Deck the halls with acoupleofchicks

We are in the festive spirit!  Enjoy our take on a holiday favourite!

  

Deck the Halls with Digital Marketing

‘Tis the Season to start Vine-ing

Don we now our Facebook updates…

Sing our love of keyword #Hashtags –  Info-graph’s…in-the-Cloud…and Tagging too.

*****

See the latest YouTube Video 

Watch it trend on mash–able…

While I tell of Pinterest treasures… Ins-ta-gram?Tw-i-i-i-ter?…

How ready are you?

Fast away Google’s algorithm changes….

Key-word Search… Panda’s… and Penguins too.

 

*****

A special wish for the holidays

from @acoupleofchicks…and the whole coop too!

 

 

Google Turns 15, and Takes A Stand On Important Issues [Like Most Teenagers Do]

 

The following guest post comes to us from one brilliant “guest” Chick – at a time when Google has done it again! [ Twice in one week for that matter]. Will Google’s #Humingbird update affect your website?

 

This week Google turned 15 and in exactly one month so will my daughter.

 

By Stephanie Chiquette:  Director of Hotel Brand Program Management at A Couple of Chicks   Stephanie has a passion for SEO and her family, and this post highlights both.  Enjoy!

1998 was a year of great change and it represents the birth of some of my biggest passions.  I’ve watched them both grow and evolve over the years.  Things were so much simpler back then – the world was a smaller place then and the newness of it all was so exciting.  Like babies, Google did not come with an instruction book so there was a lot of trial and error in those early days, and late nights and early mornings.  It was hard to understand if what I was doing was the right thing (mothering strategy and digital marketing strategy) because neither could talk to me, yet. And both were cute in the beginning but have change so much in the way they look having matured into things of beauty –from toothless smiles (image-less search results and websites) to bright colorful beings with multifaceted reactions to questions! There is an ability to anticipate my thoughts and to know how I am going to react based on past behaviors.

They are definitely both mobile and social now too!

But as time has passed, we’ve gone from crawling to walking and to running and chasing to keep up.  Sometimes they move faster than we can and in ways and directions we never imagined!  My daughter has become a fountain of words, wisdom, and fun, able to give me her feedback and at times has presented challenges.  So has Google, with ever evolving search results, Google analytics, and webmaster tools.  They’ve also both become more complex and have set boundaries and standards as they mature.  Ironically, they have both been able to work for me although it’s hard to compare emptying dishwashers to PPC but getting traffic can be a chore of sorts!

And now things are getting more and more complex over time, trying to figure them both out hurts my brain.  I can thank my lucky stars that I have not had any major issues with either along the way. In looking at my daughter, I can see that as this beautiful creature grows into a young woman she has developed a life of her own and deserves some privacy.  She will let me in, but on her terms and on her conditions.  And no matter how many different ways I ask, she will likely never tell me absolutely everything.

Google has announced two major shifts this week that echo that sentiment.

 

First the encryption of keyword data and second the newest algorithm shift – Hummingbird.

I could sit here and write on a very technical level what the impact is, and what is a marketer to do in a moment of change like this.  But when I step back and think for a moment, it is all very simple and not hard to figure out.

Here’s my take on what this all means to search marketers and how it parallels to advice I would give to my daughter for life in general:

  1. Don’t focus on just one thing, be well rounded. Look at the big picture and keep that perspective.
  2. Be mindful of your overall presence and not what one group thinks or knows about you.
  3. Keep it real – do what is natural and not forced.
  4. Strive for quality and be sure everything you do, say or post ads value.
  5. Think of others.
  6. Reflect on how you are doing, seek the advice of others and input from various sources.
  7. Trust your gut.
  8. Be ready to evolve. Nothing stays the same.
  9. Keep some mystique about you, don’t give it all away. Draw people in.
  10. Have fun.

So when I see them go hand in hand [teenager gripping smart phone] I have a warm happy feeling that we’re not doing such a bad job after all. And that when you take a back to basics approach and keep it real, life is much better for all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Stephanie Chiquette is the Director of Hotel Brand Program Management at A Couple of Chicks ™ Digital Tourism Marketing. She is an expert in digital marketing for hotels, and all things search.  Stephanie works with hotels and hotel management companies to guide and execute digital marketing strategies.  Stephanie is a proud, and self proclaimed GEEK, loves her job and her family (not necessarily in that order).  I think we will keep her!

Twitter/@acoupleofchicks  

 

 

Google jumps on #birdbandwagon #Google #Humingbird Is your website ready? http://www.ideahatching.com/?p=828  @acoupleofchicks

What's HOT in Social Media according to @acoupleofchicks (and other good sources)

Forget about the current heat wave in Ontario, lets talk what’s HOT in social media.  It seems like there is a new viral video, vine, keek, or tweet making Mashable.com and even offline news headlines every day.

Here is a roundup of some of the recent hot topics in social, and why we think they are important to take note of:

Tweet-able Soundbite’s…Should you care to share: 

(or for those who prefer to read article highlights in 140 characters or less. I get it. Note this is also located at the start of the blog post and not the end. You are welcome.)

– Smartphone penetration up 17pts in Canada in 2012 to represent 62% of mobile audience #HotinSocial @comScore @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com 

– What u need to know about #Facebook #Graphsearch #GSO (graph search optimization) + new FB Ad tool #PowerEditor @acoupleofchicks #HotinSocial http://www.ideahatching.com/?p=800

– Search #6secondpostcard on Twitter for examples of #travelvines @zoebfox @mashable @acoupleofchicks #Tourism #Vine #HotinSocial via www.ideahatching.com 

– 77% of LinkedIn users search for company brand pages, 65% of journalists use LinkedIn as a reseach tool #travelmedia #LinkedIn @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com 

– Hot in Ontario.  Really Hot. #melting #heatwave #sweating @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com

Facebook’s Graph Search is here

Get ready for Facebook Graph search to overtake your profile soon.  Graph Search is rolling out to users across North America and now making Facebook more of a social search engine than ever before.

Facebook hopes that now you will search restaurants and hotels that your friends (and friends of friends) LIKE on Facebook, and that this will become more important to users than what  the Google Reviews or Tripadvisor’s review’s say.  The searchable content will not be simply tagged status updates, but will also be links to posted pictures and videos of personal Facebook profiles.  The algorithms that go into that data-sorting I am sure would boggle the mind.

