How to fail at guest blogging in three easy steps

via Pixabay

Guest blogging can be a terrific potential opportunity for you to shine – all while conveniently directing traffic to your own website – but only if you know what you’re doing.

Here are three ways a guest blogger can fail – and three ways you can make that post a smash hit instead.

Mistake #1: You haven’t done your research about your target website

Dear Sir. Dear Madam. To Whom It May Concern. These are all awful phrases to begin a pitch. Take a few seconds to personalize your pitch. Visit the site’s “About” section. Learn who’s running the show and learn about the types of content the site publishes. Your content must align with the site you’re pitching. If you’re proposing a piece about sports nutrition and you’re pitching a site about dog breeds, then you are surely barking up the wrong tree. (Sorry.) (But you won’t forget this tip now, will you?)

Mistake #2: You don’t read the guidelines for guest bloggers

If a website accepts pitches for guest bloggers – which you should know if you have done your research and successfully avoided Mistake #1 – read the guidelines if they are provided. Then follow them. Some site owners may prefer you submit dozens of ideas, while others may just want one solid comprehensive piece.

Mistake #3: Your content is terrible

I know. You may think you’re the World’s Best Writer®, but before you submit, enlist another pair of eyes: a friend, a subject matter expert, a corporate communications agency (ahem). These resources can tell you if the content will benefit an audience (which is really the only thing a site owner wants from a guest blog). Is it interesting? Informative? Easy to understand?

Three tips for success

I wouldn’t leave you hanging, dear blogger. Three bonus tips to help you on your way to success:

  1. Start with small sites to build your portfolio. You’ll have better luck pitching minor sites and increase your number of published pieces faster.
  2. Sell yourself in your pitch. What makes your content special? What will the audience learn?
  3. Include a call to action. Your pitch was successful. Your post will be published. But wait – don’t just link to your blog in your author bio. Give your readers an intriguing reason to visit before providing the link. “Want to learn the best way to train for a marathon?”/”What’s a surefire way to get an upgraded room when checking into a hotel?”/”Find out why millennials like avocado toast so much.” Isn’t that better? Just make sure your call to action matches up with your content.



Storytelling is magic for brands


The explosive growth of social media and content marketing means more opportunities to promote your brand. With so many companies vying for attention in the digital sphere, how do you stand out? The answer lies in engaging storytelling.

Creating a story around your product allows you to shape consumer brand perception. After years of declining sales, Apple rebounded after its 1997 “Think different” rebranding campaign.


Apple relied on its outsider status and imagery of iconic visionaries to compel customers to “rebel” by buying its products. The company successfully gambled on the concept of individuality – rather than technical capabilities – to sell computers.

At its core, storytelling isn’t a sales pitch. It’s meant to emotionally connect with consumers, in the process building loyalty, attracting new customers, and increasing brand visibility.

Beyond traditional television or print ads, the digital age has equipped marketers with new platforms for visual storytelling. Social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat allow even the smallest company to gain a greater amount of exposure than with typical advertising – thanks to free or affordable posting options – with the added benefit of possible post amplification when fans share its content.

It’s key to follow a few guidelines for savvy social media storytelling.

  1. Use arresting visuals. Visual content, like photos, receive 40 times more shares and 90 percent more clicks than text-only content.
  2. Infuse your posts with personality. Use an informal voice in your writing to attract and retain your audience.
  3. Create magnetic characters. Your customers should root for your protagonist, even if it’s just short-form content, like Microsoft’s Instagram post above.
  4. Don’t give it all away. Posting teasers can lead to additional offline or mobile marketing opportunities.

How have you successfully used storytelling to sell your brand?

Another type of Netflix (and GoPro, and Hulu, and Pandora) trial

Marriott, following a PR disaster in which it briefly blocked personal wifi hotspots, strives to win public favor once more by introducing access to Netflix, GoPro, Hulu, and Pandora at select properties. There’s a catch, though – guests must already have a subscription to some of these services.

In a pilot program at eight locations, Marriott guests will be able to stream content from Netflix, Hulu, and Pandora through the rooms’ high-definition TVs.

