Twitter was the hot topic at last night's TravBlogCamp 2009, with the legal issues of running a blog and paid vs. free content also provoking heated debates. Arranged by Travel Rants' DarrenCronian and moderated by Tnooz's Kevin May, TravelBlogCamp 2009 was a lively event with bloggers, online editors, travel companies and PRs joining in the debate.
- Twitter - many were complaining at the event that the conversation kept coming back to twitter even though it does not yet reach the vast numbers that facebook does. Oddly enough, twitter had barely featured at last year's BlogCamp, but with most of the sponsors and speakers actively using twitter, even if they do not blog or market through facebook, it was probably inevitable.
One interesting debate that came out of the twitter discussions was whether companies should respond to complaints via twitter in public. Eva at Lastminute.com described their strategy for dealing with complaints via twitter where she replies to ask them to DM her with their contact details and booking reference before escalating it to the senior customer relations team who deal with the problem in private. In response, several attendees felt very strongly that if a conversation has started in public, it should be continued in public.
There was also a general feeling that the quality of followers on twitter is more important than the quantity as there is little point in using it as a marketing tool if you are only going to reach spammers. However, much-touted examples such as Jet Blue have proven that if enough time and effort is put into developing a loyal twitter following, then the micro-blogging site can be a very effective marketing tool. One attendee commented that companies need to make sure that whoever is running your twitter feed or writing your corporate blog knows about the social media space as it is a very bad idea to ‘learn in public'.
- Libel issues - Darren from Travelrants was at the wrong end of a lawsuit earlier this year, thanks to the libelous nature of a comment left on his blog, a year after his original post. His talk led to lots of discussions over how bloggers should protect themselves from a similar situation in the future. It was also clear that many present did not realise that online content is regulated under international law so you could be sued by a user from any country, so even if something is acceptable in the UK it may cause you problems under other laws.
Overall the advice was to pre-moderate rather than post so that you can choose not to publish comments if necessary, but to let the contributor know why you cannot publish their comment. If you do prefer to post-moderate your blog then remove any potentially libelous comments swiftly and whichever you choose, make sure you have a comments policy in place on your blog. It was also recommended that bloggers join an association of journalists such as the NUJ or the British Guild of Travel Writers as they can offer basic legal support if you should end up in a pickle.
- Paid for versus free news content - as many of you will be aware Rupert Murdoch has made several public statements on the need to charge for content in the future as the online advertising model is simply not sustainable. Opinions at the BlogCamp differed widely on how this could potentially work, with some feeling that users will always seek out free content so long as big players such as the BBC continue to offer high quality content at no charge, while others believe that it is possible to make a profit by charging for content, although there was no consensus on how this is likely to work.
Leading on from the paid versus free discussion, two of the speakers focused on how to make money from your blog in the current landscape, and indeed whether it is possible to make a living from a blog alone. Joel Brandon-Bravo from Frommers.biz commented on the relationship between publishers and bloggers, and how bloggers should comment on blogs on sites such as Frommers to promote their own blogs in order to gain more traffic, which in turn improves the chance of gaining more advertising revenue. Joel sees the future of publishers as aggregators and marketers of content, working as partners to bloggers. While travel agent Murray Harold of www.advantagetravel.co.uk spoke of the importance of marketing your business on the web, including using blogs and social media as tools to generate traffic to your site as the market for the travel agent is much larger than it used to be. However, he is still seeking the holy grail to make a living from this online activity.
There have been many predictions in the media recently that the much-hyped Google Wave is the future for social media marketing. However, it was mentioned almost as an afterthought at the end of the event with very little response from the floor as no-one seems to know how best to use it yet. Having sampled it recently, I think it's too early to tell how important it will be in online marketing and blogging as not all the functionality is active yet and so few users have access to it.
It is impossible to tell if Google Wave will be the big topic at next year's event, but if one thing is certain it is that the media landscape is moving extremely fast and those who fail to keep up will do so at their peril.
You can read the live feed from the event at www.tnooz.com or search for the hashtag #tbcamp on twitter.