What am I doing here? Why I write.

Sheila Scarborough at BlogHer 2007 (courtesy Elizabeth from Table4Five at Flickr CC)
Taking notes at BlogHer 2007 conference (courtesy Elizabeth from Table4Five at Flickr CC)

A fun blog theme/blog tour request came in from a friend in Australia – a reminder of blogging’s younger days before people started turning off comments and worrying quite so much about where they showed up in Facebook’s News Feed.

Des Walsh, a business coach and LinkedIn expert, tagged me as someone he’d like to hear from on the topic of writing, specifically why I write, so here are some quick thoughts to fold into the theme that was originally started by Susan Foster.

1)  I’ve always been a writer, probably because I’ve always been a reader.

Even as a young person I’d write stories, and even experimented with a sort of graphic novel (I distinctly remember drawing lots of hoop-skirted women during a Jane Eyre phase.)

My parents and teachers encouraged me, and only lightly edited my voice….first person suits me, like that’s any surprise, right? :)

2)  I wrote a lot even in the Navy. During my seagoing career, there were always reports to write, official message traffic, performance reviews, award citations, instruction manuals.

Performance reviews and award citations were always fun to write for top performers; I could make the words sing and people usually didn’t expect recognition, so that made it even more gratifying. One Commanding Officer used to ask me to edit this or that write-up with my “Golden Pen.” I still do something similar today – LinkedIn recommendations!

It was much more painful to write about people who were not doing so well, but that happened, too.

I even tackled the impact of the web and technology on Navy culture in 2001, for the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings professional magazine – there are a lot of parallels to social media’s disruptive effect today on every industry.

3)  I write like I speak. If you hear my voice coming through my written words, it’s because there’s not much difference between the two.

When I write travel articles I have a terrible time taking my voice out of the story. I don’t try very hard to do so, I confess. My travel writer friend Pam Mandel has thoughts about first person singular, too.

4)  I love blogging because I say what I want to say, the way I want to say it. It’s that simple.

Here’s my very first blog post – I blogged on the BootsnAll travel network for almost 5 years, until I simply ran out of gas writing about family travel.

5)  I’m working on a book about entrepreneurship and social communications for women over 40. I’m procrastinating horribly because it isn’t perfect. This is very “me” as well.

I’d love to hear about why YOU write (or shoot photos or video or whatever you do that brings joy.)

Do tell, down in the comments….

(If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is on the right sidebar near the Search box. Thanks!)

Posted in Web Communications, Why Am I Here? Philosophy of this Blog | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Best times to post on social media

Time is fleeting (courtesy Stephan Geyer on Flickr CC)
Time is fleeting (courtesy Stephan Geyer on Flickr CC)

(Part of my “Better Online Content” series of posts: quick tips on creating more effective content that takes advantage of the social web’s unique publishing environment.)

There are a lot of blog posts and articles telling people about the “best” times to post content on social networks for maximum response, shares, click-throughs, or whatever it is that you are measuring to decide that your social communications are successful.

What I do not see nearly often enough is this caveat – a lot of the suggested posting times are in U.S. Eastern Standard/Daylight Time.

There are 3 problems with this:

1.  The big blue twirling planet that we’re all riding on, barreling through space, does not run on a single time zone on the U.S. eastern coast. Dare I say that many U.S. people tend to forget this, especially if they don’t travel east or west to other continents very much.

2.  The internet …. where you are trying to connect with your perfect visitor or hotel guest …. does not run on a single time zone on the U.S. eastern coast.

3.  The viewing and sharing habits of YOUR followers on Facebook, Twitter, etc. are different from those of other brands’ followers, as are the times that they are most active online.

For example, check your own Facebook Page Insights data to see what sort of posts your followers respond to the most (Overview – Engagement) and when they are online (look under Posts – When Your Fans Are Online.) That data should be the primary driver for how you craft content for Facebook – not everyone’s updates have to include a photo to do well, by the way – and when you post it.

For Twitter, you can run your profile through a tool like Followerwonk to see when your followers are active, although there’s something to be said for not shouting when it’s already noisy.

Note: all this applies to most “best times to send email” advice, too, unless your email list subscribers all reside in one place.

What are some of the best times that you’ve found to be on social media for your brand? Did your own follower/subscriber data surprise you? Let us know down in the comments.

(If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is on the right sidebar near the Search box. Thanks!)

