Blog Branding, Target Audience & Creating Community – The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [2/10]

Blog Branding, Target Audience & Creating Community - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [2/10] || The Travel Tester
Have you always wondered how you can turn your blog into a business? Then this series is for you!

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In the past 5 years, I’ve visited over 30 (travel) blogging conferences and workshops. That is hours and hours of inspirational and practical advice that helped me turn blogging from a hobby into a full-time business. In this series, I finally open up my notebook to the world and share the insights that I personally found most valuable with you, so you can use them to hopefully make your own blog bigger and better. 


Today, we’re diving into the topic of reaching the right audience, branding and building a community around your blog. Enjoy!

 

BLOG BRANDING & COMMUNITY BUILDING

 

Blog Branding, Target Audience & Creating Community - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [2/10] || The Travel Tester

 

CONTENT MARKETING

 

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a cliearly defined audience – with he objective of driving profitable customer action.

– Sara Whines (TBU Nantes – Sep ’14)
(Source: The Content Marketing Association)

 

Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content marketing is showing the world you are one.

– Debbie Hindle (WTM London – Nov ’13)
(Source: Robert Rose)

 

Find out if your content is relevant for your audience in the first place before you create it. Find out who your audience is, then get to know them, ask them what they want and then find a happy middle ground

– Heather Healy (WTM London – Nov ’15)

 

Blog Branding, Target Audience & Creating Community - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [2/10] || The Travel Tester

 

BRANDED CONTENT V.S. CONTENT BRANDS

 

Branded content is created for a company. A content brand is created for a valuable audience.

– Andrew Davis (STS Hamburg – Nov ’15)

 

Treat your content like a product.

– Andrew Davis (STS Hamburg – Nov ’15)

 

You need to create content brands to harness the power of subscribe.

– Andrew Davis (STS Hamburg – Nov ’15)

 

A subscription allows you to build a relationship with the audience before they need you (or, so they need you).

– Andrew Davis (STS Hamburg – Nov ’15)

 

More brands will work with bloggers. Professional reputation is the key for getting that work.

– Bret and Mary Love (TBEX Athens – Oct ’14)

 

Blog Branding, Target Audience & Creating Community - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [2/10] || The Travel Tester

 

BRANDING YOUR BLOG & CONTENT

 

A brand is what makes you uniquely yourself. It defines your unique identity, provides structure for building (or rebuilding) your business, defines your unique identity, provides a tangible way for people to understand and recognize your brand, it differentiates you from other brands, it lets you communicate your ideas effectively and it provides the blueprint for every decision your make. It distills all the elements of your vision into an easily digestible whole. Branding is crucial to developing a long term sustainable business.

– Brett & Mary Love (TBEX Athens – Oct ’14)

 

4 Digital Dynamics:
1. CONTENT helps brands move stories, develop an audience, position expertise, deliver value, solve problems for customers
2. CLARITY is all about transparency and simplicity. Removing clutter and noise is a big benefit. Get clarity around statistics (both good and bad), pricing, direct communications and customer service.
3. COHERENCE is nog ‘the brand police’, uniformity v.s. unity, co-creating coherent experiences. Walk a mile in customer’s shoes (clear browsing data to go through your site as a new user). Create a brand touchpoint map.
4. COMMUNITY – embrace your people power internally (culture, employees) and externally (brand ambassadors)

– Nick Westergaard (STS Kitzbuehel – Sep ’17)

 

Hierarchy of Digital Brand Building:
PAID
SOCIAL
EMAIL
CONTENT
WEBSITE
BRAND

– Nick Westergaard (STS Kitzbuehel – Sep ’17)

 

Blog Branding, Target Audience & Creating Community - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [2/10] || The Travel Tester

 

Always be branding.

– Nick Westergaard (STS Kitzbuehel – Sep ’17)

 

Build your brand carefully, know who you are and be faithful to your brand

– Claudia Saleh (STS Inverness – Sep ’16)

 

 

Branding is just as important, if not more important than traffic and social media followers. Branding can build traffic and social media followers, but social media and traffic can not build branding.

– Bret and Mary Love (TBEX Athens – Oct ’14)

 

Building your Brand in 5-Steps
SPARK – What gets you up in the morning? (Disney = magic / Apple = innovation / DHL = connecting / Salesforce = no software) What business are you really in? (consulting = the helping business) Slogan, Tagline, Mission Statements… there is more!
PROMISE – What do you do and for whom? (Nike = bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world)
STORY – Neural Coupling, Dopamine, Mirroring, Cortex Activity. Story shapes (Kurt Vonnegut), Archetypes (monster, rags to riches, hero, boat, butterfly) – Conflict is good, make your audience an actor in your story – What is your story?
VOICE – voice in action (twitter taco bell), creative voice (nasa tweeting in 1st person), character/persona (friendly/playful, etc.), tone (personal), language, purpose. What 3 traits describe your voice?
VISUALS – visuals convey emotions, logo, website, visual social, visual content marketing system, in-store, vehicles, print, apparel, presentations, leave behinds, other digital channels.

