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How Travel Bloggers Can Best Use Facebook & Twitter

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… by Jessica Spiegel

Once upon a time, posting high-quality writing or photos or videos on your travel blog was pretty much the first and only step to blogging. Now, unless it’s just your Aunt Jane who’s reading about your trip, there’s all sorts of social media marketing to think about. Whether Google+ (or any other new site popping up in the next three days) is a long-term threat to existing social media platforms remains to be seen, but for now the biggest players are Facebook and Twitter.

Travel bloggers, like bloggers in all genres, are – for the most part – engaged on both Facebook and Twitter, but in different ways and to different degrees. It’s not a science, and can involve quite a bit of trial-and-error, but here are some helpful hints before you dive into the deep end.

How are travel companies using Facebook and Twitter?

It’s not just travel bloggers who use social media – travel companies are, too. Wendy Perrin of Conde Nast Traveler asked a few travel industry pros how their companies use both Facebook and Twitter, and if you’re familiar with the two platforms then the answers aren’t exactly earth-shattering. Still, it’s interesting to hear that big companies like Virgin America and Travelocity not only understand that the platforms are different but also how to use each one in an effective way.

Both Travelocity and Virgin America acknowledge that while Facebook does better with “long-term engagement,” Twitter is better at handling customer service issues, often in real-time. Another perk about the immediacy of Twitter is the ability to generate sharp (albeit brief) peaks of interest, sometimes through promotions like freebies or travel deals. Because Facebook users tend to be on the site longer, that’s where conversations between users of a particular travel brand occur, alongside conversations with the brand itself. It’s a place where hotel or cruise ship guests – self-declared “fans” of a brand or product – can communicate with each other, strengthening brand loyalty and increasing word-of-mouth referrals.

While travel bloggers can learn a bit from the way big travel companies use social media, it’s impossible to keep up with their pace – jetBlue, for instance, has 17 people on staff just to handle the company’s Twitter account. Seventeen people just for Twitter. Can you even imagine what your travel blog’s Twitter account would look like with 17 handlers?

Travel bloggers can, however, engage in personal real-time conversations with readers on Twitter, work toward long-term “fan” cultivation on Facebook, participate in travel chats on Twitter to expand readership/community, and encourage Facebook fans to chat with each other to generate a sense of community. Take your cue from the travel companies – a big part of your time invested in social media is about being responsive.

Which is more valuable for travel bloggers, Facebook or Twitter?

Let’s assume from the outset that you’re going to be on both Facebook and Twitter. Which one deserves more of your time and energy?

As you can probably guess, there’s not a simple answer here. Most people will need to put a certain amount of time and energy into both Twitter and Facebook, but each blog’s readership will help dictate which venue produces the best results and proves most worthwhile. Not only that, the content you post to each platform also has the potential to determine how successful it is. There’s some evidence that Twitter users are more apt to hit the retweet button rather than click through and read something, whereas Facebook users are more likely to click through and read many more posts than they share. Again, tracking traffic will help you figure out what your audience is responding to most so you can adjust your posts accordingly.

Since you probably don’t have a staff of 17 to deal with your Twitter followers, you’ll need to be judicious about how much time you devote to social media. It’s a good idea to try out a few things and see what works for your audience, but here are a few important things to remember:

  • There’s some overlap between Facebook and Twitter users, but it’s far from 100%. When, for instance, you publish something new on your blog, you’d be crazy not to post a link on both Twitter and Facebook. Yes, some people will get the link twice (more times if they subscribe via email), but they voluntarily signed up to receive those updates.
  • Some duplicate posting is fine (see above), but try not to duplicate everything. It can be annoying to think about keeping your blog, your Twitter stream, and your blog’s Facebook page updated on a regular basis without just auto-posting the same thing to each – but it’s a good idea to keep each venue unique. Otherwise, what reason does your audience have to visit? This can be as simple as sharing interesting/related links via Twitter and Facebook to sites other than your own that you think your readers would also enjoy, or doing giveaways that are Twitter- or Facebook-only.
  • There are tools that can make managing multiple social media platforms easier. Heavy Twitter users are likely already familiar with tools like TweetDeck and HootSuite, but did you know you can also update Facebook pages using those tools, too? I’ll confess that I’m a TweetDeck fan but have (as yet) been unable to set up my TweetDeck desktop account to post to my site’s Facebook page (there’s some sort of bug in there I can’t figure out). From HootSuite, however, I’m able to do it easily, including scheduling updates for later times. Having one tool to keep track of both Twitter and Facebook is a huge time-saver.
  • You can’t just be a megaphone – you have to listen and react, too. Posting your links (and other interesting links) to Twitter and Facebook is great, but the critical part of both of these platforms is the “social” part of social media. It’s a conversation, and in order to generate brand loyalty (where your travel blog is the brand) you need to put in the time conversing with your audience – through comments on your blog, Twitter @-replies, and Facebook comments on your page. If you’re not prepared to do that on one or the other of the social media platforms, you might as well not even be there.

