot were the ones that were most important to me in that moment. It was a good strategy because by the end of the conference I was able to swap notes with other travel bloggers and also found a Facebook Group that posted notes as well. After the conference the TBEX team also sent out slides of many of the sessions, and at the end of it all I got the information I wanted.

The other thing I learned very quickly during TBEX was that the sessions were not the only source of information and learning.  I decided not to let myself get overwhelmed by 5 days of non-stop blogger chatter. I had a notebook and turned it to the back page and started a list. In every conversation I had, if someone mentioned something I didn’t know, I wrote it down. I had no idea what a twitter chat was, but by the end of the conference I had a list of hashtags for twitter chats. The first week back from TBEX I became a Twitter Chat expert! If other bloggers mentioned a Facebook group, website, travel blogger, sponsor they’ve worked with, a place they contributed guest posts, I wrote it down.

I only remember a handful of people I met at TBEX and there was no way I was going to remember all that information. Those 20+ pages of notes in the back of my notebook were valuable resources of information that moved my blog forward step by step. I always remember this when it comes to learning new things for my blog: You do what you can with what you have in the present moment. Don’t try to do or learn too much at once it will end up driving you crazy. Just add it to the list.

Lesson #2. I Must Find My Own Network of Travel Bloggers

I have met a lot of travel bloggers over the past year and this is what I know. The really good bloggers are not the ones with 10,000 in Twitter followers and a new FAM trip every week. The really good bloggers are the ones that collaborate, share, and learn from one another. I was very lucky to make some amazing new friends at TBEX that I am proud to have in my own travel blogging network.

Why is this important?

By yourself you are only as big as your network. When you are new this is painful; when you are a giant you are expected to get the message out to as many people as possible. When you are in a network of 4 – 5 people who all share each other’s work, who sit down and talk about the things they did right and wrong, give honest and constructive feedback, share contacts and connections they’ve made – you multiply your reach. You get more opportunities and you expand faster and further than you will ever be able to by yourself. Forget competition – blogging is a collaborative sport. Together you are stronger – there is more than enough to go around for everyone!

Lesson #3. Just Because I’m New Doesn’t Mean Companies Don’t Want to Work with Me

I’m so glad, I didn’t go into TBEX thinking, I’m new, I don’t have enough followers, and no one will want to meet with me or work with me. I didn’t know my ass from my elbow, but I still signed up free tours, applied for press trips and most importantly, tried to get speed dates. Guess what? I had dates! People were interested in meeting me and learning about my blog.

However, because I didn’t know better at the time, I didn’t know how to pitch them. I should have been more confident, but the idea that people would send me to their regions (on their dime) just didn’t sink in. I got to meet some great companies and, luckily, I have had a chance to work with a few of them this past year. They didn’t care that I only had 300 Twitter followers and 24 Facebook fans. They cared that I had passion and loved my blog and what I was doing.

The people that didn’t want to meet with me during speed dating at TBEX – well guess what – I went to the Marketplace and found opportunities to talk to them. I may not have said the right things in the moment, but I have their business cards, which means I started my travel rolodex.

Now that I know better, I can pitch these companies and they are happy to do business with me. Making these connections were a MAJOR step for my blog and for me. Which brings me to Lesson #4.

Lesson #4. My Blog is Actually Good

The most important thing I learned at TBEX was that my blog was actually good and had incredible potential. I quickly realized that 2 years of writing was actually worth something.

I hounded poor Mitch Canter on Twitter leading up to TBEX when he announced he would be critiquing travel blogs in a session. Every day on Twitter I sent a tweet begging for a blog critique. And I got one! From this session alone I learned: my blog looks good, comments were broken and not working properly, the site should be responsive, but overall the review was good. Since then I’ve redesigned the blog in a responsive WordPress template and it is better than ever.

TBEX gave me the understanding and confidence I needed to believe in my blog and myself. People recognized my blog, my name, and the feedback was really positive.