How many have actually looked back through the history of your Facebook life since you sent your first Poke?

There can be some pretty bad photos, and maybe even some embarrassing status updates.  What about those family photos posted from that trip to Disney in 2010.  Wasn’t that trip right after that horrible hair dye incident?!

  Chick Tip: Time to check those Facebook privacy settings friends!  

Hotels, travel destinations and brands, for more on Facebook Graph and how it will impact you,  refer to this recent article posted on Tnooz. The article some great insights on optimizing for Graph Search and gives a nice recap of GSO (graph search optimization) and what hotels need to know about updates to brand pages.

 Power up your Facebook Ads with new Power Editor

Facebook now gives brands the ability to target Facebook ads to their current customers based on email, phone or Facebook user ID list. The new feature is called Custom Audiences, and is available through their new tool they call Power Editor.

Power Editor is a browser plugin created by Facebook as a way to manage and bulk edit ads. For more on Power editor and why you should be using it be have a read of this article we posted to the Chicks Facebook community page earlier this week.

Chick Tip: Time for a Social Network Refresh?

Are you sharing the types of updates tailored to the latest platforms, and suited for today’s digitally savvy and mobile connected consumer? Have you updated your profiles or brand pages lately?  Your social community profiles may be in dire need of a refresh!

With recent changes to major Social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, you may be missing out on using some great new ways to tell your story and connect.

It also may be time for a website design refresh, taking into account that many consumers are now online on tablets and scrolling through content in a different way then even a year ago.

According to a recent *comScore report on Canadian trends in the digital space, Mobile access is up 10% (2012 over 2011), with new research that shows that cell phone users are likely to also own a connected device such as an e-reader or tablet.

Consider that browsing content on a tablet such as an iPad is much different than browsing on a desktop, or even a smart phone. There are design and usability issues to consider when developing or re-developing any new website, but this is especially true now.

As an indication of changes in design and navigation, note that WordPress and Tumbler blogs and website page templates have become much more image rich, with less room for content, with more “Sharable” plug-ins.  Most new websites are also applying a more responsive design for easy scrolling navigation on a tablet.

 Let’s talk Twitter

Twitter has been busy working to make the platform more useful, secure, and apparently more fun.  The latest and greatest to hit Twitter is Vine.

Twitter Vine allows Twitter users to express themselves in short looping videos. Vines can be created via an App for iPhone and Blackberry, and now also on Android devices.  Check out some examples of travel videos on Vine by search on Twitter using the Hashtag #6secondpostcard.

Twitter has also announced a new Canadian headquarters with former CBC personality Kirsten Stewart at the helm! Welcome to Canada Twitter – and @kirstinestewart we are happy to have you lead the way!

Time to pay attention to LinkedIn

LinkedIn has taken the 3rd spot behind Facebook and Twitter as the most popular social media channel in Canada, up *38% in usage according to comScore’s recent trends analysis.  It is time to pay attention to your linkedIn profile, and your company or brand page on LinkedIn.

77% of LinkedIn users have searched for company brand pages, and 65% of journalists have used LinkedIn as a researching tool. LinkedIn company pages and profiles are indexed in search, and LinkedIn is quickly becoming the go-to network for business and professional networking.

This is not your momma’s job search/resume posting website anymore!

Authors Note: I cannot say “weather” or not that the title of this post was influenced by the incredible HOT temperatures currently being experienced in Ontario.  I reiterate. Hot.

Find me on Twitter @acoupleofchicks and let me know if you think that there is something we should cover next!

What’s HOT in Social Media according to @acoupleofchicks (and other good sources)

Forget about the current heat wave in Ontario, lets talk what’s HOT in social media.  It seems like there is a new viral video, vine, keek, or tweet making Mashable.com and even offline news headlines every day.

Here is a roundup of some of the recent hot topics in social, and why we think they are important to take note of:

Tweet-able Soundbite’s…Should you care to share: 

(or for those who prefer to read article highlights in 140 characters or less. I get it. Note this is also located at the start of the blog post and not the end. You are welcome.)

– Smartphone penetration up 17pts in Canada in 2012 to represent 62% of mobile audience #HotinSocial @comScore @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com 

– What u need to know about #Facebook #Graphsearch #GSO (graph search optimization) + new FB Ad tool #PowerEditor @acoupleofchicks #HotinSocial http://www.ideahatching.com/?p=800

– Search #6secondpostcard on Twitter for examples of #travelvines @zoebfox @mashable @acoupleofchicks #Tourism #Vine #HotinSocial via www.ideahatching.com 

– 77% of LinkedIn users search for company brand pages, 65% of journalists use LinkedIn as a reseach tool #travelmedia #LinkedIn @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com 

– Hot in Ontario.  Really Hot. #melting #heatwave #sweating @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com

Facebook’s Graph Search is here

Get ready for Facebook Graph search to overtake your profile soon.  Graph Search is rolling out to users across North America and now making Facebook more of a social search engine than ever before.

Facebook hopes that now you will search restaurants and hotels that your friends (and friends of friends) LIKE on Facebook, and that this will become more important to users than what  the Google Reviews or Tripadvisor’s review’s say.  The searchable content will not be simply tagged status updates, but will also be links to posted pictures and videos of personal Facebook profiles.  The algorithms that go into that data-sorting I am sure would boggle the mind.

How many have actually looked back through the history of your Facebook life since you sent your first Poke?

There can be some pretty bad photos, and maybe even some embarrassing status updates.  What about those family photos posted from that trip to Disney in 2010.  Wasn’t that trip right after that horrible hair dye incident?!

  Chick Tip: Time to check those Facebook privacy settings friends!  

Hotels, travel destinations and brands, for more on Facebook Graph and how it will impact you,  refer to this recent article posted on Tnooz. The article some great insights on optimizing for Graph Search and gives a nice recap of GSO (graph search optimization) and what hotels need to know about updates to brand pages.

 Power up your Facebook Ads with new Power Editor

Facebook now gives brands the ability to target Facebook ads to their current customers based on email, phone or Facebook user ID list. The new feature is called Custom Audiences, and is available through their new tool they call Power Editor.

