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!

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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.

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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.

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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 Bloggers Need to Work with Brands – and it isn’t via Twitter Fights

 

Last month, I had the honour of speaking to a number of DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations) about how to work with bloggers. I was asked to attend the conference as the organisers (Think! Social Media) had seen me speak in the past and knew that I had a proactive and positive view of the way bloggers can work with brands – and that I had also put my money where my mouth is by supporting bloggers financially in order to support blogger/brand relationships and activity.

ryan levittSo, imagine my surprise when two slides of my 20-plus slide presentation were jumped on and transformed into a campaign of attack.

It has been a little over a week since it all kicked off, and I have purposely waited until now to respond, as I did not want to turn this guest post into a whiny and defensive column all about me. Because where does that get any of us? And how does that help propel blogger/brand working relationships into the future?

Instead, I’m going to go positive and use the tried and tested link bait method of a top five list to spark a bit more conversation on a platform that allows for more than 140 characters of text. So without further ado, I reveal Ryan Levitt’s Top Five List on How to Work with Brands.

1.  99% of blogs are awful – so stand out from the crowd

I begin with one of the contentious slides that was tweeted about – my belief that 99% of blogs are really sh*t.

I must apologize as I was understating.

It’s really 99.9% of blogs.

In 2013, it was reported that there are over 152 Million blogs around the world (source). I don’t know about you, but I would struggle to find over 10,000 amazing blogs that I would actively want to read let alone the 1.5 Million that make up 1% of what is out there.

Think about it – for every contract, piece of content writing, press trip, and paid possibility, there are potentially thousands of people out there who think they can do the same thing as you. So you need to stand out. You can’t make mistakes. You can’t be lazy and expect the brand or DMO to do all your legwork. You can’t submit copy late. And you certainly can’t bad mouth a brand just because you didn’t get your own way.

You don’t like what they have to say? Educate them – and not just with your Google Analytics or flashy numbers. We know how easy it is to game the system. You may report that you have 500,000 unique viewers a month (but hide the fact that your views are off a single post that happened to go viral). We will find out. We are looking for quality PLUS quantity. Anyone can boast big numbers, but very few people can craft great copy, inspirational photography, and valuable “here only” tips and advice on a consistent basis.

2.  Learn from the newspapers

I know, I know! Traditional media is dying you say. Yes, the numbers aren’t great. But there is something to be said for how they operate. When a PR wants a newspaper on a press trip, they must promise that no other competing publication will be on that trip. Why? Because the newspaper wants an exclusive. They understand the value of being first – and only – to market. Why do you think journalists talk about “the big scoop”? Why do online publications put exclusive features and gossip at the top of a site? Because they generate clicks, readers, and add value.

Newspapers are smart (sometimes). They know that if a consumer reads about the same trip in other publications all at the same time, they get bored. Why read the New York Times if it’s simply printing the same stuff that USA Today is putting on its pages? It’s not fresh or original.

Think I’m the only person who feels this way? Ask Gary Arndt. His April Fools post this year was a masterful piss take on the whole experience. Read it here.

At HouseTrip, we are no longer supporting group press trips where bloggers stay in the same property at the same time. We will continue to offer opportunities for people to travel together in groups when we are sponsoring a large event (such as TBEX Athens, hint, hint), but we will always put bloggers in individual apartments during those periods. Why? Because we want each blogger to have a personal experience that is different from everyone else. We don’t want lots of posts about bloggers talking about other bloggers or identical experiences. And we certainly don’t want everyone talking all at once because it turns into social noise rather than social conversation.

3.  Stop talking to each other

I often feel like social media is a lot like a high school lunch table packed with cool kids. You really want to be at the table, but you don’t know how to get an invitation. Often times, bloggers are a lot like that too. A bunch of cool kids talking about all the fun they are having, while the regular consumer watches unable to find a way into the conversation. We need to be more embracing of what the consumer wants – and they will always want accessibility and engagement.

How many times have you read a blog and seen a lot of bloggers doing love-ins. “I love your blog,” “No I love yours more”. It’s aggravating. I know new bloggers are often finding ways to form relationships and get “in” with the in crowd. I also know that more established bloggers are looking for engagement. If you are compelled to write a comment on another blogger’s work, make sure you are contributing to the conversation. For example, if the blogger is in Thailand and you know a great place to go for sunrise yoga around the corner from a location they mentioned in the post, add that to the list. It’s a better contribution. But the endless love-fests aren’t productive.

