Sorry, We Are Not In Right Now

Hi,

Thanks for checking out our blog, we really appreciate it.

However, our blog has moved to http://travel2dot0.wordpress.com/

Sorry that you have to visit another site to find us, but it is worth it...we have all of our 'classic' posts and comments on the new blog, plus a ton of new thoughts and ideas.

Why are we moving? Basically, Blogger failed us and never responded to our emails and requests. A clear example of poor customer service...too bad, we liked Blogger.

Come over and see us on the new blog.

Regards,
Troy and Mo

Friday, December 28, 2007

It's December 28th, the Perfect Time For A Pre-Christmas Sale!


As I was checking my email last week, I noticed a peculiar banner ad in my peripheral vision. Which is pretty common, but from some reason this banner caught my eye...but not in a good way.

Thoughts// So, there I was, last Friday, December 28th, checking my email when I noticed this Bloomingdales banner ad. And I thought myself, 'what day is it?' Now at this point last week all of the days were running together and I was not sure what day it was. According to the banner it was December 24th, the day before Christmas.

But I seem to remember opening gifts already.

But the banner says that Bloomingdales is having a 'Right Before Christmas' sale and I can save an additional 40% off.

Wait, this can't be right. The banner must be wrong!

While this story is not exactly related to travel, it is a good lesson for anyone who runs banner ads or CPC ads or any date-sensitive ads. My immediate thought when I saw this ad, 4 days after Christmas Eve, was 'what a screw up by Bloomingdales.' However, the interactive marketer in me knows that (more than likely) Bloomingdales did not buy or flight that ad personally, there ad agency or network did. But my negative reaction and bad impression gets attributed to the company, not the faceless ad agency that is running the campaign.

We all know it is difficult to stay abreast of all advertising campaigns and executions, especially online, but if you ad is running a highly noticeable sale tied to a widely known holiday, you might want to double check the end date of the campaign.

Otherwise I (and most of your consumers) will get a bad impression of you.

VisitFlorida.com Design Poll - Results

Thanks, as always, to everyone who participated in our VisitFlorida.com Design Poll, which asked members of the Travel 2.0: Interactive Trend Report what they thought of the new visitflorida.com website design.

If you missed any of the posts and interviews about the new visitflorida.com website, you can find the archives on the blog.

And the winner is:

What is your opinion of the new Visit Florida site?

Love it. - 9 (33%)
Like it. - 3 (11%)
Confused by it. - 6 (22%)
Like it, but not sure tourists will. - 3 (11%)
Don't like it. - 2 (7%)
Hate it. - 4 (14%)


An interesting mix of results...and FYI, I simply used the word 'hate' as a contrary word to 'love,' I am sure no one really 'hates' the site.

I can understand the positive and negative opinions on the design. The 'confused by it' category might be a sign that some additional education on the features of the site is needed. But, as with all websites, it really comes down to if the site delivers on its intended goal.

If it accomplishes that, it is a success.

Travel Trends - More .travel, All 50 States, Kayak


All 50 States - Forwarded onto me from Casey and the NCSTD State and Provincial Research Group (those research folks, always finding the good stuff) comes Christian Watson's un-scientific review of all 50 state travel websites. A very interesting read even though it was posted in January (yes, those that have redesigned sites, he is reviewing your old site). Additionally, please remember that this is just one person's opinion of your site...specifically his opinion on 'if your site would encourage a visitor to actually visit your state.' A limited question, but probably one that many consumers ask themselves. What is really telling about this post are the comments on the blog and the comments on the related digg article.

Here are some of my favorites:

' how come idaho's website isn't shape like a potato'

' Lovely website but just show me the darn pictures so I don't have to mouse over each one.'

'as for hawaii - i dont even think they -need- a website to get people to visit...'

'Go Kentucky!!!!'

'These sites are created by government slugs commanding other government drones. '

' Who avoids a state because of it's website? That crosses a geek line that borders insanity.'

Good stuff. Congrats all you government slugs on your fine looking websites!
http://www.smileycat.com/

More .travel - Another note on the .travel discussion we have been having over the last few weeks on the Travel 2.0: Interactive Trend Report. This summary, pulled from the Travel Advance email, comes from TravelWeekly.com and suggests that my opinion on the new .travel regulations is one shared by many member of the travel industry.

Tralliance Changing Dot-Travel Rules
Tralliance, the company that controls the dot-travel Internet domain, is introducing several controversial policy changes designed to bring more Web traffic to dot-travel sites. The new policies, which remove some restrictions on who can own dot-travel domain names and impose new rules on registrants, were approved by The Travel Partnership Corp., the domain's advisory and oversight body. The policy shifts, some of which are fundamental, will take full effect in January. But one change--doing away with priority registration of place names once reserved for countries, states, cities or other destinations--became effective Dec. 21. The changes have been greeted by surprise and uncertainty by the associations and other professional organizations that, until now, have been responsible for authenticating which registrants are legitimate travel entities and thus eligible to hold specific dot-travel domain names.

Kayak Buys Sidestep - For those of you who keep an eye on the travel meta search world, industry darling and popular travel search engine Kayak is purchasing a chief rival, Sidestep, for a reported $200 million dollars (insert Dr. Evil voice here). What I find interesting from the article is the revenues that these two companies are (reportedly) pulling in...$50 million for Kayak and $35 million for Sidestep. Sounds like a good time to be in the travel business.
http://www.techcrunch.com

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Top 10 Most Underappreciated Metrics To Track in 2008

This post is the continuation of a topic I started yesterday all about the right metrics to focus on and how many marketing teams may be using the wrong ones without realizing it...as a whole, the single word that defines the old view of metrics is to focus on impressions. A more sophisticated model measures engagement or interaction (ie - a more active consumption of content). Eyeballs are not enough. So, to help you start thinking outside your typical metrics, here are some of the underappreciated metrics that I believe more brands should focus on in 2008. >>Full Story

Thoughts// A great post from Rohit Bhargava (of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide) that complements our previous posts on the Travel 2.0: Interactive Trend Report discussing what new metrics marketers should be measuring with interactive marketing campaigns. Basically, Rohit makes the same case that Mo and I have in regards to focusing greater attention to engagement, rather than impressions.

Here is a summary of his 'The Top 10 Most Underappreciated Metrics To Track in 2008':

  1. Inbound Links (from influential sources)
  2. Direct URL Access
  3. RSS Subscribers
  4. Email Link Referrals
  5. Time Spent (engagement)
  6. Organic Keyword Referrals
  7. Email Longevity and Multiple Opens
  8. Abandonment
  9. Clickstream
  10. Microsharing

And just so you can see what you can stop tracking, here are Rohit's 'The Top 10 Most Overused Metrics of 2007':

  1. Impressions
  2. Technorati Authority
  3. Comments
  4. Trackbacks
  5. Time Spent (searching)
  6. Keyword Conversion Rate
  7. Number of Pages
  8. Email Open Rate
  9. Popover Click Rate
  10. Page Views

I would encourage you to click thru to both of Rohit's posts. He offers a good explanation of why you should and should not be tracking (or at the minimum, paying so much attention to) these metrics.