Posted in Better Online Content series, Facebook, Twitter, Web Communications | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Social media for tour operators

Stepping out to look at bighorns with SunDog Tours near Jasper Alberta Canada (photo by Sheila Scarborough)
Stepping out to look at bighorns with SunDog Tours near Jasper, Alberta, Canada (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Some of the best advice we’ve gotten from the SOBCon business conference was to think about the response email that is automatically sent when someone signs up for our Tourism Currents newsletter.

Rather than the default “Thanks, you’re all set,” we were encouraged to think about crafting a more personal message, so we edited ours on MailChimp and added an invitation for new subscribers to tell us a bit about themselves.

What’s cool is that sometimes, they DO hit Reply and talk to us, and we learn what’s on our prospective customer’s mind.

We’re starting to pick up more subscribers who are group tour operators, so I thought I’d share what we sent back recently to a new tour operator based in the eastern U.S. who is just starting to think about a marketing strategy that includes social media.

Here is our advice about getting started….

“Think through your market(s) and where they are online; that’s where you will need to be.

Take a look at how other tour operators are marketing on Facebook, to start. For ideas see these:

**  USTOA (U.S. Tour Operators Association) Facebook Page (lots of photos)

**  Go Collette (they are very responsive to comments)

**  G Adventures (which tends to draw a young, adventurous crowd)

Keep in mind that Facebook has made it much harder for brand Pages to get organic (unpaid) visibility, so once you are up and running on the platform, you’ll need to budget a little money for some carefully targeted sponsored posts and to attract new followers. Start with making sure that your personal Facebook network, partner businesses, and previous customers know about your Page – their Likes don’t cost you anything.

You can also consider selling tour tickets directly from a tab on your Facebook Page; check with your current ticketing provider to see if they already have a setup, or look into one like Eventbrite.

For your own professional development and networking, you may also want to find helpful social outlets like a tour operator Group on LinkedIn; this NTA (National Tour Association) LinkedIn Group seems pretty active.

Part of your marketing process – the fun part, we think! – will be to share the comments and photos from the people who take your tours. Make it easy for tour guests to post before, during, and after your tour and make sure (with mentions by tour guides plus signage) that they know how to tag your company when they upload.

WiFi on your coaches may become a necessity for this to work unless your destinations/routes have decent smartphone data rates, or several stops have WiFi. This is especially important for international guests; they want to avoid roaming charges in the U.S. so they often will not post on social media unless they can use WiFi.

Obviously, connect with the CVBs, DMOs, Chambers of Commerce, and other tourism organizations in your target markets; many are quite social-savvy and can help you (I included links to Discover Lehigh Valley and Visit Bucks County as examples within her region.)

What other ideas would you have for a tour operator who wants to increase sales with social media marketing? Please share your thoughts down in the Comments.

(If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is on the right sidebar near the Search box. Thanks!)

Posted in Facebook, LinkedIn, Tourism Marketing on the Web, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Travel Post Friday: the closer to the ocean, the better. For the ions, you know.

Ocean view from the San Luis Resort and Conference Center Galveston Texas (photo by Sheila Scarborough)
Ocean view from the San Luis Resort and Conference Center Galveston Texas (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

If I can walk out onto a balcony, hear waves crashing and smell that salty smell, I’m a happy hotel/house guest.

Really, what else would you expect from a formerly seagoing Navy woman?

My husband Chris Fancher told me when we were dating (in the seaside town of Newport, Rhode Island) that “negative ions” from the sea act as a mood-booster. Since I was always in a good mood around him and we were often near the beach, it must be true, right?

During a recent trip to do some social media training on Galveston Island on the Texas Gulf Coast, I woke up to this view at the San Luis Resort and Conference Center. A basic oceanside hut on a beach somewhere would make me happy, too, but since it was late winter it was enough to sit on the balcony at the San Luis, wave at pelicans flying by and feel myself relax.

Combined with eating plenty of seafood – I liked Nick’s right on the seawall – it was a great chemistry experiment with the ions.

Tip: apparently you can get the same negative ions near a waterfall or even a shower, so don’t despair if you’re a long way from the ocean.

(If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is on the right sidebar near the Search box. Thanks!)

Posted in Travel Post Friday, Travel Topics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The most important feature of my new phone

I’ve been limping along on a very old smartphone for a few years (a mid-range version of Gingerbread, for you Android OS geeks) but it was finally time to go into my T-Mobile store and retire the old gal.

