A few weeks ago, a new website launched. Its aim was to connect the travel bloggers on the web. Despite being part of a large industry, online travel websites and travel blogs are relatively dispersed. There are plenty of travel sites but we are all over the web and there’s no one place for us to meet. Travel Blog Exchange was created to give as a niche place where we can all interact.
Kim Mance, founder of Go Galavanting, is the brains behind this website and she took out time to answer a few questions about this new project:
Nomadic Matt: What is the Travel Blog Exchange? What do you hope to accomplish?
Kim Mance: There’s been a pretty strong network of travel bloggers who’ve connected on places like Twitter, Facebook and some forums, but never a space for them to really show off their own work and discuss issues uniquely relevant to them. People who blog about travel do it for different reasons, some for their personal development, others to start a freelancing career, some to support themselves and their journeys, and many for their employers. TBEX brings travel bloggers together to learn from one another and serves to connect them with potentially good contacts in the Travel Industry and Travel PR world.
Nomadic Matt: Why did you start this project?
Kim Mance: Debbie Dubrow of Deliciousbaby.com and I started planning a travel blogger meetup on the occasion of the big BlogHer ’09 Conference in Chicago this July. My company, Galavanting Productions has been wanting to start a more vibrant community for a while and we discussed whether we could take on the project of launching and sustaining the work of running one. The TBEX community platform was also an easy way for us to promote the meetup and track RSVPs and disseminate information about it. So, it’s been a win, win.
Are you working on it alone or with other travel bloggers?
KM: Maren Hogan who handles marketing and business development for Galavanting has done an outstanding job — and a ton of work — to get the TBEX site launched and deserves a lot of credit. We asked travel blogger Carrie Williams to serve as the community manager and greet people, be available for questions, and get conversations started. Then just before putting the site out live to the public, I contacted about 30 travel bloggers with reputable sites and various areas of expertise to come sign up and create groups and start discussions and they did an amazing job of it.
How have you found the start up? Success or failure?
KM: The entire community has busted out with really relevant and useful discussions and its really user-generated content at this point. At launch, I was working almost full time on just keeping up with TBEX, but am now able to more easily split my time between TBEX and Galavanting. It’s been a lot of work, but really worth it — I just love seeing all the connections being made. And judging by all the emails, tweets and DMs from members, I’d call it a success. It’s a big, collaborative success.
What were some of the challenges you faced in created this website? Starting a social networking site must take a lot of computer know how.
KM: From a technical standpoint, the Ning platform we used was pretty easy to set up. But of course it was up to us to organize everything in a way that would maximize user-friendliness. We also had to produce original graphics and branding for the site, which is an entire project itself. I think the biggest challenges we’ve had have to do with email notifications. We want to begin communicating with the bloggers on an efficient and effective level, essentially bringing the best of TBEX to them.
Where do you see the site going in the future?
KM: There are over 300 active members on the site right now, so we’re keeping busy featuring the great blog posts they’re putting up and helping them showcase their original videos, podcasts, photography and reviews within the community. TBEX has now become a thriving community of experts — whether its travel in Asia, backpacking, tips for disabled travelers, or bear-watching in Alaska, we’re rounding them up all in one place. In the near future, we plan to help members leverage the community to promote themselves by doing outreach to members of the press and potential advertisers on behalf of TBEX. It’s a one-stop directory of the world’s best travel bloggers.
How are you supporting the operation costs?
KM: The money and literally hundreds of hours that the Galavanting team has put into launching and running the site has come straight out of our budget (and recommended hours of sleep) thus far. We’ve individually been recruiting sponsors to put on the TBEX ’09 Meetup and those sponsors are who will make that great day-long conference free and open to all travel bloggers. We plan to run ads on the TBEX site from relevant companies wanting to promote their brand to travel bloggers, which should cover our costs and time for running the community.
Do you have any plans to use the site on hosting any events for bloggers to meet up and network with each other?
KM- We would like to start hosting weekly or bi-weekly live-chats on any given topic, to give everyone a chance to discuss things from across the world, in real time. And bloggers organizing smaller meetups in their own cities are welcome to post those events on TBEX and send out invitations. The community is here to serve the network, which is all about helping to connect bloggers to one another, and quality contacts in the industry.
Do you find marketing the site tough or do you think the nature of the site and the tight network that travel blogging has will make it easy for the site to catch on and sort of promote itself?
KM- It seems most of the big travel site owners out there were on the site within the first few days. We’ve been thrilled that TBEX members have given shoutouts to the community on Twitter, Facebook and other places when they join, which really helps. That’s not to say all the efforts we’ve put into marketing and getting the word out haven’t been a ton of work though. We have spreadsheets, lists and goals set for everything. It’s really the only way to ensure everything stays alive over the long term. We sent individual invitations to the bloggers already in our personal network, and they and even passers-by on the internet have made their way into the TBEX family.
Go check out Travel Blog Exchange and don’t forget to sign up.