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Social Travel’s Most Exciting Players: Airbnb and Tripping.com

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July 30  |  Social Networks  |   Simon

So I’ve been researching the current state of social media and mobile marketing in the hotel industry for a series of posts, when I started to relapse into a state I know all too well. My breath was getting shallow, hands clammy, one moment hot, then next cold. The same symptoms I’ve suffered from writing for hotel and travel clients. While I always swear that I’ll quit each time, I again found myself in the grip of an addiction I can never truly shake- Googling travel plans!!! …and It can happen to anyone, even you!

You could be at your office, just working away at your computer, not worried at all. But all it takes is just a few simple words to set it off, sending you spiralling out of control. It could be a co-worker could innocently ask if you have plans for the “Long Weekend” or you check Facebook and see an inflammatory post reading “Cabo in a week!!! Whoo!!”  Before you even realize it, you’re Googling for inclusive vacation deals until the janitor turns off the lights.

First I’m browsing a few white papers on the hospitality industry, I blink and find myself hypnotized by  Airbnb’s search. Did you know you can search for both “wireless internet” and “tree house” and get results? I start to hyperventilate as I realize I could be in a tree house in Morocco and still work. The problem is what am I actually going to do there and how am I not going to eat all my work time figuring it out.  I’m allergic to those expensive, boring tourist tours that just drag out all day, if only I knew someone there to show me around… That’s when I discovered the answer to this problem with Tripping.com.

Long distance connections and travelling is where many see the greatest value in online social networks. What finally convinced me to sign my soul over to Facebook a few years back was tagging along last minute with a few friend’s journey through S. E. Asia. This made keeping up with everyone you meet travelling the area, during and after a true benefit of Facebook.  While there are plenty of social travel sites out there now, after a cold shower, I thought I’d focus this energy into sharing the two I’m the most excited about.

Airbnb.com

Airbnb inc. made headlines yesterday by joining the billion-dollar start-up club after a $112 million round of financing. Airbnb has already gained notoriety in the start-up world, with TechCrunch using the phrase “The Airbnb of ______” to describe other social sharing networks/collaborative consumption start-ups.  For those not familiar with Airbnb, it is essentially a vacation rental site, but takes it further. Airbnb uses the concept of peer-to-peer travel and goes way beyond couch surfing. Rental spaces range from beds, rooms, apartments or houses to castles, tree houses, igloos, private islands. There are even have listings for whole villages and a country up for rent. While this all grabs headlines, where Airbnb really stands out from the range of vacation rental sites is its social aspects.

“Airbnb is to space what eBay is to stuff” is how co-founder Brian Chesky describes his company. This sparked interest with investors, not just by the comparison to eBay’s success, but also to its seller and buyer reviews.  Airbnb not only lets travellers review the hosts, it lets the hosts review the travellers.  With Airbnb, each traveller and host has to introduce and interview each other online before both can agree on the booking. This means, like with a host, a traveller has to keep a good reputation to keep participating in Airbnb’s service.  They even let fellow travellers vouch for each other to help build trust and smooth out the introduction stage Airbnb added Facebook connectivity in May, which has created 59 million connections in three months. This feature allows a LinkedIn-style degrees of separation, letting you see hosts and travellers through you FB friends. Now you can message a related FB friend to learn more about your potential host or guest.  This all goes to strengthen the vitally important community aspect of Airbnb.

Visit Airbnb.com

 

Tripping.com

Tripping.com is a new social travel site that is similar in features to Airbnb, but offers a service that can actually compliment Airbnb.  Tripping’s features include comparable community and trust building features between hosts and trippers, offering reviews both ways, along with peer reviews.  Facebook connectivity also links you with and through your Facebook friends to tripping members. For safety reasons, Tripping asks for extra validation from members through a video Skype call to show their passport and proof of address to match their account info. They also have an emergency hotline for trippers that is currently in beta-testing.

I find when travelling, having a friend or friend-of-friend at your destination is always a great advantage. Having someone who can give you the real tour of a location beats any cookie-cutter guided tour. A personal tour by a local gives you the chance to meet their local friends and gets you into the local culture. This is how you’ll get off the beaten path to see the best local restaurants, bars, clubs and all the little secrets of the area. Of course it’s a challenge to have connections located everywhere you want to go. This is where Tripping.com comes in.

You can either act as a host to your area or a tripper when travelling. What the host does offers their time to show the tripper around and can also offer to have them stay over.  There is no charge for this service, what everyone gains is the experience to share their lives and culture. While this sounds cheesy in print, the value you get from travelling and sharing culture is truly priceless, making is a much appreciated gift to receive. It’s also a great feeling to share your home and culture and to learn a different perspective on both from a traveller. Hosting also gives you a connection to the tripper and opening up their local area to you as well.  And of course there’s nothing wrong with treating you host with drinks, dinner or gifts for their time, as you would for a foreign friend hosting you.