Power Editor is a browser plugin created by Facebook as a way to manage and bulk edit ads. For more on Power editor and why you should be using it be have a read of this article we posted to the Chicks Facebook community page earlier this week.

Chick Tip: Time for a Social Network Refresh?

Are you sharing the types of updates tailored to the latest platforms, and suited for today’s digitally savvy and mobile connected consumer? Have you updated your profiles or brand pages lately?  Your social community profiles may be in dire need of a refresh!

With recent changes to major Social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, you may be missing out on using some great new ways to tell your story and connect.

It also may be time for a website design refresh, taking into account that many consumers are now online on tablets and scrolling through content in a different way then even a year ago.

According to a recent *comScore report on Canadian trends in the digital space, Mobile access is up 10% (2012 over 2011), with new research that shows that cell phone users are likely to also own a connected device such as an e-reader or tablet.

Consider that browsing content on a tablet such as an iPad is much different than browsing on a desktop, or even a smart phone. There are design and usability issues to consider when developing or re-developing any new website, but this is especially true now.

As an indication of changes in design and navigation, note that WordPress and Tumbler blogs and website page templates have become much more image rich, with less room for content, with more “Sharable” plug-ins.  Most new websites are also applying a more responsive design for easy scrolling navigation on a tablet.

 Let’s talk Twitter

Twitter has been busy working to make the platform more useful, secure, and apparently more fun.  The latest and greatest to hit Twitter is Vine.

Twitter Vine allows Twitter users to express themselves in short looping videos. Vines can be created via an App for iPhone and Blackberry, and now also on Android devices.  Check out some examples of travel videos on Vine by search on Twitter using the Hashtag #6secondpostcard.

Twitter has also announced a new Canadian headquarters with former CBC personality Kirsten Stewart at the helm! Welcome to Canada Twitter – and @kirstinestewart we are happy to have you lead the way!

Time to pay attention to LinkedIn

LinkedIn has taken the 3rd spot behind Facebook and Twitter as the most popular social media channel in Canada, up *38% in usage according to comScore’s recent trends analysis.  It is time to pay attention to your linkedIn profile, and your company or brand page on LinkedIn.

77% of LinkedIn users have searched for company brand pages, and 65% of journalists have used LinkedIn as a researching tool. LinkedIn company pages and profiles are indexed in search, and LinkedIn is quickly becoming the go-to network for business and professional networking.

This is not your momma’s job search/resume posting website anymore!

Authors Note: I cannot say “weather” or not that the title of this post was influenced by the incredible HOT temperatures currently being experienced in Ontario.  I reiterate. Hot.

Find me on Twitter @acoupleofchicks and let me know if you think that there is something we should cover next!

The first Twisitor Centre opens in Atlantic Canada

The destination visitor center, which was once staffed with friendly travel advisors knowledgeable about the area, and ready to offer recommendations for dining and area attractions, rack cards and packages for weary road warriors, has given way to destination portal websites packaging attractions with hotels and purchased online in advance before the traveler is in-destination.

Discount travel sites like Expedia promising better deals on hotels, and review websites like Tripadvisor and call centres with staff that may or may not actually live in the area are the trusted resource for pre-travel planning.

In-destination, Google maps, GPS devices as well as tablets and other mobile devices offer virtual travel guides, maps and directions, search functions Geo-targeted to the location we are in, mobile special offers and apps have taken the place of the large fold-out printed maps and heavy printed travel guides.

What about the consumer who still likes to touch and feel the brochure and to talk to local travel councilors face to face about the region they are visiting?

Fredericton New Brunswich hopes to cater to both consumers, with the launch of a “Twisitor Centre”!

It’s not about abandoning the Visitor Centre, but adapting to where consumers are spending much of their time – online.  Fredericton’s new “Twisitor centre” is ultimately a virtual visitor information centre, working alongside the traditional visitor centre, with staff trained to interact through social media and engage with consumers who are less likely to get out of their cars to ask for travel advice.

Stacey Russell, Fredericton Tourism’s Digital Media Manager is excited for the launch.  She said that more and more travelers are relying on their Smartphone’s when traveling, and that the new Twisitor centre offers ways to provide timely visitor counseling via a convenient medium for the mobile connected visitor.  I could not agree more!

Of course, not all travelers are active “Tweeters,” but Fredericton Tourism has taken an important first step in reaching out to the online consumer in providing a service that may be more personalized than simply reading a Tripadvisor review.  The Fredericton tourism peeps may also be able to engage with consumers they may not have reached had they not found the @seeFredericton Twitter handle.

Many other destinations have attempted to add Twitter to their CRM strategy.  Some through the use of #Hashtags tagging relevant travel content, and others by morphing already existing Twitter communities into a place for travel information and advice.

Fredericton has taken this one step further by actually training two travel counselors in “Twitterquette”, and social media community management, and even defining hours of operation where the online centre will be staffed, and really physically staffed inside the bricks and mortar Fredericton Visitor Centre!  The @seeFredericton digital travel councilors will also search geographically targeted conversations of Twitter users within particular interest levels, and attempt to engage them in Fredericton’s events and activities.

Brilliant! Perhaps the next evolution will be a full time Social Media community travel counselor, offering travel advice and engaging with consumers on Pinterest, YouTube and Facebook, as well as Twitter.

The new Fredericton Twisitor Centre will not just focus on communicating with visitors once they’ve arrived in New Brunswick’s capital city (a Canadian city also known for technology and innovation), but they will work to reach out to potential visitors who may not have made their travel decisions yet, and efficiently show them all that Fredericton New Brunswick has to offer as a travel destination.

In 140 characters or less, Fredericton tourism is re-defining the Visitor Center to reach the new digitally connected consumer, as well as those who still want the friendly advice from a local.

 

 

 

Social Media Case Studies by A Couple of Chicks™

A couple of Social Media Case Studies from A Couple of Chicks™  Digital Tourism Marketing.

Enjoy some of our favourite client case studies from Travelodge Canada, Worldhotels, Ontario’s Finest Hotels, Inns and Resorts, and the Shaw Festival Theatre.   A “bird’s” eye view of our approach to planning and executing successful social media campaigns.

