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I finally jumped into it …www.madafan.com where I (and hopefully others) will share the Madagascar experience

 

two screens
two screens

While saveoursmile.wordpress.com spent almost a year trying to help Madagascar-based tourism operators to get the most of internet, and specifically Web 2.0 and derivatives, apart from some friendly followers (thanks guys, it’s not over yet …) what I advocated for hasn’t been applied …  I can understand it, but this experience also helped me share my views whil practicing. So I’d better apply what I preach for…

 

Hence, a new baby is born: www.madafan.com In case you’re wondering, I will still maintain the two blogs (at least I’ll do my best). While both blogs will deal about tourism, madagascar and internet, there is a huge difference:

– saveoursmile.wordpress.com is geared toward techniques to use online for promoting a destination. Those techniques includes how-to, online tools and brand/identity management

http://www.madafan.com will deal with actual “tourist” experience: places worth discovering, off-the-beaten track tours, culture, people, conservation and biodiversity

You are almost welcome to exchange/contact with madafan, or if you are a facebook addict, become a fan of Madafan on facebook. Finally, you can follow me on twitter. Stumbleupon users, Madafan is here

How to easily, I really mean easily, create a mobile version of your blog

(cc)
(cc) William Hook on flickr

In a previous post [fr], I advised to put in a terms of reference for designing a website the following criteria: setup a mobile version of the website. Another post also tried to digg further into mobile marketing. With all those mobile devices (iPhone, nokia, blackberry and other Java or windows-mobile enabled devices), travellers are becoming more addicted to their mobiles. I think it’s more than accurate to provide some tips on how to setup a mobile version of your website.

A little background for those who don’t have any clue why should we pay a particular attention to mobile devices: unless the mobile device owner uses a “better” browser like opera mini mobile devices browser, chances are that mobile browser user will see unarranged/unpleasant and very simple version of your website. In order to have a better idea of the mobile user experience, I invite you to test your website with a mobile browser emulator like

Looks ugly, non user-friendly?. And with the plethora of mobile devices around, you don’t want to spend too much time trying to fogure out how your website will look with a nokia NSeries, then try with a iPhone, then with blackberry, and so on … You’d better delegate it to a specialized service, and better yet if it’s free

In order not to scare you, yes it’s almost as easy as creating a web-based e-mail account.

Different solutions exists but I will only refer to the one I am using which is mofuse.com

The interesting part is that mofuse delivers “standard” and iphone optimized version of your site. The bad thing is that it is mainly designed for blogs as it “mobilizes” your RSS feeds. It’s not meant for mobilizing a standard website without feeds.

Once you have played around with the design of your mobile version, you can even setup your own subdomain (example: m.yourdomain.com) that will redirect to your mobile site version.

What’s your view on the mobile access to your blog?

How to search for “free” madagascar photos to reuse

(cc) by bit ramone on flickr
(cc) by bit ramone on flickr

So far, the most popular post on this blog is the one about finding photos about Madagascar[fr]. In another project, I’ve searched for  ways to tap into those incredible photos already published on the internet and that can be re-used without infringing any licensing terms- and, yes, solutions exists.

In case you are not yet familiar with the “Creative Commons” licensing scheme, I strongly advise you to consider it as this is the key element for distributing electronic materials on the internet.The motto for Creative Commons is “Share, remix, reuse-legally”.

Another key element when talking about photo sharing on the internet is flickr. Although there’s a huge amount of photos related to Madagascar on flickr, finding the right ones that you can republish can sometimes be tough without the right tools. You can always directly contact the photo owner and ask for permission to reuse their photos, but sometimes this solution doesn’t fit.

Back to the point of this posts, here are options you can consider for easing your search:

1- flickr advanced search feature

This is the built-in search feature for flickr. Don’t forget to check the “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content ” tick box at the bottom of the page. You even have the choice for searching photos that can be used commercially for your brochures for example.

2- flickrCC

The good thing with flickrCC is that your search results are nicely arranged in thumbnail mode, giving you a nice overview before selecting- though you don’t have to scroll pages before finding what you’re looking for.An interesting feature is to insert the author/image sources into the image (although I find the texts generated a bit non-aesthetic, but anyway, this is a great tool)

3- for wordpress bloggers: photodropper

If you are a wordpress blogger with your own installation (not on wordpress.com), then you definitely need to have this photodropper plugin that lets you, from inside editing a post, search for creative commons photos to illustrate your posts. I definitely love this feature as you’re only left with finding the right keyword to search for while composing it. Other flickr plugins are available but this is not the topic of this post.

Whatever solution you opt for, be careful to double-check the licensing of the photos you are using as most of the times authors will ask you to quote them as the author.

Any other photo stock images  that you know of where users can search for creative commons photos?

How to have an online presence without a huge internet budget?

I often have some small Madagascar-based tour operators asking for advice on how to “have their own website” without having to pay between 2 millions to 10 millions MGA

Well, I usually answer that you don’ t necessarily have to setup your own website if your goal is only to publish some institutional informations (your contacts, eventually an online version of the content of your brochure…)

I know, this doesn’ t answer the question raised by the head title of this post.So here we go.

