The second part of the Social Travel Summit in Leipzig is in full swing. Fergus Parker, of Axonn Media in the UK is here to talk to us about content marketing. After learning all there is to know about Social Media Trends & Creativity, “content is the kingdom in which we all live in. 90% of the world’s information today has been created in the last two years. All of us are empowered to create and consume content in a way unparalleled. By 2020, there will be 50 billion connected devices globally!” Wow. This is almost ten times as many as there are people on this planet right now, in less than ten years. “Unless you are creating that genuine, human relationship with your visitors, everything else becomes irrelevant. CONNECTION really is the new king!”
Strategy – Content – Technology.
Fergus’ advice during his speech clearly hails from a business perspective: Write down your content strategy. Make sure you know your audience. Understand the customer journey: Where are they going? What are they thinking? What concerns do they have? What do they need? We must do everything possible to speak to our customers, e.g. by drawing up surveys and finding out about their needs. From the data generated, we then have to figure out: What do they need in terms of content? Is it content that helps them to be more efficient, to do more with less resources, or content that helps them build a case for their business?
“Content must fulfill the knowledge gap in customers, e.g. readers to your blog or business website. They require reassurance that their needs can be met before taking a travel decision, which to them is possibly the single greatest outlay of their year.”
Travel content, he argues, is mostly displayed on Social Media and through blogs and websites. The famous loop goes like this: Awareness (shares, eBooks, blogs) creates interest (news, video, Social Media) which in turn leads to action and ultimately on to advocacy (e.g. through video content, backlinks, blog comments etc.), all helping to build brand loyalty. In content marketing, the way to broadcast your stories is converging around so-called “owned media” (i.e. your own blog, your own social media platforms), “earned media” (third party websites and users sharing and endorsing your story) and “paid media” (native ads to enhance engagement on those platforms).
“(Always strive for) producing a balance of reassuring to inspirational content!” (Fergus Parker, The Social Travel Summit, Leipzig).
Thank you, Fergus, for this inspirational summit keynote, and also for calling me “a breath of fresh air and having great energy” during our follow-up talk when really I would have credited you with the same things! I really appreciate your feedback. When something inspires me, I cannot help but share the message with others out there I guess. 😉 So here is even more for you, dear readers!
Workshop Session #1 at the Social Travel Summit in Leipzig: On working with travel bloggers & measuring the results.
At the Social Travel Summit in Leipzig, we have now moved from listening to keynote speakers filling us with wonderful words of advice to active participation during smaller workshop sessions. Jaume Marin, of the Costa Brava Tourism Board (#incostabrava), Nicholas Montemaggi, of the Emilia Romagna Tourism Board (creator & originator of #Blogville) and David Arcifa, of MSC Cruises have come to talk to us about developing successful blogger relations and on how to measure or take into account the results.
Their mutually agreed on advice to bloggers goes as follows:
- Establish long-term relationships with your business partners (yes to that!).
- Show the engagement you cause through your publishing work to your partners and highlight relevant comments from the community (e.g. intention to travel to a particular destination, enthusiasm about your posts, etc.).
- Make your email exchange visible and establish a system to “file your personal ROI”, i.e. calculating your own individual units of measurement that can be shown to business partners.
- Do the archive, i.e. bring old articles back up with new information so as to demonstrate the connection you have with a particular destination or trip.
- Underpromise and overdeliver!
Lots of interesting examples on behalf of the tourism & PR Industry follow. One of the most obvious one is this piece of advice to the industry: “Credit bloggers and maintain a dialogue with them.” As an example, Nicholas presents the effort of having international blog articles of “resident bloggers” to his “Blogville” in Italy be translated back into Italian, in order to see and engage with the feedback of his Italian-speaking community and to enhance reach among their own local-language-based communication channels.
Jaume from Costa Brava Tourism Board adds: “I look at the blog. I read the articles. I look at the comments: Are they from genuine readers or other bloggers, which I might or might not be interested in? It is obviously a big time factor to do this type of research. However, you should bear in mind that it is a mutually beneficial dialogue that always concerns two parties.”
David Arcifa, of MSC Cruises, mentions having worked with Gary Bembridge known as The Cruise traveller, who once aboard one of his MSC cruise ships asked to take photos and a short film of a particular cabin: This very cabin had already been booked by a lady from the US who was following Gary Bembridge on Social Media, so showing it to her first-hand meant excellent PR under the eyes of a watchful public, that is many Social Media followers to Gary Bembridge – an exceptionally good marketing & PR move that came out of a successful blogger relation. David goes further on to say that 99% of blogger relations are about building brand awareness. If working with travel bloggers as a strategy, this should be borne in mind. So in your dialogue with a blogger, or respectively with a PR or tourism destination company, always address this question firsthand: What is the actual outcome or result to be achieved?
Travel bloggers are authentic multipliers of individual experiences. Readers trust travel blogger content. TRUST is a currency most sought-after by DMOs.
I dream, I travel, I share, I dream … and so the story goes. Yet bloggers are very influential in the first stage of the travel decision, the dreaming stage of the customer journey. And this is why working with (professional) travel bloggers needs to be at the forefront of PR & the tourism industry.
I guess that by now, whether being an industry representative or a blogger yourself, you have all been wondering about … ?
Measuring The Results of working with travel bloggers.
“Bloggers being just about brand awareness?” Yeah right. The key issue, the question of the potential outcome of blogger relations, sort of lingers in the room of our workshop session. It always reverts back to the same question: “So how do we all make money out of this and demonstrate satisfying results?!?” The holy grail is finally addressed in the ensuing discussion revolving around “blogger metrics” & further measurement of successful blogger relations. Here is what our panel speakers have to say.