After reading lots of reviews and having several good models in mind, I went with an HTC One primarily because of its excellent camera.

My old phone was an HTC, and its camera was better than my point-and-shoot in low light and especially in the close-up Macro setting (I’m a big fan of finding unique photo opportunities using Macro.)

The camera software that came with the phone also had some built-in filter options that I liked better than many of Instagram’s, and there are even more with this new HTC.

Your phone is not simply a phone. It is a publishing machine.

If you are a communications professional, that phone must be able to swiftly create and transmit content – photo, video, audio, text – across multiple social media networks, even while you are “out and about,” because that’s now part of what you do for a living.

(If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is on the right sidebar near the Search box. Thanks!)

Posted in Flickr and Photos, Mobile, Video, Web Communications | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carnival of Cities for 16 March 2014

Welcome to the Carnival of Cities blog carnival, where we tour the world in a single post, via submissions from a variety of different blogs, all about any aspect of one, single city or fair-sized town.

Submissions have been rather thin lately, plus my own business workload is increasing, so we’re shifting to publishing the Carnival once a month, normally on the 3rd Wednesday of the month. The next edition will be hosted on the Perceptive Travel blog.

You do need to register on the carnival administration website (it’s easy and free) to submit to this or any blog carnival. If you would like to host a future Carnival edition on your blog, please contact me as the Carnival organizer:  Sheila “at” sheilascarborough “dot” com.

Here’s more info and background about the Carnival of Cities blog carnival, and now….

Off we go!

Cities in the Americas

St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada   Lisa Walters confesses that this is The one where I gush about St. John’s, Newfoundland and tell you about a talented singer. posted at DAMSEL IN A DRESS, saying, “What life is like on the most eastern point of North America.”

Dearborn, Michigan, USA   Dominique King shares her Favorites at The Henry Ford posted at Midwest Guest, saying, “Some of our favorite treasures at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan include the Rosa Parks bus, a 1952-vintage Wienermobile and Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxion House.”

San Francisco, California, USA   I discovered Cheap but good food at a San Francisco mall food court posted at Perceptive Travel Blog, saying, “One of the best places for a quick, tasty lunch near Union Square is….a mall.”

San José, Costa Rica   Zhu photographes the People of San José posted at Correr Es Mi Destino, explaining, “San José is a city of contrast. On one hand, you have small sodas sell­ing basic set lunches of rice, beans and chicken, and on the other hand you have a plethora of for­eign fast foods such as Quiznos, Sub­way, KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Carls Jr. and McDonalds.”

Venice, California, USA   Stacey Daprile explores A Manhattan in Venice posted at Positively Stacey – Blog.

Cities in Europe

Ashorne, Warwickshire, United Kingdom    Chris writes about his farming experiences in Mill Farm Ashorne Blog #1 posted at Farmers Review You’re never alone, saying, “With a larger acreage to consider, we wanted to cut our dependency on contractors for things like haymaking so decided to invest in our own kit. It seemed that the best way to justify the equipment was to buy bigger and use the extra capacity to help neighbours / local farms.”

Sochi, Russia   Mollie Mandell shows us around Sochi: Russia’s Sub-tropical Olympic City posted at unique family traveler, saying, “With the Winter Olympics just around the corner, I thought this timely article would be of interest to your readers.” [My apologies that I couldn't post this earlier.]

Istanbul, Turkey   Lisa Goodgame demonstrates techniques for Taming the ‘Bul (especially phone service) posted at Eating and Wandering.

That concludes this edition, and thanks very much for visiting and supporting the Carnival.

Please submit your (ONE, non-spammy, recent) blog post – once you’ve registered – to the next edition of the Carnival of Cities using our carnival submission form.  Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

(If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is on the right sidebar near the Search box. Thanks!)

Posted in Blogs, Carnival of Cities blog carnival, Travel Topics | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

4 tips to improve your CVB or DMO LinkedIn Company Page

Fredericksburg TX CVB LinkedIn Company Page highlights screenshot
Why the Fredericksburg, Texas CVB LinkedIn Company Page rocks!

It is your organization’s public storefront on the oldest and biggest social network for business, with over 277 million people in 200+ countries.

It’s a LinkedIn Company Page, and too many of them are sad, pathetic, ignored bits of online real estate.

In tourism and hospitality, marketers fall all over themselves to build up Facebook Pages, but its B2B and sales equivalent – the LinkedIn Company Page – is usually ignored. This is a major missed opportunity; meeting and event planners are quite active on social media including LinkedIn.

