TBEX. Travel Blog Exchange. Yes, Travel Bloggers have their own conference: this is, after all, an industry and a constantly evolving one. Think of it as a business triangle where each side wins equally. The company selects a destination (3 a year – Europe, Africa, North America) and will work with the local tourist office to offer influencers day trips, a chance to meet fascinating characters, learn about the culture. Hundreds of bloggers will join, buy a plane ticket, book hotels, make the most of it and stay a few more days, weeks sharing the beauty of the region digitally, making # trends as they go along, inspire their audience with moving stories. In between, there are themed workshops on the present and future of social media, opportunities to share adventures, meet with companies and network. The exchange of knowledge is, when you think of it, fascinating…
I joined my first TBEX a few weeks ago, in Ireland. I wasn’t quite sure it would be for me. I mean – do you need to be at a specific level of blogging to make the most of TBEX? The answer is: not really. The pannel of sessions is wide enough to address creative writing, the different media you could use, working with brands, improving your SEO. Social media is changing and it’s changing fast – it’s worth listening to the experts’ take on how this will evolve. The speed networking sessions are similar to what you can expect from TravMedia or WTM with a real focus on the local destination, of course. I loved that the speakers were so approachable – you felt you could ask any question, even the most basic one. There was no shame in it: we all had our weaknesses and strengths and we were here to learn. There is a real community of support there. Here are a few points I wanted to share with you – TBEX does give you food for thought.
The B word
Blogging used to be a hobby. It was smiled upon, tolerated, found amusing. Some of us, however, knew how to make people dream whether with words or pictures, or had a distinctive, addictive style: suddenly we had followers, fans even. Brands saw the potential – we became a business. We are editors, photographers, PAs, PRs, Sales and Finance department altogether.
The outside world is divided about us, of course. Yes, we’re fun to read, but come on, we have such an easy life. We just want things for free. We’ll write a few lines in exchange and that’s about it. I’m constantly amazed at the ability of people to consider that the one picture I will post that day might represent the full 24 hours, rather just 5 mn… Let’s put the record straight: we work before an event (pitching, negotiating), during (pictures, social media, networking: we often eat cold and can’t get drunk, by the way), after (research, writing, editing pictures, social media). We do not work for free. Nor are we sold: yes, we might be paid, sure. We will have our own way of painting the experience – that is why you come to us.
Tired of people’s reaction when we mention we are bloggers, we are now rebranding ourselves. The speed at which social media is evolving makes the job easy: we are influencers, vloggers, travel writers or photographers, editors… We have a website, a portfolio. Anything but the B world!
Learn to pitch
When you have been blogging long or well enough, invites start coming in. Not everyone gets to that level easily though: mostly, at the moment you need to have quite a following/traffic, have a specific niche or be excellent at what you are doing. And well, let’s be honest: there is no lack of competition out there.
Our first mistake is being shy about pitching brands. Waiting for something wonderful to happen… seriously limits our options! The second is to not spend enough time preparing that email. Victoria and Terrence from Follow me away (incredible fairy like pictures, check it out) shared their tips at TBEX Ireland. Little things that you do not necessarily think about but which make a big difference. Put all your information in the body of the mail for example: a message with an attachment from someone you don’t know will easily be pushed aside. Too much effort, let alone what if it is a virus? Or simply… stop talking about you. We’re often are too focused on presenting ourselves or asking something specific and often forget to show the brand we understand their philosophy, have looked at their latest campaigns, have thought of an angle they might be interested in. Ask questions! Victoria and Terrence added. They were right. Reversing the conversation at the speed networking made a HUGE difference… I got so much more insight into the brand’s world that way and could really develop a relationship with them.
Rethink your SEO strategy
A blogger’s work is never done. You may have written the most perfect post, shared it on FB, Twitter, Instagram and the likes but it’s sadly not worth much if you haven’t worked the SEO side of it. I call it the dark side of blogging – like most of us, I find it boring to death, depressing, even. What I’ve learnt from TBEX is that… maybe trying to understand all at once simply was too much. I could focus on learning a little trick here and there (say, focusing on a few keywords in my texts or finding how to see how easily I could rank on a specific keyword and working from there) and leave the rest till later. In other words: you can always go back to key posts, even months after and improve their ranking.
Numbers are not enough
Thank God for that. There is nothing more depressing that realising people who have bought followers and likes but do not focus on content get invites over you, who are focusing on authenticity and growing as organically as possible… Don’t get me wrong: there are incredibly talented influencers out there who deserve every follower they have. We’re talking taking big shortcuts here.
Gary Arndt from Everything Everywhere summed it up in this simple sentence I hear people say “I have 16k followers”. Well, yeas, ok, that’s a good number. But that’s not what I would want on my tombstone. Exactly. Of course we want to reach as many people as possible. But isn’t the first point of blogging, originally, sharing? Brands are slowly realising they need to change their approach: they are now looking at engagement. Yes, 10K is fantastic… if you can start a conversation with your readers.
That is, mind you, easier said than done. Teatime in Wonderland is written in English (.co.uk) and French (.fr). Froggies are very keen in joining in, the British, not so much. So rather than just answering a comment with a sentence, we will now try to open up a conversation. We will join support groups to get a better reach. But it’s worth it: this means getting to know our audience better and therefore refining our content in the process.
Be afraid… but do it anyway
It’s true of everything in life, mind you. It really is something to consider if you have reached a plateau. To me that means… trying outdoors activities (kayaking, wild swimming, cycling 100 km) when I am not a sporty person. Wanting to switch from automatic to manual on my Canon. Talking to my audience in Instastories. It’s hard getting out of a comfort zone but our job is to inspire, and somehow to do that, we have to constantly push our limits…
Your turn: if you could give bloggers a single tip, what would it be?