4.  Know when you are right for SEO or right for brand building activity

Another contentious slide this one. My presentation prominently said that SEO was the reason why brands should work with bloggers. And that brand engagement is a secondary reason. I stand by this quote because it mirrors the fact that there are a limited number of influential blogs out there to work with. (And frankly you wouldn’t have endless SEO training sessions at blogger events if you didn’t realize the importance of it either).

When you are first starting out, SEO will always be your biggest selling point. At a rough estimate, it will take two years of posting before I, as a brand, believe you have the kind of influence level I need to work with you. Until then, your value to me will be in SEO links. That’s simply the name of the game.

Want to get ahead faster? Then do something that magazine advertisers have done for years. When a magazine launches, their sales team will give away pages to brands that they hope to entice – and so that other brands will see the kind of partners they are working with. If you are a new blogger and you don’t have the track record a brand needs to warrant working with you, then give away a little in the short term and show your value through click throughs, ads, and more. Then, use this case study to get me interested in working with you on bigger projects, or use your success and go to my competitor (who you can charge to work with).

5.  Stop with the begging bowl – at first

I get about five emails a day that say about the same thing. I’m (INSERT NAME) blogger. I’m going to (INSERT DESTINATION). I want free stuff from you. In return you will get a blog post.

Some of the emails include case studies and media kits. Some don’t. In all cases, these pitches go straight to my SEO Director and I rarely take a second look. Why? Because nowhere in those pitches does the blogger say how they can work with my brand, what they like about it, and what they think would benefit both of us if we did an activity together.

I was having lunch with a colleague recently and he told me that he pretty much deletes every single email like the one above that passes into his inbox. But we both agreed that if a blogger did their research and understood our marketing strategy and direction for the year – and then pitched something that fit, we’d sit up and take notice.

So how can a blogger find this out? Easily. Look at the photos on the homepage of the site. Are there big pictures of food? Then chances are food and drink is a big part of the marketing strategy for the year. Are you seeing lots of luxury images and exclusive resorts? Then global nomads and backpacker specialists might want to stay away.

Don’t go straight for the freebie. And don’t try and shoehorn us into your travel desires. Find out what we want and then see if it works with your brand strategy. Because you need to remember that you are a brand too.

If you disagree with anything I have said in this post or in my SoMeT presentation, I welcome your feedback. If you think I have failed to point out other values bloggers deliver, I would greatly appreciate your feedback in the comments. At HouseTrip we are proud to have been supporting bloggers since 2010 and I have been personally involved in that process the entire time. We have been, and are still committed to working with new bloggers, and are continuing to build on our existing relationships.

Author bio:  Ryan Levitt is PR Director of HouseTrip.com, one of the world’s largest holiday rental websites offering over 230,000 rentals in more than 19,000 destinations worldwide. Prior to this time, he spent almost a decade in travel PR representing NYC, Bermuda, Mauritius, Queensland, Malaysia and many other destinations, hotels and cruise lines in Europe. Also a former travel journalist, he has written over 20 travel guides and contributed to The Independent on Sunday (UK), Arena Magazine, Wallpaper, South China Morning Post, Toronto Star – and was a guide writer for VisitBritain and the German National Tourist Office.

More Than Social Media: Costa Brava’s Instagram Plans

 

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Instagram is the perfect platform for sharing holiday photos – and you won’t miss home if your stay is punctuated with Insta-lovehearts. But one tourist board has bigger plans for this visual social media platform than a few holiday snaps. Instagram is fast becoming part of Costa Brava’s worldwide marketing strategy, with the aim of changing outdated perceptions of the region.

If I say Costa Brava, what would you say? Sun, sea, or sand? If, like me, you missed last year’s TBEX Conference Girona you might call to mind a beach strip studded with white high rise blocks, and restaurants offering menus with pictures instead of words. I did. And what did I base that opinion on? Pre-social media memories of orange BBC TV travel presenters sipping on sangria, 70s news reports of a boom in Spanish resorts that my parents couldn’t afford to take me to, and glossy brochures on travel agent shelves in the days when a ‘Trip Advisor’ was someone who sat at a desk in the shopping mall.

A region that has moved on

Perhaps that’s what the Costa Brava was then. But I know from a recent visit that’s not what it is now. Sure, you have your Lloret de Mar resorts filled with Brits that have turned an off-putting shade of tomato. But nowadays the region delivers cosmopolitan cities like Girona, cultural experiences like the Dali Museum, artist enclaves like Cadaques, and world class sailing and diving marinas like L’Estartit. And apart from one blip when all the food critics went to Copenhagen, it has continuously held the title of ‘best restaurant in the world.’

