Bring Social Media Tourism 2013 to Indianapolis (#SoMeT13US)

This is a little embarrassing. Indianapolis is currently ranked 8th in the Elite Eight in the Social Media Tourism 2013 conference competition.

SoMeT is a creation of Think! Social Media, a digital agency in the tourism marketing world. This is the fourth year of SoMeT, and they are selecting the host city based on a March Madness style bracket system. And Indianapolis has a real chance of winning this, but not if we keep playing the way we did!

To get into the Elite Eight, we barely squeaked into the competition, finishing in 8th with 657 votes. Seventh place Grand Rapids, MI had 735 votes.

Seriously? Grand Rapids?! I don’t even think there are 735 people in Grand Rapids, are there?

Okay, a quick check on Google shows there are roughly 190,000 people in Grand Rapids. But that’s less than one-fourth the size of Indianapolis, and we got out muscled. That’s like IU getting beat by Davidson College at, well, anything.

Here’s how the final votes went down:
1. Huntsville, AL – 2,361
2. Missoula, MT – 1,606
3. Milwaukee, WI – 1,328
4. Cleveland, OH – 1,231
5. St. Pete/Clearwater, FL – 882
6. Branson, MO – 799
7. Grand Rapids, MI – 735
8. Indianapolis, IN – 657

Social Media Tourism Bracket

Seriously? We got 8th?! I swear, if I had a folding chair, I’d hurl it.

Because of our 8th place finish, we face off against #1 seed, Huntsville, AL (183,00 people?! COME ON!) on Thursday, March 21 from 10 am to 10 pm. Whichever city gets the most votes within that 12 hour period goes on to the Final Four. The winners of that bracket face off against each other, and the final winner will play host to SoMeT13 in November.

As the biggest city in the competition, we should not be in last place with the voting. We should be hammering the competition by sheer size alone. We need our people to carry the city. We need you to step up, make the plays, and get the job done.

On Thursday, March 21, please pay attention to your Facebook and Twitter feeds. And when you get the call to vote, we need you to click the link, click the photo, and help bring this country’s tourism professionals home to Indianapolis.

We’re Indianapolis, dammit! Let’s show them how this game is played.

The Elite Eight Tournament Times are as follows:

  • Monday, March 18 – 10:00am to 10:00pm Eastern Time – #3 Milwaukee, WI v #6 Branson, MO
  • Tuesday, March 19 – 10:00am to 10:00pm Eastern Time – #4 Cleveland, OH v #5 St. Pete/Clearwater, FL
  • Wednesday, March 20 – 10:00am to 10:00pm Eastern Time – #2 Missoula, MT v #7 Grand Rapids, MI
  • Thursday, March 21 – 10:00am to 10:00pm Eastern Time – #1 Huntsville, AL #8 Indianapolis, IN


Writing for Exposure: Mark Eveleigh Replies

After Monday’s post, “Writing For ‘Exposure’ Is Not Payment,” travel writer and photographer Mark Eveleiegh emailed me a great response that helped me crystallize my own thoughts. With his kind permission, I am reposting his reply here (not a differing response, but more of a ‘hell, yeah!’ reply), because he makes a very important point.

Mark Eveleigh in Chiapas, Mexico

Mark Eveleigh is a professional photographer, travel writer, and journalist. I also like his tattoo.

(Note: Mark is British, so any ‘misspellings’ are actually English writing styles and spellings.)

When I was starting out I had a golden rule NEVER to write for free. The magazines that want your free work are rarely the ones that can offer the best exposure (also most pros and editors know you wrote for free, thereby lowering your professional credibility). Will the day come when Nat Geo will expect us to write for free? After all it is the best exposure we will ever get. [Read more…]

Who Should Sponsor Your Blog?

Should you have a sponsor for your blog? Is it worth the effort? Or are you selling out your soul by accepting filthy lucre for a company to have a say in your blog’s content and tone? And which company’s filthy lucre should you pursue?

(Yes, yes, not really, and it depends.)

I’ve been DMing with Mark Eveleigh, a first-class travel writer, book author, and photographer who takes some gorgeous photos of those places you’re never going to see before you die, about whether he should blog (he should) and if he could get a sponsor (he could). He also owns a freelance photography assignment agency where several other outstanding outdoor photographers are available for hire.

Mark Eveleigh

Mark Eveleigh. Petty jealousy and raging insecurity make me want to not help him. A guilty conscience makes me do it anyway.

Mark has an interesting situation, because a sponsorship for his personal branding blog makes a lot of sense. As I see it, he would appeal two basic categories of readers: travel enthusiasts and photography enthusiasts.

The experience levels in these two categories may range from “I wish I could do that” to the serious amateur to the consummate professional. And because Mark is a specialized travel writer and photographer — trips to remote locations to take beautiful pictures — he is most likely attracting readers who want to do similar activities, or at least learn more about it.