– Nick Westergaard (STS Kitzbuehel – Sep ’17)

 

Visual Brand Checklist: logo and identity system, website, visual social media frameworks (avatar, covers, headers), visual content marketing system (blog images, videos, infographics), other digital channels (search, online dislay), in-store/physical location (how is your brand visualized in person), vehicles, print (direct mail, print advertising, collateral), leave behinds (business cards, stickers, other tactile pieces), presentations, apparel.

– Nick Westergaard (STS Kitzbuehel – Sep ’17)

 

Your brand is content, photos, videos, logo, letterhead, interviews, services, products, promotions, partnerships, social networks, presentations, newsletter, email, advertising… but it’s also so much more. Your brand is like a healthy ecosystem to which your entire business will grow.

– Brett & Mary Love (TBEX Athens – Oct ’14)

 

10 Ways to Communicate your Brand Identity:
1. Mission Statement (Defines your purpose for existing, spelling out goals & guiding decisions)
2. Name (Choosing a name is less about being creative and more about telling your story and helping you stand out. Things to consider: how it sounds, ease of pronunciation, SEO research, trademark availability)
3. Tagline (Make it short, different, unique, easy to remember and make sure it captures your brand essence. Make your brand message clear in 5/6 words)
4. Logo (Word-mark, letter-form, emblem, pictorial mark, abstract mark, etc.)
5. Site Design (Graphic design style, imagery that reinforces branding, typography, ease of navigability, mobile responsiveness, color palettes)
6. Content
7. Social Media (Be consistent in your messaging. Avoid things that don’t fit your brand identity. Post actively and respond quickly. Engage your audience in conversation. Also share content from brands within your own niche. That can lead to future partnerships.)
8. PR Outreach (Make a list of every single brand you would like to work with and align with (DMO / PR / nonprofit / media outlet / brands / tour operators / etc.) Research their PR/Marketing reps, for example by checking press releases for contacts and add them to your spreadsheet. Also think about sending out your own press releases (on major milestones). It might take 3-5 times before people open it, but you will see results in the long term. Update your list regularly!)
9. Advertising (Native advertising fits seamlessly with other content. It services your readers, not just the advertiser. It reinforces your brand identity. The advertiser is not necessarily the focus of the story. Aligned brands try to reach your audience, it’s not to game SEO. So make sure the content comes first, then find brands to sponsor your articles. Make sure paid articles always have a no-follow link (on brand name, not keyword) and are disclosed. NEVER give links for free)
10. Freelance Work (More outlets is more press trips and partnerships. Pursue outlets where you can reinforce your brand identity. Balance broad and niche audience reach. Consider opportunity cost of every decision you make.)

– Bret and Mary Love (TBEX Athens – Oct ’14)

 

Every story that you share should reinforce your brand identity: impactful stories (why should your audience care?), diversify to appeal to different readers, engage readers in conversation, be transparent, avoid too much self-promotion, make sure guest posts match mission.

– Brett & Mary Love (TBEX Athens – Oct ’14)

 

Ask yourself: What am I about? (used to ensure product and content focus and consistency). Who am I for? (used to find and drive your story “hook” / angle). How am I different? (used as a reason for people to use and choose you over others)

– Gary Bembridge (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

The benefits of getting a clear vision on what your website and brand is all about, is that you stay focused and consistent, can create content easier, gain a specific and loyal audience and find it easier to pitch. Consistency is key to building a loyal audience.

– Gary Bembridge (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

When you should think about re-branding:
* You have a new company or new product
* To revitalize your brand
* Change in the brand’s name and/or identity

– Bret and Mary Love (TBEX Athens – Oct ’14)

 

Start NOW – Look Beyond Your LOGO

– Nick Westergaard (STS Kitzbuehel – Sep ’17)

Blog Branding, Target Audience & Creating Community - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [2/10] || The Travel Tester

Not sure about your blog name? Do the telephone test: “Hello it’s Judith from …”

– Keith Stephenson & Mark Hampshire (Blogtacular London – May ’14)

 

Your are not your brand. Your need to step outside sometimes and remind yourself of who you are, and who you want to be.

