This is part two in a three-part series about the Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX 2012) conference. See Part 1: An Overview and the soon to be released Part 3: New Friends, featuring some awesome travelers that I met at the event.
[ If you are not at all interested in the geekery behind travel blogging and web marketing, I apologize–we’ll have an awesome travel article up early this afternoon. In the meantime, check out these corgis…]
Here are some of the valuable things I learned at my first TBEX:
- Travel bloggers are a close-knit bunch, but they are welcoming to new folks. Before we arrived, I was afraid that it would be difficult to break into conversation with more established bloggers and that the event would feel cliquey. There were definitely groups of people who knew each other and were hanging out with their friends, but I never once felt awkward about going up to someone to say hi. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and supportive of new community members like me, and there was plenty of opportunity to talk to great writers, new and old.
- It’s about the people! The in-person connections I made with other writers are the most important thing that I found at this conference. Since I discovered travel blogs about a year ago, I’ve accrued a Google Reader list of over 400 blogs and I’ve been hopping around them reading and commenting on posts, but not really committing myself to get to know many of the writers and read all of their stuff. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of awesome writers in person, I’m excited to read their stories, get to know them on a deeper level, and share their stories within my communities.
- Social media is about humanizing yourself. It’s a way to share yourself and converse, it’s not just about getting out your message. Bloggers need to maintain awareness of what their readers are saying, and respond accordingly. One example that came up was on Saturday. Keystone Resorts marketing staff were monitoring their Twitter feed when they read one blogger complain about the long line to get lunch. Within minutes, someone in their marketing department showed up to the line to find that guy and give him a package of chocolates to make up for the wait. That example was repeated a few times as an example of how you need to pay attention to social media, engage and respond.
- SEO is not a dirty word. We got lots of great tips on search engine optimization from Jen Miner from the blog Vacation Gals and the lovely (yes, I said it) Rand Fishkin from SEOMoz. Both speakers highlighted the fact that SEO changes all the time–Google made more than 500 updates to their algorithm in 2011 alone! The constants are the need to do keyword research (for search engines), building incoming links (for search engines) and great content (for readers). Also, social media shares and likes are increasingly important to search engines and–as much as we resist it–sharing on Google+ is essential for ranking well in Google. Time to get on that! Ughh…
- Personal branding is important. To expand their reach and grow their readership, bloggers need to develop a razor sharp focus on who they are and what they are trying to achieve. This is something I haven’t been as clear as I should be and no doubt, in coming months you’ll see some changes as I clarify my intent and work on building a better blog.
- Blogging is a lot of work! You are not likely to make a full time living just by writing a travel blog. The most successful bloggers have other projects that their blog supplements—they often juggle various freelance writing, marketing or consulting assignments and multiple sites. It’s really important to stay committed to why we are writing. For most of us, that’s because we love the world and want to share our experiences with others who may be inspired to travel even a little bit more. Anything else is a bonus.