Visit Tripping.com

 

If you’re an avid traveller or wanting to start dipping your toes in international water, make sure to check these two social travel sites out.  And in case you’re still lie awake at night worrying about your online privacy, get over it, it’s the future now, so connect to both through Facebook. Just seeing the lists of hosts you’re connected to that I can contact for an introduction can’t be more appealing.  I plan to try out both services in the near future and I will let you all know how much fun I had after! If you’re planning to visit Vancouver, BC, hit me up on tripping.com and I’ll show you the town.

Connect with me on Twitter: @S_Gerard

 


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Social eCommerce Made Easy With VendingBox

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April 7  |  Ecommerce SEO  |   Ryan Clark

The amount of companies doing sales through Facebook and Twitter is a surprisingly large amount compared to a couple of years ago. I’m sure most of us can all remember the amazing numbers Dell pulled off back in “the day” with Twitter, so what can be done with Facebook? Well, a lot actually. Without getting into a list of sorts we’ll just be focusing on one really nice piece of social ecommerce software called VendingBox.

With the amount of time spent on Facebook, people shouldn’t really have to go far to buy products..well, in my humble opinion of course. I’m sure you online shop owners don’t mind at all either although you might be worried about having to manage another shop platform. Luckily for you and even I (who runs his own eCommerce shop), VendingBox has done a damn fine job of making this process a breeze. The features are too many to list, so if you’re interested already, check the ginormous feature’s list that they have on their site.

The look and feel of VendingBox is what really made me sign up within the first 5 minutes of being on the site, so for that, check out their oh so sexy examples. Having something that looks goods always increases sales, so that backed with your brand recognition should do wonders for sales. The compatibility with our popular shopping carts makes it accessible for a lot of people, just another feature that had me drooling quite quickly. You can pretty much sign up and have your web design team go at it, and if they can’t have it up and configured in a week then you need a new design team!

What does it cost? This is perhaps the best part for smaller shops, and a reasonable option for you big brands out there. There is no setup cost, there is no monthly fee but just a cut of your transactions. For those making really small margins, this setup perhaps isn’t the best option for your. VendingBox takes %2.9 of your sales from their software, but only if you accumulate more than $100 in monthly sales…sounds fair doesn’t it? Some of the limits at the moment are you can have up to only 1000 products listed, so that’s not too much of a downfall. I’m thankful my shop doesn’t have more than 50 products because that’s hard enough to manage! I found this great little video from Youtube user DailyNerdVids who put together a showcase of how it all comes together.

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Facebook Contest Case Study

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February 8  |  Social Networks  |   Ryan Clark

As more and more companies and brands are scrambling to gain Facebook followers, the more requests we’ve had from clients to get on it. We’ve had a lot of success lately and I thought I’d share a few contest angles that work really well in the local and global market. Local companies though an really hone in their user-base quite easily, so listen up if you’re a smaller company wanting to hit big numbers.

While I cannot let you know which client it was I’m using the numbers for, I will let you know it was for the Vancouver BC area. The company is a contractor of sorts and beforehand, didn’t have much of a social media presence. I’ll run down what we recommended, and luckily got a generous budget of $3000 to play with which included the cost of the prize.

Step 1: The Prize

You’re going to need to really wet the appetite of the user, and giving away a coupon card for $25 just doesn’t cut it…not for the numbers we’re going after. For this client, we recommended two options, both he liked so much that we’ll be running the second come next month.

First up was an easy call, the iPad. Everyone wants one whether you’re in the cult of Mac or not. This prize is also worthy enough you can expect to get a lot of noise written about you, and it should attract the followers when they see your friends post about it on their wall.

In this case study, we did not have a 2nd and 3rd place prize set, but I would recommend that to juice it up a bit. But by the looks of the results, it isn’t needed when you have such a kick ass 1st place prize.

Step 2: Planning The Attack

The contest participation factor is key to getting the viral aspect of it all going. Make sure the contest requires the person to Like and post something to their wall pertaining to the Facebook contest. This is where the friends of friends will spread it like wildfire! So make sure the rules are clear as day and this alone is almost good enough to handle the rest…but we didn’t stop there.

Depending on your budget left over, you’re going to want to get the word out through the web and nab some links and social media buzz. There are many ways of doing this and I’ll list off a few of things we did that have resulted in huge return on our time. The CEO of the company literally sang our praises which always makes one feel good.

- Get a press release out to spread the word and nab a few more links
- Submit your contest to contest listing specific sites
- Submit your contest details to deal forums, most of which have a section for these
- Spread the word to local bloggers to see if they’ll make a post about it
- Get your Twitter followers RTing the good word
- Take out Facebook ads about it for your local area
- Do a Video talking about the contest and its rules
- Write about it on your blog..don’t forget this one

After doing all of the above, the company got a whole whack of traffic, and while it’s still too early to tell, over 50 link thus far. Those links were all natural and look great to diversify his link profile. The branding that has been set out is also just as powerful! They may not nab a lot of clients now, but down the road a lot of those people will turn into a lead. If not, they’ll at least be able to recommend you to a friend when they ask for a recommendation for services you offer. Chances are really good you’re going to be the only company that they remember.

