Hello and welcome. Today I’ll be speaking about creating a travel community and the interaction among bloggers; if we should be competing or cooperating with each other.
Before I begin, I want to tell you a little bit about my background, so that you have a better understanding.
* Currently full-time travel writer and blogger.
* I roughly travel 6 months in a year. I am based in Turkey when I’m not on the road. I’ve traveled to around 60 countries so far.
* My name is Engin (non-Turkish speakers always call me Engine). I am technically (used to be) a mechanical engineer.
* So, the new brand I am just creating is called enginEER Travel. that makes sense?
I quitted my office job as an engineer, got a one-way ticket to South America and changed the path of my life. Very usual story, right? I backpacked the continent for 1 year. When I was back, I wasn’t sure if I should continue as an engineer, which is easy and pays well, or take the challange to earn my life out of traveling. Challange accepted! This’s Year 2011.
* Founder of Turkish Travelers Society which I’ll be mentioning later on in detail during my speech. I have no intention to be a CEO of a corporate company; and neither I am in the right track for that in my life. But I call myself to be the CTO (Chief Traveling Officer) of my organisation. Just for fun
* Author of the book 'Practical Travel Guide of A Traveler'. I write for newspapers, magazines and websites. Talk on TV and radio.Public talks about traveling, for corporate companies, organizations, high schools and universities. I take part as a jury in some competitions in Turkey, regarding travel writing, instagram photo competitions etc.
* I work with tourism boards, agencies, flight companies, hotels for destination and product-service marketing.
* Why did I want to make my speech in community track?. This’s my 3rd time attending TBEX and love it from the beginning. I can easily say I am addicted to it. So, this time I wanted to contribute with something that I believe I have enough knowledge about. I believe communities are very important in any industry, including travel blogging. From the early days, I’ve been a very active member on Hospitality Club and Couchsurfing which are hospitality networks for travelers as most of you may have heard of. I’ve been country volunteer, city and nomadic ambassador for them. I’ve been enrolled in many other travel-related networks in my country and internationally in the past 14 years of my life. And of course Turkish Travelers Society that I’ve been working on for the past 8 years.
So, during this session, we will try to find answers to 4 questions :
* Should you rather continue as an individual or be part of a travel community? Is there anything you can achieve through a community which you can not as an individual?
* What’s possible with networking? How bloggers, writers, travelers, photographers etc. can benefit from a community.
* Should bloggers compete or coopoerate with each other? What are the critical points we all should be aware and careful about.
* What does it take to create and, even more important than that; sustain a travel community? The good and not so good sides.
So, let’s begin with some questions. Please ask yourself
Why am I blogging? Am I doing it for fun? For family and friends? For teaching people something? For my ego? To make the world a better place to live? What’s my main motivation?
What am I trying to get out of it? Money? Popularity? Reputation? Freebies, Free travel? Nothing at all?
How should I stand? As an individual or part of a community? Or both?
Actually, your answers to these very simple questions should be defining your strategy. If you’re blogging for fun; that’s very good! You just relax and do what you want.
If you want to take it more serious, make money out of it, that’s another story. And at this point, be it purely for fun or a business for fun, I’d like to guide you through the consequences of being a part of a community vs. continuing the journey on your own.
Question to Audience: How many of you feel yourself part of a travel / blogger community / network? Which ones to name a few? Who thinks that you benefit from them?
* Why are we all here? Why do we devote our time and money to sit in a conference room for 2 days? I guess we all agree that we get an amazing value out of these few days we spend together, right?
You come to TBEX to see what other people are doing. You come here to learn. You come here to share your ideas. You belong to a community that this conference created. If it’s your first TBEX, by the end of the conference some of you might want to attend the following events. If you are here for the 2nd, 3rd, 10th time, I guess you already know what I’m talking about.
* When you find yourself surrounded by people sharing the same dreams with you, and having amazing ideas, you become energized. In order to be THE BEST in something, you have to be among the best. Just a cliche but, if we all agree most of the top tech companies startup in Silicon Valley, there’s a clear reason behind that. Not only because these guys are so smart with brilliant ideas, but also they are the ones in the right ecosystem where they can learn from and be supported by others. So, find your own Silicon Valley. Maybe it’s TBEX, maybe it’s the coworking space in your city, maybe an online global travel community, a local society of bloggers, or a combination of few.
