All the tips, tricks and tools of the trade, to digitally market your travel blog on social media.
It’s one of the most powerful digital marketing tools around, beating out paid advertisements and Google Adwords nine times out of ten. No longer just a matter of the odd status update or occasional tweet; social media takes serious strategy and know-how. After all, just one viral post can mean the difference between wild online success and relative obscurity.
So, why don’t I use social media for The Longest Haul?
Well, it really comes down to the fact that I’m quite self conscious. Setting up social media accounts for my blog, for some reason, just made me feel so uncomfortable, almost egocentric – nay, narcissistic – in a way, to expect that people would actually follow me… like I warranted a ‘fan’ page.
But then it dawned on me – blogging is narcissistic, it has to be. After all, you’re writing personal stories and expecting people to want to read them.
So, with a drop of that narcissism and a bit more self-love, I’ve decided that it’s time to get the social media cogs turning, after all (and, this may come as a surprise), it’s what I do for a living.
I actually get paid to market on social media, at the small company I work for in Seville, Spain. It’s something I’ve got a bit of expertise in, especially having seen first hand the difference it can make to website traffic. But still, until now I haven’t created pages for a blog that I pour every spare moment into.
So please, do my ego (and my blog) a favour by following me:
And now, I suppose it’s only fair that I share a bit of that social media marketing knowledge I’ve deprived The Longest Haul of for so long.
There are a variety of different tools and strategies out there to get you started and, believe me, I think I’ve tried them all. But there are a few in particular that, from experience, I’ve found to work better than others.
This is how I do it:
Create a custom strategy for your social pages
First up, it’s important to decide what kind of social media best suit your travel blog. Does it have more of a community-type feel? Then Facebook and Twitter are for you. Are you specifically angling towards other businesses? Get connecting on LinkedIn. Or is it a clean, visual medium you’re after? Instagram and Pinterest are best.
Don’t fall into the trap of using it all – trust me, it shows. In my line of work, for example, I’ve chosen not to use Instagram, because my industry isn’t exactly photographically appealing. A competing company, however, do use the photo sharing service, and this week they excitedly shared a photo of their new photocopier. Don’t be that guy.
A good rule to stick by when sharing content is the ‘half and half’ law; half your updates should link directly back to your site, and the other half to outside sources (but all that traffic lost elsewhere! Don’t despair, we will get to that later). Select relevant, click-worthy articles, multimedia or graphics – if you establish yourself as a sharer of interesting information, your fan base will thank you for it.
The next step is to include a posting schedule in your strategy – when, what, and how frequently you’ll share. With Facebook, it’s important not to inundate your followers with updates: too much can become annoying, and Zuckerberg’s robots will start hiding your posts from users’ feeds.
On Twitter, however, frequency is key. A single tweet has an average home-page life of about 18 seconds, which means that most of your witty-worded 140-word posts will mostly be unseen. Tweet, retweet and repeat – that’s the key to getting Twitter-noticed.
Above all, monitor your social media; it’s not just a base for you followers to contact you – it’s an online community. Interact with your users, talk to them, let them know that there’s a person – not a robot – behind that screen.
Use your tools wisely
There are a heap of tools out there which promise to make your social media life easier. From the paid ones, like Hootsuite and Buffer, to the limited ones, like Twuffer, to Twitter and Facebook’s in-built posting schedulers.
So, which one should you use?
There are several tools that incorporate all your social media into one platform but, personally, I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all management platforms. All social networks are different – that’s why so many exist; they’re all there to serve a different purpose.
For Twitter, I schedule my tweets over a number of different pages using Tweetdeck. It allows not only allows you to post updates and photos, but also to check your notifications, mentions and inboxes without having to log in and out of various accounts. Plus, it’s free.
For Facebook, I use the website’s in-built scheduler. All you have to do is click the little arrow icon at the bottom of a post, enter a date and time, and add it to the backlog. That way, I can preview my updates before they go live, and I even get a little notification to my phone every time something is posted.
LinkedIn, however, doesn’t offer a post scheduler – in fact, it’s against the network’s user agreement. Sure, there are a few external posting platforms out there that offer the service, but I prefer to avoid them as a general rule. LinkedIn is all about topicality and relevance; being mostly a business-to-business service (as opposed to business-to-customer), the aim is to establish a reputable voice in your field.