My two personal favorites are his explanations of pages views...'no list of useless metrics would be complete without (them)'...and number of pages...'more pages is not necessarily a good thing'.

Thank you Rohit. Please, everyone, stop reporting page views. They mean nothing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

VisitFlorida.com Redux. Continuing the Conversation With Florida's Interactive Team.

Hello Sunshine! This is the second installation of a two part conversation with CA Clark, VP of Electronic Publishing at Miles Media, the interactive agency for VisitFlorida. Yesterday, CA responded to our initial questions about the inspiration for the design of the new VisitFlorida site and it's novel use of tag clouds as a primary navigational element (yesterday's blog is available here). Today, we're going to primarily focus on content - who manages it, how portable is it and how Florida handles the vast sea of user generated content, comments and photos.

How are your partners able to edit/add content to the site? Is the process automated or do they have to be facilitated via staff?

In a variety of ways, but the main way is via a partner extranet application that we also re-built from scratch as part of the new site. That application embraces a lot of the same technological approaches in terms of focusing on the user interface and employing AJAX and JavaScript to do as much as we can without having to reload the page.

Through the data engine, partners can add, edit and delete their property information, amenities, photos, videos, 360s, events deals and respond to comments made about their property.

I've been working exclusively in the web publishing business for 12 years and I can definitively say that this is the most complex, most complete and largest project I've ever been involved in. We had an active team of about 12 people working on various aspects of this project for over 14 months. It's been a long road, and we're really happy with the result, we hope Florida visitors will be too.

What considerations were made so that your data is portable (i.e. can be used to generate widget/gadgets on social sites)?

The whole architecture of the site is really built to be modular. Essentially all the data we've got - photos, videos, stories, trips, etc are all stored in their own silos. So if we wanted to say take the photo strip piece and turn that into a widget for use on another site, it's really just a matter of dumping the structure we already have into XML and distributing the widget. It's something we'll be looking at after launch.

The Florida site is awash with opportunities for users to contrinute their opinions and photos to the site. With so much UGC and commenting available, how are you handling the monitoring and editing of those comments? How are you handling negative comments?

We're trying to make the site both as useful and as transparent as possible. To that end, user comments are posted immediately. There are several steps to get to that point, including a illegal words filter and verification to make sure you're a human; but we felt that if users had to wait for a day to see their comments, we'd kill the whole concept of sharing. Visual content like photos and videos are a different story, before those are publicly available they need to be reviewed by a human since there's no AI I'm aware of that could accurately filter out inappropriate content. As for negative comments, they'll stay as long as they're relevant to tourism and verifiable.

Why were certain elements...text, font, color, size...selected for the site?

Obviously there are a lot of different factors that go into design, not the least of which is the branding campaign and approach of the client.

In this case, VISIT FLORIDA's "sunshine" campaign was the basis for the design and implemented in a way that we hoped wouldn't get in the way of the use of the site. Beyond that, we tried to use web-safe fonts wherever we could and minimize the number of images that had to be created and to be consistent throughout with the visual cues we provided. Most of the active stuff has the same little blue buttons, the links are all consistently formatted, titles are similarly formatted, etc.

Tell us what you think! Does the new Florida site inspire you to hit the beach? Take our online poll and give us your feedback!

Travel Trends - Google Tracking Flights, TripAdvisor


Google Including Flights In Search Results - Google gave the flying public an early Christmas present today by including flight status results within the search results. The service allows consumers to simply type in the airline and flight number into the normal Google search box and then returns the latest flight info, courtesy of flightstats.com (see example above). On a side note, how reassuring are those search results? Looking for an example for this post I searched for 'Southwest 75' at random and that video was the top result. Luckily, the video in question is just from a flight simulation game. Whew.
http://googleblog.blogspot.com

TripAdvisor Officially Launches New Design - As we reported a couple of months ago on the Interactive Trend Report, TripAdvisor has been beta-testing a new design for the popular travel review site. Over the last few days TripAdvisor made the switch-over complete and now the new design is coming up as the standard homepage for most users. While I heard a few rumblings of the site looking too similar to other OTA sites (Expedia, Travelocity, etc.), it is really just a new skin on the same content (which is a good thing). Granted, a few pieces have changed, but if you compare this new version to the previous version, a majority of the content is in the same spot. Plus, the new site includes a very addictive travel game from recent TripAdvisor acquisition TravelPod. Of course, I am a geography nerd and love anything with maps and capitals.
http://www.tripadvisor.com/

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Case Study: A Conversation With the VisitFlorida.com Interactive Team


I've always been impressed with the interactive programs at Visit Florida and have developed a tremendous amount of respect for CA Clark (Vice President of Electronic Publishing) and the rest of the team at MilesMedia who work on the account. In fact, the Florida site was one of the top five inspirations for me when I started working on our programs in Oregon three years ago.

When Troy and I found out that VisitFlorida.com relaunched their site this winter, we just couldn't help but chat up CA Clark for his insight into the new site. The following is part one of a two part e-mail conversation between CA and the Interactive Trend Report.

How was the design of the site used to create a positive impression of Florida?

First of all, this is really a very different approach to design than I think you would typically see on a destination site. Instead of the big header visuals, we've got a very large content area that incorporates tons of thumbnails, maps and tools. So from the start, we're not approaching this as a traditional design project. Instead we tried to look at it more like an application, which is the direction we think the web is really going. To answer your question more directly - I think we're creating a positive impression of Florida through the presentation of the content on the site - photos, videos, stories, trips, listings - rather than through the site itself. We're trying to get out of our own way and let the content speak for itself.

What websites, either travel-related or not, influenced the new site?

Lots really, the home page and tag display pages owe some to Yahoo!'s niche sites like food.yahoo.com; the trip planner borrows some from backpackit.com and basecamphq.com; Kayak and Pricegrabber were both models for some of the listing display stuff that we did. There are lots more, I'm sure I'm missing some important ones. We were definitely trying to make something that was competitive not just on a destination basis, but on a broader web industry basis.

How are you, or will you, integrate the print travel guide into the site and vice versa?

The VISITFLORIDA.com site is meant to be the primary fulfillment mechanism, so there purposely aren't a lot of references from the site back out to the guide. Having said that, the new site creates a lot of new possibilities for intertwining content between the two such as integrating the experts into the guide with references out to the site or including user-supplied photos or trips in the print products.

What do you think the reaction will be to the tag cloud navigation structure?

We did quite a bit of usability during the build, and a lot of that was focused on the navigation. What was interesting is that while the test users didn't necessarily understand what a tag was, it didn't prevent them from using the site as intended. So we changed some of our labels, but basically we found that people didn't have to understand the structure for it to be useful. So far our beta testers don't seem to have had problems either, so we're feeling pretty positive about the public reaction when we do the full release.

Tune in tomorrow for a continuation of this conversation. In the meantime, do tell us what you think about the new Florida site via our online poll (click the link to vote if reading via email or RSS). How do you feel about the use of "tag clouds" as a primary navigational element? Does the creative inspire you to hit the beach?

