There was a moment when I thought I’d slipped down a wormhole into a parallel universe. The tweet about the Social Travel Market session I was attending announced ‘so and so is rocking the room’.
The ‘room’ at that point was subdued to what seemed the point of boredom. Either I was in a parallel universe, I had the definition of ‘rocking the room’ all wrong or some tweets just weren’t accurately reflecting what was taking place at STM 2012 events.
This was just one of the reasons that some Social Media and Social Travel Market sessions just didn’t do it for me and why they represented the only disappointing aspect of World Travel Market 2012.
How to Measure Travel Blogger ROI
First up was Keith ‘Velvet Escape’ Jenkins and Melvin ‘Travel Dudes’ Boecher’s How to Measure Travel Blogger ROI (return on investment). Developing a formula to measure ROI is a thankless and impossible task. The traditional print based method for measuring ROI has been by using AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent), something that is viewed by some professional marketing experts as nothing more than a marketing tool that uses arbitrary formulas to make PR companies look good to their clients.
In many way that is what ROI formulas are all about; providing clients with something they can use to justify budgets. It’s not qualitative in the slightest but traditional media has been getting away with using AVE for years, so respect to Keith and Melvin for trying to level the playing field.
Keith and Melvin made a valiant effort but the most searching questions from a couple of tourist board representatives in the audience exposed the problems with trying to measure ROI using selected statistics and questionable tools (e.g. Klout – whose popularity goes up and down depending on whether it makes people look good or not).
To be fair, Keith and Melvin’s presentation, although it raised many questions, was honest and sincere. What made me uneasy was that the session was also used as a promo for TBU’s travel bloggers directory; the opening salvo of what seemed to be a struggle for dominance in the travel blogging world between TBU and TBEX.
How to Sort Bloggers from Blaggers
This session highlighted my real beef with my Social Media & STM experiences and provided the most ironic title of Social Travel Market 2012.
There was much that wound me up with this presentation but the biggest crime was that it drew a large crowd based on its name and then didn’t address the question of How to Sort Bloggers from Blaggers in the slightest; the title was a hook.
About 20 minutes in, Rick Calvert asked Steve Keenan what a blagger was. Giving a presentation when you don’t know what the title means doesn’t inspire confidence and Steve’s explanation of a blagger being a thief didn’t match the more appropriate definition that a blagger is a bullshitter. Hence the irony, the title of the session bullshitted the audience.
Tourist boards and DMOs were there to find out how to identify serious travel bloggers, instead they got a promo for TBEX and the shiny new Professional Travel Bloggers Association.
I’m all for a professional association for those who view travel blogging as more than a hobby. But having entry requirements that consist of a) having blogged for 9 months and b) 3,000 page views a month begs the question ‘what exactly is the professional aspect’?
Maybe the professional part is that you have to pay a $75 subscription to be included as a professional travel blogger. Still, the low entry requirements means that the door to being a member of the PTBA is open to nearly all.
Additionally, tweets screened on the TV at the front of the room seemed to be selective and the irony was piled on further when the audience was asked if they trusted traditional media. This, at a session whose title had misled us, was a step too far.
At other sessions I listened to advice on how to get a job in social media from someone who didn’t have a blog because ‘you have to have something interesting to say to have a blog’; a PR rep who considered that older people experienced in traditional PR methods brought wisdom whilst young guns brought energy and enthusiasm – no sweeping generalisations there. There were also too many tweets that didn’t reflect at all what was being said or that repeated sound-bites out of context.
I didn’t attend the White Paper Best Travel Blogging Practice presentation. Having a government background, the name itself had me raising an eyebrow. My idea of a White Paper is a government policy document. But there is another definition; a private marketing tool. It’s important to make that distinction.
I’ve read the document and whilst there’s much to commend within, it ultimately ended up coming across to me as another promo for the people involved. There is nothing wrong with that, there’s some innovative stuff going on that deserves to be broadcast, but by the end of the sessions I was tired of being ‘sold’ products and people.
And that’s why these sessions didn’t do it for me. I like travel; I like learning and developing, I like the sharing of good practices; I like healthy debates; I like communities; I like travel bloggers and travel writers; I like the fact that travel blogging has blown away tired old barriers.
But for me there was an overall feeling of being led (or misled) down carefully laid paths.
I’ve never responded well to attempts at manipulation, even in a subliminal way, by sales pitches with knobs on and that’s what some Social Media and Social Travel Market sessions felt like.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites plus lots of other things. Follow Jack on Google+