[Bird’s Eye pun intended

 

 

 

A Couple of Chicks Talk Travel: A Guide to Traveling Newfoundland

On the road to Trinity, NewfoundlandAs a Chick, specializing in digital marketing for tourism, I pride myself on being able to plan a pretty great vacation – when I am actually taking one and not working.  I have been across Canada and the US and experienced amazing tourism destinations, but I had never been to Newfoundland.

Like many others, I have been intrigued and drawn into the commercials and YouTube videos for Newfoundland and Labrador.  I can now confirm that the magical place depicted in the commercials does in fact exist.

As a first time visitor, referred to as a CFA, or “come from away”, I did have some help in pre-planning my trip.  The “townies” from Destination St. John’s were the perfect hosts, and provided recommendations that ensured that I did see the most beautiful places in Newfoundland, had a warm meal at the end of a day of traveling, a cold pint of beer, and somewhere to sleep with the sounds of the ocean floating through my windows.

I share with you some of my experiences in this beautiful Canadian province, and give to you some of my “need to know before you go” insights.  This part of Canada is a must do, and you need to plan ahead to make the most of your experience.

From what I had thought, pre-season mid-May, before the long weekend, would provide the best experience as tourists would not be overtaking St. John’s, and the operators in the remote towns on the Island would be happy to see early visitors just as the season was about to kick off.

I started planning my itinerary about a month in advance, and through my experience I have summarized some tips to ensure you get the most out of your visit.

Flying into St John’s from Toronto is easy as St. John’s has direct air access from many Canadian cities including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and as far west as Calgary.  Direct air access is also available from some major US cities, and some European destinations such as London.

Explore the city of St. John’s, more specifically; George and Water streets.   The streets are alive with tourists and locals, live music, restaurants and bars, and of course a pub or 2, or 20.

Signal Hill, NewfoundlandA walk up Historic Signal Hill is a must do.  You can also drive to the top if the hike uphill is too much.  Signal Hill was not an easy climb after walking across downtown to get there, but well worth the hike to the top.  The view of St. John’s, the iconic painted houses, Cape Spear, and the ocean is spectacular.

Yellowbelly Pub and Brewery on Water Street was one of my favorite stops.  Their beer was also served on tap in many other restaurants and bars in St. John’s and across the Island.

O’Reileys Irish Newfoundland pub also did not disappoint, with live music starting late afternoon and continuing into the evening, and featuring traditional Newfoundland music, and even some tap dancing.  Ok, one lone tap dancer, but I digress.

The city also offers some fantastic finer dining venues.  After pub fish and chips, or as Newfoundlanders refer to it as “brown food,” a restaurant like Portobello’s provided for a perfect evening.  The scallops and trout were outstanding, but it was the appetizer of cod tongue with scrunchions (crispy pieces of salted side pork) and tarter that was the surprise favorite for me.

Although there are many smaller Inns and hotels to stay in around St. John’s, the Delta St. John’s was home base. A great location just at the entrance to George and Water Street, the hub of St. John’s – which according to Wikipedia, offers the most pubs and bars per square foot of any street in North America.

I can confirm that this could possibly be the truth.

 

After a weekend in St. John’s, it was time to see some of those vistas of the Atlantic Ocean; waves crashing up against rugged rocks, flowing clotheslines, coloured houses, and small inlet towns around the Island.

My friends at Destination St. John’s, the official visitor and convention bureau for the city, were quick to advise me of a few things as I planned my trip prior to my arrival in St. John’s.  It was technically pre-season for the island and we “CFA’s” need the help.

 

I had been dreaming of the cool breezes off of the Atlantic, and eating lobster fresh from the Bay since seeing Newfoundland and Labrador commercials and YouTube video’s.  As a digital marketing specialist for Travel, it is my job to ensure that the images, video’s and websites tell the story of what a visitor might expect when traveling.  The experiences I had in Newfoundland were everything that I had imagined and more.

As such, I have prepared a list of  “Things to know before you go to Newfoundland,” as I did encounter some surprises along the way, ones that can be avoided with the right kind of planning.

Newfoundland Chicks’ Trip Tips Preface: (try saying that 5 times!)

Cape Bonevista, NewfoundlandI consider myself to be an experienced traveler.  I have pretty good knowledge of how to plan travel online, and I had some help that prevented travel misfortunes (which may have included driving to Cape St. Mary’s, home to the popular Ecological Reserve – instead of St. Mary’s Bay, where I had reserved accommodations – 1.5 hours away).  To my defence, when one Google’s “Cape St. Mary’s,” the 3rd search result is a Tripadvisor listing and reviews for the “Claddagh Inn St Mary’s.”

OK so that happened.  Make sure you know exactly which place you are trying to get to.  Google clearly does not know everything.

These are not the typical “things to do and see.” My list instead is “people to meet, and how to get to the right places, with a full stomach and a place to sleep.”  This list summarizes some of my experiences and highlights, with points of note for planning a trip to really experience Newfoundland as I did.

Book a car in advance:  Especially in pre-season.  Newfoundland is an island accessible by boat or plane.  Although the ferry access allows for cars, many tourists opt to fly in and rent a car.

There is no other way to get around the Island to experience drives like the “Irish Loop,” or to see remote town’s living on the edge of the Atlantic without a car, or a boat.  If you plan on taking in the coves and inlets along the coast, or you are planning a visit to Gros Morne National Park, or any of the many other spectacular sites, then you will need to rent a car.

In addition, be forewarned that some of the roads are still quite rough coming off of the winter season, and there is not a gas station or diner, or even convenience store on every corner once you veer off of the TransCanada 1 Highway.  This of course is part of the charm.

Book all accommodations (and some meals) in advance:  Innkeepers like Patrick and Carol, who run the Claddagh Inn in St. Mary’s Bay have done such an amazing job in telling the “story” of the experience through Tripadvisor and Facebook, that tourists are making this small fishing village located directly along the Irish Loop a preferred resting point.

St. Mary’s Bay is not a bustling tourist area – at any point in the season.  That being said, the experience that Innkeepers Patrick and Carol have created is well worth the stop.  The stories allow you to get a sense for the community, and what other small communities around the island are like for those who live there.