According to Nicholas, “both sides are responsible for demonstrating results, i.e. the reporting of a blogtrip. You need trust (also internally) to go ahead with a ‘new’ blogger strategy, and a bit of luck in the circumstances. Here in Emilia Romagna, we were lucky that soon local people and politicians started endorsing our ‘Blogville’ project. My own boss, too, is happy with what has come out of it. Follow-up dissemination and communication opportunities also helped us in demonstrating international best practice: Alexandra, a blogger from Brazil who came to visit ‘Blogville’ last year, wrote 50+ posts about one week in Emilia Romagna, which in turn caught the attention of an important newspaper in Brazil where she then published 5-page insert about Emilia Romagna.”
So how do I show my worth, as a blogger? One of the answers the panel has for us during this session is to educate our clients and business partners: “Impact your partners away from old-school thinking where everything is about numbers, and numbers only. We all know that this is tough, but together we are able to impact the system. Leverage on the fact that the web has a long tail whose influence spans over many months and years! Go away from traditional press clipping: It is all about long-term and continuous measurement!”
Also important to know is this: Before you start on a campaign working with travel bloggers, do define the success metrics. Is it number of likes, posts, articles, videos or what? Is it brand awareness? Is it the use of a particular hashtag? What is it? Make it clear in the dialogue with a PR agency or a tourism destination: If it is numbers, then it is that, and if it is something else, then it is that. Decide upfront, but do make up your mind in time for the negotiation and eventually successful collaboration!
“Inviting bloggers to traditionally secluded events, such as the baptism of a new cruise ship, creates excellent Social Media buzz and excitement among bloggers. This is one way of giving bloggers more exposure, and to give your audience special content from a PR & marketing point of view.” (David Arcifa, MSC Cruises, The Social Travel Summit in Leipzig).
Workshop Session #2 at the Social Travel Summit in Leipzig: Developing (and driving) successful campaigns with travel bloggers.
Now here comes a truly interesting Summit Talk, this time by co-host Angelika Schwaff (ReisebloggerKollektiv), Catharina Fischer (German National Tourist Board) and Kash Battacharya (The Budget Traveller). Their experience has led them to work together on numerous occasions, and what they have to say about successful campaigns working with travel bloggers & the industry really marks state-of-the-art business knowledge. Here is what I have taken from their workshop session at the Social Travel Summit in Leipzig:
(Successful) campaigns require long-term planning. At the beginning, there must always be a strategy: What is it that we want to achieve?
Both Catharina and Angelika mention the fact of having a so-called “letter of intent / business agreement” as being primordial to developing successful blogger relations under a large campaign umbrella. Kash & Catharina developed such an agreement following a meeting at TBEX Travel Bloggers Exchange conference in Girona, Spain: They then decided to launch a match-up between the “48-hour-guides” Kash was producing as “The Budget Traveller” across German cities in line with the YouthHotSpots campaign run by the Germany National Tourist Board.
Big campaigns such as this one (one goal, 16 core markets to participate worldwide, etc.) require long-term planning. One spin-off of the campaign was a one-year takeover of the GermanyTourism Instagram account, filled in parts by Kash while he was travelling in Germany for his two-months “48-hour-guides” project on pre-defined hashtags (keywords) and content to be shared. The Youth campaign was finished by a cooperation with Lufthansa involving German and Asian bloggers writing about German X-mas markets. Local Instagrammers were also partnered with, e.g. a “Berlin Instagram girl” deciding live (through community feedback) which breakfast place to go to, and publishing through the GermanyTourism Instagram account. While bloggers were in the country, the campaign was supported by an ad campaign in order to multiply reach. By having the newly created Youth website completely user-based, the Tourist Board also bypassed a potentially tricky situation among its stakeholders of feeling underrepresented by the national tourism agency.
Another key issue: “Influence the influencers”, i.e. getting support from other bloggers and local tourism boards. Do not miss this “buzz of realtime marketing and interaction with users”!
Using the content you create in as many channels as possible is key. In the case of the Germany YouthHotSpots campaign endorsed by Budget Traveller Kash, local or regional tourism boards were re-sharing Kash’s Social Media content, creating a lot more interaction and follow-up by the community. Second, Kash then shared on his own blog and thirdly developed the guides which were then shared on the German National Tourism Board’s website. Visitor numbers to all websites concerned increased, and the app & guides continue to be downloaded regularly. Now, as a further development and sign of success of the entire campaign, the “Youth” in “YouthHotSpots in Germany” will actually be dropped as the content has gone viral and criss-crossed into various demographics, such as families travelling with young children.
“The youth of today is the spender of tomorrow. The seeding of our campaigns will eventually pay off in the long-term.” (Kash Battacharya, The Social Travel Summit, Leipzig).
Last but not least, what is the blogger perspective? Here are some final points that were addressed during this workshop session at the Social Travel Summit in Leipzig about blogger relations:
- Bloggers relations are (and should always be) based on mutual agreement.
- They are about establishing long-term relationships.
- Smooth communication and understanding of needs on behalf of both parties is required.
- Sharing the content bloggers create and endorsing / spreading them through the local tourism boards, i.e. through postings on their Facebook pages, is important.
- Watch for quality of the content output: The creation of the kind of “cool, original tips” and fun stuff that we would love sharing with our friends and family.
- Getting stakeholders and partners involved at an early stage: An organization such as the German National Tourist Board is a huge and complex organization with many partners involved around the world. In order to have all of them following and supporting a particular campaign through likes, reshares and recommendations on Social Media takes time and effort to prepare, something to be factored in during the planning process.
Blogger Relations are not mass communication. It is all about relationship management.