Guests will explore their inner Spielberg at 17 Latin American and Caribbean resorts and hotels – here, visitors will receive access to GoPro HERO4 cameras to document their adventures. The hotel brand encourages guests to share their creations on social media using the hashtags #GoPro, #travelbrilliantly and #viajegenia, with a chance to be featured on Marriott’s Travel Brilliantly website.

Travel advertising: Trends taking off in 2015 [INFOGRAPHIC]

What’s in store for the travel advertising industry in 2015? If there’s one thing we love here at Strauss Media, it’s a good infographic. The folks at Expedia Media Solutions and PhoCusWright did not disappoint.

In 2015, expect to see:

Robust Growth: Travel display ad spend will top $395 million in 2015, compared with $366 million in 2013.

Increased Social and Video Advertising: Eighty-five percent of advertisers are using Facebook to reach consumers; a clear win when you compare it with statistics for Foursquare/Twitter promoted tweets (46 percent) and Twitter lead generation cards (45 percent). Additionally, the number of travelers who used online video for travel planning has steadily grown, reflected in the tripling in social and video ad budgets between 2011 and 2015.

Trends on the Horizon: Social ad targeting and retargeting technologies will be on the rise. Forty-six percent of marketers claim social media is effective at generating brand awareness, while 28 percent of marketers identify social media as useful in driving leads or purchases.


KLM gets local with new employee-run Twitter account for travelers

It’s easy for companies to grow stale on social media – but not Dutch airline KLM, which continues to dominate social media. Its latest venture is LocalEyes, a Twitter account and webpage offering tips from local employees.

Every week, the company chooses an employee to take over the LocalEyes Twitter account and tweet about local traditions and culture, cozy coffee shops, hotel recommendations, and more.

This week features Stockholm tips by KLM employee Madeleine:

After a week, all the tweets are rounded up and posted to the LocalEyes website. The Twitter account is then handed off to the next employee for another dose of hyper-local recommendations in a new city.

Past KLM social media experiments include destination info mashup site MyDreamCatcher, social gifting service Wannagives, a space flight contest called Claim your space in space, and trip tips via a social graph-based application called Must See Map.

Kudos to KLM for keeping the travel industry on its toes.


How a 113-year-old brand saved Christmas (or at least invigorated its holiday sales)


Everyone knows The Polar Express, the massively popular children’s tale from 1985 that spawned the Oscar-nominated film. Less common knowledge: Lionel LLC, the 113-year-old toy company, is the only manufacturer holding the official license to release collectible Polar Express-themed train sets.

With the 10th anniversary of the film approaching, Lionel aimed to harness the attention of locomotive-loco fans with a marketing push from September to November this year, coinciding with the jingle bells (and jingling pocket change) signifying the holiday season. As an older company, Lionel had to get creative to breathe life into its brand. With this in mind, the marketing team developed a contest, entitled “I Believe,” to drive holiday sales while highlighting the visibility of the Polar Express brand and Lionel’s product line.

Railroad enthusiasts were rewarded for their efforts. Lionel gifted an official Polar Express train set once a month for three months, finding winners among those who participated on the company’s social media pages. Contestants socially engaged on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ or signed up for an email newsletter for a chance to gain a train. Lionel got an extra publicity boost from Warner Bros. as the studio promoted the sweepstakes on its own social media platforms.

The marketing project was a success: Nearly 70 percent of people who visited the contest page entered the sweepstakes.

Has your company ever run a social media-centric promotion? What were the results?

Where should you invest your marketing dollars?

You’ve got a marketing budget and you want answers: is email or social media a better investment in the digital marketing war?

Our friends at Hostpapa threw together email marketing and social media marketing for a few battle rounds to slug it out and analyzed the results to see who emerged victorious. Though email and social media both have their unique benefits – only 61 percent of Internet users access social media, for example, but email lags far behind in growth – who delivers the knockout punch?


Sixty Things You Should Know About Social Media in Travel

Via Tnooz, by Julie McNamee from Webnwords.

Here’s a selection of mostly social media tips that I picked up from World Travel Market in London this week.