Monday, December 17, 2007

My 5 New Year's Interactive Resolutions


It is that time of year. As December 31st creeps ever closer, 2008 is just around the corner. At this point, most websites and blogs love to post there top 10 'whatevers' of the year...albums, TV shows, haircuts...enough of that. So, rather than post a 'top 10 things you should have done this year,' the Interactive Trend Report has decided to post 'my 5 interactive/travel resolutions' for the new year...in this case, for the Arizona Office of Tourism.

It's pretty simple, just tell us your top 5 interactive / travel related goals for 2008. What do you want to accomplish next year? What are you planning? Let's see how many of us are planning similar projects in the new year.

You can post your top 5 by visiting this post on the blog, then scrolling to the bottom of the post and clicking on the 'Post a comment' link.

There, that is not too hard. And a whole lot easier than trying to give up Diet Coke in '08. Good luck with that one!

The Arizona Office of Tourism's Top 5 New Year's Interactive Resolutions:

5. Expand our relationship with customers via a comprehensive email program.
4. Start a consumer blog on arizonaguide.com.
3. Add a substantial amount of Arizona-related content, including video, to the site.
2. Enhance our advertising methods to accurately communicate with our target consumer.
1. Determine a clear picture of our ROI with display (banner) advertising.

Photo courtesy of Flickr and Photo-Mojo.

Follow-Up: .travel

During a previous post on the Interactive Trend Report, we mentioned the recent news about the .travel domain becoming widely available to the 'larger' travel industry. While most blog subscribers read my original post, you probably missed the comments submitted by EnCirca Preseident Tom Barrett...unless you went to the blog.

So, for all of those reading Travel 2.0 via email or RSS, here are the comments from Tom and my response to the original post about .travel.

regarding .travel: the game has barely begun!

I disagree that the game is over for .travel. The game has barely begun! You are correct that search engines and .com have powerful inertia. However, the internet has a lot of growth...and change to come.

Destinations gain the most benefit with .travel. With an address like Arizona.travel, the destination brand is in the forefront and the targeted industry is explicit. Most DMO's are too late to the party to get this with .com.

The real problem with new extensions like .travel and .jobs is that folks are unrealistic about the time it will take for these to gain critical mass (this includes the investors of the new registries). But for those who go ahead and advertise the new extension start reaping the benefits right away.

best regards,

Tom Barrett
EnCirca

--

Hello Tom,

First and foremost, thank you for your comments about the post. This is exactly the kind of dialogue that the Interactive Trend Report was designed to produce. Opening up the conversation among our peers will help grow the entire industry’s knowledge on these important topics.

Next, major kudos for using the tools provided by this blog (comments) to join the conversation. This is exactly the type of case study we have been discussing on this blog…how the travel industry can take advantage of blogs, wikis, UGC sites, etc. to promote, brand and defend there marketing programs.

You disagreed with what was said, decided to speak up and defend what you believe in, all in a very respectful and helpful manner. Plus, you signed your name at the bottom…completely transparent…fantastic! You could have easily left the post as anonymous, however it certainly would not have carried the same weight or be as beneficial to the conversation.

As a side, I am curious to know how you learned about the post. Are you using a certain blog tracking tool?

As I said in my original post, I do believe that the idea behind any .whatever extension works well on paper. In theory, the idea that any .travel domain name instantly creates recognition in the consumers mind should work.

However, who would own the domain name grandcanyontours.travel? Or miamihotel.travel?

Without extremely strong regulations for who owns the .travel domain name as well as a comprehensive public educational program…which the individual organization does not have the resources to implement…adoption of the extension will be simply a step to deter squatters.

And now that the domain registration process is being opened up to any ‘significant participants’ within the travel industry, the recognition that the .travel extension carried will be reduced further.

At that point, if .travel is not an inherent distinguisher for the general public, why not just go with .com? Granted, I might not get the exact name I wanted, but with these new regulations, the chances of getting that .travel domain are reduced as well. Plus, if you factor in the nearly $100 cost for each .travel domain, a (as low as) $1.99 .com domain looks like a tremendous value.

I personally believe that .travel could work, but only with significant changes to the regulations and a thorough educational campaign.

As the .travel process continues to more forward, I encourage you to provide updates to the Interactive Trend Report. I, as well as the readers, would be interested to hear about the progress.

Thanks!
Troy


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Study Finds Online Reviews A Powerful Tool

Do travel and other consumers use online reviews? Yes. Are they willing to pay more for high ratings? Yes. So says a recent study that found consumers were willing to pay at least 20% more for services receiving "excellent" or 5-star rating opposed to those receiving "good" or 4-star ratings. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Ok. If you're already a subscriber to this blog, chances are you're already drunk on the user-generated-social-media-web-2.o concoction Troy and I have been eagerly serving. But in case you happen to be someone who has never researched a trip online or purchased something on E-Bay and Amazon...YES it's true! All the hoopla about user generated content and reviews maybe right after all.

According to a recent study conducted by the Kelsey Group, 25% of consumers reported using online reviews for a service delivered offline and a significant portion of these consumers subsequently "converted" by either eating at a restaurant or staying at a hotel. More importantly however, consumers are willing to pay 20% more for brands receiving extremely good reviews from like minded consumers. Again not a very big surprise. But as more destinations start building "fan" sites such as GoSeeOregon.com, GoSeeArizona.com and GoSeePortland.com, this study is yet another validation that we're on the right path. Now the challenge before us all is how do we sustain our communities?

Travel Trends - .travel, JetBlue, Privacy


.travel To Open Up Registration (Read, we need money) - Like a few of you, I received an email this week from EnCirca or the company one of the companies behind the .travel domain extension. The email basically stated that as of December 21st anybody with a travel related business can apply for a .travel domain name. The email itself was pretty comical, with lines such as 'anticipated December 21 Land Rush for .travel' or '.travel domain names are ideal for search engine marketing.' Good stuff.

While the .travel domain idea looked good on paper and in theory, it has not worked as designed in the real world. People have not caught onto the idea that a domain extension such as .biz, .travel or .jobs is the same as .com. Seriously, most people cannot even grasp the concept of .net, let alone .travel or .asia. With search engines becoming more than just a simple website, but an embedded action in our thought process for locating information, the need for a certain domain name and domain extension is dwindling.

Now, if you are like the Arizona Office of Tourism, you might own a few of these key domain names...such as arizona.travel...just to prevent someone from squatting or worse, using that domain in an undesirable manner. But you can call off the plans to switch over your whole advertising campaign and interactive strategy to yourdestinationhere.travel. It's already over...before it really got started.
http://encirca.com/

JetBlue Goes Wireless - As we have discussed previously on the Interactive Trend Report, the next big frontier for in-flight entertainment, or annoyance depending on your point-of-view, is in-flight wireless access. Earlier this month, JetBlue announced a basic pilot program (no pun intended) to test wireless access aboard one of there Airbus A320 jets, dubbed BetaBlue (how clever). While this service will be a reality for airline passengers in the near-future, it appears that JetBlue's wi-fi still has a few bugs to be worked out. But, with American Airlines, Virgin America, and Alaska Airlines all preparing to launch wireless access during the next year, you are not too far away from checking your email from 40,000ft. Or at least checking your favorite blog...this one!
http://blogs.zdnet.com/

People Don't Truly Care About Privacy - A very good post from Seth Godin, discusses the some of the latest news surrounding the idea of internet privacy and privacy in general, and why people don't really care about it. To quote from the post:

There's been a lot of noise about privacy over the last decade, but what most pundits miss is that most people don't care about privacy, not at all.

