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Talktourism Moderation & Forum Development

Talktourism.ie has been a functioning discussion forum website for just over two years now and I do beleive that it is achiving the aims & objectives that it set out to achieve.  As I may have mentioned before the success of the site is down to those who regularly contribute to the site and of course those who regularly review the site for latest news & updates about what is going on in the industry.

Through our own efforts and that of bodies including Fáilte Ireland, Green Box and others there is a significantly higher level of online presence among Tourism SME’s over the last couple of years.  Its encouraging to see regularly updated websites and blogs which are providing useful information for tourists and locals alike.  Although significant gaps remain with Tourism SME’s whom are not willing to engage with the opportunities that are available on the internet. 

As the reccession bites even harder, the home holiday market is becoming more and more important! Potential domestic tourists will be seeking regularly updated information about special deals and things to do and this can be easily accessed via the internet.  The power lies in the hands (literally) of each and every Tourism SME to attract increasing numbers of tourists.

As Talktourism has developed and grown, we have attracted ever increasing numbers of spammers seeking opportunities to promote their pharmaceutical products and various other services that most of us don’t need.  Most of the time our moderators are quick to remove unwanted predators and ban them from the site (but, not always as were only human 🙂 ).

In addition to the spammers, are those whom are sometimes difficult to decifer whether they are genuine or not.  Usually they are promoting international tourism services which is not a crime, but are not genuinely interested in engaging with the forum and other forum users.  They are purely increasing their web presence through our forum. Depending on the content, we generally delete /ban them, but often give some an opportunity to engage with the forum and tell us what they are about.  Rarely have we seen anyone actually contribute to meangingful discussion on the forum from an international perspective. Although that does make me think of two notable exceptions being ‘NZBR’ from New Zealand and ‘MargaretinBavaria’ who have genuinely shared their experiences with Irish based members.  Everyone is a winner when meaningful discussions are ongoing, as everyone is gaining knowledge and the contributors are gaining increased web-prescence.

On Talktourism we have categoriesed these style of spammers simply as ‘Nonsense‘.  We do have a system for members to report other members for inappropriate use which can be accessed by clicking on the red triangle symbol with ‘!’ appearing in the top right of each topic posted on Talktourism. If you think someone is misappropriately using our site, please follow the links and inform us.

Overall the challenge remains to encourage further engagement from tourism enterprises.  We would be happy to address this challenge, but the only way that we can do this is with your feedback and ideas

Its good to talk and hope to hear more from you soon!

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From Awards to Talktourism on Twitter!

The closing date has come and gone for voting in the ‘Net Visionary Awards‘ 2009 (1st May) and we are none the wiser in respect of how we performed. We actively encouraged all our Talktourism members to vote for us and we are grateful to all that have supported us.  I guess we will just have to wait until the 21st May and watch this space!

We are happy with the publicity which has come about as a result of being short listed in the ‘Online Tourism Category’.  We have also attracted additional new members with a good geographical spread around the country.  We have also seen an increase in visitors to our Talktourism.ie site from around 1,650 visitors a month in 2008 to around 2,500 currently.  This is minor league in the online World, but we are happy as the site is targeted at small to medium tourism enterprises. The big question is how do we encourage more to actually engage and contribute to the site? I’ve been thinking about this one for a while and I would appreciate any new ideas… 

We held one of our ‘Talktourism Web2.0 Network’ workshops recently and we concentrated on Twitter.  We all quickly became familiar with twitter and everyone got hooked because it is an effective way to communicate with colleagues / friends and establish new online business relationships.  Following two weeks of communication via ‘Twitter’ the tourism entrepreneurs have outlined there own experience of using twitter on Talktourism.ie, which you can check out here.

Twitter is also a good source of up-to-date information on the travel industry and today I came across an interesting article about ‘Which travel firms do twitter well (& badly)!’ As with everything else online the main cost is time, but in these recessionary times, I think its worth giving it a go.

If you want to follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Talktourism & tweet me! I am also delighted that we have loaded our ‘tweets’ on to our blog which can be viewed here on the lefthand column.

Shortlisted for NetVisionary Award 2009

Talktourism.ie has been shortlisted for a National Award in the ‘Online Tourism Award’ category of the Irish Internet Association and Enterprise Ireland Net Visionary Awards 2009.

We are truely delighted and honoured to be shortlisted and in the final reckoning with some of the best known names in the tourism industry Ireland.  We do recognise that the success of the site todate has been down to the members whom regularly visit and contribute to the site.  Thanks to all members!

The best websites in Ireland are included in the shortlist for awards under 15 different categories and the winners will be announced at a ceremony in Dublin on the 21st May.  The winners are selected by the general public who can vote online and we would welcome your support by logging on and voting for Talktourism.ie in the ‘Online Tourism Award’ category.