You’ve got to go where the community is.

Back in the days of message boards and forums, community was everywhere – and nowhere. These days, the communities on Facebook and Twitter are huge, and any attempt to create a message board now would seem a little silly. The bottom line is that if you want to be in on the conversation, you have to go where the community is – you can’t expect them all to come to you. And for now, that means being involved to some degree with Facebook and Twitter.

>> What are your experiences using Facebook and Twitter to promote your travel blog?

Jessica Spiegel is a Portland-based travel writer with BootsnAll, the RTW travel experts, for whom she writes the WhyGo Italy travel guide. She also writes frequently about things like business travel and finding cheap airfare, and although she participates on both Facebook and Twitter she’s more of a Twitter fan. You’ll find her on WhyGo Italy’s Facebook page and on Twitter as @italylogue.

Image Source: SXC

Google+ Traffic Down Last Week

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We knew we would see this coming right?

Google+ grew at such an intense rate (10 million) and it’s all anyone talked about for days. According to Experian Hitwise, Google+ traffic is down and people are spending less time on the site. (I know I am.)

Total Google+ visits fell 3 percent to 1.79 million in the U.S. The average time on the site also fell 10 percent to 5 minutes and 15 seconds.

A rep for Hitwise said this wasn’t a huge drop. These numbers only cover the U.S. and it makes us wonder if other countries are seeing the same trend.

It was just last week comScore reported that Google+ had reached 20 million users. We even saw people completely close their Facebook accounts and move over to Google+. I wonder if they’re lonely?

What are your thoughts on this drop in visits to Google+? Do you think it was just a cool new thing to do but now the coolness factor has worn off a bit?

Update: Check out this statement made by Google stating why this data may not be telling the whole story.

Wajam Adds Google+ Social Search

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Wajam, a browser extension that lets you access your friends’ knowledge when you need it, has added Google+ to its social search. Before, you could see results from your Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Now you can add to that list your Google+ circles.

Here’s what you can do as of today with Wajam and Google+ as listed on their blog:

  • Connect your Google+ profile to Wajam and store the links that your friends have shared
  • View Google+ content directly in your favorite search engine like Google or Bing
  • View relevant search results wherever you go online, such as popular sites like Amazon, Wikipedia, TripAdvisor with the Wajam Everywhere tool bar.

You can now see  posts, links, photos and videos that your Google+ circles share and right when you need it. To start using Google+ social search, simply connect your Google+ account here.

 

Facebook Rolls Out Facebook for Business

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There’s a lot of buzz right now around the fact that your business cannot have a Google+ profile. Businesses left and right have seen their Google+ profiles shut down. It’s not that they’re never going to allow businesses to have a profile page (that would be dumb), they’re just still working out all of the details of what it would look like exactly.

How do you get your business name out there when doing a Google search then? Facebook has the answer. They’ve rolled out Facebook for Business, which shows you how to use Pages, Ads and Stories to get the word out and increase your business presence on the web.

The tagline says “Learn how to grow your business with Facebook’s powerful marketing tools”. Here are a few of the key points and how it works:

  • Build a presence by creating a page, claiming your place and making your website social by adding special features like the “Like” button.
  • Engage your community by joining the conversation, building relationships and gaining valuable insights about your audience
  • Get the word out with ads and sponsored stories

Overall this seems like a great addition to Facebook and I plan on digging in a little more to see how I can improve on what I already have set up with them. If people can’t find you and don’t know about you, what’s the point?