If they did, they wouldn't have credit cards. Your credit card company knows an insane amount about you.

What people care about is being surprised.

Exactly. Facebook's attempt at targeted ads encountered vocal opposition because the private information being collected was being used in an irresponsible manner...i.e., they surprised people. We all know we are being watched, just don't remind us of it.
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/

Friday, December 7, 2007

Who is Clicking on Your Banners...
Probably a middle-aged, sweepstakes-loving, Midwestern woman who likes junk mail and the Packers


Advertising is the bread and butter of the web, yet most of my friends claim that they never click on ads, typically using a peacock tone that signals their pride in being ad-averse. The geekier amongst them go out of their way to run Mozilla scripts to scrape ads away, bemoaning the presence of consumer culture. Yet, companies increasingly rely on ad revenue to turn a profit and, while clicking on ads may be declining, it certainly hasn't gone away. This raises a critical question: Who are the people that click on ads? >>Full Story

Thoughts// Okay, so maybe they are not all Green Bay Packers fans. But according to some recent data from AOL they are probably middle-aged women from the Midwest. This story, which highlights those findings, asks the question how and why social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook rely so heavily on this type of advertising for revenue. And, since we all seem to 'hate' ads, who actually does click these ads?

While this conversation is very interesting on its own, it does lead nicely into another conversation I have been having internally over the past few weeks...what type of measurement stats should we be monitoring? If the majority of the clicks are coming from one, single demo, how valuable are those clicks? If the clicks don't lead to a conversion, should you value those clicks the same as ones that do?

To steal a quote from the article 'the ad world is obsessed with clicks because they can measure those.'

As more and more reasons mount to move away from the page view statistic (see online video, AJAX) and as this trend begins to come into the mainstream (see Nielsen/NetRatings dropping the page view stat in favor of time spent) we as marketers need to begin looking at different metrics to help measure the effectiveness of our campaigns.

Tangible statistics or, as Mo's team at Travel Oregon likes to say, engagement statistics such as (for a DMO) guides / brochures ordered, time spent on pages, time spent on key pages, search terms, downloads, email database sign-ups, blog stats or account-based pages used in conjunction with visitors and unique visitor metrics can begin to reveal a more realistic picture of who and what your website consumers actually are and what they are doing.

With that kind of information and data, you can actually start advertising and marketing to your target audience rather than everyone.

Travel Trends - Delta, Sweden, Ad Agencies, TripIt



Planeguage from Delta - Delta and Delta.com, who have been rapidly adopting to some of the latest interactive trends since emerging from bankrupcy, (see Delta SiteSeer Challenge, Delta SiteSeer Video and Under the Wing) have just launched a series of short, animated videos titled 'Planeguage.' The videos put a humorous spin on some of the most common challenges/hassles of airline travel. You can view the first video above or, if reading via email/rss, view the video online.

Personally, I think the videos are fantastic, from the intro music to the characters to the stories, and the spots appear to be a great way to create a viral marketing campaign around the new Delta brand. Notice that the videos are already on YouTube, and in the case of the one above, have been viewed 10,000+ times. While the videos themselves are entertaining, it will be interesting to see if consumer response is 'that is creative and fun' or 'so they are telling me they have no room on there planes.' Communicating with consumers online, what a tricky endeavor.
http://blog.delta.com/

Community of Sweden
- Always under the radar, those Swedes have been busy. Visit Sweden has just introduced what it is calling the 'Community of Sweden', the ' the official online community for Sweden,' where visitors can 'share and enjoy photos, travel stories tips and more from friends in Sweden and all over the world.' Think of it as it MySpace for people who love traveling to Sweden. As numerous DMOs begin to experiment in the UGC / Social Networking space, look for more of these communities to begin appearing. Hands down, the best feature of the site is the fantastic flash map / update tool on the homepage. Great execution on the map.
http://communityofsweden.com

Forrester: Web Shops Not Ready to Lead
- During the recent HSMAI Internet Marketing Strategy Conference, which I attended last Monday, one of the topics brought up by the attendees was what the ad agency of the future looks like. The popular answer was that the ad agency of the future has a deeper understanding of the interactive world with a solid background of 'traditional' advertising. While several interactive / online agencies are getting closer to this ideal situation, it would appear...according to this report...that we still have a while to go.
http://www.adweek.com/

TripIt Is In Sync With You - Semantic Web here we come. Travel planning service TripIt...introduced to the blog a few months ago...has launched a new service that will automatically sync your travel plans with your calendar such as Office, iCal, Google, etc. So, no more manually entering your travel dates into the calendar, TripIt does it for you. Just as a refresher, the 'hook' of TripIt is that you can forward your confirmation email to the service, which will automatically create a complete trip itinerary for you. Convenient.
http://www.tripit.com/

New Mexico Ad Campaign Poll - Results

Thank you to everyone who participated in our New Mexico Ad Campaign Poll, which asked the members of this blog to voice their opinion on the recent story about the New Mexico 'alien' ad campaign.

If you missed any of the posts you can read them here: New Mexico Ad Campaign Posts

Now for the results:

Does the New Mexico Ad Campaign effectively promote the state?

Yes - 5 (26%)
Yes, but it could have a stronger New Mexico focus - 4 (21%)
No - 0 (0%)
No, but it does stand out from other ads - 10 (52%)

It would appear that we all agree that the ads stood out from the typical travel marketing message, but the group is split (9/10) on whether or not the campaign effectively promoted the state.


It looks like we will just have to wait for the results of the campaign to pass a final judgment on it's success...like the rest of the travel industry in New Mexico.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Putting the 'I' in Viral Makes Web Ads Infectious

Go munk, elf or scrooge yourself; everyone else is. Viral campaigns that ask consumers to add their own picture or voice to a person or animal have yielded substantial results for brands like OfficeMax, Purina and Careerbuilder. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Not totally travel related but a recent article in BrandWeek recently examined the popularity of ads that compel consumers to add their photos or voices into campaigns. Apparently we're all egotistical because these campaigns are extremely popular! Consider:

  • Burger King's "Simpsonize Me" has generated over 77 million page views and 40 million photos have been "Simpsonized"
  • 9.5 million elves bearing faces have been created on OfficeMax.com (ok, I'll admit I created mine just for this blog!)
  • 1 million "doggie emails" have been created on Purina.com

While these campaigns are definitely fun and create good buzz for your brand, I am wondering if there are conversion studies that gauge how they impact the bottom line? For example, I was a huge fan of the "Snakes on Plane" promotion where your friends get a personalized (pre-recorded) phone call from Samuel L. Jackson...however, I never saw (nor do I intend to see) the movie.

Score One for Consumers....