I was welcomed with a pint of Yellowbelly Irish Red in the small quaint pub before checking into my guestroom.  The Inn has 6 rooms, and Innkeepers Pat and Carol prepare and serve a homemade 3-course dinner for their guests, as well as a full breakfast.   Dinner included Crab from the Bay that was brought in that morning, homemade pea soup, and a window table to watch the sunset.

Pat and Carol shared stories about the town, the history of the Inn, and their adventures since taking over the Inn two years ago, in a town of people that had lived and worked there all of their lives.  The town mayor even stopped in for a Scotch and a chat.

Past guests of the Inn rave about the Claddagh experience online, so much so that they are booked months in advance for rooms, and with limited (or no other) accommodation available in St. Mary’s Bay.  Drop-ins in August, or even just stops for dinner without reservations are almost impossible as the dining room primarily caters to guests of the Inn.

Planning your journey around the Island is a must do for anyone looking to explore the small inlets and coastal towns, and make sure to pre-book not only your accommodations, but also your meals.  Those of us who are used to booking hotels on the day of, or waiting for last minute specials will not get the chance to experience the charming Inn’s and B&B’s in the smaller towns without reservations.

Reserving accommodations and even dining where you plan to stop will allow you to truly enjoy the ocean views, the people, the stories, and the peace and quiet of these small coastal towns and villages.  The Claddagh Inn provided a relaxing and quiet retreat after two days in St. John’s.  It also provided the cool ocean breeze through the window.

I found the Artisan Inn, located on the eastern shore in picturesque Trinity, by searching Google for “must go places” in Newfoundland.

The Inn and the town certainly deserved the accolades.  Trinity, a well-preserved and still populated town, surrounded by the Atlantic, and on route to Cape Bonavista, is reminiscent of a European village.  The town is a popular tourist destination in the summer, and the Inn and surrounding area have been the site for the filming of many movies.

Innkeeper Tineke Gow has been managing the Inn for 22 years, and is just as passionate about Trinity and the surrounding area as if it was her first.  Tineke’s daughter Marieke, who is a trained sommelier and very involved in the local tourism community, manages the Inn with her.  The passion for this place by those who live and manage it is inspiring.

Eastern Newfoundland was recently named a National Geographic Geotourism Destination www.nlgeotourism.com.  The Inn’s restaurant, The Twine Loft is also recommended and awarded an additional star in “Where to Eat in Canada” published annually by Oberon Press.

At breakfast, I spotted a seal in Trinity Bay just outside the window.  Not something you see over coffee and croissants in Ontario.

Trinity Travel Tip: Don’t miss breakfast or Tineke will remind you throughout the day of what you missed.  Freshly baked muffins and fruit are always a nice way to start the day.

Planning your driving route:  My advice is simple. Don’t count on Google Maps or GPS.  Ask the locals, and refer to the good old fashion printed map.  It is kind of fun to pull out the big paper map (preferably without hitting the driver next to you in the head).

A kind of throwback to childhood road trips before Google maps and GPS existed.

One pleasant surprise was the availability of satellite radio in the rental car, and in restaurants and pubs across the island.  This allowed for a customized soundtrack for the longer drives from town to town.

Access to cellular networks: To sum it up, if you are with Bell Canada or TELUS you are A OK for most of the populated area’s around Newfoundland. Rogers – not so much. This is where the access to WIFI in the Inns around the Island really came in handy as SKYPE or Facetime work to communicate – if you absolutely have to.

The experience and hospitality of the people of Newfoundland is unique and special. The people of Newfoundland are incredibly welcoming and proud of their Province, and will make it easy once you arrive “from away.”

On the Eastern shore of Newfoundland

As a coastal tourism destination, Newfoundland is still fairly raw – which is part of the charm and the authenticity of the experience.  A slower pace of life, friendly people with unique accents, live music, fresh seafood, breathtaking scenery, unpredictable weather, and charming tours from fishing boats, with local guides that are passionate about home are what made Newfoundland for me.

There are a few highlights that I won’t soon forget. 

 

The crisp moist Atlantic Ocean air mixed with the smell of lumber and campfire.

The goats.  I like goats, especially this one.

Watching the ocean crash against the rocks at Cape Bonavista, surrounded by nothing but the ocean and rocks.

Tales of lost coastal inlet towns from locals like Bruce Miller.

Alicia and Bruce Miller having some screetchBruce operates a unique tour of the Eastern shores around Old Bonaventure. With his fishing boat and stories of his life, he speaks passionately about the ocean, fishing communities, and the people of Newfoundland.

He speaks authentically of life in small fishing communities, and about his family who have lived in the area for decades, taking travelers by boat to pockets where small fishing towns no longer exist.   He started doing tours of the area 2 years ago so that he would be able to remain in Old Bonaventure, when many locals have been forced to leave for work.

 

Just don’t ask Bruce how long it would take by boat to get to Ireland, the first land from Newfoundland’s east coast you will hit by water.  He told me we didn’t have enough gas.

  A few other Chick Travel Tips:

1. Don’t ask the tour operators to “Guarantee” that you will see a Whale, a Puffin, or a Moose.  They don’t appear on command.

2. Eat the pea soup and try Cod Tongue

3. Get “Screeched In” on George Street.

4. Enjoy the fresh Lobster and Crab.

5.  Stop at the Bonavista Social Club.  It is completely off the beaten path, but so worth it.  I did not try the Moose burger, but I wish I had.

6. Plan your driving route, and where you will stop along the way.

7. Book in advance.

8.  If you are near Trinity or Bonavista, take the boat tour with Bruce, but don’t ask to use the bathroom.

9. Try the local diners.  The food is home cooking comfort food.

10. Take the lack of cellular service as a sign to totally disconnect.

11. Be ready to hit the treadmill when you return.  So worth it.

These are the real experiences that are reflective of Newfoundland for me.  It is the passion of people that really make an experience, and a tourism destination like Newfoundland so special.

The scenery is not so bad either.

 

 

Online Revealed Conference Highlights: Expedia's Hari Nair presents the Latest in Canadian Travel trends

There is so much to cover in reviewing the content that was expertly delivered at the 8th annual Online Revealed Conference held earlier this month.  Speakers from Expedia, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn + many other leaders in the digital tourism space brought unique perspectives, digital and social media case study’s, key learnings, and most important, tips on innovation, integration, and the importance of digital marketing strategy.

