Agents who are struggling to discern their handle from their hashtag, or just feeling overwhelmed by the Twitterverse or social media in general, might consider enrolling in a new, 100-day program designed to help them adapt to these emerging online marketing channels.
TheTravel Blog Project (www.travelblogproject.com) will enable 100 or more travel agents to participate for free in a blogging and social media marketing effort. The objective is to help agents learn to brand themselves online as travel experts in their niche.
"Many travel agents are either unsure of how to get started branding themselves online or lack the discipline or creativity to post on a regular basis," said the Travel Blog Project’s founder, George Oberle. "The Travel Blog Project will provide the structure and consistency, posting ideas and themes to help travel agents become better online marketers."
Oberle will send a daily post to participants every weekday, suggesting a theme around which to create four or five sentences that will then be posted on their blog, Facebook page or Twitter.
But the key to the campaign’s success, he said, will be the networking among participants.
"On Fridays, participants will view each others’ blog posts and comment on them," Oberle said. "This blog network will effectively generate traffic to these blogs and improve their search engine ratings."
Connie Sims, from Sims Family Tours & Travel, said that kind of collaboration was one of the reasons she decided to participate.
"There are so many different options for e-communication," Sims said. "The Travel Blog Project seems to be looking at several of those areas all at once, and it’s also nice to share ideas with others."
Another participant, Mary Jo Manzanares of Traveling With MJ, agreed. "A group project is a fun and easy way for ‘newbies’ to dip their toes in the water and learn from those more experienced," she said. "You’ll get a built-in network with this project."
Jason Coleman, president of Jason Coleman Inc. and chairman of ASTA’s Young Professionals Society, said the project would help connect the many available technology tools with which most agents have had only casual experience.
"Too often, I think, many of these tools are seen as fads, because agents give them a casual try and give up before they see results," Coleman said. "We hear tips in seminars about what to do, and we talk about the need for a real social media plan, but I imagine most agents don’t know what that really means and how to do it."
The Travel Blog Project is one way for agents to develop a tangible, easy-to-follow and manageable to-do plan, he said. "The real key is to find the time to stick to it. My experience with most travel agents is that they’re looking for a magic key to success with social media, as if any tool that has its roots online will deliver overnight results."
One of the project’s greatest strengths, Coleman said, is that it can help participants manage their commitment to post regularly. "All successful online ventures are consistent and focused efforts. They turn out fresh content and post on a regular schedule."
Success will be measured by the number of leads and new email addresses acquired and by traffic to the agent’s blog and website.