On the face of it, growing a travel blog should be easy. You write engaging content, publish it and hurray: a blog is born. Immediately, thousands of followers the world over are logging onto your site, eager to read your Pulitzer Prize worthy writing. Endless invitations inviting you on exotic press trips flood your inbox and your social media following may just compete with Kim K’s.
As we mentioned in our last blog post, building a blog can be a frustratingly slow experience. You spend what feels like an endless amount of time staring vacantly at your page, wondering ‘what next?’
To overcome this stumbling block, one thing we touched upon in our last post was the value of attending travel related events. This not only allows your to escape the clutches of your laptop, but enables you to finally meet people also working within the industry (before accidentally calling them by their Twitter handle for the entire evening). These events also offer informative workshops and speakers, allowing you to brush up on those blogging skills.
As we received a few questions regarding which events we would recommend attending, we have put together a number of recommendations. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the many events and networks available, but should provide you with a starting point for getting going with this business they call networking (or as I prefer to call it: ‘lurking by the buffet table whilst staring intently at my mobile phone)’.
The number of travel conferences and indeed, blogger-related conferences, is growing enormously. As the travel industry finally awakens to the enormous potential of working with bloggers – whose reach extends far beyond the traditional means of marketing and advertising – so conferences bringing the two together have grown. Our advice: try and attend at least one a year. Networking isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but it is worthwhile.
One of the leading events for the travel industry as a whole, WTM has attendees from over 182 countries and welcomes nearly 100,000 visitors every year. Claire and I attended for the first time last year, and enjoyed every sweaty minute of it. Although enormous, here you can meet with tourism boards from nearly every country, alongside hotels, tour companies and airlines. This is a great opportunity for bloggers to meet directly with those people you may one day be working with. It is also a fantastic opportunity to thrust as many media kits in the faces of surprised attendees as possible (our preferred approach to networking). It’s worth setting aside a few days for this mega-conference and organising meetings prior to arriving, to ensure you can maximize your time there. Enjoy the madness (take water and wear trainers – you’ll need them!)
A little like WTM, this is essentially a ‘trade show’ rather than a conference. Set over a similarly huge area of 160,000 square metres, ITB offers the chance for travel professionals from across the globe to meet with other industry members, bloggers and clients. Again, this is a chance to ‘sell yourself’: speaking directly with tourism boards and hotels, rather than depending on that vague email you sent last month (and never received a response to).
Moving away from trade shows, TBEX proudly calls itself the largest conference and networking event for travel bloggers and industry professionals. Beginning in 2009, TBEX is now regularly attended by travel bloggers from across the globe, offering conferences across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. This year, the European leg will be held in Stockholm, from the 14th – 16th July, and is a fantastic opportunity to hear from great speakers; learn some valuable blogging lessons; speed network with big brands and meet fellow bloggers. If there is one conference we would suggest attending, it would definitely be this one.
Traverse offers the UK’s biggest travel blogging conference, offering speakers, networking opportunities, workshops and a great opportunity to meet and spend time with like-minded travel bloggers. Although the conference this year has been and gone, keep an eye out for the many events that Traverse offer, including the first blogging festival: ‘Blogstock’.
One of the first conferences to be produced by The Professional Travel Bloggers Association (with Sri Lankan Airlines and Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts), this conference also boasts its own awards, for travel bloggers looking to scoop a prize. Potentially less recognised that TBEX or the ITB, this is still a conference worth-attending (should you have the time to make your way to Sri Lanka).
Exposure: the holy grail of ‘How to Grow Your Blog’. How you can get your blog noticed is high up on many a-blogger’s agenda. Short of paying huge amounts in advertising, or hoping you write a blog post that then goes viral, one way to increase exposure is to bite the bullet and enter blogging competitions. Last year, despite not running the world’s most successful blog, Claire and I decided to submit our entry to The Cosmopolitan Blog Awards. Following a whirlwind few months of shortlisting and encouraging people to vote for us (thank you to those who did), the night rolled around and, dressed in our finest Spanx and dresses, we won the ‘Highly Commended’ prize. Not only was this hugely exciting for us, it was also incredibly helpful in promoting our blog to those we wouldn’t normally reach, without the help of the ever-influential, Cosmopolitan.
If physical hobnobbing isn’t for you, another excellent way to start networking is to make use of the extensive number of online forums and networks dedicated to travel bloggers.
One of the first that we joined was Lonely Planet’s formidable ‘Pathfinders’ initiative. By becoming a fellow ‘pathfinder’ you can contribute regularly to LP’s ‘Thorn Tree’ forum; submitting your own articles, Instagram photos and social media activities. Once a month, LP round these up and select their monthly favourites, which are then widely promoted. Not only is this a fantastic opportunity to read some first-class travel writing, but to engage with an international network of writers. If successful, you can be promoted to several other ‘positions’ and there is even the possibility of having your work published in an LP publication.
Another growing network is the Professional Travel Bloggers Association. There has been some contention amongst travel bloggers as to whether this is a network worth joining; particularly as there is a $75 annual fee. The Association is one dedicated to improving the general landscape for travel bloggers, working with industry professionals to promote bloggers and their worth. They also hold an annual conference and by being a member of the Association, you are listed on a wider database of travel bloggers, which the industry has access to. Our advice here would be to not to join the Association until your blog is fairly well-established and you’re certain this is something you really want to take forward. If so, it’s certainly worth joining this professional body.
Another popular network (again, it’ll cost you – a lot), is Travel Blog Success. This is a fast growing network that offers members online courses, access to an exclusive Facebook group, as well as the chance to peruse notice boards for paid trips and opportunities. We’re not sure if this network is necessarily worth its price-tag, but we have heard good things about it. Again, this is one to potentially join once you have established your blog and are throwing everything at it!
Ultimately, networking plays an important, if not critical role, in growing your blog. Allowing you the opportunity to meet industry professionals face-to-face (people are far more likely to want to work with you having met you in person, rather than via an anonymous email) and to meet your fellow bloggers, they are not only useful but genuinely fun; bringing to life what can offer be an isolating business. Whilst mingling and making small talk isn’t necessarily always fun (and ‘selling yourself’ can take some getting used to), it will pay dividends later down the line. We promise.
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