Held back by the past

Yet when I returned from Costa Brava, people only asked if I’d enjoyed my beach holiday. The region may have embraced the future, but the old image remains, hanging round like yesterday’s paella. For the Costa Brava Tourist Board this might be seen as something of a problem. But Jaume Marin, Marketing Director at Costa Brava Girona is upbeat. He believes most tourist boards have an outdated image or legacy to change.

“The most important thing about marketing is the perception. More than the reality. And every destination has problems with perception. Even places like New York have a mountain to climb,” says Jaume. “I think Barcelona has one of the strongest images for a destination in the world. Yet tourism is focussed on one part of the town, overloading the capacity of that part of town.”

A marketing man with a plan

Jaume is putting his belief in social media into action – or, more specifically, into a catchy little hashtag. In the time it has taken me to write this post someone will have probably looked at an image tagged #incostabrava. By the time you’ve read this article someone else is likely to have used that hashtag on a new image. Many of these pictures have sun, sea, and sand woven into the mix, but many others do not. There are pictures of spires and statues. Of alleyways and arches. Of markets and museums. Of forests and farmhouses. Of tall towers and top tables.

When I last checked there were 76,640 images on just that one hashtag. Jaume Marin believes that over time, hearts and minds can be changed through these single snaps that, together, make an almighty holiday album. But why would Instagram be more effective than leaflets and brochures? He argues that new generations are being influenced by social rather than traditional media and publicity.

“It’s no good if I say ‘The Costa Brava is more than beaches.’ Somebody else has to say it,” Jaume tells me. “If someone local says it, then it’s not the tourist board creating brand, but our own community creating it.”

Another part of his strategy is to bring expert bloggers and travellers out on a regular basis. “They have a big number of followers and people rely on them and believe them. In the past the tour operators were important and there were millions of brochures produced. But that is the past. Who creates the perceptions now? A campaign like Instagram is real and it’s authentic. Local people are part of it. And they are proud of it. This is a growing community.”

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Instadays filled with instalikes

The tourist board has been facilitating the growth of the hashtag by organising free Instagram days – free guided photo walks with Instagram experts on hand to offer tips – across the region. I attended one in Cadaques. It was a sunshine fiesta of 200 snappers and I was still looking at pictures of it on my phone several weeks later. And this free Instagram day was then repeated somewhere else. By the time I met Jaume in England in June, he had clocked up 14 of them, with another 18 in the pipeline.

But I was curious. Did he put so much faith in social media platforms that they were becoming central to his marketing strategy?

“Yes. We are switching,” he said, nodding. “We are a public administration and we don’t switch from one day to another, but in the end it depends on the people who are involved, and if I’m still there, we are going to switch.”

A measurable marketing expense

One of the advantages, he explains, is that social media is measurable, unlike other channels where he could put his marketing budget.

“The circulation of a newspaper might be 100,000. But how many people read it? I don’t know. And my advert might be on the 38th page. I don’t know how many people read the 38th page. With a blog I know how many people read it and for how many minutes.”

But he’s also aware that figures aren’t everything, even in tourism, and that sometimes accountability is taken a bit far.

“Are we going to measure how much people enjoy an exhibition? Is a hotel going to ask what the return is on changing the chairs? Or how many people benefited from changing a light bulb?” he asks with a shrug.

Expanding the network

Before he left England, Jaume was keen to track down UK Instagrammers.

“I would like to set up an Instagram day with the igersLondon and igersCostaBrava communities. If we met for a day and it was a failure then we would still have a great weekend. And if we met for a day and it was a success then Instagram days could be expanded all over Europe. And we would be the pioneers.”

Author Bio: Kirstie Pelling is one fifth of The Family Adventure Project, a website all about families getting active and having fun together. Along with husband and co-founder Stuart Wickes and their three children, the family have cycled more than 12,000 miles, across more than 20 countries. And with 20 years of journalism and travel experience under her belt, Kirstie is an expert in inspirational adventure writing. You can follow her and the family on Twitter @familyonabike, Facebook, G+, Instagram and YouTube.

TBEX Speaker Post: 7 Tools & Technology Tips for Sharing Travel Content Online

 

Effectively managing your time online, monitoring results and sharing content with your most relevant audience is important. Simply providing the best content is not enough if your target audience doesn’t get to see it!

