My takeaways from Traverse Conference – tips for MICE professionals to step up the social media game

End of May I attended the Traverse Conference in Rotterdam, an event for bloggers, content creators, influencers and PR professionals. This was my first Traverse event, after attending their blogger sessions at the World Travel Market. This conference was aimed mainly at travel bloggers, and about 400 people attended the week-long event. It started officially on Monday the 21 May with mid-week events and the main conference took place on the weekend of 26 – 27 May. Additionally, there were co-working spaces for those who arrived earlier and wanted to get some work done. I arrived on Wednesday night, and stayed until Monday morning and that was the right time to experience the host destination Rotterdam and make the most out of my time there.

I think that the MICE industry can learn from what travel bloggers are doing as there are many overlaps. Bloggers are not only content creators, they are digital marketers who’ve build strong personal brands and communities. Similarly, event planners travel a lot; post photos from hotel rooms, food, incentives, so why not do it more strategically with the aim to sell their services or build a personal brand?

Therefore, I decided to share this post here with you to help you to showcase your work better online. As the lines between leisure and business travel blur, MICE suppliers should be paying even closer attention to what their leisure counterparts are doing when it comes to influencer marketing. The consumer journey begins early on social media, and the discovery starts. Social media plays an important part in how people will then interact and book their trips (business or leisure) and how they will spend their time at the destination.

But now let’s get to the content part. The content was excellent! It ranged from inspirational and creative tips for improving the blog to practical seminar sessions about how to improve technical aspects such as SEO, Adobe Lightroom, and perhaps the most exciting part for many bloggers, how to make money. There were four education streams simultaneously, and sometimes it was very hard to choose one!

Instagram is HUGE

Instagram is the go to platform for discovery and inspiration. There are content creators who do amazing stuff on Instagram and use this platform as their primary or only channel. One of such is Rich McCor, the founder of PaperBoyo account who remodels landscapes with paper cut-outs. I attended his session called “how smart approach to social media can open doors beyond your wildest expectations.” You have to see his work to understand and appreciate how amazing it is!

Instead of follower numbers look for engagement, as that’s what Instagram is currently favouring. As a result, Instagram users should work on building relationships with their existing follower base instead of looking to grow follower numbers. The rest will follow.

Be proud of sponsored content

Many influencers make their money with sponsored content, but that often perceived as less engaging, was another interesting insight from Rich McCor. But, sponsored content can be so amazing that influencers should be proud of sharing. It should have one of the elements: educational, inspirational or entertaining. Instagram is where people usually go to escape and don’t want to see over promotional posts like “you should buy this”. Also try not to use the clichés when it comes to sponsored pieces, such as “guys I’m so excited about this collaboration”. Sponsored content should be creative, interesting and fun to look at.

There is a general perception that sponsored content is not as good as non-sponsored because it might be “salesy”. But here it’s where influencers can make this content really unique, beautiful and creative by putting their personality in it. Influencers can craft the content around the message that the brand wants to communicate, but do it in their individual and creative way. This in return will generate even higher engagement.

Don’t bury the #ad hashtag, in contrary be proud of it. Sponsored content is an opportunity to shine, so make it appealing. Find your creative and authentic tone of voice. Make sponsored content rock!

Look at your Instagram analytics

Julie Falconer from A Lady In London held a session about “How to use Instagram analytics to up your content and monetisation games”. Instagram allows its Business Account users to see analytics of their posts and audience demographics. It’s an important insight if you use Instagram to grow your business. Influencers with big English speaking audience, such as from the UK and the US, should keep close attention to local events, such as public holidays and national celebrations and schedule posts around these events (if we translate it to the events industry we can add to pay attending to major annual trade shows). Furthermore, another important factor to keep in mind is seasonality and how it influences analytics. Best way to recognise trends is to keep a spreadsheet and track it on a weekly/ monthly basis.