 If you wish to read more about what our Talktourism members have been saying, then check our online discussion about the Net Visionary Shortlisting. 

 Overall there has been a number of interesting discussions on Talktourism.ie over the last couple of years.  The majority of these online discussions result in a shared learning and better communication about business opportuinities for tourism entrepreneurs as well as new contacts being established.

Here is a selection of some good examples of our recent member discussions which clearly are assisting tourism entrepreneurs to develop their online knowledge and presence. Topics include; Website Creation, Fáilte Irelands Web-check, Tourism Blogging, encouraging tourism entrepreneurs to enter awards such as the Innovation Awards and as recently as yesterday a discussion was started on how B&B bookings are performing in 2009.

 

On a final note; most visitors to talktourism.ie do not realise that another network operate on the forum and meet regular to advance their Web2.0 skills.  This group is a dedicated group of tourism entrepreneurs who have grasped the opportunties that are freely available online and have their own ‘Talktourism Web2.0 Network’ which facilitates ‘peer to peer’ learning.  This is where the future lies and hopefully with the assistance of Fáilte Ireland’s commitment to this area, more of rural Ireland will be actively marketing online through the various Web2.0 social media.

 

We would welcome any comments you have on our website.

Tourism Blog? Why bother?

What is a blog? A blog is a personal diary and that is what most blog readers want to see; an honest no nonsense commentary on a theme that they have an interest in.  Blogs present an opportunity for all web-users to share their own individual knowledge on a subject or perspective on the world around them.  It’s a way to communicate freely and openly.

 

For small tourism enterprises; a blog provides opportunities for them to increase their profile among current and potential clients.  Indirectly, blogs have proven to be highly ranked among search engines and often attract more unique visitors than there primary business web-site. This experience has been borne out by the novice bloggers that have been recently engaging with the blogosphere and sharing their knowledge through our Talktourism Web2.0 Network.

 

Over the last year or so we on have been advocating new approaches for tourism SME’s (small to medium enterprises) to become active online and promote themselves through various Web2.0 online tools.  Some tourism SME’s have engaged with the new technology with varying degrees of success and most are delighted with the obvious increase in web-traffic which has been generated through their blogging.  To date the increase in web-traffic has not shown significant results in terms of actual bookings, but all the Talktourism bloggers are confident that they will reap rewards in the months and years to come.

 

Tourism blogs are a tool to communicate with the wider general public about the person / the family behind a small tourism business and provide potential tourists with an insight to the experience that they would expect to find when they use those tourism services.  It is a great way to develop relationships with prospective tourists in advance of their decision to make that booking.  It also serves as a way to build brand loyalty and can encourage past guests/tourists to return because they are being kept up-to-date with new facilities, events and activities going on with the tourism enterprise and/or in the wider local area.

 

One of the most important elements of a successful blog, is that it is updated regularly and provides the reader with a reason to return because it continues to interest them.  In order to attract new visitors, it must appear through links to other recognised blogs or websites which complement the blog content.  Another element of attracting new visitors to your blog is to ensure that it has appropriate ‘tags’ which can be picked up by the search engines and these tags should also appear within the content of your blog content.

 

If you want to read more about the Talktourism blogs please see our Blogroll (in right column) and if you find a blog that interests you, please add a link from your own blogroll or website.  The most interesting blogs are those that present themselves in a genuinely honest manner and keep their blog going through regular updating. If you want to start or improve your blogging and attract more potential tourists to your website and ultimately through your door, then I would recommend that you check these blogs our blogroll.  We also would hope that you would let us know what you think? 

 

If you want a no nonsense guide on ‘how to blog’ then this blog is for you.  Another useful resource is the Irish blog awards, which is also an excellent way to find the best of blogs available in Ireland and should be a target for all budding Irish bloggers for 2010. 

 

The Irish Internet Association has prepared a draft paper on ‘Business Blogging’ which I would recommend reviewing if you want to make the best out of your blog!

  

Good luck with the blogging and don’t forget to link with each others blogs and websites! If you have a small to medium tourism enterprise and have recently started blogging, let us know and we would be delighted to add you to our Blogroll.

Talktourism on National Radio: RTE Radio 1

We had our monthly Talktourism Web2.0 Network workshop in Clones, Co Monaghan on the 11th February ’09.  This network of five small tourism providers have become proficient at using the free Web2.0 tools that are available for the promotion of their rural tourism businesses.  Each network member learns from the others experiences and attempts to use various online tools since our last workshop.

An opportunity was presented that morning when one of our national radio stations announced that they were visiting Cavan Monaghan later today ‘to speak to real people dealing with the economic downturn’. So, never being one to miss an opportunity; I sent an email off to ‘Morning Ireland’ which is a current affairs programme on RTE Radio 1 inviting them along to our workshop. 