Why Sponsor a Blog?

Travel writers have a special niche that can appeal to a wide range of readers — from people who like to travel to people who like to read about travel — who have self-identified as loyalists and users of a particular special interest. That’s a valuable niche for marketers to tap into. Anyone who sells products to travel fans should take advantage of sponsorship opportunities.

So who should sponsor Mark’s blog?

If he wants to appeal to the travel readers, he should talk to large travel agents that specialize in adventure travel, airlines that travel to out of the way locations (think Brazil, Thailand, South Africa), adventure travel gear manufacturers, and publishers of travel guides for the adrenaline-addicted.

On the photography side of thing, he should reach out to makers and online dealers of high-end camera equipment, camera bags, and other photography-related businesses.

(Frankly, Mark’s camera manufacturer, Nikon, should be begging him to throw their logo all over his blog, and include him in their ads.)

In exchange, Mark can write include basic mentions in an occasional article, review a sponsor’s service or product, and allow some ads on his site.

Sponsorship doesn’t always have to include money though. It can also include goods or services. For someone like Mark who travels constantly, it could be free flights for a year, or an expensive new lens to review and keep.

Prove Your Value First

Of course, pursuing sponsors also means being able to prove the value of the blog itself. It means knowing the number of readers, what their interests are, what kinds of influence they have, and even who they are.

Using tools like Google Analytics for web traffic (where they came from, what they read the most), Klout for influence (your readers’ and your own), and even what your network is interested in (using or can help bloggers show where their readers are coming from and what they’re interested in.

I think that as blogs grow in popularity and blog owners are able to show something newspapers have never been able to demonstrate — accurate and up-to-date reader stats — we’re going to start seeing more marketers get involved with real bloggers who can deliver on both great content and valuable readership.

Three Ideas Travel & Tourism Destinations Can Use to Market on Facebook

As travel and tourism destinations try to cut their budgets without sacrificing the quality of customer care, marketing and PR are usually the first areas to get cut. They hope the regulars will come back, word of mouth will bring in new visitors, and that they can last one more slow season while the economy recovers.Switzerland County Facebook Page

But social media is a godsend to many marketing savvy travel professionals. They’re using the major tools — Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube — to promote their site, and all it costs them is the time they invest in providing content to these sites.

Here are three ideas to use Facebook in your marketing efforts:

Buy Specific Facebook Ads

One of the things Facebook does extremely well is to collect information about its users. Think about it. If you’re on Facebook and you’re using it to any great extent, they know where you live, how old you are, your marital status, religious affiliation. And the ads you see on the right side of the Facebook page are all geared specifically toward you. If you’re married, you’ll never see any ads about meeting singles in your area. If you live in Kansas City, they’ll never be about special deals in Boston.

You can buy ads that target people in specific cities, whether they’re married, have kids, or even have certain political leanings. So if you own and operate the Ronald Reagan Hair Cream Museum, you could target an ad that reaches only people in their 40s and older, are Republicans, and live within a 100 mile radius of your city.

The nice thing about Facebook ads is that while they’re not free, they are a small-budget item. You bid on the amount you want to pay for serving a single ad to a single person, and cap the amount you want to spend in one day. When you reach the cap, you’re done for the day. So you could serve 50 ads per day for a week and then check the results to see if you want to continue. And you can monitor the results to see how many people clicked on the ads, and made reservations, which will show you if you made any money.

“Tell Your Friends, Win a Free ________”

How much does one visit or one meal or one night cost in your establishment? What if you could reach hundreds, or even thousands, of potential visitors just for the cost of one item per month? Let’s say you own a bed & breakfast in beautiful Mackinac Island. You can give away a single night in your B&B to a random winner, as long as they do the following:

  1. “Like” your Facebook page.
  2. Send a status update that says they entered the contest.
  3. Include a link to your Facebook page.

In fact, many contests just list those as the rules for their contest. But here’s the brilliant part: this is word of mouth marketing that will reach thousands of people in just a few hours, all for the cost of your hotel room. Run it for a few days, and your message is seen by tens of thousands of people, many of whom will want to enter.

When it’s done, you will have hundreds or even thousands of new fans, who you can send the occasional message about what’s happening at your B&B, special events, photos, and the occasional special offer.

Run a Photo Contest

A picture is worth a thousand words. So let your guests share their photos with their friends, and show those friends what your place looks like. Run a photo contest on your Facebook page, just like the “Tell Your Friends” contest above. Anyone who wants to enter will upload photos, tag your destination in the photos, tell their friends, and the friends will see the photos in the news stream. While it may not generate the same number of entries or traffic as the Tell Your Friends contest, it will help promote your photos and destination to a group of potential customers.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available for pre-order on I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy, who I also helped write Twitter Marketing For Dummies (another affiliate link).