Under mounting pressure from its community and various consumer privacy groups, Facebook has moved to scale back its ambitious plans to publish accounts of its user’s purchases and other commercial actions publicly to their various friend groups. As of late Thursday, Facebook users must now proactively consent to alert friends whenever they take various actions, such a renting a DVD or purchasing a pair of sneakers. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Would you like your social network of friends alerted about every recipe you've saved on Epicurious.com, every flight you've booked on Travelocity or every movie purchase on Fandango? Facebook's controversial new ad platform "Beacon" was supposed to do just that...essentially telling your friends about your "vote of confidence" for these brands; and yes, these brands have a partnership with Facebook.

Sound big brother to you? More than 50,000 Facebook users did. In the face of a flurry of protests by both users and privacy groups, Facebook has scaled back the program. Users now have to explicitly give permission (opt in) before their purchases are announced to the world.

I suppose we could forgive Facebook for this misstep. In the midst of a meteoric growth in terms of users, third party applications and not to mention it's "media darling" status, perhaps Facebook forgot the carnal rule of digital marketing...it's PERMISSION based!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Travel Trends - My Location, Talking Outdoor


When Outdoor Talks Back - A great post from MediaPost's Mobile Insider blog talks about a deal between outdoor giant Clear Channel and Bluetooth content provider Qwikker that will allow thousands of outdoor ads to talk to your phone. Basically, if you and your Bluetooth enabled phone come close enough to a certain ad, say a subway transit board, a signal will be sent from the board to your phone, asking you to interact with the ad...perhaps via a download or message (similar to the popular RFID ads used by Mini earlier this year, pictured). But before your start avoiding bus shelters and subways, remember that this type of technology will be (more than likely) permission based. Now that is an interactive ad.
http://blogs.mediapost.com/

Google Maps Launches My Location - Earlier this month, Google Maps...who are slowing mapping everyone and everything...launched another product offering called My Location. My Location will allow cell phone users, with or without a GPS-enabled phone, to see a real-time representation of their location on a (Google) map. Sounds good, might be interesting. But the real benefit for Google is the integrated advertising opportunity that this technology creates.

Let's say you use Google for mobile search (or online search) and they know you have searched for a pizza restaurant in Scottsdale. So, the next time you are physically near that pizza restaurant, Google sends you a text message coupon for that restaurant. Or if you are near a certain store, Target for example, Google can send you an ad or message relating to that store.

Considering the shear amount of usable data gathered by both providers and application creators (such as this one) as well as its wide-spread use, this type of mobile advertising could create some extremely targeted advertising opportunities for marketers.
http://www.google.com/mobile/

I Never Thought I Would Say It, But I Can't Read This Ad


As I was reading a few online news sites the other day, I came across this ad for the Italian Government Tourism Board.

Thoughts// While the creative execution is fine...what troubled me was the size of the text at the bottom of the ad. I can't read it...and I am 27 with good eyesight. Granted, I run my monitor at a 1280 x 800 resolution (that means my text is tiny), I would still think that the majority of people have a tough time reading this ad. Let alone if they actually wanted to read the text.

So, the lesson here is to think about the monitor size of users viewing your ads. Not everyone is using the same screen size as you or your designer.

There you go, I never thought I would say it, but...I can't read that ad.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

You Never Would Have Seen This Without The Internet



I try not to clutter up the Interactive Trend Report with too many of those 'amazing' videos floating around the internet (the kind you get from your Uncle or roommate), but every once and while a video will catch my eye.

From our friends at Upgrade: Travel Better, check out this amazing video (see above or follow this link if you are reading this post via email) of a passenger train in Bangkok street market. Not only is the video amazing (be sure to watch the whole clip), but it also serves as another example of how our world is becoming smaller due to technology.

Prior to YouTube and other video sharing sites, most of us would probably never have seen, heard or read the countless videos, pictures and stories now available online...unless we were to travel there ourselves.

23 Actionable Lessons from Eye-Tracking Studies

Eye-tracking studies are hot in the web design world, but it can be hard to figure out how to translate the results of these studies into real design implementations. These are a few tips from eye-tracking studies that you can use to improve the design of your webpage. >>Full Story

Thoughts// A great post from the blog virtualhosting.com containing several tips and observations from a variety of eye-tracking studies. Of course, every site is unique, so make sure to conduct your own website research rather than relying exclusively on others. But, it never hurts to read about what others have found out...

Some of my favorite tips (click 'Full Story' to read them all):

1. Text attracts attention before graphics.

4. Readers ignore banners.

7. Type size influences viewing behavior.

10. Shorter paragraphs perform better than long ones.

15. Bigger images get more attention.

16. Clean, clear faces in images attract more eye fixation.

18. Users spend a lot of time looking at buttons and menus.

19. Lists hold reader attention longer (like this one, see it works!).

20. Large blocks of text are avoided.

22. White space is good.

User Reaction To The New Mexico Ad Campaign

Ah, the benefits of connectivity, anyone can say (almost) anything they like instantly. The current story about the New Mexico ad campaign provides an interesting real-time look into consumer reaction and the internet. Here are just a few of the responses from a variety of websites covering the New Mexico ad campaign story:

--

Who says boomers would not like aliens? I'm a boomer's mom, and I LIKE ALIENS!

--

A few aliens on the train will not keep me from enjoying the ride on the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad. That is truely beautiful country!

--

The complaining tourism officials are full of themselves, taking themselves far too seriously. It is I, a baby boomer, that understand what this campaign is all about. I would guess the younger, hipper crowd might never have heard of Roswell and the UFOs.

What do you think happened to some Volkswagen executives when the "Think small" campaign began? "We do not want to point out we are small," they probably said. They too would have been full of themselves.

--

Personally, I had plans to go to Roswell do the space aliens thing, head over to the Trinity site and see some other "out of this world" stuff in NM. Damn those marketing gurus...they may have ruined my plans to see these sites without the crowds.

For those who feel offended, grow thicker skin there are better things to get offended over. Now on the other hand...if you are a space alien and plan to visit NM or already live there, please try and coordinate with my trip the and please, I beg of you, shed your human form or some how make your presence known. I would appreciate it.

--

They (NM) are getting more bang for their buck with this campaign....simply because of this controversy. The whole idea behind advertising is gaining attention and exposure from your audience. I would say that this campaign has succeeded at reaching that objective.

Besides, we already know about "picturesque desert landscapes, art galleries or centuries-old culture"...tell us something we don't already know that isn't boring. Dare to be Bold!

--

it's sad when you can't laugh at yourself. the ads are great. if i avoid NM it will be becuase of people like Ken Mompellier.

--

If I didnt know New Mexico so well, I sure wouldnt visit it now. They have monsters, but the Gila ones, not outer space junk

--

I saw the ads on youtube and frankly speaking; they are quite clever and conveys a sense of humor. Come on folks, lighten up!!!!

--

Okay, are we trying to bring tourists to the state of New Mexico or to the city of Roswell? We really should be promoting the positive things about the state. Pueblos, Beautiful mountains, glorious sunrises and sunsets. Aliens??? Get real, what an embarassment.

--

This whole nonsense of aliens is stupid! New Mexico has so much more going for it than little green men. You are making our state a laughing stock!

--

Highlights of some of the comments generated by the recent AP story on New Mexico's ad campaign. Comments are from the USA Today, KOB.com (New Mexico) and the Albuquerque Tribune.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Poll: New Mexico's Out of this World Ad Campaign


What do you think about New Mexico's 'the best place in the Universe' ad campaign? Great, terrible, genius? Since everyone seems to be talking about it, a quick, informal poll seemed in order:

Vote in the New Mexico Ad Campaign Poll
(Currently on the blog? Vote on the homepage. Votes are anonymous.)

Thoughts// In case you missed the story, New Mexico has launched a new ad campaign featuring aliens discussing a vacation to the state. However, according to an article released by the AP, some constituents in the land of enchantment are not so enchanted by the campaign, although it has won awards and praise from the advertising community.

While your opinion may differ on the execution of the creative, the PR value that the story has generated online cannot be overlooked.

Currently, Google News cities 119 websites, newspapers and TV stations covering the story online. It was posted as one of the top 6 stories on the Yahoo! homepage yesterday afternoon, had 93 people recommend the story, 206 people email the story (the photo of the print ad alone has been emailed 149 times on Tuesday...as of 10:00am) and is the most popular story in the Yahoo! News Travel section. Several blogs have posted the story and I am sure (if you are like me) someone emailed you the article yesterday. In my case, 7 times.

While most of this PR does (unfortunately) have a negative tone, it begs the question, is any PR good PR? When was the last time we saw a story about a state tourism campaign generate this much news?

And just as a side note, this from a USA Today reader on the campaign:

Would you rather have Arnold and Maria walking the beach telling you to come to "Cal-E-fornia?"

Good point.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mac vs. PC Goes Online



Since most of us are still recovering from leftovers, a short, fun ad example seemed in order today. (click the 'play' button above to view the ad)

Thoughts// Our friends over at TechCrunch posted this Apple ad a few days ago that continues the extremely popular Mac vs. PC campaign online. What really stands out here is the execution. While this is not travel-related ad, everyone can benefit from this near perfect use of website layout and design. A little extra planning goes a long way.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Travel Trends - Eygpt, Google Gas, Eye-Fi, Thanksgiving Blogging


Eygpt and Google Earth - The Egyptian Tourism office teamed up with Google Earth to provide a new layer on the popular 3D mapping program that allows visitors to view the countries famous landmarks from above. In this case the Egyptian Tourism office went on step beyond simply adding a point on the map by creating 3D models of famous landmarks such as the Giza plateau and the Temple of Ramses II.
http://www.earth.egypt.travel/

Eye-Fi - The new eye-fi memory card puts consumers one step closer to truly instant photos. The new memory card, which contains a (very) small wireless chip, allows users to take photos with a digital camera and select the folder or website they would to download to. Then, when the camera comes in range of the user's home network, the memory card automatically downloads the photos. No cables, no clicking. We are not too far away from a completely wireless world where your photos, regardless of your location, will be transmitted instantly to a computer or website for your entire family to see...and you don't even have to visit them.
http://www.eye.fi/


Google Gas Pumps
- Men are no longer lost. (Yes, an old joke, but hey, it works) Google announced earlier this month that it is partnering with pump manufacturer Gilbarco Veeder-Root to develop a gas pump complete with internet connection and access to Google's Maps offering (see photo above). To quote the article, 'Motorists will be able to scroll through several categories to find local landmarks, hotels, restaurants and hospitals selected by the gas station's owner.' Finally, no more asking for directions.
http://www.google.com

Thanksgiving Day Blogging - Nope, not at the mall or your local Best Buy, but at the airport. Travelocity's blog, the Window Seat, sent 10 bloggers to airports around the nation on Tuesday and Wednesday to monitor and report on the holiday traffic. The bloggers were stationed at several famously busy airports like LAX, Denver and Chicago. A good and helpful idea, but why pay your team to do the work when you can get Joe Traveler to do it for you? The Traveler Update section from Orbitz was busy over the Thanksgiving holiday as well, with more than 100 tips posted for Chicago O'Hare International Airport alone last Wednesday.
http://windowseat.travelocity.com/

You've Got Mail 2.0


Ignore Orkut, OpenSocial, Yahoo Mash and Yahoo 360. Google and Yahoo have come up with new and very similar plans to respond to the challenge from MySpace and Facebook: They hope to turn their e-mail systems and personalized home page services (iGoogle and MyYahoo) into social networks.

Web-based e-mail systems already contain much of what Facebook calls the social graph — the connections between people. That’s why the social networks offer to import the e-mail address books of new users to jump-start their list of friends. Yahoo and Google realize that they have this information and can use it to build their own services that connect people to their contacts. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Saul Hansell at the New York Times gave readers a glimpse into some potentially big plans for internet giants Yahoo! and Google via the Bits blog. While the story is quite in-depth and a good summary of what these two companies might be planning, the subtle hint for any email marketer comes in this line from Yahoo!'s Brad Garlinghouse:

First, the e-mail service is made more personal because it displays messages more prominently from people who are more important to you. Yahoo is testing a method that can automatically determine the strength of your relationship to someone by how often you exchange e-mail and instant messages with him or her.

Makes sense, I would rather see the emails from my family and friends before emails from HP or AT&T. And there is the problem for marketers...displays messages more prominently from people who are more important to you...read, your email about a fare sale on airline X is going to be visually less important than an email from Aunt Ruth.

Granted, this type of program is not going to happen overnight...no need to start canceling your email campaigns...but as a good marketer it is something you should be thinking of. And more importantly, start thinking about how you are communicating with your email database currently. Is your database a loyal collection of consumers who want and enjoy your emails or is it a huge list of names that you blast correspondence to every once and a while?

Engage your email database and create a relationship with them. So that your email is not discarded to the bottom of the pile.

Is Social Media Killing the Campaign Microsite?


Digital advocates often proclaim the imminent death of the 30-second spot, but the interactive industry might now be witnessing the demise of its own version of the commercial: the campaign microsite.

The growth of social media is causing marketers to realize they cannot expect consumers to always seek them out. Web widgets and video-sharing tools make it easy for any user to take content that formerly might have lived only on a brand site with them wherever they go. And social media sites help them share that content with friends. >>Full Story

Thoughts// A pretty good and comprehensive article from AdWeek discussing some recent examples of social media in ad campaigns. While the article talks about how the 'microsite' may be on the way out, the more important lesson from this discussion is the distribution of content beyond a traditional, branded website (Haven't Mo and I been saying that for a while?).

Two great lines from the article:

"We really believe in fishing where the fish are," said Carol Kruse, vp of global interactive marketing at Coca-Cola.

The idea is to spread content far and wide to find audiences wherever they are.

Sounds easy. However, in visiting the aforementioned 'Sprite Sips' page on Facebook (pictured above) you will see that Mr. Sips only has 176 fans (as of 11/18) and many of the message board posts (or 'wall' for you Facebook fans) are not exactly positive...such as 'this sucks' and 'yeah, this sucks.'

The great marketing opportunities of social networking also bring great challenges as well.

Regardless of the vehicle...microsite or social networking site...marketers still have to give the audience something of value in return for there attention. Otherwise that boring content on your site simply becomes boring content on another site.

Travel Trends - Dirty Glasses, Newspapers, AT&T, VibeAgent, PhoCusWright

Have you heard about the dirty glasses? - Behold the speed of the internet when bad or in this case, disgusting, news is broken. MyFoxAtlanta, the local Atlanta FOX network, broke a story on 11/6 about those drinking glasses in hotel rooms and how infrequently they are cleaned. The story quickly spread to sites such as the Consumerist and others. Plus, (as of 11/18) perform a Google search for 'dirty glasses' and take a look at all of the posts related to this story. News travels faster on the internet.
http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/

Newspaper Readership Dropping, Internet Consumers Rising
- Some interesting stats on newspaper vs. internet readership. (Thanks Beth) The stories came from the New York Times and Reuters. Some of the highlights:

  • According to the survey of 2,062 adults, 79 percent, or about 178 million, spend "an average 11 hours a week on the Internet.”
  • In 2000, 57% of adults said they were online. By 2006, the total was 77 percent.
  • Newspaper Web sites are drawing more young adults than traditional newspapers.
  • Advertisers do not consider an online reader as valuable as a print reader.
  • More adults are spending more time online with 72% saying they spend more time online at home, and 37% saying they spend more time online at work.
  • Nine percent of those that use the Internet are now 65 years of age or older.

AT&T Follow-up: A follow-up story from AdWeek also discusses the recent AT&T 'Where do you live' campaign and it's interactive components. If you recall, we talked about this campaign last week in a post titled 'I Work In Phodalona.' While the article hints (for some unknown reason) that the campaign's purpose is to sell t-shirts, rather than build loyal AT&T customers, it is still a good read and follow-up to our post.
http://www.adweek.com

VibeAgent Launches - Apparently the biggest news from the The PhoCusWright Conference was that TripAdvisor competitor (or at least that is who pundits are comparing against) VibeAgent has come out of private beta and is now available for regular consumers. As a refresher, VibeAgent is a hotel search / booking engine site where members can receive recommendations from friends. See our previous post on VibeAgent for more info.
http://www.vibeagent.com/

Highlights From PhoCusWright - The team at Travolution has posted several entries about the recent PhoCusWright Conference in Orlando. Here are some highlights and interesting facts:

  • "Travel experiences" are infinite but "travel destinations" are finite.
  • TripAdvisor is slowly shifting its model from that of a mass review website to one which incorporates social networking.
  • 80% of all hotels listed on TripAdvisor are viewed every single day.
  • Johnson & Johnson's corporate travel budget totals $915 million a year - but only $272 million is spent on flights and hotels. The rest is on "Long Tail" products such as car hire, ancillaries, taxis.
  • 64% of online business travelers bought an event ticket during their trip.
  • "Social networks give everybody a shot a celebrity..." - Jeffery Boyd of Priceline

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Case Study: How The Georgia Aquarium Leveraged Flickr


John Hallet from Hyku (we saw him speak at ESTO) recently wrote an interesting case study blog about how a destination can harness the power of existing social networks. In an effort to showcase the stories and photos of its visitors, the The Georgia Aquarium recently e-mailed select Flickr users (those with awesome photos already on Flickr) and invited them to join the aquarium's Flickr group. These "evangelists" were then asked to submit their favorite photos for inclusion in an interactive map that showcases visitor photos along with stories. >>Full Story

Thoughts// I love this story because of the sheer brilliance of the idea and the simplicity of its execution. Amateur photographers and everyday photo lovers are already congregating and "showing off" their photos on Flickr; so why create an elaborate closed system only available to the small percentage of folks who visit your website versus tapping into the amorphous social media landscape? The aquarium cleverly decided to tap into existing resources on Flickr and leverage both the content and Flickr's public API to create a very compelling piece of content that will no doubt boost their brand cache for months, maybe years to come.

Whether it's photos on Flickr, videos on YouTube or personalities on Facebook, consumers are already hanging out in social networks and talking to one another. A brand that is willing to "let go" and jump into the right conversation, at the right time, and for the right reason, will no doubt earn the most trust in the eyes of the consumer.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Tracking Your Social Media & Blogosphere Presence - Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two part response to a question posed by folks from the Wyoming Tourism Office on how to analyze a destination's social media presence. To read Part 1, click here

Our philosophy at Travel Oregon is similar to that of AOT. We strongly believe that social media provides a level of authenticity and allows us as the "brand owners" to build a deeper relationship with consumers. And so with this in mind, whether soliciting user-generated content for our website, soliciting feedback on a blog posting, or asking our audience to upload and vote on their favorite Oregon vacation videos or just joining in on the conversations taking place on TripAdvisor and the blogs, “engagement” has increasingly become the cornerstone of our online strategy.

Thoughts// Some of the things we've done over the past 12 months or so includes starting an Oregon vacation blog that bring consumers authentic vacation stories from Oregon; starting our own social network GoSeeOregon.com that allows Oregon "fans" to talk to each other and make recommendations about where to go and what to do; we've also engaged via existing social networks/CGM sites such as YouTube, Flickr, TripAdvisor and Frommer's.

What we've learned at Travel Oregon
To echo AOT again, this level of engagement is a long term process and your objectives and measurement tactics will evolve over time. While there are plenty of tools (see Troy's post) out there that measure what the blogosphere and other UGC sites are saying, from a destination perspective, the sheer volume of content can be overwhelming.

Online reputation management and tracking conversations from our point of view is a multi-disciplinary PR-Interactive effort that's managemed by both myself and my counterpart Media Relations manager. It's a task that involves meticulous management of keywords to track your destination (incidently, these keywords are pretty much the same ones you use to track your "old world" PR), authentic responses and most importantly transparency about who you are and what you do. Some other "do's and don't" from our experience in the social space includes:

Keep it real: As marketers and communicators, our first inclination is to “control the message” --- with social media, consumers expect “authenticity”…we need to resist the temptation to “edit” consumer comments (barring inappropriate, racist content) or “polishing” content so that it is on par with your flagship site.

Honest: Don’t delete negative reviews! Never, never, never delete them….our philosophy is that every negative review/experience is an opportunity to ENGAGE with a consumers and gleam new perspectives for ourselves and partners.

Fresh Perspective: Use your blog to publish a wide breadth and depth of stories…use a variety of people to do it…such as professionals (staff), partners (CVB members), fans (hard core consumers who love Oregon), opinion leaders (experts such as ski instructors or workers in the industry) and other locals.

ROI? Some Results from Oregon (snap shot only)

Of course every Marketing Director wants ROI! So just for curiosity sake, after about 6 months of "joining in on the conversation" (6 month blogging and 3 months of GoSeeOregon), we used a local e-marketing agency to measure ourselves against a few other states (California, Florida, Pennsylvania) who we thought had sophisticated social media initiatives (sorry Troy, no AZ on this because I think this was done in the pre-Troy period).

We examined both blog aggregators (Technorati, IceRocket, Sphere etc.) and social media sharing sites such as del.icio.us and YahooMyWeb to examine how our content was getting used and how bloggers were linking to our site/content. Here are the results...please contact me personally if you want more detail on this analysis.