I was surprised when I received a call from reporter Cian McCormack reporter with RTE Radio 1 that they would be interested in coming along to meet with the group.  The programme was generally looking how the current economic crisis is impacting on rural Ireland.  Cian interviewed all present, paying particular attention to three of our small tourism providers from Cavan and Monaghan.  I was impressed by the enthusiasm and positive responses from our local tourism entreprenuers.

They left as quick as they came and we all waited with anticipation the following morning to hear our piece on national radio and we can only sum up that we were being too positive!  Unfortunately they did not cover our story as there was more pressing issues with failing banks and general economic doom & gloom…  If you want to read more about this and the views of the web2.0 network visit our Talktourism discussion.

That afternoon our Talktourism Web2.0 Network meeting continued with renewed vigour following the visit from RTE.  Later in the afternoon our two local County Tourism Marketing Officers from Cavan and Monaghan dropped in to find out what we are doing.  They were interested in the activities of the group and it provided all with an opportunity to update online and offline links!

It has become clear to all the members of this network is that the year ahead is going to be tough and the opportunities that exist through various online media, presents a real opportunity for small tourism providers to gain greater access to their potential markets. 

We are interested in hearing how your business dealing with the current economic downturn and what strategies you have put in place to attract more business!  Let us know by commenting here or on www.talktourism.ie

Web2.0 Network Feedback

We had an interesting Web2.0 workshop which commenced with a cup of tea and a delightful homemade ‘yoghurt cake’ made by Catherine… Mmmm and I nearly forgot the homemade traditional Irish scone which preceded the cake.  This was a vital ingredient in making the day a success! Thanks again to Catherine from Fortview house.

We had five participants in the workshop and we focussed on sharing details about each other’s Web2.0 activities since we last met.  One of the learning points was that two of those present have no system of monitoring their website traffic.  We recommended that they use www.statcounter.com which was ably presented by Declan and Geraldine who are both clued in to their own web stats and can identify how much web-traffic that is coming from various social media sites that they are active on.

 

As small tourism businesses, some sites like wikipedia were proving to be too difficult because of the strict monitoring regime present on the site.  All were blogging, although they have a lot to do to make their blog more interactive and interesting. Liz is leading the charge on blogging with www.swallowstudios.wordpress.com which encompasses many of the principles laid down in the Irish Internet Association draft business guidelines on blogging (http://www.socialtext.net/iia-smwg/index.cgi?business_blogging).

 

We had a quick look at the number of inbound links that everyone was getting and we surprised by the level of inbound links that www.fortview.com was getting… 32,200!!! in total.  Congrats Catherine. 

 

 

It was good to see that everyone was giving it a go in terms of interacting with the web and using the various social media tools that are available on the web.  Declan clearly indicated the benefits and drawbacks from many of the social media tools.   It was accepted that it requires time and effort to benefit from this additional web activity and it just does not happen overnight.

 

 

We are going to continue working as a network dedicated to assisting each other’s online promotional efforts in the area of Web2.0.  Each of the Web2.0 Network participants are going to focus on an aspect of their business or a broader local interest activity and we are collectively going to promote each others blogs, websites, videos or whatever other tools are used.

 

 

This will range from Geraldines work with the development of a new website for Killeshandra tourism , Catherines focus on World Rally Ireland, Liz’s focus on promoting the Designer Crafts shop in Monaghan for Christmas to Declan plans to run Monaghans first Bog Snokelling competition.  I can’t wait to hear more and we will keep you informed through Talktourism about all activities.

Web2.0 Network

I am excited about the prospect of our second Web2.0 Network workshop which take place tomorrow afternoon.  I have to be honest, I am depending on the input of the participants of this workshop to make it a worthwhile day. 

Half dozen of Talktourism members from Cavan and Monaghan have met once before in a workshop held in a ICT training suite and facilitated by a professional web-developer/trainer.  I am going to facilitate this workshop and we are basically going to share each others learning from what has and has not worked in attracting greater traffic through to each individuals web-sites.

These talktourism members are all dedicated tourism SME’s and they all have equally progressed significantly on the online environment from a base of little or no knowledge in 2007 to being regular bloggers and proactive users of various social media tools. 

As a facilitator and trainer, the greatest barrier has been the initial fear of ICT and technology generally.  With a little training and confidence building, it is amazing to see the progression that has been made among a group of rural tourism providers.

There is one other element that I forgot to mention; There is a shear determination among these tourism entrepreneurs not only to succeed, but to ensure that the wider tourism businesses from accross Cavan and Monaghan succeed.

I am looking forward to sharing some examples with you here soon.