Option 1: you insist on having your own website

You can go for a local provider who is leveraging Joomla’s open source content management system. They will design and setup the features you want for “free” but you’ ll pay an yearly fee of aroung 500 000 MGA for hosting purposes (domain name and web space)- this is still a fair deal compared to the 2 to 10 millions offer that some web agencies will charge you for almost the same features- in order not to be perceived as giving free (or sponsored) publicity to the provider, I’ d invite you to drop a note in the comments sections if you are interested to get in touch with this provider..

Option 2: you want to connect with potential customers

I’ d recommend you engage into well-established social networks/forums where your customers go for asking questions/recommendations. Tripadvisor has an active forum for exchanging about Madagascar. Best of all, creating an account and actively using it will only cost you your internet connection fee.

Option 3: you want to be recognized as an expert in your field, or you want to update

The more you show/talk about your field of expertise (for example: trekking in Madagascar), the more interested your targeted partners/customers will be. My recommendation will then be to open a blog on wordpress.com (remember how Google-friendly tags on wordpress.com are? Use this blog for posting news /photos/videos as well as generate interaction with your readers

Option 4: you want to attract some abroad-based partner that will direct customers to you

Consider connecting and spreading your network on LinkedIn.com. Have your former customers recommend you through the LinkedIn network- this will give more credibility to what you’ ll say in your profile. Creating an account on LinkedIn.com is free, however some premium accounts can be obtained via some charges. Once you have a good profile, go and network with other peers.

ITB Berlin 2009: ideas to leverage Web 2.0 tools for trade show exhibitors

ITB Berlin- March 2009(one of the world’s leading travel trade show):  some lucky bloggers will have a press pass in order to cover the event provided they leverage the major Web 2.0 tools during the event- those tools are mainly:

– blogging often DURING the event – giving their readers insights to this worldwide recognized event for the tourism industry,

– podcast and vidcast: audio/video are encouraged to be published online for people to listen to/watch it from different devices (iPod, multmimedia players, computers, …)

– micro-blogging via twitter: many people  consider Twitter as a waste of time-I was part of this group until I decided to play the game too and become almost addicted to it :-). But considering that Phocuswright (a well-recognized online travel industry research) and the consortium of travel-related bloggers Tips from the T- list (BTW, if you haven’ t done it yet, I highly encourage you to download and read this Tips from the T list book-which is free- but where you can find a “condensé” of advices from recognized travel 2.0 bloggers all over the world) consider it as a requirement for a blogger to be given a pass proves that twitter is  a tool to consider for covering such events.

Now what’s the point for Madagascar (the country)?

For the delegation that will go to ITB Berlin, or for our national DMO (Office National du Tourisme de Madagascar), I’ d  suggest they do the following:

BEFORE THE EVENT

* from now (January 18th): create a twitter account and clearly indicate on your profile that you are from Madagascar preparing Madagascar’s participation to ITB, have people follow you on twitter

* get in touch with potential bloggers/journalists that will come to ITB. Have those people follow you on Twitter and do the effort of updating your tweets regularly. You can give them insights or excerpts of what you’re going to do before as teasing or as a PR efforts in the view of having a wider “media” coverage for the participation to the event, or in the view of attracting more people to Madagascar’s booth during the trade show

* publish on youtube or dailymotion the promotional videos you are planning to bring to the event,

* gather all the brochures of Madagascar’s participants and upload it on scribd (I’ ve already covered this topic on “how to give an online life to your brochure”), then motivate all your participants, as well as your contacts to spread the word about it through every channel (for example through connections on any social networks that they are member of : on facebook, flickr, wayn,…)

DURING THE EVENT

* increase the number/frequency of your tweets that may announce some events that will happen on Madagascar booth,

* take photos/videos  and directly upload it for people to share it

While hints I’ m giving here are not exhaustive, you may consider having a look at “Trade Show insights”, which I particularly find useful for exhibitors to get used to as they deal with actual experiences

I’ ll also be intersted to discover other ways from you (readers of this blog) about how to leverage Web 2.0 tools for trade show exhibitors…

mobile communications… what’s in for your tourism activity?

On one hand, ipod, blackberry, and other smartphones …they all come with plenty of  features and most of your clients use them on a daily basis (isn’t it convenient to have all your communication tools in one device: phone, SMS, camera, organizer, USB disk, multimedia player, …moreover all your contacts are within reach through chat, SMS, phone call, web applications, …).On another hand, the number of  content designed for those mobile devices are now increasing . The trend is set: mobile communications goes beyond simple SMS. Anything interesting for your tourism-business?

Talking about online connectivity, one usually think about someone behind a computer browsing the internet. Let’s not ignore the fact that being connected through mobile devices is now a reality. A smartphone with embedded Google maps (however Madagascar map is not well-populated), a tourist that updates in real-time his twitter followers about how happy/unhappy he is about the service you have delivered (mind the buzz), another tourist that updates photos taken from his camera-enabled smartphone a flickr/facebook account, or another tourist that asks for guidance from his “friends” on the social networks he is member of about interesting places to be…: those are all features that are already available for tourists that come to Madagascar now.

