Well, folks, we did it. Jimmy and I successfully attended our first travel blogging conference, TBEX in Killarney, Ireland. I suppose you can say we've finally made it in the industry, right? I kid, I kid. We've got a hell of a way to go. But I am so glad we took the leap and attended TBEX Ireland as newbie travel bloggers, because we both gained quite a bit of insider knowledge and amazing contacts (and new friends!) within the industry in a short span of time.
So, without further ado, here are my five biggest takeaways from attending our first travel blogging conference, TBEX Ireland!
1. Step Up Your Pinterest Game
If you still think Pinterest is for bored stay-at-home moms searching for craft ideas, it's time to get that image out of your head already and take your Pinterest account a little more seriously. Because after attending TBEX and listening to various professionals speak, I've come to realize that Pinterest is actually an incredibly powerful tool for content creators to get their content out there and clicking.
What really resonated with me about Pinterest as a platform is its longevity. Unlike other social media channels where your posts only reach an audience for a small window of time (read: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook), the average Pinterest post, or "Pin," stays relevant for about 4 months! Pins are even capable of being re-pinned for years, making the time you invest on your Pinterest incredibly valuable.
2. Your Peers Are Your Best Educators
While the speakers and break-out sessions at TBEX are top notch, the biggest value of attending a travel blogging conference such as TBEX (or any industry conference, for that matter!) is the networking you will do while there! But what really struck a chord with us is how freely some veteran travel bloggers were willing to share their tips and tricks. I suppose it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, since bloggers by nature are sharers, after all, but it was really quite touching the amount of heartfelt advice we received from our peers in the travel blogging community. It's safe to say that we not only gained connections, but lifelong friends. *Cue sappy music*
3. Know Your Worth (But Don't Be Afraid To Work For Free, Either)
It’s no secret that there’s a lot of competition out here in the travel blogging industry, and we’re all looking for a little piece of the pie. But after listening to a number of speakers at TBEX, I’ve come to realize that there’s PLENTY of pie, so to speak, to go around.
Surprisingly, according to one speaker at TBEX, there’s actually a huge gap between what travel brands are willing to spend on influencer partnerships and what influencers actually charge — and believe it or not, the numbers are in OUR favor!
As a travel blogger/influencer/content creator/whatever you may call yourself, you are incredibly valuable not only for the content you can provide for your audience, but for the travel brands that would like to connect with your audience as well. This could be true whether you have 500 followers or 500,000. Brands are slowly realizing that these smaller influencers have, well, influence when it comes to shaping buyer behavior and making products relatable, and are beginning to invest more in partnerships with the smaller fries and not just on celebrities.
With that being said, new travel bloggers and even veterans can’t expect travel brands to come to them with a big, fat check right away. Part of knowing your worth is knowing when it’s worth it to work for free, too.
As Gary Arndt, widely published travel blogger and photographer of Everything-Everywhere.com said during his opening keynote speech, if National Geographic asked him to do a photoshoot for free, he would in a heartbeat. Why? Because the exposure alone is an equal value exchange.
4. Be Authentic
Being authentic and true to one’s voice is something that was emphasized over and over again at TBEX. Let’s face it: in a sea of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of “travel bloggers” out there, you’re at risk of drowning if you don’t have your own flair, something that sets you apart from the others.
But how do you figure out what your voice should be? Really, the best way of doing so is to stay true to who you are. Readers will quickly spot out a phony anyway if you aren’t being real. And while there are some tried and true ways to go about creating a successful blog and brand (and plenty of ways to NEVER go about things), using the same filters as all those top travel IGers or writing the same regurgitated content isn’t going to get you very far.
In short, just because one thing works for them, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you - and even if it does, why does the world need two people doing the EXACT same thing anyway?
A PR professional attending TBEX asked me why people go to travel bloggers to gain travel knowledge when they could just go to a major publication like Lonely Planet for answers. And, after thinking for a moment, I told her it’s because unlike a generic travel guide, a blogger can offer the reader a fresh perspective and a story. Next time you write a blog post, be sure to let your authentic voice shine through and realize that readers want your perspective for a reason.
Lastly, another part of staying true to yourself is playing to your strengths. As travel bloggers, we’re expected to be writers, photographers, Vloggers, social media gurus and more. While it’s important to learn all these skills, it’s much better to hone in on your strengths and master those than it is to spread yourself thin trying to be the best at all of them - the fact is, that’s impossible.
5. SEO, Don't Just Pray To The Google Gods
Ah, SEO. The acronym we all know but rarely fully understand. “Let’s just sprinkle in some keywords,” we naively say, and think our job is done. But it doesn’t end there, as we learned from attending a lecture with Gemma Armit of Two Scots Abroad and Laura Lynch of Savored Journeys. SEO is an arduous process indeed, but it’s one to be taken seriously if you ever want to grow organically as a travel blogger.
Many fellow travel bloggers that we spoke with swear by the power of SEO and as a result have been able to land their posts on the top of Google’s search results. Conclusion: Posting your content to social media is NOT enough for serious growth. If your top traffic driver isn’t Google, you’re doing it wrong.
Overall, Jimmy and I gained a wealth of invaluable resources from attending TBEX Ireland - much more than we could cover in one post. We’re incredibly thankful for the experience and we feel it has truly lit a fire under us as we make our way across the world and begin to document it. Thank you, TBEX family, for the hospitality and wealth of knowledge that was shared!