When we travel to foreign countries we love to sample the local cuisine. So here are 7 tips that are just a “taster” for what is coming up in my session at TBEX. I will share so many valuable and actionable tips that will help your business and I am so looking forward to meeting you all.

1. Increase traffic to your website by optimizing images for Google

There is a great session on photography that I’m looking forward to at TBEX, which is about ‘Telling your Travel Stories through Photography’ by Lola Akinmade Åkerström. Pictures are so important online and by just having a picture in a post you will get 94% more views!

So unless you consider Google when uploading your images you could be losing out on relevant traffic.

So when you are uploading an image think of the following:

  • Image Name – The name of the image should include relevant keywords that you want to rank on within Google.
  • Image Size – If you have too many large images on a web page Google will penalize you if it takes too long to download. So don’t upload large images unless there is a very good reason to.
  • Alt Tag – The alt tag is what Google reads to find out how to index this image, so again, include relevant keywords.
  • Caption – Always write a good caption with the picture, it will help the viewer to understand the context of the image, they will stay longer on your page and will be more likely to share.

2. Monitor the Results of Traffic to your Site using Google Analytics

In Google Analytics you can set up goals that can track how successful your site is at getting visitor’s to take certain actions. For example, you could set up a goal related to visitors subscribing for a travel guide and then monitor how well your site is performing against that goal. If you’re not measuring your results online then you are less inclined to try and improve on them!

There are different methods for measuring whether your goal has been achieved or not. For example, the goal could be achieved when a visitor lands on a thank-you page, which is only displayed after they have subscribed for your travel guide. This way you know this goal has been achieved.

Google-Analytics-Goals

Figure 1 – The goal is achieved when the visitor arrives on a thank you page after subscribing for the guide

Goals are really essential to set up and track so you are more focused on the results your content is generating.

3. Share content on Twitter using Buffer App

When you find lots of great content you naturally want to share it out but it doesn’t make sense to share it all out at the same time. You may want to spread out the sharing of this content over a day or multiple days.

This is where Buffer helps. When you install Buffer you set up the times you want content shared and the social networks where you want it shared to. You then add a ‘buffer’ button to your browser. As you come across great content you click the Buffer button and it gets added to the queue. The content will then automatically be sent out at the next time you specified.

BufferApp

Figure 2 Buffer is easy to set up and a pleasure to use!

So if you’re not at your computer all day and you like sharing out content to your friends or followers, Buffer is a really useful app.

4. Improve your branding in search results using Google Authorship

When you perform a search on Google and see a picture of a person in the search results this is normally achieved using Google Authorship. This is Google associating the content with a real person. In order to develop a profile as a writer this is extremely important to set up.

Google-Authorship

Figure 3 With Google Authorship your picture will start appearing in search results alongside your content

The best way of setting this up is creating a Google+ profile and within this profile you specify the websites where you publish content, such as, your own site or blogs where you guest post. The process of linking your content to your profile is called Google Authorship.

5. Monitor your brand online using Mention App

It’s really important to monitor what is being said about you, your business or even your competitors online. However, one of the issues is that the tools can be quite expensive. While you could of course use Google Alerts, the problem is there is no way to effectively manage the follow-on activity that results from any of the alerts.

Mention is a social media monitoring tool that monitors your keywords across Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Websites and much more and provides a really nice user interface that is available on both the web and mobile devices. But what makes Mention stand out is the ability to view the source of the mention within the interface and then take action, whether that means responding to a tweet, a comment on a blog, or even assigning the follow-up to someone else.

Mention-ReplyToTweetWithinApp

Figure 4 Mention allows you to view results directly within the app

It has both a free option and a very affordable $20 per month option, so at that cost level it’s certainly an app worth investigating.

6. Share content on Facebook using PostPlanner

If a Facebook page is important to your business then PostPlanner is a great tool that will help you deliver regular content, on time to help build an engaged community.

It is specifically designed for Facebook, and unlike many other scheduling tools, it runs directly within Facebook. You can share out content at predefined times, post content out immediately or you can schedule any piece of content for a later time

PostPlanner-Interface

Figure 5 Postplanner has great facilities for scheduling content

As we all know sharing content is not always about sharing your own content. PostPlanner gives you great functionality to easily add in content from other blogs/Facebook pages. This can either be content from predefined blogs/pages you trust and like or it can be from the library of content delivered by PostPlanner.

