The notion of the lone blogger tapping away at his keyboard was dispelled this weekend by the lively line up of eleven speakers and 160+ enthusiastic delegates at the second Getaway Travel Bloggers Conference (#GTBC) held at the Upper Eastside Hotel in Cape Town.
The speakers included four successful international travel bloggers who were in Cape Town as iAmbassadors for Cape Town Tourism’s digital marketing campaign.
During the day, a picture emerged of the blogger as a self-publishing phenomenon. Not only researching and creating their own materials but also promoting their site through other social network platforms such as Twitter, cross pollinating with fellow bloggers on blogrolls and through referrals, hosting events, becoming a speaker, and even, teacher. Some bloggers have become SEO experts, using keywords found on Google Adwords to optimize their posts and researching their readers via Google Analytics.
But all the speakers agreed that the rulebook was still being written. Photographer Andrew Brauteseth (@guy_with_camera) presented his emotive imagery, and suggested avoiding the sunset problem; not just trying to capture the perfect sunset (which can never be captured successfully) but rather focusing on details and people that capture the mood and movement of a place or a moment.
Presenters agreed that injecting personality into your blog was vital to a successful blog. Wildjunket.com travel blogger, Nellie Huang (@wildjunket), suggested that would-be bloggers find a niche and choose topics that were relevant, interesting, and popular.
Founder of the popular site Traveldudes.com (@traveldudes), as well as the Twitter-based Travel Talks on Tuesday #TTOT, Melvin Boecher, said that blogging could be commercialized and successfully evaluated in what he called BROI (blog return on investment). He suggested that Twitter was really just a mini-blogging platform and cited it as a key tool in expanding any blog following.
Landlopers blogger, Matt Long, (@landlopers) agreed, saying that blogs were in fact brands that could partner with other brands in commercially-viable ventures. Touching on the controversy of bloggers being paid to blog, Matt – and others – believe that, while trips and experiences could be paid for, bloggers must be allowed to remain as objective as traditional journalists would on a media trip.
Engaging and entertaining, Mike Sharman (@mikesharman) of digital communications agency, Retroviral (@retroviral), pointed out that “hanging out” on social media was like going to a “braai on steroids.” Digital leader, Dave Duarte (@daveduarte) recommended hooking readers with interesting content and then looking for participation and connectivity with your audience; doing as well as talking.
Cape Town Tourism was the Getaway Bloggers Conference’s main sponsor and affirmed the tourism agency’s commitment to being a strong participant in the digital space. Said Cape Town Tourism, CEO, Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold: “The relationship between travel and technology is closer than ever. More and more destinations and businesses are turning to social media to promote their services and reach customers in a more intimate, interactive, and instant way. Social media is where the real travel stories are being told. Today’s traveler is almost constantly connected and wants to hear and share these real stories, they are looking for authenticity.”
When travelers used social media to plan trips, 52 percent of them changed their original plans – often based on the feedback of friends and social networks that include travel bloggers. Said Du Toit-Helmbold: “Travel bloggers are travel influencers. Using the web and social media networks as their platform, they influence people, instigate conversations, and play a huge role in people’s travel decisions. Cape Town Tourism’s digital journey has just started, and we are about to embark on our next adventure – a first of its kind partnership between a city and Facebook, which we believe will entice many more travelers to visit our shores.”