Does social media matter more than print?

For maximum exposure tour operators and airlines should work with travel writers who are socially connected.

The more I think about it, the more I think a travel writer’s social media authority and connectivity is increasingly valuable for getting a message out there. Indeed, potentially more important than print.

At the moment my trip to Burundi and Rwanda is based on commissions from 2 excellent travel sections. The Sunday Telegraph (expected publication date March 28th) and Wanderlust (to be published later this year.) I’d argue that you can’t do much better than this kind of a combination if you are a tour operator looking for exposure for your products. The ST gives really wide coverage (around a million regular readers) at the middle to upper end of the pay scale – people who have the cash to go for that once-in-a-lifetime trip to see some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Wanderlust offers a really tightly defined group of adventurous travel addicts who will prioritise spending on a trip like that above all else. Wanderlust readers book trips as a result of reading the magazine. A lot.

But I’d argue that online is now equally as important if not more so. Both features will be published on the respective websites of the publications. If their web editors are smart (and I know they are) they will optimise page titles and other meta data to ensure the pages show up in search requests. The Telegraph with vast numbers of page views and high credibility is particularly valuable for this. Links from these features to the Bridge and Wickers website (the tour operator helping me organise this trip) will deliver serious search equity helping to power it higher in search requests around say Rwanda gorillas, Rwanda holidays etc. In an ideal world the web editors of the ST and Wanderlust should use anchor text to make these links more valuable too - but that rarely happens (eg: Rwanda holidays)

But there’s more. I have 2000+ twitter followers. Not a huge number by any means, but the quality of the network is without question. Pretty much every travel writer, editor and PR person in the UK and many tour operators who ‘get’ social media are following me.

Over the next week or 2 I'm posting on Travelblather about my trip. When internet connectivity allows I’ll be tweeting too. I’ll stick images on my Flickr feed. I’ll be creating a little bubble of interesting buzz around Bridge and Wickers, Burundi and Rwanda. It will start to influence search results. And, lots of influential people who write about travel for a living will be dipping into what I am publishing.

Right now it’s very very hard to put a meaningful number on the actual value of this stuff. But I’d argue it’s higher than people realise. This is particularly the case when it comes to unusual destinations where not that much genuinely credible online content already exists about them.

Tour operators and airlines and tourist boards – do you agree? What are your principles and practices for engaging with travel writers when it comes to their web and social media presence?

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