This is the first week of my 4-year PhD study program and it’s been pretty hectic.
I am affiliated to the School of Business at NUI Maynooth and am focusing on my chosen area of study, namely ‘The Role of Social Media in Sustainable Business Development’ (although the extended title of my proposal is far more officious sounding and (probably overly) wordy!).
I’ll reflect back on the first class I took, on Tuesday, (Organising and Managing Doctoral Research) in a later post but right now I want to focus on the TBEX conference that I’m attending today and tomorrow at the Double Tree Hotel in central Dublin.
The TBEX conference is promoted as “the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, and new media content creators” and it is held periodically in different locations worldwide.
My supervisor, Professor Brian Donnellan advised me to attend and managed to obtain a registration pass for me through Dublin City Council (where Ms. Sarah Moloney was very helpful!), which I was glad about because the normal admittance fee for the two day event is US $997 – way out of a poor PhD student‘s price range!
I don’t know much about travel blogging, despite having travelled a fair bit over the last 25 years (and lived in 8 different countries) but Social Media is an important companion to blogging in general (in terms of promoting new (or old) blog posts) while conversely, blogging itself could be classified as Social Media activity insofar as user-generated content is the main output of both these internet-based phenomena. They are complimentary, co-dependent and synergistic (in my opinion).
The opening morning of TBEX kicked off with a keynote address by Californian ‘hotelier, author and speaker‘ Chip Conley in the large conference room. Unfortunately I only caught about the last 30 minutes of his speech (because of rain-congested Dublin city traffic delays) but he made some excellent observations related to travel blogging (and especially festival-going), spiced up with many humorous asides and genuine engagement with the audience. Many attendees found his words to be quite inspring and took to Twitter immediately to voice their approval – see here.
Afterwards, I attended two presentations in the morning session, both with a Social Media slant. I’ll describe them briefly below.
Ian expertly schooled us on his “21 Tool and Technology Tips to Dramatically Grow Your Following Online” which are now available on SlideShare. His suggestions were very detailed and specific, and contained lots of useful recommendations replete with plentiful URLs to assist the intrepid travel blogger in getting his or her content ‘out there’. An example would be Triberr, a content sharing community which I overheard some of the experienced traveller audience discussing in a positive manner.
Curiously though, I thought Ian’s 21st tip should have been the 1st on the list – namely ‘Automate the sharing of content’ – a practice which I believe is the foundation of successful Social Media activity for firms and individuals alike.
After a quick cup of tea I ventured upstairs to enter (slightly tardily) a talk given by (self confessed geek) Mike Sowden (blog: Fevered Mutterings) which was entitled “All The World’s A Status Update: Using Social Media To Tell Good Stories” and focused on the story telling aspect of Social Media.
I was particularly impressed by Mike’s novel and innovative suggestions to bloggers in relation to how they should (or could) release their new content to multiple platforms. The normal procedure is to promote a new post to all those connected Social Media platforms that any given blogger might use, at the same time, so that content consumers might get an identical update on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, etc. synchronously.
Instead of a traditional linear story release, Marvel decide to interweave the Civil War narrative arc into a number of their stand-alone character stories (e.g. Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Ironman etc.) which had the effect of requiring the reader to familiarise himself or herself with different threads of the story across multiple publications, thereby showcasing what these existing titles had to offer while progressing the Civil War saga in itself. A very clever (and somewhat manipulative) marketing strategy it might be argued.
As applied to Social Media and blogging, Mike believes that a similar approach (see photo above) might engender greater sharing and engagement among readers as a story builds and propagates itself in a self perpetuating fashion across multiple platforms.
It’s a cute theory which in some ways reminds me of the (far more basic) ‘role playing books’ that we used to read in the 1980s (for example, the Lone Wolf series) in which we had a certain amount of automony (although leading to a limited number of conclusions – which would not be the case in blogging) in deciding which way the (our) story would progress at a number of key points (e.g. choose path A through the forest or path B to the castle, etc.)
I have a feeling that my forthcoming research into Social Media might benefit from keeping the enlightening ideas that Mike unveiled today in mind. I look forward to more stimulating presentations at the second day of the conference tomorrow.