 

Online Revealed brings together the best and the brightest in the travel industry together from across Canada and into the US to share best practices, case studies and experiences in digital and social media marketing, with speakers hand picked to provide the best in online marketing education.

I will endeavour in posts to follow to provide some key insights, content from the 15 digital and social media marketing workshops that were presented, and trends and tips shared with delegates of the 8th annual event.

The first of our recaps outlines the Canadian Travel Trends that were presented by Expedia’s Vice President of Market Management for North America, Hari Nair.  The detailed report of Hari’s presentation can be found on the Online Revealed Blog, with some of the key insights outlined below.

Also, I would be remiss not to point to the reviews of the event by Hotelier Magazine, Restaurants and Hotels and Travelweek, who were among the delegates at the conference.

Expedia’s Hari Nair Presents Expedia’s latest research on Canadian travel trends.

Some key highlights included:

  1. Year-over-year hotel revenue by geographical source shows bookings on Expedia (for travel in Canada) are 32% from Canada, 25% from the USA, and 11% International.
  2. Rates are dropping closer to booking, but Canadians are shifting down from preferring luxury priced travel, to a value brand price points – where the International traveler has showed an increase of 182% in 4-star luxury bookings across Expedia travel sites.
  3. Consumers have increased same day booking by over 30% (noting the increase of mobile access as well as a caveat to this trend).
  4. Expedia’s data indicates that Canadians book travel packages, but Canadian hoteliers need to continue to package travel throughout the year (even in peak seasons) as consumers are willing to spend more, as long as there is perceived value overall.

The full article is available on the Online Revealed Blog with additional statistics and trends covered in the opening keynote presentation.

Hotelier Magazine also covered the event, and provided this recap of the conference.

“Experts at the conference agreed that when it came to travel marketing online, content was king. Travel Marketers need to optimize content on their online properties by utilizing a mix of tools, such as photos, reviews, blogs and social media that’s right for them. In addition, mobile was picked as the fastest growing trend with Expedia’s Nair pointing out that “You don’t want to just look into mobile, you want to invest into mobile.”              – Hotelier Magazine

Restaurants and Hotels.ca also provided some key takeaways with a 2-part conference recap:

“Marketers are spending 88% of digital marketing budget on PPC (pay per click), which yeilds 6% CTR (click thru rates), while 12%  (on average) or budgets are invested in SEO (search engine optimization), which yields 94% CTR”     –  Restaurants and Hotels Magazine

My next posts will cover some of the other speakers and takeaways from the 15 workshops, highlights from the annual Google eTourism Awards, closing keynote Mitch Joel, and key insights from the 2012 Destination Benchmarking program, which compared Canadian destinations in online performance to each other, and to International peers in NewZealand and the US.

Online Revealed Conference Highlights: Expedia’s Hari Nair presents the Latest in Canadian Travel trends

There is so much to cover in reviewing the content that was expertly delivered at the 8th annual Online Revealed Conference held earlier this month.  Speakers from Expedia, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn + many other leaders in the digital tourism space brought unique perspectives, digital and social media case study’s, key learnings, and most important, tips on innovation, integration, and the importance of digital marketing strategy.

 

Online Revealed brings together the best and the brightest in the travel industry together from across Canada and into the US to share best practices, case studies and experiences in digital and social media marketing, with speakers hand picked to provide the best in online marketing education.

I will endeavour in posts to follow to provide some key insights, content from the 15 digital and social media marketing workshops that were presented, and trends and tips shared with delegates of the 8th annual event.

The first of our recaps outlines the Canadian Travel Trends that were presented by Expedia’s Vice President of Market Management for North America, Hari Nair.  The detailed report of Hari’s presentation can be found on the Online Revealed Blog, with some of the key insights outlined below.

Also, I would be remiss not to point to the reviews of the event by Hotelier Magazine, Restaurants and Hotels and Travelweek, who were among the delegates at the conference.

Expedia’s Hari Nair Presents Expedia’s latest research on Canadian travel trends.

Some key highlights included:

  1. Year-over-year hotel revenue by geographical source shows bookings on Expedia (for travel in Canada) are 32% from Canada, 25% from the USA, and 11% International.
  2. Rates are dropping closer to booking, but Canadians are shifting down from preferring luxury priced travel, to a value brand price points – where the International traveler has showed an increase of 182% in 4-star luxury bookings across Expedia travel sites.
  3. Consumers have increased same day booking by over 30% (noting the increase of mobile access as well as a caveat to this trend).
  4. Expedia’s data indicates that Canadians book travel packages, but Canadian hoteliers need to continue to package travel throughout the year (even in peak seasons) as consumers are willing to spend more, as long as there is perceived value overall.

The full article is available on the Online Revealed Blog with additional statistics and trends covered in the opening keynote presentation.

Hotelier Magazine also covered the event, and provided this recap of the conference.

“Experts at the conference agreed that when it came to travel marketing online, content was king. Travel Marketers need to optimize content on their online properties by utilizing a mix of tools, such as photos, reviews, blogs and social media that’s right for them. In addition, mobile was picked as the fastest growing trend with Expedia’s Nair pointing out that “You don’t want to just look into mobile, you want to invest into mobile.”              – Hotelier Magazine

Restaurants and Hotels.ca also provided some key takeaways with a 2-part conference recap:

“Marketers are spending 88% of digital marketing budget on PPC (pay per click), which yeilds 6% CTR (click thru rates), while 12%  (on average) or budgets are invested in SEO (search engine optimization), which yields 94% CTR”     –  Restaurants and Hotels Magazine

My next posts will cover some of the other speakers and takeaways from the 15 workshops, highlights from the annual Google eTourism Awards, closing keynote Mitch Joel, and key insights from the 2012 Destination Benchmarking program, which compared Canadian destinations in online performance to each other, and to International peers in NewZealand and the US.

Hashtags and other Misdemeanors

You are not alone. There are others – just like you.

There are others, who do not know what the term “TPM” means when Entertainment Tonight host chirps (no pun intended), about the most “tweeted” dress, comment, or photo after the Golden Globe awards. TPM refers to “Tweets per Minute.”