– Jantine and Vivian (April & May) (The Hive Copenhagen – May ’14)

 

 

BUILDING COMMUNITY AROUND YOUR BRAND

 

A community shows the soul of an organisation.

– Antal de Waij (Marcom Amsterdam – June ’14)

 

Why communities? It’s good marketing! With self-promotion, you have to constantly “pump” to keep promoting, with community building, you will climb higher, even when not working.

– Katja Presnal (TBDI Italy – Oct ’14)

 

How to build community: 1) Membership 2) Influence 3) Integration of Needs 4) Shared Emotional Connection

– Richard Millington (STS Inverness – Sep ’16)

 

Building a Community:
1. Create good content
2. Build trust
3. Go where your readers are (social media or ASK them)
4. Commit to Social Media networking (one/two networks)
5. React and respond (magazines, websites, other blogs)
6. Solicit feedback
7. Be authentic (let people get to know you)
8. Read your analytics
9. Be inspiring
10. Be relevant and entertaining (don’t think you always have to be on topic!)

– Natalie Bahadur (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Community building take time.

– Antal de Waij (Marcom Amsterdam – June ’14)

 

Phases in Growth-Model:
1. warm up visitors (ask them to invite others)
2. convert visitors to members (welcome them, show them around, introduce topics)
3. covert members to participants (give attention to participants by making them the ‘hero’, put them in the spotlight)
4. participation (top fans: people who write reviews about you, talk with others about you, produce content for you, give them a VIP lounge and get to know the names of these people)
5. self-sustainable

– Antal de Waij (Marcom Amsterdam – June ’14)

 

Blog Branding, Target Audience & Creating Community - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [2/10] || The Travel Tester

 

Tourism is the People’s Business. How can we not just inspire, but motivate people to act?

– Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott (TBEX Dublin – September ’13)

 

Numbers don’t matter. People do.

– Katja Presnal (TBDI Italy – Oct ’14)

 

See your community as a garden that needs nurturing. Bloggers are the flowers and they need encouragement, interaction, diversity and being social. Don’t forget about the other flowers in the garden and keep the weeds (the trolls and spammers) away by tending your garden well. Keep monitoring, keep the integrity. Make use of a good community manager (the gardener) to respect the community, provide information and specialized help. You will have a stunning garden that people will love to look at!

– Shane Dallas (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Content works best when you know who you’re making it for.

– Sara Meaney (TBEX Stockholm – Jul ’16)

 

Shared values are the foundation of the most meaningful relationships.

– Sara Meaney (TBEX Stockholm – Jul ’16)

 

Focus on the passions of your audience. Ask yourself: what is my audience’s travel lens? How can I send them on a journey they never expected?

– Andrew Davis (STS Hamburg – Nov ’15)

 

Well-defined brand values result in stronger consumer relationships and more commerce.

– Sara Meaney (TBEX Stockholm – Jul ’16)

 

Blog Branding, Target Audience & Creating Community - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [2/10] || The Travel Tester

 

Understand your audience needs:
1. Give content they want (real life, first hand advice and tips, how to get the most out of a trip, money saving tips, accommodation reviews, general travel advice, destination reviews, attraction reviews, etc.).
2. Be like a trusted friend (honest, unbiased and independent, share personal anecdotes and stories of places, versus just regular tips and advice).
3. Build the right environment (no intrusive pop-ups, good writing, etc.)

– Gary Bembridge (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

Look at your content through the eyes of a traveller, not the eyes of a blogger. Travel habits influences content needs. Travellers spend on average under 6 weeks per year abroad (v.s. bloggers, who spend over 6 weeks abroad).Use data and insights to find out what people are looking for.

– Gary Bembridge (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

Identify your blogger brand values and broadcast your core values: how are you recognizing/connecting your to the values of your audience? how are your values represented in your blogs? how are your values shown visually through social media? how diverse are the platforms you use to broadcast your values?

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

As a multi-cultural blogger, ask yourself: What are your multilayers? What story isn’t often told? What does it take to stand out?

– Carol Cain (TBEX Dublin – September ’13)

 

Look beyond race and heritage (without ignoring it) to bring a more personal insight to your stories.

– Carol Cain (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

It is important to connect with the ways in which you are unique to tell a different story.

– Carol Cain (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Never think you are the only one coming from a certain place, culture or country, there are always people like you. Our job really is to be the difference. Be the voice of those who are neither heard nor represented.

– Carol Cain (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Be vulnerable, be personal and break past the insecurity. Write for the gay, the old, the poor, the people afraid to travel… whoever you write for, remember that there is always someone out there waiting for you!

– Carol Cain (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Nothing is more powerful then finding someone just like you.