What are your first impressions of Facebook for Business?

Did the Oslo Bombing Show Google+ as a Good Source for Breaking News?

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The vehicle bomb that went off today (Friday, July 22nd) in Oslo, Norway was the first “test” you could say as to whether or not Google+ is a good source for breaking news. It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote how social media was quickly becoming the leading way to communicate during national disasters. At the time of that writing, I was referring to Twitter and Facebook, but we can now add Google+ to the list.

The ability to create a feed is how Google+ can be used effectively for breaking news, similar to Twitter. Google+ user , made a list of people to follow to get your updates on the bombing. And then he asked his followers to add other Google+ contacts in the comments who were reporting from the location. He was able to update with live streaming links and comments as he received more info.

There are still flaws when it comes to using Google+ for breaking news and communication during events such as the Oslo bombings, but being as new as it is and already being seen as a news source, says a lot.

Has Google+ Decreased Your Facebook and Twitter Usage?

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ReadWriteWeb author Richard MacManus asked a question on Google+ about whether or not people’s Twitter and Facebook usage has gone down since they started using Gooogle+. He received over 60 responses (more than he received on Facebook or Twitter) and it seems the census is a yes. It has significantly changed how much his followers are using the other social networks.

Some of the comments were:

  • “it’s replaced Twitter totally for me… and will slowly replace Facebook as more friends get over here”
  • “Living here now. I find it interesting because I’ve circled a lot of people who I don’t know and am gaining a wider perspective than on any other social network I’ve used before”
  • “Don’t read twitter any more, Reduced facebook usage, increased use on Quora and Namesake”
  • “Using all three, but am using FB and Twitter less than usual. Still trying to figure out exactly where G+ fits in (and wait for others to join)”

MacManus also gave 2 examples of Google+ power users who were previously avid Twitter users, and showed that  both have decreased their Twitter usage quite a bit.

Although he admits the survey was both unscientific and a little biased, it still makes you ask the question if Twitter and Facebook should be worried.

So, let’s do our own little survey here: Has Google+ decreased your Facebok and Twitter usage?

Is Google+ Losing Steam?

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According to Ancestry.com co-founder Paul Allen, Google+ should have reached around 18 million users yesterday. It’s still the fastest growing social network and is setting records like crazy, but do these numbers show Google+ is losing steam?

18 million sounds incredible for the amount of time the network has been alive, but that means its growth rate is down by about 50%.

In a Google+ post Allen said, “Last week we saw two days where more than 2 million signed up in a single day. If that rate had continued, Google+ would have reached 20 million users by last Sunday night. But the last four days have averaged only 948,000 new users and yesterday the site added only 763,000. Yesterday’s growth of 4.47% was the slowest viral growth since Google opened up invites back on July 6th.”

Why the slow down in growth? Mashable points out that according to Google Trends, the Google+ buzz has slowed a bit.

The growth may have slowed for the time being, but as Allen points out in his post, Google hasn’t brought out all the big guns quite yet.

He said, “Google hasn’t started marketing Google+ through any of its other channels yet. More than a billion people worldwide use Google products, including its top rated search engine, YouTube, and Blogger. Chairman Eric Schmidt says the vision is to integrate Circles and sharing with all the other Google properties. When that happens, you will likely see millions of people joining Google+ every day for some period of time.”

I definitely don’t think the Google gods are worried about the slow down at the moment, do you?

Is Chris Brogan a Google+ Expert or Just Stealing Your Money?

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Earlier this week, Chris Brogan announced that he’d be offering a 2-hour webinar for $47. The topic of choice? Google+. Now, it’s inarguable that Chris has been spending a ton of time on Google+, but some are calling foul, given that the platform is so new.

So the question I hope to answer today is this: Is Chris Brogan a Google+ expert or is he just stealing your money?


Before I start, I’d like to note that since this is such a strong opinion piece, my opinions might not be the opinions of everyone at BlogWorld. Furthermore, if you wrote about this debate on your own blog, just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I think you’re stupid or that your opinion is invalid. It’s a little sad to me that I have to even type this paragraph, but there’s some venom in the blogging community about this topic. Also, I’m not trying to “call anyone out” here – I just don’t like when bloggers are obviously writing about someone but refuse to link to them or use their name. It feels a little like talking about someone behind their back.