There are others like you. Others, who are unsure what their ten year old means when she refers to a picture she has posted on Instagram, added with the Hashtag #BFF – and she is hoping her followers “Heart” it.

Twitter, along with other Social Media channels like Pinterest and Instagram, have a language all their own – a language where it is ok to abbreviate, misspell, and blatantly ignore all grammar rules ever written in the English language.

Having said that, Social media communication is here to stay, and better for us to understand how it works – even just so we can spy on our kids, and to add to the water cooler conversation about the most tweeted about Grammy dress.

Many of us need to use Twitter and other such Social Media networks in our every day jobs, but for those who are simply curious about what is going on in the Twitterverse, and why everyone is talking in Twitter code (or in Twitter tongue if you will) – this is for you.

A summary of my most frequently asked Twitter questions:

TPM refers to Tweets per minute:

Often used by media outlets to identify trends in content being tweeted about, shared, or commented on. As you have probably seen as of late, many television events such as the Super Bowl, Award shows, and every day News broadcasts and even daily talk shows, are asking audiences to participate in the conversation by “tweeting questions,” or commenting on content covered in live shows. Measuring TPM (or tweets per minute) allows media and audiences to assess the most popular content and trends showing up in the twitter feeds.

What’s with Hashtags?

Hashtags (#) are used to tag content in Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and other social networks. Tweeters use Hashtags as a means to organize content around a particular subject. Hashtags are created by users, and added to “tweets” and other content as a way to identify and or organize content about the topic

By adding a #Hashtag to a tweet or image, the tweet will automatically become part of a stream of content that is seemingly related.  Almost like a leaderboard stream of content, with the most recent tweets appearing at the top.  Any word, or made up string of words, can be tagged.

The most popular, or most used Hash-tagged words on Twitter can become “trending topics” (or most talked about) on Twitter.  Tweeter’s (aka people that tweet) often follow trending Hashtags, or ongoing niche Hashtags related to their interests.  Hashtags such as #Travel or #Canada may relate to broad topics around the keywords, and other Hashtags are made up and used as a short form for a topic or event.

For example, producers of conferences or special events may create a Hashtag surrounding their event to encourage participants to contribute to the online conversation, and indirectly virally distribute the brand message. The conference we produce, Online Revealed Canada, already has some content and conversation around the conference with the Hashtag we created #ORC2013.

This will be the virtual home to discussions, shared content, and highlights before, during and after the event in April 2013.  Around the event, the stream of content will become active with many participants, who are either attending or just following the conversation online, posting tweets of questions, comments, photos, and comments about the event as it happens.  Join us April 2-4, 21013 by following #ORC2013 

RT’s, MT’s and other #Twittertips

Primarily, Twitter it is an interactive message board (of sorts) that offers brands, celebrities, and just about anyone else with access to WIFI and a twitter account, the ability to post to others who follow them, and may be interested in what they have to say.  It is an interconnected web of comments, links and conversations happening online, all the time.

RT refers to Re-Tweet, or the sharing of good content.

This is a best practice for tweeters who want to share someone else’s tweet to their followers. It gives credit to the original author of the tweet.

MT refers to “modified tweet,” which is an acknowledgment that the tweeter has modified another tweeter’s comment, while still giving credit to the original tweeter.

Tweets are available in the public domain (like it or not), twitter accounts are indexable in Search Engines, and can certainly become a representation of the person, or brand behind the Tweets.

What is “Tweetable” content?

Within the confines of 140 characters or less, Twitter is used as a means to answer customer questions, respond to complaints or good comments, engage in conversation with like-minded people, publically comment immediately on an event or news item, share good content, ask a question, encourage conversation around a subject, or simply to listen and watch.

There is much more to Twitter than one blog post can cover, but I thought it best to just put it out there, handle the white elephant in the room, and define some of the basics of the Twitter for those of you who have asked in the workshops and webinars we have presented.

Now you are well equipped to talk Twitter at the water cooler Monday.  When your colleague asks you what you thought of the Oscar awards Sunday night, you can confidently respond that you followed the broadcast Hashtag instead of watching the television broadcast. (it is actually fun to watch the broadcast while following a Twitter feed – try it!)

There is so much more to Twitter. For those “tweeps” (those peeps that already tweet) who need to grow a community, improve their community engagement, or develop a full blown Twitter strategy – we have got some Twitter Tips and strategies to share beyond this post.

Please RT, and feel free to add a #Hashtag, MT, or share it to your other Social networks. #shamelesselfpromotion

Finding "Your Thing": Building A Career in Digital Marketing

I was asked to speak tonight at the Goodman School of Business at Brock University about how to succeed in business. It does not feel like long ago that I was a student at Brock attending a similar talk, with business professionals telling us how they built their career and what we would need to do to succeed after graduation.

I remember feeling overwhelmed at the time thinking of the long road ahead to find a career that inspired and fulfilled me. I remember that I wanted it to just start now! I now reflect on how lucky I was to have carved out a career that truly excites me and inspires me every day, and what I might tell this group tonight about my story that will help them.

I was asked to outline what I do (sometimes still figuring that out), and how it was that I got this point with my business.

Digital marketing has evolved since I graduated University in 1998, in fact, “digital” was not even part of the marketing mix according to my textbooks. All of my training in marketing online has been on the job, and real world trial and error. Online usage has exploded over the past decade, and access to WIFI and mobile devices have completely changed consumer buying behaviour.

I wonder now how the world will change over the next decade for the group I am speaking to tonight?

My experience in building websites and marketing online began when I was hired as a Marketing assistant for the Marriott Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I worked for the ownership group, and became the Director of Marketing Communications over an 8-year time period. I was empowered throughout my time there to try new things, and so I did.

Hotel chains did not want us developing our own websites, and at the time hotels were relying heavily on the brands and the intermediaries to sell rooms online for them. Direct to consumer digital marketing through tactics such as paid search and organic search engine distribution was so new and foreign, and quite frankly there was no place to get formal training.

My experience in digital marketing began in understanding search engines, and how to ensure that a website could be found by target consumers. Equally important was to understand how a website would lead to online conversions as consumer usage of the internet, as a means to research and buy online.