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Figure 6 If you’re stuck for content ideas PostPlanner will give you some ideas!

7. Find Useful Content to Share using Scoop.it

Although Scoop.it is great for finding content to share it’s also great for sharing content and bringing relevant traffic back to your site.

On Scoop.it you can create one or more virtual boards based on topics of interest. When you find content you want to share, you simply add it to the relevant board. People can then follow and track your board, click on the links to come back to your website or share content on their own boards.

ScoopIt

Figure 7 Scoop.it is great for collecting and sharing useful content

If you like these tips and want a lot more please come along to my session. I will be around for a few days so even if you can’t make it make sure to say hello and I’ll help in any way I can.

Are these tips useful to you?

There’s still time to register for TBEX Toronto to hear more tips like these!

About the Author: Ian Cleary is an entrepreneur, award winning blogger, speaker and digital marketer. He is founder of RazorSocial which is an award winning blog specialising in social media tools and technology. Ian also writes for social media examiner and other leading social media blogs. Ian has worked extensively in the Tourism Industry through his Digital Agency in Ireland. He’ll be presenting a session called Building Your Audience with Social Media Management Tools at TBEX Toronto.

Travel Blog Exchange: Organized Blogger Sharing Groups – Yay or Nay?

 

No matter what end of the blogging ladder you’re on now, no doubt you’ve looked at some point for ways to make the climb easier. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of a fast lane to success? Today, we’ve got two takes on organized blogger groups – first from someone who thinks such groups represent a way to launch a blog to the top of the heap, and then from someone who thinks bloggers who don’t look outside those insular groups are targeting the wrong audience. Is there a magic pill? Or are these the emperor’s new clothes?


The secret of top level bloggers: Blogging Super Sharing Groups

by Cole Burmester

Creative Commons photo by C!... on Flickr

Creative Commons photo by C!… on Flickr

Looking up from the bottom of the blogging pile towards the success that others have reached, can make you pull your head back in and shut down your blog. But don’t despair there is hope for you yet.

These bloggers that you may look up to didn’t reach the levels by just being excellent writers, engaging on social media or becoming an authority in their chosen niches. Sure it helps, but they also had a dirty little secret. A secret that I was only privy to a few weeks ago.

And I want to reveal it to you…

They are involved in what I like to call a “Blogging Super Sharing Group.”

What is a blogging super sharing group?

You don’t have to look very far to see that the promotional power of social networks is being watered down by automated blogging robots who tweet new posts without reading them and without regard for quality or relevance. This approach to blog promotion spreads a weak message to a wide audience about an even wider (often random) group of mixed quality blogs.

It’s no surprise then that most bloggers therefore only seem to be writing for one another as they hope to join in with the robots.

But a blogging super sharing group is different. In these groups they value content and creativity.

Everyone agrees that just being a great photographer or creator of fantastic content is usually not enough in such a cut-throat business. You also need a strong social media presence.

By utilising a group of like-minded bloggers to share your posts, you are extending your own reach through trusted sources and recommendations.

Some may call it a blogging circle-jerk and look down upon such groups. But no matter which way you slice it, they are extremely beneficial. By joining forces with other dedicated like minded bloggers you can help spread your posts to a much more engaged and targeted audience.

What is involved?

Having only just been shown the key to this exclusive world I had no idea what to expect. And I was quickly overwhelmed. Here I was in the presence of some of my favourite bloggers and being asked to share my own posts with them so that they in turn could share them through their own social media channels.

At first glance the blogging sharing super group “rules” seemed very strict and I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

Luckily these “rules” turned out to be more like guidelines. But make no mistake, if I decided I wanted to start dragging my heels then I would quickly be told where to go.

  • Members can submit up to two posts per week to the group.
  • Members will read submitted posts and regularly submit comments about them.
  • Members will always tweet ALL posts submitted by other members, ideally with a personalized tweet.
  • Members will “discover” other members posts on StumbleUpon with relevant keywords and tags.
  • Members are expected to share and like posts on Facebook if they particularly like the post.
  • Members will develop cross-linking between member blogs within new posts whenever appropriate and legitimate.
  • Members will be available to produce guest posts for each other’s blogs.

How it has benefited us

Before we joined our blogger super sharing group we had stagnated. Our unique views were consistent and our social media channels were growing, but not at the levels we had hoped. We needed something else.

