5 Photo & Video Sharing Sites Travel Destinations Should Use

Yesterday, I talked about the 5 Reasons Why Travel & Tourism Destinations Need Social Media, and how social media is being used by more and more people than you may have realized.

Social media helps people share news about their lives with their friends and family. Not only are they telling people they went on vacation, they’re able to show them where they went, what they did, and all the good times they had. They’re especially doing it on the photo and video sharing sites. Here are fives sites you should use to promote your own travel and tourism destination.

YouTube (VIDEO)

What it is: This is the website everyone knows when it comes to video sharing. According to one source, there are 1,500 years worth of videos on YouTube right now. But that’s because they make it so easy.
Get started:Go to YouTube.com and set up your account. If you already have a Google account of some sort (Gmail, iGoogle, Google Docs), you already have an account, because Google owns YouTube. Start finding other friends and guests by importing your email address book. Then follow the instructions to upload your videos.
Strategy: Encourage guests to upload their own videos and tag your destination in it. (This helps you get found for any searches on YouTube.) Upload your own videos (regular or HD) and embed them in your blog or link to your Facebook account.

Vimeo (VIDEO)

What it is: Vimeo is another video sharing site that’s not nearly as big as YouTube. The benefit to you is that you get to be a bigger fish in a bigger pond. According to their website, it was originally “. . . created by filmmakers and video creators who wanted to share their creative work, along with intimate personal moments of their everyday life,” so there tends to be more of an artsy feel to it, but you’re not limited to only being a filmmaker or artist.
Get started: Go to Vimeo.com and set up an account. Import your email address book (Google or Yahoo), and make connections with your guests.
Strategy: Same as Facebook. If your guests use Vimeo, encourage them to upload videos and tag your destination in it. Upload your regular and HD videos, and then use the embed code to place them in your blog or link to your Facebook account.

Flickr

What it is: Flickr is one of the two most popular photo sharing sites. In fact, by strict definition, it’s a social network centered around photo sharing (actually, all the video and photo sharing tools are considered social networks). You upload your photos and share them with your friends, embed them in blog posts, and link to them in Twitter messages.(Note: Flickr has begun accepting 90 second videos for uploading. While they won’t give YouTube a run for their money, they are making it easier for Flickr fans to keep their video in one place too.)
Get started: If you already have a Yahoo account, you have a Flickr account. Otherwise, sign up, import your email address book, and then start uploading photos. If you have an iPhone or Android, you can also upload photos directly to Flickr from your phone. There is also a digital camera storage card called the Eye-Fi that will not only store your photos, but upload them whenever you’re in a wifi hotspot.
Strategy: Hold a best photo contest and encourage guests to upload the photos to Flickr and Picasa (next section), and then embed the photos in the comments section of your website or your Facebook page.. Post the entries to your website, and allow voting for the best photo (use SurveyMonkey.com). Use the best photo(s) on your promotional materials. Also, consider using a Creative Commons license with your photos (this lets other people use your photos as long as they give you credit), and let them use photos that link back to your Flickr page.

Picasa

What it is: Another photo sharing site, but this one is owned by Google. I like Picasa a little more because it’s easier to integrate with a Blogger blog, plus they have different paid subscription levels. You can get 20GB for $5, or 200GB for $50.
Get started: If you have a Gmail account or a YouTube account, you’re all set. Otherwise, go to picasaweb.google.com Next, go to Picasa.com and download the Photo Uploader. This will let you upload photos in batches, rather than a few at a time.
Strategy: First, don’t worry about whether you can upload videos to Picasa, because you can also use YouTube. (Remember, they’re both owned by Google.) Next, just like with Flickr, hold a photo contest, and use the best photos in your promotional material. And consider using a Creative Commons license with your Picasa photos.

Facebook

What it is: The biggest social network in the world. We talked about it previously.
Get started: Hopefully you already started a Facebook account, but if not, go to Facebook.com and start an account. Get comfortable with it and then start a business page (what they used to call a “Fan Page”) for your own business. Invite friends to “Like” your business page, and do it more than once (people need reminding).
Strategy: While this won’t be the hub of your social media campaign, it needs to be a major part of it. Facebook will have more of your guests and customers on it than any other social network. This is where you need to push a lot of your marketing message, which will drive people back to your main website or blog.

