The Travel Blog Camp was organised for the second year by Darren Cronian of Travel Rants, the leading UK blogger championing travel consumer issues. The camp was ably moderated by Kevin May from some website beginning with T for travel or talk or tech? (only joking Kevin, you reminded us enough times it was Tnooz!) After a bit of attacking sandwiches and chit chat over a pint (or orange juice in my case), the evening got underway with a series of talks and banter on hot travel blogging topics.
But first the sponsors of the event were invited up to the front and just to prove that we bloggers are an independent minded lot, rather than being allowed to give a naked plug for their services, they were submitted to a cross between Traveller’s Question Time and The Weakest Link by Kevin May. I bet those sponsors were rather wishing that they hadn’t let themselves in for this, but they dealt with it gamely – they were;
(hope I got all the names right, let me know if not)
Kevin grilled the sponsors on the way they use social media, and this is what we learned;
Iwannagothere are at the frontline of social media use – you can log into their website from your preferred medium, be it Twitter or Facebook.
Hugo from Cheap Flights used his personal Twitter account to keep in touch with what people were talking about, but doesn’t yet have a blog although he feels he probably should have, but hasn’t found the time.
“I’ve just published my article on Twitter but it felt like bringing a dead mouse into the kitchen and hoping you’d be impressed” (which Hugo attributed to Giles Coren)
Zoe from Essential Travel used social media to give a more rounded aspect to their website, since they cover the less glamorous aspects of travel such as airport parking, it added a bit more excitement and buzz to their website when they blog about cool travel places they’ve been. Top quote (when asked how many Twitter followers she had);
“I haven’t checked for the last 6 hours, not that I’m addicted or anything”
“I feel like I’m at a meeting of Tweeter’s anonymous”
Chris from Sunshine.co.uk admitted they were taking baby steps into the Social Media arena and have only recently started – he joked that they had 146 Twitter followers of whom 146 were probably in the room. Top quote;
“We only launched our blog last week, as I couldn’t face coming here without one”
“If someone gave us bad PR on Twitter, I’d probably be pleased they mentioned Sunshine at all”
Meanwhile, I was about to give Alex Bainbridge of TourCMS and Tnooz a slap on the wrist for not paying attention in class as he was typing away on his laptop throughout, until I realised he was running a live blogging session – check it out here. Plenty of people were also busy Tweeting away – check out the #tbcamp tag. Next we had some speakers who were;
Murray Harrold from Advantage Travel
Quote of the evening;
“We small travel agents are happy to accept the crumbs left by Lastminute.com and Expedia – don’t knock the crumbs because there was once a guy who fed 5000 people with a few crumbs and some fishes.”
“I think of the internet as a plunger which is useful for ramming people into my sales funnel with my till at the bottom”
Joel Brandon-Bravo from Frommer’s Quote of the evening;
“Most Travel companies wanting to get into Social Media are like Teenagers wanting to have sex; everyone wants to do it, no-one knows how to do it and those doing it don’t know how to do it properly.”
Eva Keogan from Lastminute.com Quote of the evening;
“When I joined Lastminute.com in April run their social Media, I looked under the bonnet and realised there wasn’t much there”
Guillaume Thevenot from Hotel Blogs
These were the hot topics that got most discussion (hint – you might get some traffic and tweets if you blog about these!)
Cool ways to use Social Media
- To add personality to a 2-dimensional website and make people feel good about buying your product (Essential Travel)
- Giving a different angle or directing readers to existing content (I wanna go there & Lastminute.com)
- Sourcing paid writers from people who have commented or written guest blogs (Frommers)
- Using videos to respond to comments and e-mails to save time (Guillaume)
- Integrated social media as part of an overall marketing strategy (Lastminute.com)
- Social Media campaigns to promote the brand such as Lastminute.com’s ‘One Heck of a summer’ campaign to send a blogger on a 3 month round the world trip.
- Using Google earth to give customers personalised directions to their hotel (Murray )
How to deal with Negative PR on Social Media
- You should use the same social media to set the record straight (It makes you feel better if nothing else)
- Lastminute.com have a strategy in place to deal with negative comments on Twitter, passing them on to the Customer Service Team to be addressed as a priority.
- US Company Best Buy have a ‘Tweet Force’ to deal with customer service via Twitter
- One Thompson customer had no luck getting their complaint addressed through the normal customer channels, so they wrote a blog post about it which made the National Press – a warning that companies ignore social media at their peril.
- Companies should be careful in the way they use individuals to ‘front ‘ their customer service as one corporate blogger was ‘stalked’ by an angry customer.
- It’s not good practice to respond to a specific complaint in an open forum.
- If you’re using Twitter for Customer service, you need to make sure that all customer issues are dealt with equally and fairly, whatever the channel, otherwise the customer might use an ‘If Daddy says no, ask Mummy’ approach.
- A way of dealing with a negative comment on your site about another company is to invite that company to answer back
- Times Online pre-moderate rather than post-moderate all their comments and their moderators are trained to weed out libellous and abusive comments.
- If moderators are used, they should be available 24 hrs, people don’t want to wait for 12 hours for their comment to be published by which time the conversation has moved on.
- If you approve a comment on your website, you become responsible for it, which could be tricky for small bloggers with limited resources.
- In the Offline print world, you can only be sued in the country in which you are published, in the on-line world you can be sued anywhere in the world.
Free Content v Paid Content
- Good luck to Rupert Murdoch for trying to introduce a model of payment for specialist content and comment
- Meanwhile, all his competitors would be hoping to cash in on his customers migrating to providers of free content.
- Many were sceptical that the paid model would work except for very specialist niches such as financial information.
- Some attendees would be prepared to pay a bit for high quality content, but equally many would rather not pay if they didn’t have to.
- The paid model might work well as a paid package of information and content, in the same way as Sky Sport.
- Simon Seeks is trying a model of sharing revenue with writers of their guides, although one blogger said he had received £2.11 in the 5 months the site had been up.
Getting the most from Twitter
- Some felt that it was better to put an auto-follow on Twitter, to make sure no-one is missed out of the following (Wendy Perrin was quoted as using this approach)
- Others, such as Lastminute.com had stopped following those who were not relevant to their niche
- The return from Twitter and other social media is difficult to measure.
- Darren Cronian said he had found many advertisers on Twitter, through them reading his Tweets.
- Omniture now have a plug-in for measuring how well Twitter is performing (can anyone tell me what that is?)
Finally, Darren shared his close encounter with the libel courts back in June after he overlooked a nasty comment on his site. Boo, Hiss to the company that must not be named who took an out-of-court-settlement off a small guy when an apology & taking down the comment should have been enough-I won’t be booking any flights through them! Top quote from Darren , on why the company who sued him for libel were so upset;
“My post was rated number 3 on Google for their brand”
Well folks, if you were there, you heard it all before and if you weren’t no doubt you wish you did. Next year be sure to get your name on the list early and a big blogger’s thankyou to Darren for organising it all. See you there next year.
If you were there and want to add your take on the evening or link to your account, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. And check out all my photos from the Travel Blog Camp on Flickr
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