Our group started with 5 travel blogs all willing to share each others best posts twice a week on StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

We immediately saw the benefits from day one. One of our posts went viral and within a week we had increased our page views and followers more than in the last 3 months combined. We knew we were onto something.

Every time our posts were shared we saw a surge in traffic. And our fellow members reported the same. We were all benefiting from reaching a new and trusted audience through our fellow bloggers.

How can I set one up?

Realistically you are not going to be able to approach the big names in the blogosphere without doing some groundwork beforehand. But you also don’t have to look very far to see who might be a great fit.

Which blogs do you always read and share anyway because you enjoy what they write? Do they in turn stumble, like, tweet or comment on your posts?

Chances are you have even networked with other bloggers that may have started at a similar time to you or written about the same niche. Just send them a friendly message and see if they would be interested in turning what is currently a mutual understanding into something much more robust.

The key is ensuring that you do not overwhelm your existing community. Luckily the beauty of your own personal blogging super sharing group is that by limiting the number of members in your group to like-minded bloggers with the same goals as you, then your overall message will be even more powerful.


Think Outside the Bubble, Bloggers, or Risk Stunted Growth

by Annemarie Dooling

Creative Commons photo by nic_r on Flickr

Creative Commons photo by nic_r on Flickr

Despite the occasional loud-mouthed scuffle, the travel blogging community is a kind one. There aren’t many more where members would gladly drop everything to teach a new peer a skill, or meet a stranger randomly in a new city, or put overwhelming amounts of passion into building and sharing the connections that strengthen the network.

We’ve created a cozy bubble where every blogger knows each other, some more intimately than others, for sure, and rallies behind their fellow blogger across websites, Facebook, Instagram. But there’s danger in the bubble and it’s called stunted growth.

Here are a few additional facts about travel bloggers: many of them are self-taught in their abilities, don’t always pay for their own travel, and rarely do the wide-market research that would enable their content or brand to spread beyond that comfortable bubble. It’s a fantastic thing when a writer is able to build a truly devoted audience, one that follows you, shares, wants to know more, engages with you and more importantly engages with others about you. But when that ‘devoted audience’ is no more than a small group of like minded peers, we come to troubled territory.

There’s another piece to the puzzle of sharing across a small radius, and it’s the concept of organized groups of voters. In the early days of Internet sharing sites, Usenet and Google groups were designed by the dozens for the sole purpose of sharing one’s latest content and gaming large quantities of comments, likes and clicks as possible. When the temple of Digg fell, so did many of these groups, but they’re still strong in blogging circles. And bloggers aren’t to blame. It’s a larger problem created by aggressive websites built on hyper social activity with much less of a concentrate on originality and authenticity and quality (Ok, I’ll confess to working for at least one company like this). How can a DIY site compete with media monsters who have less passion and better SEO? The answer seems clear in these voting groups; share your link, earn a hundred likes and move on with your day.

But these larger sites will fail if they continue to rely solely on shallow, base numbers, and blogs will, too. It’s much easier to change an independent blog, though, and bloggers have the opportunity to ignore the organized system based on gaming clicks from your friends, and turn it around to a place where good content floats to the top of the Google heap.

Why turn away from those groups of clickers? Though that group might actually be somewhat of an enthusiastic fan base, having no critics means no opportunities to see where you can improve. Having only comments or clicks from someone who is obligated to do so means you’ll never really know how your content is doing. Sharing the same nuclear network as those peers means your content is rarely seen beyond that bubble to the wider audience, the real audience that could wonder at and benefit from your knowledge.

If I had one wish for new bloggers, it would be to, yes, lean on that community, for thoughts, brainstorms, advice and friendship. But don’t be afraid to move beyond. Do some work on the reader base who is the core demographic of your product. Figure out how best to speak to and reach them. They are the reason you started writing; they are the audience that craves your information. Sell yourself to someone who’s buying.


The first post was written by Cole Burmester, founder of the couples adventure travel blog FourJandals.com. You can find them on Twitter and Facebook.

The second post was written by Annemarie Dooling, travel writer and senior community editor at Huffington Post. Her blog is Frill Seeker Diary.

Your turn!
What do you think of these two contrasting views? Leave your comments below!

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!

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!

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

4 Social Media Sins (and How You Can Find Absolution)

 

When you’re up to your eyeballs in social media all day, it’s tempting to think everyone is on the same page. Not only is that far from true, there are plenty of people who are using social media on a daily basis who – in my opinion – are doin’ in wrong. I’m a staunch supporter of the notion that there are many ways to utilize social media, but I do think there are some things you shouldn’t do no matter how you’re using it.

