Archive for July, 2011

Google Places logo

Social Networks for Ski Resort – Google Places

Google Places logoLooking back, it’s been a long time since I’ve added an update to the ongoing Social Networks for Ski Resort series, so with all the Google+ buzz going on, I decided to veer off and review Google Places.

If you don’t know what it is, Google Places is “local rating and review feature” and is also a way for businesses to have some control of how they appear in Google Maps, and has been around in an evolving form for some time. It got a social component added in towards the end of last year in the form of what was then called Hotpots which is now completely integrated into Places. Google Places is also undergoing some changes in terms of how content is aggregated to a businesses’ Places page. In a recent post of Google’s Lat Long Blog, it is explained that Google will now only include Google user reviews in the Places listings as well as making it easier for Google users to add their reviews.

Of course one of the most important reasons to ensure that your business has an updated and fully filled out Google Places profile is the fact that Google serves up the places data using geo-location tagging to huge numbers of mobile users, over 150 million as of last March, and growing incredibly fast when you consider this:

There are now over 500,000 Android devices activated every day, and it's growing at 4.4% w/w
@Arubin
Andy Rubin

So without the 4.4% w/w  increase that Mr Rubin notes, in the approximate 4 weeks since then, Google has added 14 million additional Android users. Android’s maps integration has only gotten tighter and tighter with each update.

This evolution and in some respects cleaning up of Google Places leads me to think, and also have some hope, that Google is looking to use existing Places pages as a way to bring brands into Google+. I don’t know that is indeed in the roadmap, but I believe it could solve a number of issues that I’m seeing on Facebook Pages – notably a lack of consistency and an incredible number of duplicate pages. Google+ though is just a part of why a ski resort needs to be vigilant with keeping their Google Places profile up to date. Have you updated your Google Places page recently and even more importantly, have you claimed it?!

Content is Crap

Nope, that title isn’t a mistype, I did not mean to write “King” (or “Queen”), I meant “crap”. And I really don’t intend for this to be a negative post about the vast amount of crappy content that is currently erupting all over the web. It’s more intended as a call to action for those of us that produce content to focus on why we are writing, shooting or editing for each piece that we produce. It’s long past the time to just whip up some content and with search engines continuing to tweak their algorithms to weed out the big time content farms, it’s not going to take long for similar changes to start to impact sites with crappy content: content that isn’t updated on a regular basis, isn’t of use to visitors and in general is just there to fill space.

It seems that there are a lot of new ideas floating around about how to filter out the crap, including search engine algorithm updates, but some of the better examples that I’ve been messing around with lately include XYDO and Percolate. XYDO says it “is pioneering socially endorsed news”, which is basically a way of saying that they crowd source and use social aggregation to provide a personalized yet fresh stream of news stories. They’re just a few months out of beta testing and moving along rather nicely from all appearances – and oh yeah, they’re based out of Park City so that’s gotta be a plus for them. Percolate is a much younger company that is currently in “double secret alpha” mode, which means that it’s definitely in a serious dev stage, yet it is far enough along that it’s promise of, “…create(ing) an engine that helped people, all people, create content more easily by bubbling up the most interesting stuff from their world for them to comment on.” I have to give Percolate credit for giving me the spark to write this post as their mission to share the most interesting stuff got me to thinking about all the non-interesting crap out on the web and how much of it was created just to fill space.

So, while a lot of online content can be crap, I certainly don’t think that all of it is, in fact there’s a lot of great content out there, it’s just a matter of filtering it, which is quickly becoming a much easier task with tools like XYDO and Percolate. This does need to be a wake up to all content creators to always be aware of not creating crappy content and instead working hard to produce “remarkable content” – being content that is engaging to the point of a visitor wanting to leave a comment or share the piece in a way that would say that they wanted to “remark” on it.

What do you think, is the web getting filled up with crap, or is remarkable content still cutting through the noise and providing high quality online experiences? Beyond that, what are we providing as online marketers, in particular those of us working for ski resorts? Good thoughts to always have in mind while working up new projects…

Photo credit: Flickr user tarotastic

Gap in Tweets during vacation

Taking it With You

On a recent vacation to Hawaii, I made a conscious effort to cut back on social media use. It was a nice break from the continuous updates and checks that seem to make up a decent chunk of the day during the regular work week. In checking back now, a few months later, I’m surprised to see that in particular on Twitter, I sent no tweets during the entire trip, aside from the day of arrival and departure, take a peek:

Gap in Tweets during vacation

I also pulled stats from Tweets stats which showed interestingly that I did tweet, which is odd, but it also shows a steady increase of followers, which I suppose I could believe is true:

Tweetstats tweets and followers chart during vacation

I bring up these personal stats as I just saw the results of a recent survey which found that half of all leisure travelers update their social network status while on vacation, with 40% of them admitting that they no longer send postcards as social updates are just so much more “gratifying”. tnooz provides an excellent summary of this Ebookers survey data, which while it queried Britons, I’m sure would also apply here in the US – what do you think? And do you provide social updates while on vacation?

A how-to on SEO for blogging

I’ve blogged a fair amount about the importance of SEO in the past, but I just read a wonderful post by SEO Moz’s Rand Fishkin titled “SEO 101 for Travel Bloggers“. For many regular readers of the Resort Marketing Blog, I would think that a lot of what Rand details is pretty fundamental and basic stuff, but it is a great refresher of what to do and since it is focused on the travel space, it does offer some ideas and examples that any resort looking to get into blogger, or simply ensure that their blog is set up to get maximum SEO benefits. Besides if you click through and read the post, you can come back and post a comment on my new favorite (for the moment) acronym: SETAPR – I loved it when I first read it, and it just made me chuckle again…

Real Tourism Spending

Tourism Spending in the US

I noticed via a recent Mtrip newsletter, that the US Department of Commerce recently released 1st quarter travel and tourism spending numbers and they have some “interesting” numbers to look at. To me, the most impressive data is this chart:

Real Tourism Spending

This is a pretty amazing way of showing that in terms of constant dollar spend, the US tourism economy has definitely not recovered and that the uphill movement that we saw through 2010 appears to be plateauing  in the first quarter of this year. While that isn’t too amazing, considering rising oil prices and the fact that winters often are slower travel months, what is impressive is that in 2005 dollars, the spend in the first quarter of 2011 has not yet recovered to 2004 levels – yikes!

Also impressive is data found in the detailed report (PDF) in which “recreation and entertainment” spend/quarter can be compared from 2007 to 2011 and it moves from 89,622 to 77,051 (in millions of chained 2005 dollars), which certainly shows that ski resorts and other tourism recreation businesses should still have some serious concerns about the consumer’s pocketbook.

Obviously this report is looking at actual numbers and isn’t forward looking, but among prognosticators there’s some talk of a double-dip recession, and if that were to happen, one has to wonder how much lower the ski jump chart of tourism spending can go.

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