Where should you start?

While there is a chicken and egg question about whether you should join social networks first or start with photo and video sites, it ultimately doesn’t matter. It will take a few days to get everything ramped up. Focus on one video site and one photo site. Pick the one you like the best, and the one that is easiest to use, and just start using it.

At the same time, pick the social network you want to start on (I recommend Facebook, since that’s where everyone is), and work on that one as well. You’ll ultimately spend more time on Facebook than you will on your photo and video sites, so consider these sites as supporting sites for your social network.

Six Secrets to Automating Your Social Media Communication

How can you make your social media communication easier? Are there any tips or tricks to use to reduce some of the heavy lifting you have to do just to get your messages out to the public?

Since I do social media communication, for myself and for clients, I use several shortcuts to automate a lot of what I do. Rather than posting a blog, and then posting the headline and URL to Twitter, then over at Facebook, and again at LinkedIn, I try to do it in one step. Or rather than uploading photos and videos to Flickr, Picasa, and YouTube, and then uploading them to a blog post to share them, I’m able to do it all at once.

I wrote this for Martin Earley, who is the new Inn-Bedded Resorter at The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire. I was one of five finalists, and got to meet Martin during our stay there. I think he was a great choice, and I know he’ll have a good time. But he also has to report what he’s doing via social media, which can be difficult if you’re trying to post content to both your site and a work site, so I offered him some tips to make his work easier. As I started writing them out, I decided it would be just as easy to put it into a blog post.

Here are a few of the tricks and tools I use to make my life a whole lot easier:

  1. Bit.ly: We’ll start with this ubiquitous URL shortener, because it will figure into nearly everything we do. Set up a bit.ly account, and then put your API key somewhere easy to find. (It can be a pain to go back to bit.ly to find it each time you need it.) Learn how to use it, and figure out their analytics section.
  2. TwitterFeed.com: Twitterfeed will visit your blog once every 30 minutes – 24 hours to see if you have anything new. Once you have a new blog post up, Twitterfeed will scoop up your headline and the URL, shorten it with bit.ly (see? We’re using it already), and then send it out to your Twitter feed and Facebook status updates.
  3. Ping.fm:You can expand TwitterFeed’s reach by sending your feed to Ping.fm, instead of Twitter. Not only can you send your new blog posts to Twitter and Facebook, but to MySpace, LinkedIn, FriendFeed, and even your Ning networks. Plus you can go to Ping.fm and directly post medium-length messages to Blogger, WordPress, and TypePad.WARNING! Do NOT set up Ping.fm to post something TO your blog if you already set up a Twitterfeed-Ping combination FROM your blog. This will create an infinite loop, which will tear a hole in the space-time continuum. This could be bad.
  4. Posterous.com:I’ve been playing with Posterous for a few months now, and really like it. It’s an email submission blog platform. Basically, you email your blog posts to your Posterous account, and it will post it for you. Your subject line is the headline, the email message is the body copy, and any photos you attach will be placed within the message. Then, you can notify your networks, just like Ping.fm, including populating your other blogs with your Posterous content, and even using bit.ly to shorten your URLs.Now, I know Blogger and WordPress both do this, but Posterous does something that the others won’t do: if you upload photos, Posterous will also send them to your Flickr and/or Picasa accounts. Upload a video, and Posterous will send it to your YouTube account.

    So, if you take some photos on your cell phone, attach them to an email, and send them to Posterous, you can send them to any special photo accounts, as well as populate your other blog feeds, which are then sent out to your Twitter, Facebook, etc.

  5. ScribeFire: This is a great blog editor that you use directly inside Firefox. Instead of going to your blog and logging in, you can open it up in Firefox, write your post, and hit upload. Rather than using a web-based interface, you can use an interface right on your computer. Both ScribeFire and Posterous are great if you have a slow Internet connection. (MacJournal is another program I’ve tried. There are Windows-based programs that do this as well.)
  6. TweetDeck: I use TweetDeck on my laptop for my Twitter communication. And when that’s all it did, it was awesome. But now TweetDeck is even awesomer, because whenever I send out a tweet, I can also send it as both a Facebook and LinkedIn update. I can also schedule tweets to take place at odd times — 1:53, 10:27 — instead of the every-5-minute intervals HootSuite limits you to. And best of all, it uses bit.ly as its default URL shortener. I can even pop a URL into TweetDeck, shorten it, and then cut it to use somewhere else. But the URL still gets pushed over to bit.y’s website where it gets included in the analytics.