There are, in other words, social media sins.

Here are what I consider to be the worst social media sins – and I’m eager to hear what you think are the worst, too, so I hope you’ll leave them in the comments!

Auto-DMs

Creative Commons photo by That Hartford Guy on Flickr

This should not be something that still needs to be said, but since I’m still getting auto-DMs every so often when I follow new people on Twitter, obviously the message hasn’t yet reached everyone.

If you’re not yet a Twitter addict, a DM is a “direct message,” and they’re private missives between two users. In order to DM someone, they must actually be following you, so when Twitter users set up services to automatically send a DM to every new follower it’s an instantaneous abuse of a new (and as-yet-untested) relationship. Most auto-DMs are some variation of “thanks for following!” Sometimes they go so far as to say, as @videozee puts it, “Thanks for following. Follow me here and here and here, too,” begging new Twitter followers to like your Facebook page or subscribe to your newsletter or whatnot.

No matter the text, auto-DMs are unwelcome. As @HeyJerGo says, “I follow you then you immediately spam me?!?” They do not make users feel special. It’s obvious that they’re automatically generated, like so much spam – and how special does receiving spam make you feel? We’ve already chosen to follow you on Twitter, so don’t make us regret that decision by coming on like an over-anxious used car salesman. Let your followers make their own sophisticated decisions to look at your blog or Facebook page or whatever else you’re promoting based on what you put on Twitter, since that’s where they’ve chosen to engage with you.

Bottom line? If you’re currently using an auto-DM service, turn it off. Seriously. And if you’re new to Twitter, don’t sign up for an auto-DM service to begin with.

Hashtag Overuse

While hashtags became popularized on Twitter, they’re now used on lots of social media platforms – including Google+ and Instagram – to help categorize the content of a post. There are plenty of fabulous reasons to hashtag your social media updates. Attendees at a conference can live-tweet sessions with a common hashtag, letting people who want to follow along do so easily – and those who don’t care about the conference can just block that hashtag temporarily. On a grander scale, using a common hashtag for a major event like Superstorm Sandy made it easy for people all over the world to stay on top of what was happening – we got updates faster that way than by watching the TV news.

But some people abuse hashtags to such a degree that it’s irritating to look at anything they post. Ironically, although hashtags really got going first on Twitter, because of the 140-character limit I feel like most Twitterers use a bit more restraint when hashtagging a tweet. The worst offenders tend to be on Instagram, where people leave comments on their own images in order to add even more hashtags.

The Instagram post on the left is acceptable. A few relevant hashtags to identify both the location of the photo and the conference alluded to. But the one on the right? That’s ridiculous. And that’s not even the worst hashtag overuse I’ve seen.

If you make people wade through several lines of hashtagged nonsense to find out what the heck you’re talking about, why are they going to want to stick around?

Before you think I’m going to let hashtag-addicts on Twitter off the hook, let me say this: not every single one of your blog posts needs to be hashtagged with #TBEX. Or #TTOT. Or #travel. Or, really, any one thing. You know the story of the boy who cried wolf, right? The social media version is the blogger who tagged every bloody one of their tweets – especially if it was a link to their site – with #TBEX or #TTOT or some such thing. Just as the villagers eventually ignored the boy when the wolf finally did come, when you post something to your blog that’s really great, something I’ll want to read and re-post from the TBEX accounts, I’m much more likely to ignore it because it’s just another post in a sea of your hashtagged posts.

Be judicious with your hashtags, you guys. This is another case where less is more.

Broadcasting

Creative Commons photo by garryknight on Flickr

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. Bloggers, we are not CNN or the BBC, so there’s absolutely no reason we should treat social media like a one-way megaphone.

News outlets can get away with broadcasting their links and nothing else because they’re an information service – it’s exactly what people expect when they check CNN’s Twitter feed. We don’t expect to get a reply from the CNN account if we ask a question. Bloggers, on the other hand, are accessible to their readers. People contact us via any one of a number of different avenues, and they aren’t shocked when we reply. That’s why I find it so disheartening when some bloggers do nothing but broadcast on social media.

I actually heard someone recently say, “Oh, I don’t follow anyone on Pinterest. I just post things from my site there.” I’m glad that person wants to share their site with the Pinterest community, but how much value are they actually adding? I’d argue that they’re not adding very much at all.