* When you’re small as a blogger; let’s say few hundred or a thousand followers and not much traffic on your blog, The game is tough and you don’t know what to do and how to reach these ‘crazy’ numbers that ‘they’ have. So, try hanging around with those people. Attend their presentations, meetings. Go for coffee with them. Get into the community and be part of it. If you’re doing a great job with a passion, no matter how unexperienced you are, people will always appreciate your work and try to find ways to support you.
* Maybe you get a shoutout from a page with few hundred thousand likes; and this brings you a couple of thousand new ‘fans’ in a few hours. Maybe a blogger you met at a conference will introduce you to another blogger who invites you to a reception where you meet a representative of a brand with whom you’ll be cooperating with for the next few years? Or maybe you’ll just meet your significant other at a party of travelers and you’ll travel and live happily ever after You never know where the opportunity is!
* If you are one of the so called ‘guru’s in your niche, having the number of followers equivalent to the sum of 10 other bloggers in your area. Please still, keep calm and continue blogging! You still gotta be social, lliterally. Get to know the people in real, talk to them, exchange your ideas. If you are good at something, just teach them. Arrange public talks, presentations, meetings. The satisfaction you’ll get can not be measured by likes or retweets or money. It’s all about giving something to people and feeling part of a valuable member of a community.
* Don’t stay away from the crowd. If you behave selfish, arrogant, demand too much; eventually noone likes you and you are out of the game.
* And in the end of the day, nobody in this room or a similar environment like this will ask you the silly and boring questions: Ohh so you are a travel blogger, right? You travel for free and on holiday 365 days a year. Awesome, amazing. I’d like to do that too, it should be a very nice and easy life. So, you don’t work. How cool is that! I clearly believe that noone except us, can really understand and appreciate the good and difficult job we are all doing. So, enjoy being at a comfortable travel community, where people UNDERSTAND you.
So, I’d like to continue with 2 real stories. My experiences which I believe include valubale information.
First one has taken place through the past 14 years, and the second story is a more recent one. Let me begin with the first one.
* 14 years ago, I wanted to join a travelers association in Turkey. I thought it’s cool to be a part of a community and meet people. I was a university student by then, with an experience of having visited 4 countries only. Guess what happened?
* They rejected me because they had a rule that you need to have visited 10+ countries.
OK, I said. Nothing to argue about. Rules be rules!
* After many years, they know about me in person and us as the society, and I continue following what they do. We invite them to our events and they join. They invite us to their meetings and we join.
* Last year, I receieved an award from this travelers club. They chose our website as ‘The Most Unique Travel Blog in Turkey’. I was really happy about that. Being appreciated is always good. They also invite members from our society to speak at their meetings, and they go. So, we have good relations.
This travelers association and the one that I am founder of are different in several ways, and we both know it. On one hand this association seems to be more of an exclusive group, harder to get in and focusing more on luxury traveling, package tours etc whereas our mission has always been more about spreading the independent travel culture for everyone – be it for backpackers or high-end travelers.
Fair enough; it is always good to have variety, so that people with different interests and needs can choose what they want. On the other hand, it is always good to be in touch with different networks of people. And right now, having been to ‘enough’ number of countries with a significant experience of traveling, I guess I can be accepted in this association
There are also other travel communities that I like, so I join them. There are those that I don’t like, for specific reasons; so I don’t join them. Pretty simple.
3 weeks ago, I had an online chat with a guy that I know from Turkey. I know him through Couchsurfing events and other networks. He just started a travel community under a name which is almost identical to ours. So, I just wrote him that maybe he better chooses a different name, for the sake of both of our networks not to be mistaken and not to have complications in perception.
First he became mad at me, thinking that I am attacking him. However, after 2 hours of chatting, he understood clearly what my intention was and we finished the chat in peace.
OK, let’s take long story short. I explained many things to him that night, and all our facebook chat history has also been very usefull for me to prepare this speech. It was an amazing brainstorming activity for me Here are some notes that came out from this chat and I want to share them with you.
* It is NOT EASY to create a network. And what is even more difficult is to sustain it. Now having our network for 7+ years, it’s only me and my 2 co-founder friends who literally know how much we struggled. Lots of discussions, conflicts, online meetings, people to deal with....
* You have to be unique! With your name, with your ideas, with whatever you do. Never ever create any brand where people will mistake you with another brand. This can cause you problems in the future, if not now. And always protect your brand! For example, our brand name is registered by law in Turkey. That means, I technically have the right to sue anyone using our brand name in many categories related with travel, digital media, travel products etc. So, everyone be wise.
* People ask me if I make money out of this community, and if this is a voluntary or a profit-organization. OK, let’s take things simple. YES we make money out of it. We work with brands, we get advertisements, we do paperwork, we have an accountant, and we pay taxes. So this way, you may call this ‘commercial’. But given the amount of energy and time we have spent among the years in comparison to the money we earned, you better call us ‘volunteers’ or ‘stupid guys’ The point here is, YOU HAVE TO LOVE WHAT YOU ARE DOING. It’s mostly about passion and less about money.
*There can be as many different travel communities as there are many people with different ideas. So, you can belong to none, one or many. Variety is good, and interaction between networks is fun. We have Travel Massive, Couchsurfing, TBEX to name a few we all know about. Dive in more and then you have luxury travelers networks, budget travelers, eco-travelers, local communities etc. Just pick what you want and network with those people. Even here in this room, we have 2 people who are the founders of a large travel portal and a community in Turkey. Say hi please! So, we are doing more or less the same things, working with similar companies in the same ecosystem. So, you can technically call us ‘competitors’. But first of all, we are friends. And we do cooperate in our projects. There are some people who contribute to our website as well as theirs. So, this’s exactly what I’m talking about.
* You CAN NOT do everything on your own to sustain a community! There’re lots of things to be taken care of. I have a team. Web developer, visual designer, community manager, social media responsible etc. So, you have to be in a position of coordination if you dream big!
* Be Clear with your vision and mission. Decide what you want your community be like and shape it accordingly. Try to think about 2 – 5 – 10 years ahead if you can; time just flies. The very first steps you take in this very moment creating a community will define what you’ll be doing and what type of people will be around you in the future.
Let’s talk about cooperation among bloggers. There are many ways that we can benefit from a community.
* When you belong to a community, you have the possibilty to know people in person, face to face. Not only through hashtags, blog names, avatars, instagram accounts etc.
* When you are more than 1, you create synergy. You can brainstorm, exchange ideas. You find potential business partners for your projects.
* It’s like your facebook page. If you don’t post often, facebook starts showing your posts less to your followers, and eventually they just forget you. It’s the same in real life. The more active you are the more people know, hear about you in real life. Social is social; be it online or offline.
* Bloggers cooperating online helps the follower numbers increase. Imagine you have 100K followers. You share your newbie blogger friend’s account with 1K follower, there you go; he/she triples in few days. This is good. You dont have to expect anything; just give a hand. That’s how we evolve.
* We as bloggers are very new in travel industry. This is very important! So, right now is the time to set the standards, make up the rules, make ourselves known and be respected. So at this point, if you can manage to cooperate with fellow bloogers (even if they are your strongest competitiors), you will eventually all win in the long term! It works like a union.
* Imagine a company wants content from you but is not willing to pay you anything; or just offer a ridicilous amount. Share this in your community, let them know, and say NO alltogether. Simple as it is! If someone accepts the offer, the whole community (including that very individual) looses in the long-term. Be aware of how valuable you are, cooperate with each other, and set the standards for bloggers as high as possible. I believe we all deserve it!
* If you have a community, you become stronger in the industry and get more contacts and working opportunities. You should be in a position to share what you get among your community.
Now, it’s time to fight! Choose your side, define your enemies, and attack!!!! No...
* Everyone is trying to get their share in the resources available. Focus on what you want to get. Are you looking after some free travel? Do you have great ideas and you are looking for partners? You want to monetize your blog? You can do all of these. One at a time. Just focus!
* There are and there will always be ‘Stealers and Copiers’. They will chase you silently and insidiously. They will try to copy your projects. Either ignore them, or shout out to let other people know; up to you. In the end, everyone has to play the game according to the rules.
* The competition is big, and it is ever getting bigger and bigger. Today, everyone wants to be a travel blogger, and live this life of fantasy, right? You have to be really good and different if you want to be at the Champions League. Otherwise, you’ll just be one among the thousands of other bloggers out there.
* Considering you do blogging seriously, then, it's your business! Be as serious as you’d be at any other job. Define your strategies well! Choose smartly who you work with. Your business partners are important. They can turn you down as well as can add big value to your business.
* In the network of bloggers and brands who cooperate with bloggers, it’s a small world! Whatever you do, be it good or bad, will be known by other people. So, always be honest, and play the game according to its rules. Be ethical, be kind to your competitors. This way they do not become your enemies and we can all sustain a fair playground.
* There is really a thin line in-between seeing other travel bloggers in your environment as competitors or business partners. Use your commensense.
* Back in the years, there was no community, platform for independent travelers, backpackers in Turkey. So, together with my 2 friends, we came up with the idea of creating a travel society in 2007. It took us 1 year to shape until we launched on 2008. We named it ‘Sırtçantalılar’ which literally means Backpackers in Turkish.
* That was the time of Yahoogroups, if you can remember. Blogging was very very new, and social media almost did not exist, compared to what it is today. So, we started a ‘real community’ where the e-mail group was the main platform of communication. We didn’t start as a blog, or social media or whatsoever. They just came in the following years.
* Turkey is a country where independent travel culture is just evolving; in comparison to countries where most of you are from. I can see an amazing change in the past 10 years. More students do backpacking trips. More people go abroad and discover the world. People just begin to understand it’s more of a cultural thing than how much money you have.
* Our mission has always been to improve the travel culture in Turkey and create a platform where people can exchange information; experienced travelers can motivate wanna-be-travelers. We are very proud and happy to contribute to the evolution of this culture in our country.
* Loyalty is the focus. People should say ‘I belong to...’. Right now we have 60K+ people on our Facebook page, 20K+ on Twitter. You might have 10.000 followers, 1.000 members, but only those 100 who feel loyal to you is what makes everything worth. They will be your supporters in each situation. Our t-shirt is the center of loyalty. We distribute it to many travelers, they wear it in different parts of the world, we share their photos.
* We do meetings, regular presentations, birthday party every year. These are the times when people ‘physically’ come together and talk.
* Never forget the reality of change in time! 7 years ago we founded as 'backpackers' community. Now we have people from all sorts of life and different ways of traveling; from student budget-travelers to older luxury travelers. People, and so the community evolves. Today’s 20-year-old backpackers become professionals in 10 years time. You might have been the poorest backpacker ever, surviving on 5 USD a day, and now you may be staying in hotels 200 USD a night. I don’t see that as a problem, however some people do and criticize a lot.
* When people ask me if I have a blog, I prefer calling it as a ‘travel portal’. We have articles from 40+ bloggers, writers, travelers. When we share their article on social, we give reference to their name, and a link to their blog, facebook page, instagram whatever is more convenient. This is a way to show your respect and show thankfulnes. And we even paid for our contributors. This is really uncommon for any organisation to pay for guest posts in Turkey and in many countries. Even many big corporate companies look for free content. However, I believe putting up a post is very valuable; from the moment of actual traveling, the experiences and writing it up. So, we try to appreciate it as much as we can, through a small fee.
* Not everyone likes us. We get lots of criticisim about many issues, as well as appreciation. So, being appreciated makes you happy and realize you are doing a great job for some people. Being critisied teaches you to make things even better. Remember, in any field, if you do something that is seen by many people, you will have lovers and haters at the same time. It’s just part of the game
* Cooperate with flight companies, tourism boards, agencies and send our members for FAM trips. We get sponsors and give their products and services such as plane tickets, travel products, accomodation etc. with competitions
* We frequently are invited to appear on TV shows, radio programs, interviews on newspapers. Several of our members join.
* There’s an annual blogger competition in Turkey. Bloggers in different categories (travel, fashion, sports, food etc.) join. We meet for conference, workshop and get to know each other. In the year 2013, we were chosen as ‘The Most Expert Website in Turkey' among 1.700 websites and blogs competing. That was a big success and we are proud of it. We still attend the events every year, and give our support to the blogs we llike
* Social media promotion sponsor for EMITT2015 in Istanbul (the 5th largest travel and tourism exhibition in the world) and also the media sponsor for Travel Turkey Izmir Exhibiton.
* We are re-branding now. We are changing our logo, all the corporate visual design, the appearance of our website. We are also adding new functionalities to our website to make it more interactive. We have many projects coming soon.
So, let’s try to sum up. What can you get from this session?
* Attend invitations, coctails, openings, blogger events, dinners, FAM trips... Get to know more people in the field. The larger network you have and the more you are in the center; the more flow goes through you; so you become crucial. And if you belong to some communities, and I believe you should, life becomes easier.
Now I get lots of invitations for FAM trips, press trips etc; far more than I can attend to be honest. I often arrange other people attend. Sometimes to thank to people who support me and the community with their help (organizations, exhibitions etc.); sometimes to people I work with project-based or part-time; I give away free tickets, holidays etc instead of cash. Call it sharing economy, barter, pragmatism, win-win; whatever it is, it’s beneficial for all parties.
* Notworking – Networking. My motto for the past few years. People ask me what I am doing? (which actually means that why are you not doing anything?). It’s only in blogger events like TBEX that we can find people who literally understand us because here in this room, we all know what it takes to be a blogger.
After few years of time spent on networking, I made many connections. Before, I absolutely knew noone, and now I know all the important people at least for the Turkish market, and they all know me.
* Watch out what other people in your area are doing. See the connections. Try to seek for things and ways you can do things better. Find a niche that has not been covered yet.
* Your main aim should be to be the BEST in whatever you are doing. So, if we are talking about being a blogger here, you focus to be THE BEST BLOGGER in your niche, area, country, focus group or whatsoever.
* Join the traveler, blogger communities that interest you. Talk, network, socialize with people. Teach and learn. Cooperate and be stronger.
* See the needs in your area. Do you think something is missing? People need a platform to exchange specific ideas? It would be nice to give them a network? If you think so, create one!
* We might have different nationalities, religions, beliefs, whatever. We may be traveling and blogging, sharing in a different way.
* In the end, our common point is to ‘LOVE’ traveling. That’s the one and only unique thing that unites us all. So, let’s stick to that.
* Be respectful to your competitiors, and be friends with them and cooperate more while you are still in competition.
Thank you very much for your precious time.
Now we have the Q & A section. Please shoot your questions.
I am also more than happy to discuss any ideas after the session or later on online.
Tbex15 Asia Thailand Engin Kaban
Creating a Travel Community
Compete or Cooperate?
Turkish Travelers Society
Who am I?
Full-time Travel Writer and Blogger
Engin – Engine?
enginEER Travel – Easy, Elegant, Responsible
Turkish Travelers Society – CTO
Travel Book, Printed and Digital Media, Public Talks, Jury
Working with Brands and Tourism Boards
- Individualist or not?
- Compete or Cooperate?
- Create and Sustain a Community
Individual to Community
Why are you at TBEX?
Find your own Silicon Valley!
Be a Giver
Story 1 – Things Change
Year 2001 – A junior student with not much travel
Keep in Touch
Story 2 – Advices
Be Unique and Protective
Face to Face vs. Online
Be Social, literally
Share within your community
Available Resources - Focus
Ethics – Unwritten Rules
Small World - Competitors or Enemies?
Turkish Travelers Society
2007 - The Need – Sırtçantalılar
Old Good Times
Travel Culture in Turkey
Meetings – Presentations
Turkish Travelers Society
Travel Portal – show respect
FAM trips, invites, competitions etc.
TV, radio, newspapers
Blogger Awards Competition
Be in the center
Notworking - Networking
Keep an eye on your fellow bloggers (aka your
Focus on being THE BEST
Be a Part of the Community
Create a Community if Needed
We may be different but,
We are all on the same track.
We LOVE traveling,
We LOVE sharing.
Keep in Touch