Social media’s “Dirty Little Secret” (Social data)

Sarah Kennedy Ellis – Sabre Labs

1) Instagram is the place to be for brands – people engage with brands 40 times more on that platform than they do on Twitter, and 20 times more than Facebook. Great for brand engagement.

2) Photos aid conversion – another good reason for making use of Instagram.

3) According to Sabre Labs research, more men submitted photos with their check-ins on FourSquare than women.

4) 60% of smiley faces and exclamation marks were used by women on check ins.

5) Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is a great research tool, eg for analysing the subject matter of a large number of photographs.

6) Small companies with small budgets can access 10% of Twitter’s feed for research purposes.

7) A good way of searching Instagram is by hashtag #.

Facebook – Future of travel marketing

Lee McCabe – Facebook

8) Facebook marketing is all about:

  • Efficiency
  • Multi-channel (across devices)
  • Identity

9) Facebook tools include Facebook Exchange – re-targeting within one hour of leaving the website.

10) Facebook Connect – for increased conversion rate with easy one-click logging in, plus lots of profile information.

11) The travel journey includes and is helped by Facebook:

  • Dreaming – is kicked off by viewing friends’ photos
  • Planning
  • Booking
  • The experience – is shared with updates and photo sharing
  • Reflecting – the photos kick off friends’ dreaming

12) Mobile’s is clearly where it’s at – an increasingly so in the future

13) 45% of the world’s population are forecast to have a smartphone by 2015.

14) For the first time, digital media consumption has overtaken TV in the US – driven by mobile.

15) There are 874 million mobile daily active users of Facebook.

16) Match the people on your CRM database with their Facebook profiles to find out more about them and connect with them.

17) Graph search is getting better at targeting hotels and restaurants that you really might like (with the help of friend recommendations).

How travel bloggers impact the booking funnel

Debbie Hindle – Four bgb

18) The traditional marketing funnel is: Awareness – Interest – Desire – Action

19) The new marketing funnel (c/o Xavier Blanc) is:

  • Reach
  • Engage
  • Activate
  • Nurture

20) Your customers don’t care about you as a brand. They care about themselves.

21) Content marketing = creating the information your customers are passionate about.

22) Example of an effective campaign is the #Feelmorealive campaign by adventure travel company Exodus – blog posts, photos, videos – lots of content by bloggers and lots of shares.


23) Another is the Liming Appreciation Society for St Vincent and the Grenadines – a group of bloggers invited to provide posts, imagery and video. 60% of searchers have viewed one of the videos before booking. The most popular post was shared 2,000 times.

24) Traditional marketing is about telling the world what a rockstar you are. Content marketing is showing the world what a rockstar you are.

Travel blogging

Keith Jenkins – Velvet Escape

25) The value of bloggers? Niche experts, personal experience, immediacy and an audience.

26) The booking funnel is:

  • Inspiration
  • Influence
  • The Final Nudge

27) As a blogger, one photo Jenkins posted (of ice floating) was viewed 2,000 times and resulted in four bookings for a travel company overnight.

28) Bloggers are good for giving tips and sharing ideas on where to go/what to do.

29) The feedback from people who have taken their advice is invaluable for the company concerned.

30) When engaging a blogger, have specific objectives in mind. What do you want out of the relationship?:

  • Brand exposure?
  • Online content?
  • To drive engagement?
  • To grow your social media followers?
  • To make sales?

31) Monitor the results of your blogging campaign by

  • Using tracking codes
  • Using vouchers or downloads
  • Using tracking systems
  • Keeping track of blogger posts

32) Agree the number of posts, tweets etc with the blogger before you start.

Nicholas Montemaggi – Emilia Romagna Tourism Board

33) Needed a way to make people more aware of Emilia Romagna, so came up with the idea of Blogville – providing an apartment for the use of bloggers from all over the world. The tag line was “Eat, feel and live like a local in Italy”.


34) Only cost to the tourist board was for the apartment – bloggers paid their way.

35) Master of the house present at all times to help and advise the bloggers.

36) Campaign carried out over 2 years – 120 bloggers and 500 blog posts, 3.8 million Twitter users reached and 700,000 visitors later…

37) Example direct benefit – a Chinese blogger went on a cooking course and wrote a post with lots of photos. The organisation who ran the course reported 2 bookings from China overnight!