Social media works best when it’s a two-way street, when your usage includes regular interaction with other people in that community as well as contributions of new content. And that new content shouldn’t all be to your URL, either, or you’re the guy at the party who can only talk about himself. I don’t know about you, but I try to get away from that dude as quickly as possible.

If all you’re doing is posting links to your own stuff and you’re rarely interacting with anyone, I think it’s safe to assume you don’t actually want to engage with the community – and that’s going to give me no reason to want to engage with you, either. Real community is only built with real, two-way engagement. So if you want to keep broadcasting, at least be aware that you’ll only get out of social media what you’re willing to put into it.

Buying Followers

Creative Commons photo by Jeremy Weate on Flickr

I may hate auto-DMs on Twitter, but there’s something I hate even more – buying followers or fans.

Lately people are equating buying promoted posts on Facebook with buying fans, but I don’t think they’re even close to the same. The former is essentially buying ad space, and there’s nothing wrong with advertising. The latter is simply lying.

There is no excuse for buying Twitter followers or Facebook fans or the like. None. It’s never okay. I don’t care who told you it was or what you’ve read, it’s a stupid, money-wasting idea. Yes, I’m calling it stupid, and I don’t think highly of anyone who considers it a sound decision. It’s akin to withdrawing your credit card limit and depositing it into your bank account to make it look like you’re rolling in savings. They’re fake numbers, and yet you’re paying real money for them. That has consequences beyond just emptying your wallet. It’s a shady proposition that can sully your reputation, and anyone who says otherwise is selling snake oil.

Social media is about community, and you don’t buy community – you earn community. Period.

Is there absolution?

Creative Commons photo by emilio labrador on Flickr

Social media isn’t exactly the wild west, but it’s still a brave new world for many of us. Not only that, the landscape seems to change every few weeks. So, yes, it’s hard to keep up sometimes. I’ll give you that. And maybe you started committing one of the above-mentioned social media sins long before you knew any better. The good news is that you can change your behaviors for the better right now and begin to rebuild a social reputation. Positive changes can take a little bit longer to stick than negative ones, but since everything on the interwebz moves at just shy of the speed of light, it’s still pretty doggone fast.

Sadly, we don’t really have a system in the travel blogging world for buying indulgences like the Catholic church used to, but I’ll make you a deal. Next time you see me, buy me a drink and confess. I’ll hear your sins, and – as long as you promise never to re-offend – we’ll consider it a wash.

Your turn on the soapbox!
What are the social media sins that irritate you most? Share in the comments below!

Talking Social Engagement at PhoCus Wright

 

Hot on the heels of our news that TBEX CEO Rick Calvert will be speaking at WTM this year, we’re pleased to announced that  TBEX Conference Director Mary Jo Manzanares will be speaking at the 2012 PhoCusWright Conference in Arizona.

PhoCusWright is a travel industry research authority that fosters smart strategic planning and tactical decision-making by delivering research on the evolving dynamics that influence travel, tourism and hospitality distribution.  You may have read one of its many white papers on the industry.  PhoCus Wright also offers an annual conference that brings together executives and thought leaders in the travel industry along with travel technology start ups and exhibitors.

Mary Jo will represent TBEX on a panel called “The New Rules of Social Engagement.” Here’s the official description:

Want to build buzz? Connect with bloggers? Drive trial and awareness? Traditional marketing has reached its own “Pivot Point” where the key to driving traffic and hitting milestones is about building and engaging in meaningful conversations with your followers, influencers and the travel blogger community. Join this executive-level discussion on how you should be thinking about your social media investments and PR strategy and help your team efficiently navigate the pitfalls and opportunities in social media to build measurable campaigns that grow your business.

Also on the panel will be Anne Taylor Hartzell of Hip Travel Mama and Spencer Spellman of The Traveling Philosopher, with moderator Joe Megibow of Expedia.  The session will start at 11:30 am on Wednesday, November 14. The full PhoCusWright program is here

Now, we realize that PhoCusWright is beyond the budget of most travel bloggers – honestly, it’s beyond the budget of many travel companies – but don’t worry, Mary Jo will bring back all kinds of great information and contacts that will benefit TBEXers in the future.  And if you’ll  be at PhoCusWright, be sure to contact Mary Jo and schedule a good time to meet up.

What do you think?
What do you hope Mary Jo and the others discuss on their social engagement panel at PhoCusWright? Share in the comments below!