Fortunately, there is a sea change afoot as more and more CVBs (Convention and Visitors Bureaus,) DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations, ) hotels and others in the tourism and hospitality industries wake up to the extraordinary networking opportunities in social media for their B2B and convention sales teams.

If you’re ready to spiff up that Company Page storefront, take care of these basics:

1)  Add a nice big banner photo to your Page, plus use photos and video on each of your Products and Services sub-tabs. You could have one general video on the front page, then a different video AND photo for each of your products or services.

2)  Write a compelling business/organization description rather than leave the default one in place. Keep in mind that your text’s keywords will help your SEO (Search Engine Optimization.)

3)  Fill out your Products & Services sub-tabs. What do you offer as a DMO? How about meeting services? Destination weddings? Group tour services? A convention center? Each of these could be its own tab, complete with photos, video, descriptive keywords, links to the LinkedIn profile of the staff member who handles each area AND links back to the relevant landing pages on your website.

—->>  Update 20 March 2014. When LinkedIn introduced Showcase sub-pages recently, I suspected that they might replace Products & Services tabs because the recommended Showcase content seemed to duplicate what those sub-tabs were already supposed to do for a brand/organization’s Page.

In fact, as of 14 April 2014, LinkedIn is removing Products & Services tabs from all Company Pages, and they suggest that you use Showcase pages or targeted Company Page updates as alternatives. I’d recommend downloading your current Products/Services write-ups, photos and videos and use them as a basis for new Showcase pages. Carefully think through the natural subdivisions of your market and you may find that you need fewer – but still focused – Showcase pages.

4)  Put out Company Page updates regularly (just like you do for your Facebook Page) but focused more on straight news and things of interest to your meetings, events and tours markets. You can include links, photos, YouTube video URLs and SlideShare URLs. Your updates go out into the LinkedIn news feeds of all of your Page’s followers.

Bonus Tip: you can get more visibility in people’s LinkedIn news feed by paying for Sponsored Posts on LinkedIn that are similar to those on Facebook, with very good ad targeting, but they are expensive.

Some tourism-related LinkedIn Company Pages that do a fine job:

**  The Fredericksburg, Texas CVB. Proof that a small organization can have a rocking presence on LinkedIn.

**  Visit Buffalo Niagara. Nice work from upstate New York.

**  Our own Tourism Currents Page. Once we put real effort into it week after week, we started picking up followers regularly at about the 6 month mark, and saw our updates getting a lot more visibility and interaction.

**  Authentic Seacoast Resorts. Fine hospitality example from a small, independent resort in Nova Scotia that includes an inn, restaurant, pub, coffee roaster, brewery and golf course.

**  Visit Philadelphia. Recently started to put major emphasis on their Page for B2B purposes, and it’s coming along quite well (disclosure: I did some LinkedIn training for their staff.)

So, take charge of your LinkedIn storefront – here’s how to become an Administrator for your LinkedIn Company Page – and put it to work for B2B and sales.

Did I miss your favorite LinkedIn Company Page or tip? Please share down in the Comments.

(If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is on the right sidebar near the Search box. Thanks!) 

Posted in Hospitality, LinkedIn, Meetings and Conferences, Web Communications | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Everyday bravery for everyone

Sheila Scarborough speaks at Creative Mornings Austin on Everyday Bravery (photo courtesy Stacie Andrews for Creative Mornings Austin on Flickr)
Sheila Scarborough speaks at Creative Mornings Austin on Everyday Bravery (photo courtesy Stacie Andrews for Creative Mornings Austin on Flickr)

This was one of those presentations that becomes a turning point in one’s speaking career.

It was different from almost anything else I’d done before, I enjoyed the experience even more than I thought I would, and it gave me confidence to make my book The Elastic Waist Entrepreneur more personal and motivational rather than simply a how-to.

I spoke on the topic of bravery, for Austin’s version of the worldwide “breakfast lecture series for the creative community,” Creative Mornings. Thanks to a random taco-fueled social encounter with Ben Thoma, Austin’s Creative Mornings organizer, I ended up as the city’s November “Bravery” speaker.

Sure, I do lots of presentations on social media in tourism – and enjoy them very much – but never before had I been asked to speak on such a general topic in a way that would inspire, entertain and motivate a packed house (Austin’s Creative Mornings events are free to attend but tickets are snapped up very quickly, and there’s always a waiting list.)