Step 3: During The Contest

While the contest is running, make sure you’re actively chatting with the new followers, as well as the current. Keeping the buzz going is key and nows a good time to let the people get to know your company a little better. Be friendly, have fun and as well throw in some tips about doing what you do best.

This is also a great time to divert some of that traffic into your Twitter and get some more followers there. The company in this case study had a lot of followers trickle into their Twitter account which was pleasing. We found that the client had to get quite active in RTing and chatting via that media stream because a few good RT’s from powerful users sent us a lot of other contestants.

Last but not least, now would be a good time to offer discounts on your services to try and get some business right away.

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If you’d like our help designing, implementing and launching your next social media contest don’t hesitate to get in touch. We offer a wide range of affordable options that will get your company results. Even if you just want to quickly pick our brains, we’re more than happy to lend a digital hand.

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Facebook Marketing Win Via The Olive Garden

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January 25  |  Social Media Sites  |   Ryan Clark

I’ve been wanting to showcase some excellent Facebook Page marketing examples by large brands and this opportunity came to light whole browsing today. The Olive Garden is currently running a Facebook contest that blew me away, mainly because of the sheer brilliance of how they’re doing it. This example should be looked over hard by companies struggling to grow their Facebook Page, especially ones with a large marketing budget.

I have been nagging and annoying the hell out of our clients to get more socially involved. A lot of them don’t see it as a marketing method worth going after hard…and this drives me nuts. I’m very well aware of the coming change in search trends, and more and more people are sticking on Facebook. This means organic search traffic is not going to be the only player in town, and it certainly might even become the market companies focus on the most.

The Olive Garden has recently hit a milestone of 1,000,000 Facebook fans which is down right amazing for any company. We only have one here in the west coast of Canada, so it’s mostly Americans they’ve tapped into although they got my like! To celebrate the achievement, they have decided to run a contest that is going to send them quickly on their way to another few hundred thousand more followers.

If you’re a social media manager for a big brand, I’d take note of how many followers they grow by the end of the month. The Olive Garden hopefully will respond to my email request to interview their marketing team about Facebook and Twitter marketing. I also see they’re doing a great effort with Foursquare which is just fantastic. I wish them the best of luck, but by the looks of it they won’t be needing any of it!

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Social Media Influences Your Google Ranking

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January 24  |  News  |   Ryan Clark

Some big news from the top stating, once and for all, that yes, social media will be affecting your rankings.

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Google’s Getting Scared Of Bing?

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September 25  |  News  |   Ryan Clark

In a recent interview I caught on Business Insider with Google’s Eric Schmidt talking about what he see’s as the Biggest threat to Google’s market share. With the partnership Bing has setup with Facebook, I’d be worried too. Top that all off with the recent Mayday updates and I see a wounded Google who finally may have someone to fight with…and that’s a good thing! I really don’t like having my eggs, or my clients, all in one basket so look forward to garnering more traffic from the Bing/Facebook side, especially those who got “raped” last May.

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Facebook Places Launch Video

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September 17  |  Social Media Sites  |   Ryan Clark

We all knew it was coming! Facebook Places is taking aim at Foursquare (and the other guys) with its new feature that is not at all original, but they have the user base so might as well. Of all the location based applications, this one will most likely give the Foursquare crew a run for its money depending on what else they do with it. One extra, cooler, better, faster, hard stronger ( sorry Daft Punk ) feature should be enough to leverage a lot of usage from the Facebook mob. For now I find myself not overly excited about this feature yet, and since I keep my Facebook profile on lock down, I don’t think I’ll use it much anywho. I do see the need for crucial integration of this feature into Facebook Pages though, and hopefully this helps brands and companies target their customers even more. Regardless, here’s a promo video that hypes it up a little more despite how lame it was done…all that money and this is the kind of production you put forth? LOLZ.

 

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Check.in For The Location Based App Freaks

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June 14  |  Local Business Marketing  |   Ryan Clark

I had thought with the advent of Twitter that my time was now doomed. Not only did I have to blog, handle clients, make videos and write reports. But, now I have to manage my location based apps to make sure I have a decent following. There’s no doubt that Foursquare, Facebook, Gowalla and Yelp are seeing huge growth from location based check-in apps. Businesses of any size should have already started marketing any of these platforms because local search domination will be mainly achieved through these means…well, that’s what I think anyway. I would not want to miss out on the shift that is taking place right now, so check out Check.in to handle multiple check in logins on location based apps.

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