First, to catch you up to speed, I want to invite you to check out the landing page for Chris’ webinar. In case he takes it down after the webinar happens, the video he posted is on YouTube here. Are we all caught up now? Good. There are two things in particular that I want to talk about now: being an expert and knowing your audience.

Is Chris A Google+ Expert? Is Anyone?

Back in January, I wrote a post about how you shouldn’t call yourself a social media expert, especially if your claims are unfounded. My argument is that although you might have a lot to teach about social media, this is an industry that is so new and changing so quickly that no one person can truly be an expert yet.

Do I think this argument applies to the situation? Yes and no. I wholeheartedly agree with bloggers who claim that Chris is not a Google+ expert because, frankly, I don’t think that anyone can claim to be a Google+ expert. Over on Spin Sucks, Gini Dietrich actually wrote a post called “Beware the Google+ Experts” about the situation, which I was excited to read because the title aligns with my feelings perfectly. Google+ is way too new for “experts.”

Only…well…Chris isn’t actually calling himself an expert. That’s where I think the whole “Chris Brogan isn’t an expert so you shouldn’t pay him” argument falls a little flat (and to be clear, Gini isn’t by far the only one making this argument).

In my opinion, there’s a difference between being an expert and charging someone money for something. For example, in my work as a writer, if a client wants me to write articles that use keywords, I charge extra. I’m not an SEO expert at all – I just know how to insert keywords into an article. I don’t bill myself as an expert and neither does Chris. In fact, in one of his blog posts about this debate, he writes,

I’ve seen dozens of comments and posts and blogs saying “How someone can claim to be an expert after 250 hours is laughable.” What’s laughable is that I’m not saying I’m an expert. I’m saying that I’ve used the service a lot and I’ve got some ideas that I think are worth your time and some money.

So, no…I don’t think Chris Brogan is an expert. I think he’s a guy who has had some success on Google+ and is offering to teach you what he’s learned so far – and that’s all he’s claiming to be. He’s being very transparent about his relationship with Google+ so potential buyers can make up their own minds about signing up (or not). You don’t have to buy things only from experts.

The Blogging Bubble: Know Thy Audience

Chris’ webinar is being offered through Human Business Works, which he writes is “an online education and community company for small businesses and solo entrepreneurs.” As a blogger or social media professional, you are definitely a solo entrepreneur (if you want to be, at least)…but so is my dad, who runs a part-time business as a metal fabricator or my aunt, who has her own beauty salon. Sometimes, we’re caught in this blogging bubble where we forget that there are people out there who barely know what social media is, let alone how to use it. They’re part of Chris’ audience, just like you and me.

Let’s face it – most of us here, the BlogWorld audience, has been exploring Google+ because we’re interested in that kind of thing. This is our industry. It’s what we do. But Google+ is for everyone, and not all of my friends fall into my blogging/social media circle. If I invite my dad to join, he would have no idea what is going on and although he is a smart man, he’s just not interested enough to take the time to learn. Chris’ seminar would make perfect sense for him.

In other words, you are probably not Chris’ target market for this product. Allen Stern recently wrote a post where he voices his opinion that Chris is taking advantage of his fan base – but I think maybe he misses the fact that Chris’ fanbase isn’t just made up of bloggers.

It’s kind of like the Dummies books. Let’s say I decide to pick up the one about blogging. It would be a total waste of money…for me. I’ve spent 5+ years learning that stuff myself. But let’s say my dad decides to pick it up because he wants to start a blog. It would be perfect for him, saving him lots of time. Yes, he could learn everything covered in that book for free, but it would take him a long time. Someone buying a Dummies book isn’t paying for information that can’t be found anywhere else. They’re paying for convenience, because it is a shortcut to learning something specific. Chris’ webinar is for people who don’t want to spend 250 hours figuring out Google+ for themselves because, unlike those of us interested in social media, it’s not their primary area of focus.

Basically, you’re only taking advantage of people if you’re not delivering on your promises. And I obviously haven’t been to Chris’ webinar since it hasn’t happened yet (and I probably won’t go because I’m not the target market), but I’ve followed him for years and got the chance to meet him in New York through my work with BlogWorld. My professional opinion of him is that he’s a trustworthy guy. I don’t think he’s going to bait-and-switch ya with this webinar.