The day of the event, I was chanting, “Be brave! Be brave!” to myself just before I stood up to talk about bravery.

I structured the presentation in three parts:

1)  Be inspired to be brave through the stories of heroics by ordinary people; I tell a few at the beginning of the video, to get you started.

2)  Learn physical bravery by challenging yourself athletically, even if you don’t think of yourself as remotely athletic. Why not? The Left Thumb Blogger does it; why not you?

3)  Work, test and strengthen your mental bravery and toughness via “deliberate discomfort” …. putting yourself deliberately into uncomfortable situations (travel to strange places, eat weird food, do stuff that scares you, get back up after failure.)

Huge thanks to Creative Mornings video production partner The Delivery Men for making me look good. :) Direct link to the Bravery video on YouTube in case you can’t see the embed box below.

Never forget, we’re all members of “The Church of Uncertain.”

Go out there and be brave!

(If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is on the right sidebar near the Search box. Thanks!) 

Posted in Life-hacking and Tips for Better Living, Meetings and Conferences | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trying LinkedIn Sponsored Posts

Similar to my past experience using coupons to experiment with Facebook advertising, I took a $50 coupon for free LinkedIn ads to build a small Sponsored Post campaign for our Tourism Currents Company Page.

We chose to show the post in the LinkedIn News Feeds of a very narrow group of tourism/hospitality-related people, in more than one country, and we paid only for clicks. The objective was to put our thoughts in front of people who might be interested in our work; gaining new Page followers wasn’t really a focus.

Sponsored Post results:

**  442 impressions (in addition to the organic ones below)

**  9 clicks

**  2 social interactions (Likes, Shares, etc.)

**  Picked up 2 new Page followers

**  Had a 2.49% engagement rate

**  CPC (Cost per Click) was about US$6.00 per click (ouch! I’m used to 20-25 cents CPC for our occasional sponsored updates on Facebook)

Organic results for the post before we made it Sponsored:

**  303 impressions

**  1 click

**  3 social interactions (Likes, Shares, etc.)

**  1.32% engagement rate.

Takeaways:

**  Targeting continues to improve for LinkedIn ads, so unless you have a big budget and don’t mind blowing money with spray-and-pray, you need to take the time to set your Sponsored Post right down in the News Feeds of your perfect customer or visitor.

**  If you have markets outside of the U.S., don’t forget to include those countries in your targeting. We already have Tourism Currents followers and newsletter subscribers in South Africa, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, and around Europe. Why wouldn’t we want to get in front of even more tourism pros in those places?

**  Prepare to spend some money. The days of social media as a big freebie are over.

**  I think that because Sponsored Posts are relatively new to LinkedIn, people are less ad blind in their personal News Feeds, so you get more interaction.

**  I never pay for sidebar ads; I only try Sponsored Posts on LinkedIn (Facebook too.) I want to be in the News Feed, not mixed in with all that side junk.

**  Interesting to note – think that LinkedIn doesn’t matter unless you’re B2B? Here are some examples of B2C/consumer-related networking on LinkedIn.)

In my view, the social networking site today that has tons of potential and not much competition is LinkedIn. Y’all keep ignoring it – I’m having fun doing business over there. :)

(If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is on the right sidebar near the Search box. Thanks!) 

Posted in LinkedIn, Web Communications | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Travel Post Friday: the City by the Bay

Red and White Fleet selfie in San Francisco Bay for eTourism Summit
Red and White Fleet selfie at sunset on San Francisco Bay for eTourism Summit

I took this photo on a Red and White Fleet sightseeing cruise that went all over San Francisco Bay – it was an evening social event during the eTourism Summit destination marketing conference.

Many years ago, I was stationed aboard a U.S. Navy ship that was homeported in the Bay Area, and I enjoyed the chance to live for awhile in the city that is now so UN-affordable (which is a real shame.)

I tried to make the most of my time living there but now in hindsight, I’m not sure I realized back then how truly magical it is….the majestic rust-orange Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin hills, the sunny side in Oakland and Berkeley, all the little unique neighborhoods, the endless ocean stretching to the west, and the hodgepodge of people who all seem to be from somewhere else but are drawn to San Francisco’s tolerant environment and gorgeous surroundings.

If I could afford it, I’d move there in a New York minute.  :)

(If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is on the right sidebar near the Search box. Thanks!) 

Posted in Travel Post Friday, Travel Topics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment