If you're asking that question, you're in the right place.
Again, you're in the right place. I appreciate the trust you've put in me But I hate to disappoint you you...
As brilliant as I am (totally tongue in cheek): I'm not here to tell you how to make money travel blogging I'm not here to tell you how to be popular (Statistics & Numbers: What Matters and Why is going on right now. Should be good!) I'm not here to discuss the latest trendy thing (Though Periscope is kinda cool and I’d love to talk about it or whatever cool things you’ve found!) I'm not even here to tell you what kind of content you should or should not be producing (Contrary to what you may have read on the Facebook group when I've been drinking) (And Matt's talking about Millennials next door.)
All I can do is what I've helped companies do for the last 15 years or so Figure out what strengths they have And how those translate to a digital world
That what I did as a career before I decided to leave all that behind and travel the world.
My name is Evo, and I’m a travel blogger just like you. And I’m honored you’ve chosen my session – and you’re still here – to kick off TBEX Asia ‘15.
In this session, I’m going to help you uncover and understand what strengths you already have.
Because when you know that it’s easy to figure out your own unique approach to travel blogging, whether you’re just starting out or feel the need for a change.
News flash: chasing trends sucks! At best it leads to disappointment from failing to meet overhyped expectations. At worst, you can waste a lot of time and money, when you could have been focused on the things you go best.
So as successful as Dave & Deb Gary Arndt Chris Christiansen and Nomadic Matt are...
You aren’t them. You can try to copying the tactics that works for them But you’re not them! those same tactics may not work for you.
It’s great to look up to them. It’s great to hold them up as examples of success. And it’s even OK to see if some of their tactics work for you
But remember that each of them do their own thing. You should do your own thing, too.
Because different is better! We need a rich and wide sea of travel content!
By way of example:
Stephan and Sebastian, the Nomadic Boys, They use humor and on-brand photography to highlight their niche; gay travel. They don’t care about “word count” for their blog posts. They tell their stories really, really well. And they fully embrace being gay. Really, really gay.
Jürgen and Mike (for91days.com). They tell stories of their travels not as tourists or even professional travelers, but as “eternal newcomers”. Every three months, they move to a brand new city – across the globe some times. They build their own niche, and committed to it fully!
Candace Rose Rardon She’s a sketch artist who travels the world, painting fantastic pictures, and selling them on on Etsy. Her blog is NOT about pimping her work. Instead, it highlights the experiences she’s had along the ways. It’s rare for her to post about commerce, because it’s not all about commerce!
Fit Living Lifestyle - Nathan Sado. He rolls travel into his profession as a personal trainer, with videos, training, you name it. He’s able to do what he does and also travel the world.
Can you do what these people do? Some of it, sure. But all of it? Probably not. They do it because they are good at it. Are you good at the same things?
Correlation does not equal causation! You can never recreate the exact same circumstances that preceded someone else’s success Sometimes you don’t have the same skills. And sometimes – more often, actually – there’s no real reason why the person is successful.
And because of that...
No rational person takes writing advice from EL James.No rational person takes financial planning advice from lottery winners like Matt Myles
And as amazing as her story of survival is, no rational person takes healthy living tips from failed parachute survivor Mackenize Weathington
And I’m certain no rational person takes viral video lessons from ANYONE! Not even Psy
There isn’t a success formula. It's not about how often you should Tweet each day Or at what time is the best time to post on Facebook Success isn’t guaranteed if you start posting better photos (though that's still a good idea. Always get better) You probably won’t become an overnight if you embrace podcasting or jump on Periscope eight times a day
Everyone’s definition of success is different, And the only rational path to follow is... Knowing what YOU are good at, And applying that to your travel brand.
Anyone have this question?
I’m so glad you asked!
I'm going to teach you 1 thing:
How to figure out what you're good out And then I'm going to show you how to incorporate that into your blog. Because that is how you build a successful travel brand.
Conventional wisdom says you need to do two things: First, Pick your medium
It’s almost 2016. There are new mediums created and explored almost every single day. Yet no medium is “dead”. Platforms change, but mediums stick around for a long time.
So when I say “blogger”, or you hear anyone say “blogger”, think beyond WordPress or SquareSpace. It’s just shorthand for travel content creator who shares stuff with the world.
Chances are, you’ll pick one primary medium. You may have more than one. That’s OK. Smart, even. But focus. Seriously. (Focus.) (Not kidding.)
Focus on a niche, says conventional wisdom And I agree with this. The more narrowly-defined, the easier it is for your audience to find you. So what will you “blog” about?
Or any other of an unlimited number of niches? What’s the right niche you should focus on?
Just pick a niche, pick a medium, and get started, right?
Not quite I posit to you that you are ill-equipped to make those decisions blindly. If you choose based on what’s cool and trendy and gets a lot of attention right now, you’re just following a trend that may not fit with your skill set. It’s all great and fine dream of being a travel photographer with a podcast... but if you’ve no idea the difference between ISO and shutter speed, or confuse bit rate with sample rate... You’re gonna have a bad time.
YES, there is (a better way to do it!) Instead of blindly selecting, we’re going to look inwards. And go through a crap ton of sticky notes. Oh, look! A stack is waiting for you under your chair. Get it out. Because it’s time for the exercise portion of this session. (Yes, I’m going to make you work!)
In a moment, I’m going to ask a question. A question that has lots and lots of answers, and I’ll be asking the question in different ways. But really, it’s one question.
Your job is to fill out as many sticky notes as you can with answers to that question. You will write down one answer on a single sticky note. Then you will peel that stick note off and stick it to something – your leg, your neighbor, the chair in front of you, I don’t care... And then you will write down ANOTHER answer on a different sticky note. And again and again and again until you have a pile of sticky notes. All answering the same question, or various themes on the question.
You may be tempted to used your note pad. Or perhaps your laptop. Or maybe your tablet.
Please do not. The exercise requires a pile of sticky notes. No shortcuts, please.
Also, do not try and save paper by writing down a whole bunch of answers on a single sticky note. These trees that made these sticky notes have already gave their lives for this exercise. Play along. (Please?)
A good sticky note just says ONE THING. You’re going to need a pile of these One Thing Next Thing
I promise, I will not make you read anything out loud or share with the class.
Be as honest as you can with yourself when I ask this question, and all the variants of the question.
Remember: Write, peel off, sitck, write again. Over and over again.
Are you ready? Here we go.
What are you good at? (One answer, peel it off, stick it somewhere, write down another)
In your job, what do you do better than any of your coworkers. In highschool, what were you really good at? (Another answer, peel it off, stick it somewhere, write down another. Keep going. Keep writing down one thing per note, and answering again and again.) When you’re futzing around on the computer. When you're grocery shopping... Anything! Simply write down the things you are good at. If you’re stuck, write down the things that other people tell you you are good at. No matter how odd and silly it is. Are you good at cooking? Write it down.
What comes naturally to you? (One answer, peel it off, stick it somewhere, write down another)
What can you kick out without any thought at all, because it's easy. I can stand up here and talk to you -- that comes easy for me. Doing my taxes? I hate it. What can you do with the greatest of ease, anytime and every time. You may not necessarily love it, but what can you do easy?
One answer per note. Peel. Stick. And write down again.
What takes you absolutely no effort. Needle point? OK. How about planning? Comedy? Are you a natural born story teller?
What comes natural to you?
What communication tools fits you the best? Can you carry on a conversation with anyone? Are you a really, really good listener? Do love being in front of the camera? Do you have a knack on the other side of the camera or video? Are you really great live, in front of an audience? Can you type 500-1000 words without thinking about it? Are you a talented musician? Can you sing? Are you the first on any social tool? Or is there one social tool you've mastered?
WHAT ARE YOU GOOD AT?
WHAT COMES NATURALLY TO YOU?
WHAT COMMUNICATION TOOLS CAN YOU ROCK?
And time is ...
Wasn’t that fun?
Now you’ve just done in six minutes, by yourselves, a task I normally assign to groups of 3-5, and give them at least 2 hours. But we don’t have that kind of time, so you get the abbreviated version.
But before we do the next part Everyone please stack your notes together, counting as you go. I don’t care how neat the stack is. They won’t stay there for long. Count ‘em up.
Hopefully you all have at least 10 cards, so hands up if you have more than ten. 20? 30? What’s the highest number we have?
Cool. Good job. It’s easier with a lot of them.
But now you’ve just got a pile of sticky notes in front of you, which probably isn’t all that helpful. Maybe you had a moment of epiphany, but we’re not through. The next step is to do what we humans are really good at: looking for patterns and organizing.
There are lots of ways to do this: I’m teaching you one: the Portfolio method It works really well for personal branding And we don’t have a lot of time
We draw a simple grid. For now, just make four piles. You can get fancy with a grid later. Because yes, I’m giving you homework!
Now we put some labels on these grids and start moving our sticky notes around. NOTE: It’s OK to create new stickies as you go if you don’t have that many. This isn’t a timed test!
Start by looking for things that fit in an INCOME pile: What can you count on to make you money? Not potential to make money Skills you have that you know, with the same level of certainty that a worker punches a clock every day, can fund your travels You need money to continue to live the travel lifestyle. How will you/do you/can you make it? (And don’t think ahead with ‘what does this have to do with travel blogging?” I’ll bring it home in a moment, I promise!)
The think about HAPPINESS: That’s easy. What brings you joy? What do you do simply because it makes you happy? Blowing off time reading science fiction Foodie-ing out? Yoga Playing guitar in a local club or singing Karaoke?
Similar, but with a key difference, is a new pile for PERSONAL GROWTH: Look for things that you are good at that makes you a better person. What do you do (or want to do more of) that causes you to grow? Working with non-profits Tinkering with new apps like Periscope? Submitting stories to travel magazines Entering in photo contests? Attending TBEX? Moving from two-dorks-and-a-microphone to more journalistic storytelling podcast?
Finally, look for stickies that go under UPSIDE: Low probability, but high profitability If this thing takes off, it'll be a game changer for you. These are big bets that probably won't pay off, but they do, you're onto something Trying to convince a production house to make you a TV star Writing the a blockbuster book Being "first" on the next wave of app digital trend Got ‘em all organized? Awesome!
Let me show you an example. You can look at this and keep organizing yourself. And again, I promise not to make you read yours out loud. (Thought I will answer questions at the end.)
Notice how the income bucket doesn’t list anything you’d recognize as “bloggy”. And that’s OK. Not everyone travel blogs for money. Or earns money directly from their travel blog. And with these skills, it’ll be a breeze for this person to land a teaching abroad position. (And all of these can be parleyed into more “bloggy” tasks later on, too. If the person who created this feels like it.)
Happiness is always personal. This person likes talking to people, is happy planning parties, and making people feel as ease. If longevity in blogging has one common component, it’s that the happiness pump gets hit quite often so events like TBEX are probably good for this person.
Personal growth is always a big spot, but often overlooked. This person has one thing, but it’s a doozy. This person actually feels they grow as a person when they share their experiences. Outstanding!
Finally, Upside, the low-probability but high profitability corner. For her, it’s sights and sounds, captured through a camera lens and because I know her I know she has a storytelling podcast.
Here’s what this tells us about her “travel blog” and how she can do it her own unique way: Her “bloggy” stuff is all on Upside and Personal growth! That means she can mostly ignore the nickel-dime talks about affiliate marketing, trying to grow her twitter followers, SEO... Those all take a major backseat to the things she’s good at: Photography and sharing her experiences. They hit a different pleasure center than dollar bills.
So no, she shouldn’t blog about how to buy SIM cards. And she’s not obligated to join a collaborative blog post on how to make TBEX better.
It’s hard enough to have the “so what’s your travel blog about” talk with someone. Focus on the portfolio approach, and you’ll find it much, much easier.
So I’ve just given you” Four piles of sticky notes a rough understanding of one way to organize them and a single example of what that technique told one person about how they should approach travel blogging.
Surely, there’s more. There are. Five things more. This is the point where you can pick up your notebooks again if you’d like. But the whole thing is here:
This entire presentation, complete with details on the exercise, is at this URL. Write it down.
Now, back to the Five.
And this might work, if the video looks and sounds good.
Now, back to the Five Takeaways.
Again, you jammed through an exercise that typically takes a full day or more, in a team setting. But we don’t have that kinda time. And I don’t want to leave you hanging. So...
I’m here to help. And I want you to continue the exercise. What I want you to do is take these cards back to your room with you. Keep the extra sticky notes in your your pocket. Write more things down as ideas come to you as you get inspired the rest of the conference. Send yourself a voice memo or write down new ideas as the come to you after the conference, and write them back down on a sticky. Put those stickies up on a wall in your office in the right quadrant. Get feedback from people who know you.
And then I want you to talk to me. I'm here to help. Seriously. For free. You get unmetered access to me for a month. If you're serious about doing something different, I want to help you. Contact me at the website I just put up. It’ll be fun. I really enjoy helping people figure out what not to do.
Second: Be unique, not stupid. FISH WHERE THE FISH ARE Some examples of “imperatives” are as follows: Make sure your RSS feed is full. Seriously. Settings > Reading > "For each article in a feed, show:" [Full text] Social properties -- FB – are completely filled out profile No blue heads! Always add a link back to your primary site. Website Make sure there’s an easy way to contact you. Unless you have a very good reason, contact forms SUCK. Your email address, at a minimum.
THIRD: You are more than your blog. You’re more than the idea of a “brand” you create. You can leave the maze. You can rest the game. You can even create other properties that have nothing to do with your travel brand. You aren’t stuck. Choose again!
Fourth: NO DISGRUNTLED SKYWRITING! You will get frustrated by the travel blogging world. I promise it. Resist the temptation to blog about it. Or podcast about it. Deal with it. Talk to a therapist. Call your mom. Just don’t engage on the platform ABOUT the platform. It’s worse than inside baseball. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
Fifth: there is no one right way. Or one thing you should be doing. Figure our your brand. Work within it. Know your limitations. And have fun. (Really, that’s all you can do.)
Thanks again for attending. Enjoy TBEX.
http://ShEvo.wtf is where you can find me. Cheers!
TBEX15 Asia Thailand Evo Terra
DARE TO BE DIFFERENT
- or –
HOW NOT TO TRAVEL
BLOG LIKE EVERYONE