Since starting our digital marketing firm; A Couple of Chicks™ in 2005, with my business partner Patricia Brusha, the digital and overall marketing landscpape has changed dramatically. We now have a team of 10 who specialize in all facets of online marketing specialties that are now necessary to reach today’s connected consumer.

Marketers must now understand concepts such as; Social media marketing, mobile marketing, web analytics and measurement, consumer user behaviour – as well as search engine optimization, and web usability in researching and buying online.

The marketing mix has never been as complicated and more fragmented.

As A Couple of Chicks, we have always been known for our focus on education and training for marketers both senior and junior, who need to understand this new and complex media mix. Our conference, Online Revealed now in its 8th year, has become the leading conference in the Canadian tourism industry for travel and tourism professionals to learn about digital marketing trends and best practices bringing together industry professionals from leading Canadian hotels, hotel groups, destinations, attractions and other travel suppliers, along with experts from industry giants such as Facebook, Google, Tripadvisor and Expedia to bring marketing professionals hands on knowledge and training.

 

How did I get here?

 

Throughout my career I have continuously learned about my industry, engaged in debate and conversation with my colleagues, attended conferences, and read about digital marketing and people doing innovative things. Today we have access to learning all around us with social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, and Blogs written by real people with real experiences.

The key is to understand consumers, keep a few steps ahead of consumer trends, understand why they buy, and most importantly what makes them buy. That is one thing that has never changed for marketers.

In addition, learn from the experiences of others. This is key.

What is also key is people.  Especially in this age of texting, emailing and social media.  I am one of the most digitally connected person there is, and yet I still pick up the phone, go to lunch, and travel to visit clients and colleagues.  Face to face communication and relationships are more important than ever.

I think that I might focus my advice tonight around a few things in particular that have helped me get here.

 

1. Hard work and commitment.

Sounds passé, but the hard work and commitment continues throughout your career.

2. Relationships are key.

It is all about the people you work with and do business with.

3. Continuous learning.

You are never really done learning, and if you think you are, then you are wrong. Read, talk to colleagues, attend seminars and talks that inspire you. It is not all about degrees, diplomas or certifications (although these don’t hurt either), it’s about a commitment to continued learning.

and finally….

It’s not about finding “the next big thing” it’s about finding “your thing.”

 

Finding “Your Thing”: Building A Career in Digital Marketing

I was asked to speak tonight at the Goodman School of Business at Brock University about how to succeed in business. It does not feel like long ago that I was a student at Brock attending a similar talk, with business professionals telling us how they built their career and what we would need to do to succeed after graduation.

I remember feeling overwhelmed at the time thinking of the long road ahead to find a career that inspired and fulfilled me. I remember that I wanted it to just start now! I now reflect on how lucky I was to have carved out a career that truly excites me and inspires me every day, and what I might tell this group tonight about my story that will help them.

I was asked to outline what I do (sometimes still figuring that out), and how it was that I got this point with my business.

Digital marketing has evolved since I graduated University in 1998, in fact, “digital” was not even part of the marketing mix according to my textbooks. All of my training in marketing online has been on the job, and real world trial and error. Online usage has exploded over the past decade, and access to WIFI and mobile devices have completely changed consumer buying behaviour.

I wonder now how the world will change over the next decade for the group I am speaking to tonight?

My experience in building websites and marketing online began when I was hired as a Marketing assistant for the Marriott Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I worked for the ownership group, and became the Director of Marketing Communications over an 8-year time period. I was empowered throughout my time there to try new things, and so I did.

Hotel chains did not want us developing our own websites, and at the time hotels were relying heavily on the brands and the intermediaries to sell rooms online for them. Direct to consumer digital marketing through tactics such as paid search and organic search engine distribution was so new and foreign, and quite frankly there was no place to get formal training.

My experience in digital marketing began in understanding search engines, and how to ensure that a website could be found by target consumers. Equally important was to understand how a website would lead to online conversions as consumer usage of the internet, as a means to research and buy online.

Since starting our digital marketing firm; A Couple of Chicks™ in 2005, with my business partner Patricia Brusha, the digital and overall marketing landscpape has changed dramatically. We now have a team of 10 who specialize in all facets of online marketing specialties that are now necessary to reach today’s connected consumer.

Marketers must now understand concepts such as; Social media marketing, mobile marketing, web analytics and measurement, consumer user behaviour – as well as search engine optimization, and web usability in researching and buying online.

The marketing mix has never been as complicated and more fragmented.

As A Couple of Chicks, we have always been known for our focus on education and training for marketers both senior and junior, who need to understand this new and complex media mix. Our conference, Online Revealed now in its 8th year, has become the leading conference in the Canadian tourism industry for travel and tourism professionals to learn about digital marketing trends and best practices bringing together industry professionals from leading Canadian hotels, hotel groups, destinations, attractions and other travel suppliers, along with experts from industry giants such as Facebook, Google, Tripadvisor and Expedia to bring marketing professionals hands on knowledge and training.

 

How did I get here?

 

Throughout my career I have continuously learned about my industry, engaged in debate and conversation with my colleagues, attended conferences, and read about digital marketing and people doing innovative things. Today we have access to learning all around us with social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, and Blogs written by real people with real experiences.

The key is to understand consumers, keep a few steps ahead of consumer trends, understand why they buy, and most importantly what makes them buy. That is one thing that has never changed for marketers.

In addition, learn from the experiences of others. This is key.

What is also key is people.  Especially in this age of texting, emailing and social media.  I am one of the most digitally connected person there is, and yet I still pick up the phone, go to lunch, and travel to visit clients and colleagues.  Face to face communication and relationships are more important than ever.

I think that I might focus my advice tonight around a few things in particular that have helped me get here.

 

1. Hard work and commitment.

Sounds passé, but the hard work and commitment continues throughout your career.

2. Relationships are key.

It is all about the people you work with and do business with.

3. Continuous learning.

You are never really done learning, and if you think you are, then you are wrong. Read, talk to colleagues, attend seminars and talks that inspire you. It is not all about degrees, diplomas or certifications (although these don’t hurt either), it’s about a commitment to continued learning.

and finally….

It’s not about finding “the next big thing” it’s about finding “your thing.”

 

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
alicia.whalen@gmail.com
905-401-2249

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