38) Important: Spaghetti bolognese isn’t a real dish – it’s tagliatelle ragu! :)

Lee Stuart – Caliber

39) Bloggers bring authenticity and honesty.

40) Brands and PR companies should look for focused blogs – not necessarily big blogs.

41) Look at the kind of keywords the bloggers rank for – there’ll be a ready-made audience for your product if it fits that keyword.

42) Bloggers are hyper-local.

43) They can act as guides to your destination.

Are you mobile?

44) The cost of marketing an app is going to be much more (and much more important) than building the app.

45) Tip for the future – we’re going to be seeing mobile-only companies in future.

Social media masterclass 2013

Alan Young – TrustYou

46) 81% of online reviews are positive (according to TrustYou stats).

47) In the UK, 49% of online travel reviews are on, 37% on TripAdvisor.

48) The more reviews you have the more likely you are to benefit from them.

Debbie Hindle – Four BGB

49) Kuoni has wifi in its shops so people can check TripAdvisor when they’re discussing booking a holiday.

50) When coming up with your new holiday campaign, think about you want your customers to feel. Eg, how did you feel on your first holiday?

51) Viator have pages worth of information on each of the locations they feature. They have lots of useful stuff to keep visitors on your site and make it more likely you’ll book with them. They also reward customers with treats and rewards and have conversations with them.

Google and travel: Sharing best practice

Sarah McDonald – Google head of travel

52) Airbnb has a great guide to Brixton that gives lots of authentic, interesting information about the area.

brixton airbnb

53) The questions everyone asks themselves when choosing something.

  • Is this product what it says it is?
  • Is it right for me?
  • Is it at the right price?

54) Video can address some of these questions. For example it can give a street view from inside the hotel and a better feel for what your hotel is and where it is.

55) YouTube isn’t as good as Twitter and Facebook at helping consumers find relevant material. Brands should take not and learn to optimise videos.

56) An excellent site is Visit Brasil – consumers can make their own wishlists on what they want to hear about and the site will give hand back relevant information.

57) Have a common experience across all channels.

58) Use relevancy and urgency like the big hotel booking sites do.

59) The journey isn’t just online or offline – there are touch-points on both for a lot of people.

60) 89% of social media users share holidays photos while away – even if they don’t share the rest of the year. Connect with them when they do it and continue to talk to them when they come back. Reach out at every stage.

NB: This is a contributed article by Julie McNamee from Webnwords. Follow McNamee on Twitter.

Your newest vacation planners: Four Seasons and Pinterest


Bored? Turn to boards. Online boards, that is. Four Seasons just established a Pinterest presence to help you plan your next vacation.

With the new trip-planning service, Pin.Pack.Go, travelers create Pinterest boards and invite their preferred Four Seasons hotel to chime in on recommendations of things to do and places to visit on their vacation.

The result? A custom-planned vacation from those who know the area best. It’s a great example of a brand reaching out to its consumers in the burgeoning social marketplace and we should expect to see other hotel chains following suit shortly.




“Tweeting” honey badger drums up business for Johannesburg Zoo

It’s a lot of work keeping up a Twitter feed, but it’s even harder when you have claws.

That hasn’t stopped BG, Johannesburg Zoo’s resident – and now famous – media-savvy honey badger, who “tweets” at @ZooTweetsLive. Armed with the desire to boost crowds and overall awareness – but limited funds – the Jo’burg Zoo appointed BG as the world’s first “live-tweeting badger.”

How does it work? As BG wanders around his enclosure, he sets off infrared motion sensors, six in all, or cameras, all strategically rigged throughout his habitat. This triggers one of hundreds of prewritten tweets, some combined with a snapshot of the moment. Who can resist this bathing beauty?

The honey badger has made his rounds in the media circus, including TED Talks, Time, MSN, Huffington Post, and more. Was it a success? You bet. With 5,000 followers in the first week alone, 618% return on investment, and six million dollars earned media, BG’s campaign is a smash. While zoo visitor numbers aren’t available, it’s clear the digital world has gone mad for the badge.