– Carol Cain (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Connect with small businesses and up-and-coming influencers. Help those who you can help the most, they will not forget it and you will built lifelong loyalty.

– Katja Presnal (TBDI Italy – Oct ’14)

 

Start building community from small. Don’t focus on the ‘numbers’ game – focus on doing business with heart. Give first before you ask.

– Katja Presnal (TBDI Italy – Oct ’14)

 

Build your expertise, for example by by starting a themed newsletter, Facebook group, Twitter Chat… Get Creative!

– Brooke Schoenman (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

Remember to set goals for your business and how your community can help. Measure those results. Be smart about how much time you spend in the communities and that the time translates into business results.

– Katja Presnal (TBDI Italy – Oct ’14)

 

Business goals from community building:
* brand awareness
* building links / SEO
* ambassador programs for marketing & PR purposes
* build industry relations & networking with peers
* generate content as part of your content strategy
* increase social media presence
* reward customers
* ultimately: drive sales and conversion

– Katja Presnal (TBDI Italy – Oct ’14)

 

Patience is key. We develop relationships not for immediate gain but for long term community which ultimately leads to work and other opportunities.

– Leigh Shulman, shared by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom (TBEX Stockholm – Jul ’16)

 

Blog Branding, Target Audience & Creating Community - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [2/10] || The Travel Tester

 

AUDIENCE PROFILING & SURVEYS

 

People want real life, first hand advice and tips (such as budget tips, reviews and other helpful tips), while bloggers rather share their personal anecdotes and stories of places. 50% of people travels less than 2 weeks per year and a further 35% travel between 2-6 weeks a year. Bloggers are pretty much at the other end of the spectrum, with 71% of us travelling 6 or more weeks per year. People’s travel habits influence content needs. If people only travel in small amounts, they want to make sure their savings go towards a trip they will truly enjoy.

– Gary Bembridge (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

Travel Bloggers can help people reduce the risk they take when booking a trip and if they’re not sure of whether or not it will suit them. Readers trust their friends, family and sites like Tripadvisor the most (as they are familiar, proven reliable and are honest), so become that trusted source for them.

– Gary Bembridge (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

As a blogger, you can deliver exactly what your reader asks for: Opinions (58%), Unbiased & Honest (48%), Real Life Experiences (47%) and New Ideas and Inspiration (34%). Have you asked your readers what they like to read about lately?

– Gary Bembridge (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

Ask yourself: What issue do your readers have? How can you solve those issues? What makes you interesting for people to come to you for help?

– Panel with Carol Driver, Amy Skelding, Gemma Seager, Laurina Kennedy (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

Ask your readers about questions/problems they have (through a survey like Surveymonkey) and turn that into a publishing project.

– Kash Bhattacharya (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

Set up a survey to ask your readers what they like to find on your blog. Then find out where the gap is you need to bridge on your blog.

– Gary Bembridge (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

Audience Profiling:
1. Collect all the data on your audience that you can find. Facebook insights (over the period of 1 year), Twitter analytics (here you can also find info on income), Pinterest (demographics, but also information on special interests your readers have), Google Analytics (you can compare the Pinterest interests with GA)
2. Put all your data into a spreadsheet, so you can find out what the age, gender, location, income group, etc. of your readers is on average. Always use 10% difference in the data you’re going to focus on, otherwise you might be narrowing down too much (for example gender: if 10% is male and 90% female, it’s clear who you focus on, if it’s just 49%, 51%, it’s too close together, so you can’t really pick on this one), for locations you can focus on the top 3 countries/cities.
3. Go to cameodynamic.com and follow the steps to learn more about your specific audience. (Only for UK) You can then sort on either postcode or by characteristic (age, household composition or household income) to get a detailed insight into its consumer characteristics. Go through the data and compile an audience profile.
4. Always put your data in context and adjust your blog content to your findings.
5. Keep tracking your audience and do a new audit every 6 months or so.

– Rodica Maria Lazar (Traverse Newcastle – April ’14)

 

Tools for customer surveys: globalwebindex, yougov (UK), experian (UK), ASKING THEM

– Heather Healy (WTM London – Nov ’15)

 

An American blogger in Spain had mostly readers from Spain and found it hard to work with American companies, but it turned out that most of them where in fact Americans on exchange, so always survey your readers.

– Oliver Gradwell (TBU Nantes – Aug ’14)

 

I have a ‘happy email’ folder with positive feedback from readers.

– Annabel Beeforth (Blogtacular London – May ’14)

 

 

The Travel Tester - Bookmark Time for Action
I hope you read something interesting that you can turn into an action step for your own blogging business. Let me know what your favourite insight was!

 

 

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