That’s not to say that you should be out there recommending this webinar to your readers. Who is your audience? For example, Kirsten Wright wrote a post called “Why You Shouldn’t be Paying to Learn How to Use Google+…Yet,” and for her audience (which I suspect is similar to the readers here at BlogWorld) I think it’s good advice. But again, her audience isn’t necessarily Chris’ audience – at least, not his whole audience. I don’t agree with the idea that he’s wrong to offer this webinar.

So, no…I don’t think Chris Brogan is stealing your money. I think he has a product for sale and you can choose whether or not that product is right for you. As Chris Pirillo puts it,

I’m largely in the camp of “Let Chris Do What Chris Wants to Do” – which intersects with the “Do What You Want to Do but Don’t Piss in Someone’s Cheerios” camp. I’m not here to claim that what Chris has to share is anything more than Chris’s insights on Google’s new social network, but… hey, how much is two hours of your time worth?

For someone who is interested in learning Chris’ opinions on how to best use Google+, two hours might be worth $47 to you. If it’s not, that’s okay, but it doesn’t mean that Chris is wrong for offering it. After all, we’re all adults here. I have a problem with “experts” presenting products that make outlandish promises to feed on people’s fears, but when the scope of a product is made clear, as I feel is the case with this webinar, I don’t have a problem with someone selling it…and I don’t understand why anyone would. After all, people pay for a lot of weird things. Haven’t you ever purchased anything that others think is worthless but that was important to you?

The bottom line is that the title of this post is a little misleading because I don’t think either option applies to Chris. He’s not a Google+ expert and he’s also not stealing your money. He’s offering a webinar, and you have the option to buy or walk away. You also have the option to promote it or to tell your readers that you think it’s a bad idea – but in both cases, try to understand the product before posting what amounts to a review of someone’s idea. Just like it’s unfair to your readers to promote something that is low-quality or not right for your audience, I feel like it is also unfair to your readers to recommend against something that could be helpful for some people.

I hope you’ll leave a comment, whether or not you agree with me. All comments are welcome as long as they’re respectful! Also, when I mentioned this post on Twitter a lot of people showed interest in reading something where I disagreed with the mainstream opinion out there. If you enjoy that kind of thing, this is my shameless plug for Blog Zombies, a project I’ve been working on for over a year now that’s being released this fall, where I’m going to be voicing opinions that heavily go against the status quo. I hope you’ll check it out if you think you might be interested.

Google+ App Now Available for iPhone

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The Google+ iPhone app is now available in the iTunes store and can be downloaded for free here.

Description: Google+ for mobile makes sharing the right things with the right people a lot simpler. Huddle lets you send super-fast messages to the people you care about most. And no matter where you are, the stream lets you stay in the loop about what your friends are sharing and where they’re checking in.

Here are a few screenshots:

It seems so far there have been several glitches with the app from crashes, freezing and even no way to share. You can see some answers to the issues here.

With the 10 million people who have reportedly already created a Google+ account, it’s expected that there should be quite a few downloads of the app. Hopefully they will get these glitches fixed soon and more features to the app rolled out.

Have you downloaded the app and if so, what do you think?

Google+ Is Working on Verified Celebrity Accounts

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Did you hear that William Shatner’s Google+ account was suspended for “violating standards” but was then reactivated?

After being suspended, he tweeted “My Google+ account was flagged for violating standards. Saying hello to everyone apparently is against the rules maybe I should say goodbye?”

Most are guessing that the reason his account was suspended was because Google+ does not have verified celebrity accounts yet, so they had no way of knowing if this was an impersonator or the real deal.

That’s about to change according to CNN and emails they received from Google. Apparently, Google is working on a “celebrity acquisition plan”. They aren’t releasing any details as of yet, but did say “We plan to add a lot of features and functionality to Google+ over time.”

Being verified on Twitter has become a big deal for celebrities, so it makes sense for Google+ to do the same.

After getting his account back, Shatner said “I am back plusers. I still do not know what happened but I will refrain from saying hello again for a while just in case. My best, Bill”.

It will be interesting to see which celebrities start using Google+ and exactly HOW they use it will be even more interesting.

Source: CNN

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