While I don’t recommend automating everything you do in social media, like message creating, it’s at least a great way to lighten your load and make your life easier.

Photo credit: genewolf (Flickr)

7 Ways to Use Blogging to Promote Events

We’ve often used blogging to promote special events for ourselves and our clients. I’m even a blogger for VisitIndiana, the website and blog for Indiana Tourism, our state government’s tourism department.

    1. Pre-event promotion: This is the one thing most people think of. But don’t limit yourself to a single blog post about the event coming up. Tie every blog post into your event. Blog about topics that tie into the event. For example, if you sell tradeshow displays, talk about the upcoming social media and tradeshow marketing panel discussion you’re going to host on June 9 at the Hilton Garden Inn. (By the way, I’m speaking at a panel discussion on social media and tradeshow marketing on June 9 for Skyline Exhibits – Indianapolis).

  1. Live blogging: This can be challenging, but it can also be fun, because it draws people into the energy of the event, especially if they’re not able to attend with you. I have live blogged at two sporting events. One was the 2009 Indianapolis 500. I had also spent several days in May on the track, blogging about different things I saw, which helped build up my readership for the big day. I also live-blogged from an Indiana Fever game, which I will never do again. As I was writing about a play, something cool would happen, and I would miss it. Now I just tweet the highlights and enjoy the game. The easiest way to do live blogging is to use the Email to Post feature on WordPress or Blogger, or set up a blog at Posterous.com. I especially like Posterous, because I can attach photos and they’ll automatically be placed into each post.
  2. Post-event wrap-up: You want to remind people of the good time they had, or tell them about the good time they missed so they’ll be sure to come back next year. Use this time to talk about what worked well, what could have been better, funny stories, traditions you might start, and photos of the great time people had. Ask attendees for suggestions about what they would like to see changed or kept the same.
  3. Photo blogging: Set up some slideshows on Flickr or Picasa, and paste the embed code into a blog post. You can show photos you’ve already taken, or embed the code early, and then add photos as you take them, which will expand the slideshow. This is especially great for live blogging. Just use a photo uploader on your smart phone, get an EyeFi card for your digital camera, or make sure you have a way to quickly download photos from your camera and then upload them to your photo sharing site. You will need to do some tweaking on your account, but you can start sharing the photos right away.
  4. Video blogging: The same techniques and ideas that you can use for photo blogging work for video blogging. I’m not talking about producing pre-written and edited videos. Rather, take some videos and upload them via your smart phone’s uploader, or YouTube. Take some quick interviews of event attendees, show some speakers/music/events/games, and post them as quick as you can. I especially like Posterous.com for photo and video blogging, because you can set up your account to automatically forward all photos and videos to their respective services when you email them to Posterous.
  5. Get other bloggers: Ask other people to blog about your event in all three stages, pre, during, and post. Give them free admission or tickets to come to your event and write about it. You want to find bloggers in that niche or industry, but don’t limit yourself to only finding the most popular ones. The ones who don’t have a lot of readers can still be valuable. For one thing, they’re reaching a group of people that the bigger bloggers might not. For another, any links they make back to your website help your search engine optimization (see #7), which makes it easier for people to find your event for next year.
  6. It’s all for Search Engine Optimization: It doesn’t matter if you got a lot of people to read about your event this year, or if only a few dozen people were following your blog at the time of the event. All this blogging does one additional thing for you: it builds your content out for search engine placement. If you’re going to hold your event next year, all the work you did this year will help you rank higher on the search engines for next year. This is true whether you’re hosting your own event, or whether you’re participating in someone else’s event. For example, if you’re taking photos, videos, and blogging about your participating at an arts festival, you’ll be one of the first names to pop up when people start searching for it again for next year.

Just remember, blogging is for the long haul too, not a just quick burst of publicity. It’s the marathon, not the spring. But it doesn’t hurt to have a fast start to get out in front of your competition either.

Photo credit: MattIndy77 (Flickr)