That’s why it’s best to post things as they come, but don’t post them too frequently – five times a week, one for each weekday, is usually the perfect balance.
Over on Instagram and Pinterest, the photo-loving fans are crazy about stylish little graphics. But don’t just re-gram existing quotes and titbits – invent your own! Canva is a brilliant, free, online design tool, with a heap of templates, stock photos and fonts.
I’ve been obsessed with it for years (seriously, how are they not charging for it?!), and Sabina from Girl vs Globe is also a huge fan. She’s constantly creating cute little share-worthy quotes and graphics that you can then pin on Pinterest.
Remember that part about posting 50 per cent of your content from outside sources? Well, that’s not all to waste, either.
There’s a magical little tool I swear by, and it goes by the name of Snip.ly.
Basically, every time a follower clicks through to an outside source you’ve shared, a banner pops up in the corner inviting them to visit your page, too. You can add a little message and a custom button too, and, if you install the plugin to your browser, it automatically shortens every link you copy and paste (which means you can avoid constant visits to other link shortening services such as Bit.ly).
Find your voice
Aussie legend with a mullet, John Farnham, once said: “You’re the voice try and understand it, make a noise and make it clear”.
Take Farnsey’s advice and do just that, because finding your voice is finding your personal brand.
Are you light-hearted, personable and fun? Or are you informative, inquisitive and insightful?
A good example of someone who’s found his online voice is Matt Long of Land Lopers – he’s humorous and friendly, but straight to the point. Oh, and he’s tweeted over 110 thousand times, so I’d say he’s got this Twitter thing locked down!
Ask questions of your followers and invite them to respond, but don’t give too much away. That said, however, steer away from blatant clickbait (“She was waiting for the bus, you won’t believe what happened next!” Yeah, you get what I mean). It’s slowly losing click power and quickly rising in the totally lame stakes.
Entice your followers to read on, without making it too obvious. Today, for example, I posted an article to Facebook about new English teaching trends. But, rather than saying exactly what it was (nor “You WON’T believe this new teaching trend!”), I said something along the lines of “It’s the new way of teaching set to benefit students worldwide. But will this trend catch on?”
Not only does it slyly allure to some new information in the article, but it also invites users to respond.
Keep up with the trends
Social networks are current, constantly updated, and often most people’s first source of information. That’s why being current is akin to being noticed – you need to show you’re hip with all the cool trends. Sorry, I won’t do that again.
On Twitter, you may notice that little list of ‘trends’ on the left-hand sidebar. These are the keywords most people are chatting about, reading and sharing at any one time. You can set your little trends sidebar to any location in the world – broad or specific. This toolbar comes in handy for a sneaky little trick I like to call ‘piggybacking’ a hashtag.
A hashtag is, for those of you who’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, the little # symbol that you place before a word to denote it as a trend. For example, there’s #blessed. But don’t use that one – please, just don’t.
When I’m posting an article, I try to look at the trend in the different regions I’m aiming it towards. For example, if it were an article about the obscene amount of Australians in Europe, I’d change my sidebar to Sydney to see what’s trending there. Then, if something (even marginally) relevant comes up, I’ll start tagging my tweets with it. That way, when someone starts browsing the tweets from that particular trend, they’ll stumble across my (fascinating) article, and hopefully click through to it.
Similarly, there are constantly various travel or blogging-themed chats taking place on Twitter, which are brilliant ways to connect with other writers in the field. These work the same way as trends; basically, when you hashtag a tweet with the name of the chat, it’ll show up on the chat’s page. #AdvTravelChat, co-founded by Nellie Huang of Wild Junket, Laurel Robbins of Monkeys and Mountains and Sherry Ott of Ottsworld is a brilliant example of this – it takes place weekly, and attracts a heap of interesting and share-worthy tweets and content. Plus, both Nellie and Laurel are actively involved in the chats – proving how friendly interaction on social channels gets you noticed in the travel blogging world. If you pull enough influence, you could even start your own Twitter chat (#goals).
Be nice and say thank you
That’s really all there is to it! It’s not hard to give a little thanks so someone who retweeted your article, by retweeting theirs in return. Respond to comments and questions politely, give time to your followers, and just be an all-round, friendly person. A little manners go a long way!
What’s your best social media tip for travel bloggers? Tell me all your secrets in the comments…
And, while you’re at it, follow me via the social media channels below: