Travel blogging: Why it’s FTW

2012-08-10 17:25
A really good conference does one of three things, it challenges you, changes you or inspires. If you’re really lucky sometimes you hit a hat-trick. As was the case with the 2nd Getaway Travel Blog Conference.

I've attended notable  conferences locally such as the game-changer E-Tourism Africa Summit and the groundbreaking 'free' Netprohet, but this most certainly is one to watch.

As Getaway editor Cameron Ewart Smith @justcam put it, “Fortune favours the connected mind.”

There is no denying the explosion of online connectivity when it comes to travel – consider the Cape Town Tourism #LoveCapeTown campaign which generated 34-million impressions in less than a week. Or how about the conference’s hashtag #gtbc, which was trending within 15 minutes across South Africa and eventually worldwide after a few hours.

Thanks purely to people who are passionate about travel and an apt reflection of online travel stats that indicate an expected 1-billion arrivals for tourism across the globe, of which 87 percent will use the internet to make the bulk of their plans and bookings. Local blogger Meruschka Govender @mzansigirl could not be more relevant with her hashtag calling - #bloggersunite

Photo: Brandon Golding

So if you’ve always wanted to get into travel blogging or simply want to know how to do it better, here is top advice from the event...

For the love of the challenge…

Deciding to travel for a living is not an easy one, made clear by the four iAmbassadors who presented on the day - Keith Jenkins @velvetescape, Melvin Boecher @traveldudes, Nellie Huang adventure junkie @wildjunket and Matt Long @landlopers.  It’s unlikely to be something most would do full-time in a hurry, as glamorous as it sounds. Those who do find it daunting can luckily opt for a travel blogger light version by following these guys.

If you’re already creating and writing, then the challenge might be engagement. If ever there was a highlight of the event it would be how easy it is to tap into this vibrant community of individuals as we got to meet face to face.

But it also helps to understand and maximize the tools available.

Who better to teach us than Melvin, the travel dude responsible for uniting travel tweeters with the very interactive twitter talk that takes place on Tuesdays – if you haven't participated yet, you’re missing out - #TTOT.

His best nuggets include, if you’re going to use social media – make sure you have the relevant buttons on your blog and that they’re visibly usable. When it comes to using twitter he recommends you be yourself and above all have fun. It’s also important to use the different tools to promote your content - don’t forget those useful lists. And while following every single follower might become a nightmare – follow back the people you want to be able to DM - direct message for those not in the know. There are also huge benefits in calculating your ROI, although he wouldn’t necessarily recommend you sell your tweets. It’s important to know your value if you want to up your travel blogging game. Part of that would be being professional in your research and as well as putting together a media kit, as suggested by Matt Long.

Striking the right balance might also be a stumbling block and when it comes to frequency of postings it’s not an exact science – Nellie tries to do at least three posts a week. Matt has series travel content such as his daily photo as well as News and Deals that add to the range and reach of his blog. Digital Media Educator and Entrepreneur Dave Duarte @daveduarte suggests, niche content is far better and more valuable than a churn content factory, which essentially is what sets bloggers apart.

When conference organizer @SarahDuff asked about the ultimate challenge of travel blogging, “How do you make money?" Nellie summed it up in a tweet, “Advertising, partnerships and freelance work!“

Change is good, not necessarily comfortable, but good none the less…

If you’re used to getting your travel information a certain way, the times they are a changing. This was literally the crux of Keith Jenkins' presentation.

As a former banker who decided to take the leap of faith, I don’t think even he knew what an overwhelming success sharing his travels would turn out to be. During the conference Keith received a tweet notifying him of his inclusion in a Top 15 travel bloggers to follow list. His recipe for success? Your personality is what makes your content unique, so best to focus on that –  just be yourself. In 3D – if his notable quote about travelling by Evelyn Hannon @journeywoman is anything to go by. The videos, the photos and your unique voice coming through in your stories, as you comment and engage – all of these aspects contribute to the perfect storm taking the travel sphere with gusto - this is Gonzo journalism in 3D.

Life is some much better when you choose to see the inspiration…

This conference was literally dripping with inspiration, as each of the speakers added a layer to the cake. Mike Sharman @mikesharman was particularly inspiring in his humorous talk about how to create content that can go viral, illustrating the value of laughing and how important is it for people to relate to you as well as your content.  But if you want 'long-term blog awesomeness', then you need to delight in the world around you, inspiration is the key according to Dave Duarte. And when you interact with such an inspired bunch of people at an event like this, it rubs off. Immensely.

As Andrew Brautesth @guy_with_camera put it in his presentation, when it comes to capturing the images you want to share “it’s about depth of feeling more than it is depth of field.” All too often we try to rationalize the world around us instead of choosing to find the simple inspiration right there for the taking. I tend to agree, if you have a tendency to over-think an idea, you may just end up killing the very thing that made it unique. Think of how  pleasurable the free-writing process can be, sometimes it’s just better to run with the creative process and then edit it into your envisioned masterpiece afterwards. Or sometimes the rawness is the magic you're looking for as those in attendance loved the honesty of his unfinished videos when shown.

So while you do come away from the event inspired, it's important to remember that being a travel blogger takes commitment. This makes me think of one of my favourite quotes of all time by German writer and artist Johann Wolfgang  von Goethe…

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy; the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: The moment one definitely commits oneself then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred... Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.“

So what are you waiting for?
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