Monetise your readers instead of brands

Matt Kepnes from the Nomadic Matt spoke about how longevity in the industry plays an important role. He was one of the very first bloggers who started in 2008 and now his blog has expanded to offer city guides, books, courses and soon a conference. As opposed to how most bloggers make money working with brands, instead, he monetises his audience. His business model is based on affiliate programmes and selling products. His entire focus is on the community building and what they want.

Answers questions better than anyone else

That was another great tip from Matt Kepnes who applies Service Journalism writing style to his blog. He writes very detailed posts, and details make the difference when it comes to winning loyal audience. At the talk he said “If you don’t answer people’s questions they will leave the site.” For example, if something is “great” or “amazing”, then explain why it’s so. Don’t just say it, explain it.

Look at your destination (or event) with different eyes

Marco der Groot, an architect photographer from Utrecht, @marcorama on Instagram, held a session about “Look at your city with different eyes”. Beyond practical photography tips, he shared how to look for unique and unusual places in the city and avoid taking the same (boring) photos as everyone else. He recommended looking for new angles, colours, frame the building differently, lines, clean composition, shapes (circles, squares, triangles), find leading lines and look for balance. By changing your point of view you can enhance and improve your photography skills.

This was my favourite talk.

Become a “go to” resource (own your niche)

This tip was from Michael Tomas, the founder of the popular @londonviewpoints Instagram account and skyline photographer. He got his good reputation by becoming the “go to” resource for discovering the best views in London. He simply started by choosing the best spots to get the best view of London. Geo tagging plays an important role for him, this way his audience can learn about the best views. Needless to say that he expanded to get the best views all over the world and not only London.

Location tagging vs. hashtags

Location tagging was mentions by several speakers. It’s gaining importance over hashtags because these tend to get abused/ spammed. Location tagging is more targeted therefore recommended to add to all posts that promote a venue or a destination.

Ask for permission to pitch – don’t cold call

Cold calling in our industry is generally not a great idea, according to Emily Leary from A Mummy Too. We bloggers usually work with PR representatives, communication and media departments or business development.

Pitch is a long process and destinations plan their campaigns long in advance. If the blogger pitches “midway”, there might be no budget available. So therefore it’s recommended to start the discussion to get a feeling whether a brand is “ready” to work with a content creator. As a result, the influencer can, as the next step to ask for a permission to pitch a campaign.

Is subscription model the future

For the first time I heard talks within the blogger community about subscription models. As mentioned earlier, influencers make money by monetising brands or their audience. Several times it was mentioned whether in the long term influencers should offer a subscription model to sell their services or offer additional exclusive content to their readers. I also learned about a platform that offers content creators to run membership business for their community called Patreon. There were controversial views about Patreon, as some said readers will be offended if a content creator suddenly charges. On the other hand, some said that the artistic work should be recognised and subscription model can bring an added value. This topic opened an interesting debate whether that’s the future of influencer marketing. In my opinion, it can work for added services over exclusive content. For example if I want a consultation with the blogger about the destination, or about a skill (photography, writing etc.). It will be interesting to observe this trend in the next moths. What else does the future hold for influencer marketing? This we discussed back in March at ITB Berlin. You can read the article here.

The best brand storytelling

Lastly, I attended a session by Greg Brand from Travizeo about advanced video production. He presented a very beautiful video that they produced for Illa Experience Hotel that has a strong storytelling element. I was captured by the beautiful visual and the story that portrayed the local cultural experience of the San Marcos neighbourhood in Quito, Ecuador. They showed how the products made their way from the atelier to guest’s hotel room or restaurant setting the focus on authentic experience.

This was a great addition of the Traverse. Even though for me it was my first one, other attendees said it was the best yet. Rotterdam was also a great host, and Rotterdam and Partners did a great job by getting all the local partners involved to showcase their city. Rotterdam was a very pleasant surprise and exceeded my expectations. Even though the Traverse will move to a new city next year, surely I’ll visit Rotterdam again!

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