So while I was shocked and surprised when Trump Tower Toronto invited me to a blog lunch during TBEX, it wasn’t until I was sitting in a room with the Planet D and Johnny Jet that I realized – hey my blog is good enough to sit at the same table as these guys! The whole lunch I was terrified they would realize they made a horrible mistake and would send me away, but they retweeted my photos and engaged with me on Facebook and Twitter. At the end of the day I was invited to that lunch the same way all the other amazing blogging giants were. It was at this very lunch I learned another important lesson.

Lesson#5. Check Your Teeth for Little Green Things Before You Meet Your Travel Blogging Idol

“You have a little green thing in your teeth.” Imagine that you’re standing on the patio of the Penthouse suite at Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto during a special private tour with some of the biggest Travel Blogging giants and hearing that phrase.

DreamTravelMag_meeting Johnny Jet

Yup, that was me, after totally fan girling all over Johnny Jet and asking him if he would take a picture with me. So I have this amazing picture with Johnny Jet and I have a green thing stuck in my teeth. If you learn anything from this blog post – please – remember to check your teeth for green things before you go up to your travel blogging idol and make a total newbie ass of yourself!

Bonus Lesson. How Getting Rescued from a Tree Could Change Your Life Forever

When the actual TBEX conference was over I jumped on a bus with 8 other bloggers on my very first FAM trip. It was an overnight tour of the Central Counties region of Ontario. Our last stop was at a tree-top trekking adventure which we were all told was zip-lining.

The short version of the story is that after a few segments of challenging tight rope walking and hanging onto metal wires for dear life, I could not go on anymore.

Sharon_TreeRescue_TBEXI was an obese blogger, stuck on a tree platform, and trying not to lose it on a FAM trip. The crew at the Tree Top Site didn’t flinch and began setting up “the high angle rescue.” I was horrified, and holding back tears and. Then I was told to step off the platform and fall backward. I was so freaking scared I forgot that I wanted to cry. After letting go and being gently lowered down the tree, all the fear and shame of being rescued went away and this feeling of sheer bliss came over me. I realized in that moment that I had a story – I could write about this experience in a way that no one else could! In that moment I was a travel writer and I knew it.

In the months after this event, I decided I didn’t want to be the fat blogger anymore. I didn’t want to be the blogger that got rescued from a tree. I didn’t want potential companies to think I couldn’t participate in one of their trips because of my weight. I knew in my soul that I was meant to be a writer. I also knew that if I wanted to be a travel writer, I didn’t want to be limited in any way.

I started to see a doctor who worked with me to help me understand how some foods were making me very sick. He stripped my diet and we worked together to create a healthy eating plan that I live by today. I’ve lost 62 pounds so far and counting.

As I worked on living a healthier life I also dedicated myself to my blog. I scheduled time each week in my calendar for blog time. I came home from my full-time job and in the evenings I wrote, worked on social media, website tweaks, did whatever I had to do. I became a freelance travel writer, and when I saved up enough I bought a DSLR camera, took a photography course, and found a new passion as a photographer. I may never quit my day job, but that won’t stop me from writing and working on my blog.

Since TBEX I realized that my blog was not just about my travel dreams. Dream Travel Magazine is about turning travel dreams and experiences into reality. Because of this realization I had a lot of firsts last year: attended my first travel blogging conference, rode a segway, ziplined, got rescued from a tree, went ice fishing, went dog sledding, went snowshoeing, saw a tractor pull, saw a horse pull, and attended a demolition derby.

Since TBEX my numbers have grown 5 times what they were last year. I have been a regular guest blogger at CentralCounties.ca. I have written sponsored posts, been on FAM trips, invited to special events, and made amazing friends who understand my crazy travel blogging life. I have the confidence in myself and my blog to continue to grow and use the hashtag #livingtheDream.

TBEX changed my life forever and it can change yours too! Just believe!

Sharon is a travel writer and blogger based in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada. She founded Dream Travel Magazine in 2011, an online travel magazine filled with travel tips, hotel and excursion reviews, and favourite vacation destinations. Sharon specializes in Caribbean vacations, Ontario road trips and getaways, and organized traveling. She loves to share her dream vacation destinations and how she turns them into reality. You can follow Sharon on twitter @dreamtravelmag.