The results of this analysis are charted above (I apologize in advance for the resolution). Keep in mind that this is just a snapshot in time for the duration of a few weeks and these data points have no way of implying long term success/failure. Our learnings were:
  • Travel Oregon is doing very well in the Blogosphere, with a much higher average of inbound links from blogs than the other states selected for the analysis. Part of our success is the fact that we have a blog to promote in the blog arena and we've slowly assembled a core group of fans consuming our feeds
  • While there is a decent amount of promotion in the social space for Travel Oregon, we've yet to tap the full potential here; we're addressing this by increasing the number of sharing tools available on our site and also increasing our levels of engagement on other social sites
Finally, consider this "I heart Zippoesque" Oregon story; this one however is not so positive! From Search Engine Guide:

A member of the Bend Moms Club brought her newborn to Balthazar´s, a local Mexican restaurant. Balthazar´s does not keep highchairs on the premises, ostensibly to discourage parents from bringing children. For many reasons, the woman felt mistreated during her dining experience and wrote a complaint to the owner. The owner called the woman and the conversation ended with the owner yelling obscenities at her over the phone. The woman emailed her experiences to all the members of the Bend Moms Club…one of whom included the email with commentary on her Moms Club Blog. Needless to say, this story was picked up by the blogosphere and then eventually picked up by the Bend Bulletin and the Oregonian ! //Read the full story

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tracking Your Social Media & Blogosphere Presence - Part 1

Recently, Alan Dubberley from the Wyoming Travel & Tourism office contacted the NCSTD Marketing/Advertising list with a question all of us in the travel marketing realm are grappling with. "How do you manage your "social media reputation?"

When reputable people speak up, it should count for more than when a stranger does, correct? That's the way it works in the real world. But how does it work online and how do you as a destination marketer "get in" on the conversation.

This post is a two part response. Our first part consists of a direct response to Alan (and the entire NCSTD) from Troy. Part 2 (tomorrow) will present a real world case study as performed by Travel Oregon and our thoughts on the subject.

Thoughts// (from Troy) A social media strategy really starts with determining an organizations perspective on the medium. Is it participatory or isolated? By participatory, do you (not just Alan, but anyone) believe that your content, regardless of where it is viewed, is still valuable to the consumer and in turn, the consumer will view you as the creator of the content? Or do you feel that your content should only be viewed on your specific site? Do you have an open outlook or a closed one?

For example, would you view providing content about your state to a site such as TripAdvisor as a benefit?

At AOT we have taken the proactive, participatory approach to social media / networking and are reaching out to several social networking sites to portray ourselves as a reliable, expert contributor. I would be happy to discuss this in more detail, if anyone is interested.

As far as managing your social media reputation, luckily, I have not run into too many high-profile, Arizona-related cases involving social media where it was necessary to become involved. There are poor reviews of properties or a bad vacation story here or there, but nothing to the magnitude of a front page story.

What resources have you dedicated to this effort?
At this point, really just time. I try to carve out a few hours a week to either research or contribute to social networking sites.

Are you staffing this effort internally or using a vendor?
Internally, but again, it is really a contribution model right now, rather than a blog/social media monitoring service. Since the majority of the content we are contributing is in the same tone and style as the rest of our advertising, it would be difficult to depend upon an outside organization to represent us to the public. Additionally, in the social media world it is much more beneficial and wise to be as authentic as possible...rather than say you are one company, when have really just been hired by that company.

What specific sources (i.e. websites, blog sites) are you monitoring to manage your social media reputation?
Google Alerts, Google Blog Search, Yahoo!, Technorati, Digg, del.icio.us, sphere and Blogdigger.

What have you learned from this effort so far? Tips?

Unfortunately, like a lot of interactive marketing, social media strategy takes time. However, there are a lot of free tools available that will give you a good snapshot of what is being said online about your brand or, in this case, your destination.

Take Google Alerts for example. A very simple, and again free service, that allows you to subscribe via RSS or email to the latest news and blog posts containing certain keywords. So, you could create a Google Alert for the words 'arizona', 'tucson' and 'phoenix' and receive a pretty good look at what is being written about each subject. Of course, those are pretty broad topics, so you will receive a lot of unrelated information.

Also think about the positive effects of a blog search. Rather than using these tools to just find any and all negative press written about your destination, take a moment to find those people who are writing positive reviews or entire blogs about how wonderful your state is. Then, contact them, thank them, send them free souvenirs, ask them to write more. Starting a long-term relationship with a strong, vocal and positive consumer could multiply the positive press that they are already giving you…not to mention begin to offset any small amount of negative comments. Take the ‘I Heart Zappos’ case as an example.

Additionally, begin to explore the sites where your customers are discussing your destination. TripAdvisor alone has thousands of users and most of them are asking simple questions that you could answer right now. On top of that, a lot of them are discussing your destination...what they want, when they are going, why they are going and what they like...all you have to do is listen to them. Free market research! Of course, starting to respond to hundreds of people on a message board or blog can become very time-consuming, not to mention tricky, but the benefits could greatly outweigh the risks.

Finally, I would assume that for most of us, any negative press is directed at a specific attraction or lodging establishment, rather than an entire state or city. However, if you are concerned about negative press or discussions about your destination, I would recommend looking into a service such as Umbria.

Google Unleashes "Andriod"

Hoping to spur the growth of the mobile industry as it did the Internet, Google on Monday announced the launch of a new mobile software platform aimed at opening up and simplifying the creation of applications and services for the cell phone. >>Full Story

Thoughts// I really love Google. For those of you who share my view, this is another indication that the company that used to be search engine is totally going to change the media and marketing landscape one more time. "Android" will be an open platform available on devices from more than 30 mobile operators and handset manufacturers including Sprint, T-Mobile and Motorola. The platform will include a browser that delivers an "PC like" experience with capabalities for online audio and video, gaming and social networking; most importantly however, the platform will be open to third-party developers to build applications. So there are three things to consider as you build a long term digital "Google" strategy:

  1. Google's announcement of OpenSocial last week that allows for portable applications across social networks.
  2. Android allows the development of common mobile apps across networks
  3. Google search data + behavioral targeting via OpenSocial + Android aps = Ultimate, integrated, targeted campaign across platforms!
See...you'll love Google too!


Monday, November 5, 2007

So Many Ads, So Few Clicks

Can more targeted pitches on Facebook and other sites reverse the shrinking response to online ads? The truth about online ads is that precious few people actually click on them. And the percentage of people who respond to common "banner ads," the ubiquitous interactive posters that run in fixed places on sites, is shrinking steadily. The so-called click-through rate for those ads on major Web destinations such as Yahoo! (YHOO ), Microsoft (MSFT ), and AOL (TWX ) declined from 0.75% to 0.27% during 2006, according to Eyeblaster, a New York-based online ad serving and monitoring firm.

Thoughts// A compelling but not so surprising article from Business Week about the realities of online advertising, and frankly any mass advertising program. The article chronicles the decline of click through rates of general "mass" banners ads through the story of an online parcel delivery service and their efforts to reach out to the "me 2.0" generation of Facebook users which received a woeful 0.04% click through rate.