I was this week in Sydney for firstly a Backpackers Tourism Advisory Panel (BTAP) forum on Digital Marketing and secondly the ABiC conference and TNT Golden Backpack Awards.
Firstly, let me say congratulations to some of our mates who won awards – particularly, Neil, Shrek and the crew at Stray for their innovation award (it is great that Stray is finally being recognised as the one of the best operators in the world!), and for their Golden Backpacks – Adventure Tours and Campbell and the crew at Base for their hostel and bar awards. Secondly, well done to TNT – I thought the awards dinner was great (even though I was not drinking – argh), but I thought that this year compared to previous years the conference felt a bit like lots of sales pitches from the presenters as opposed to useful ideas and information we could take away.
Anyway, the main reason for my trip was actually to attend a closed forum on Internet Market with BTAP. This turned out to be a very successful 3 hour plus session and one that I really enjoyed!
As expected the conversation initially launched off talking about Facebook, Bebo and My Space and how could these be leveraged for marketing Australia. Fortunately, I think it was quickly agreed that they are not the ultimate marketing medium that many perceive. Personally, I believe that people do not want to be marketed to within these social sites. Facebook might be social – but it is also private and akin to email – no one likes being spammed in their email and they certainly won’t want to be spam marketed to in the social networks. I talked about the Seth Godin concept of permission marketing where you actually identify customers that do want to be marketed to because of a shared interest – whether that be travelling to Australia or using an iPhone. Facebook etc do provide this medium through the creating of groups or company pages – but I do not think they are the be all and end all.
Instead the conversation was drawn (a lot with the help of Peter Burke from Travellers Auto Bahn) toward the role of influencers throughout the Internet. We discussed how Lonely Planet seems to have 4 or 5 primary people that answer 80%+ of all Thorn Tree questions and Tourism New South Wales in fact employees people to work in My Space “influencing” discussion groups etc.
I agree with this approach and I think that there is a real opportunity for savvy marketers to hook into the power of paid bloggers, harnessing the services of the travelling travellers, and identifying and leveraging advocates online for whatever your company might be. As Peter Burke said the idea is to share a thought and let it spread through the network – I am simply advocating the concept of having someone help it along the network.
From BTAPs point of view it was my opinion that rather than trying to do this themselves from a direction of influencing travellers to Australia, BTAP could use bloggers, industry advocates etc to disseminate industry information and create themselves as the perceived expert in all things to do with Australian backpacking. Those “sponsored advocates” could also then engage influential travel bloggers and customers to expound the virtues of the Australian backpacking industry. To be successful there would have to be very little editorial control and the advocates would be free to spark some controversy and drive discussion and idea viruses – of course I put my hand up!!
Finally, there was a simply great quote that I think everyone jumped on from Christy McCarthy from World Nomads: With so much change and new technologies etc in the Internet you just have to keep trying new things all the time and “fail going forward“