In fact, although there’s no rule ot thumb with regard to mobile marketing so far (as well as for Web 2.0 too), one thing’s for sure: your target customers are using those features and give importance to the discussions held on those social networks whether they participate from a laptop/desktop, or they are joining the crowd from their smartphone/mobile devices. Your company may take a step ahead your competitors by actually having a clear marketing strategy on how to surf this wave.

More interesting reading on actual experiences for Avis/Budget Rent-a-Car mobile marketing as well as Red Lion hotels where Eyetravel analyses two approaches for mobile marketing by asking is it “about ROI or brand advocacy”

if you think having an online presence will cost an arm and a leg… think again

Find below some reasons that may make you think again and a way to easily setup an effective online presence without spending money … (ok, that one is not necessary true as you will have to pay for the time you spend on internet updating your website, unless you are lucky enough to live in some part of Europe, in some places in Africa … I am not even talking about the US and Canada). In fact, this article will be another plea for you to blog

Unless you have very specific needs and features that you want to implement on your own website, there are options you should consider in order to setup an online presence that will help you:

– tell the world who you are,

– but, most interestingly, showcase what you are doing, share some news, share some interesting tips

Ok.. so let’s find out how to proceed

first step: open a wordpress.com account

A lot of blogging platforms exist out there but I personnally prefer wordpress for different reasons among which are: very good indexing from major search engines, a very active community and a proved solution

Creating an account is as easy as creating a web-based e-mail address. Go to http://www.wordpress.com, carefully chose your username (which is going to be your web address similar to http://yourusername.wordpress.com).

an excerpt of wordpress.com profile
an excerpt of wordpress.com profile

Tweak a bit your profile on wordpress.  This is a screenshot of my blog’s settings. Don’t forget to select the predefined theme that suits your needs. You’d be interested in the themes that has some customizable headers

Play around with different templates and widgets,

Then post your first article.

A note though, blogs are mainly for sharing news, updates-though a much more dynamic approach.Since you may publish some static informations (about your company, …) you’ll want to publish a page (instead of post)… And opt for a theme that allows to easily show your pages

second step: begin networking

Alllow users to subscribe to your news/feeds. An easy way to to this is to subscribe to feedburner.com and associate your blog to this service. Feedburner is an easy way to provide a subsciption to your news via RSS or by e-mail.

Comment, give feedback on some other blogger’s weblogs that share the same interests as you.

Third step: add some fun

Want to add some Google map that will help people find you, or want to add the latest video  of a trip you are offering, upload it on youtube.com and insert it on your blog. For photos, even though you have a 3Gb of photos that can be uploaded to your wordpress.com account, you may also want to consider uploading your photos on flickr.com and use them to illustrate your blog posts

How to give an online life to your printed brochure?

This article will show you a way to cheaply distribute online your brochure. In fact, it will only cost you the time you spent uploading the brochure on scribd.com

You’ve designed and printed a brochure for your tourism-activity and you are trying to do your best to distribute it. You can distribute it during face-to-face meetings (tradeshows, walk-in visits to your office, …), and sometimes you tried to send the electronic version by e-mail (knowing how painful it is to send a 4Mb file by e-mail from Madagascar, you can be reluctant to repeat this exercise often when potential clients/partners is requesting an electronic copy of your brochure).

There’s plenty of solutions for you to distribute these brochures. Today, I just want to highlight one (that is obviously leveraging one Web 2.0 concept: taking advantage of established communities and social bookmarking features). How to proceed?

First, you have to be ready with an electronic (preferably on PDF format) version of your brochure.

Next, you can upload this file onto your own website hoping that  few visitors will download it

OR

– try to find an online community that will help you distribute it via social bookmarking, upload your document there under the right category (though a much-targeted visitors/downloaders).

One interesting solution is scribd.com: the good part is that you can use it even if you don’t have your own website.

You can create an account there, then upload your PDF file on the right category and that’s it.

But the best is yet to come. In fact, the most interesting part is only beginning once you uploaded the file since:

– you can have the stats of the number of viewers of the document (which you usually don’t easily have access to on your own website)

– the viewers can contribute to make your document popular by “social bookmarking” it on popular websites like digg.com, reddit.com, stumbleupon.con, del.icio.us, …

– you can even keep the old “e-mail it” way as there is a form for you (or for other viewers) to e-mail the document… So, you only upload it once, then you can go to scribd.com and send by e-mail your brochure as many times as you want without having to suffer from low bandwidth each time you have to e-mail your brochure

– visitors can also download it (though, if you don’t have your own website, you can still go on with this solution)

– other people can embed your brochure on their own website a

What matters most: exposure or targeted customers for Madagascar?

Reading one of the many stories behind the coming out of the second Madagascar cartoon movie [fr] I can’t help but question myself about what Madagascar is really expecting from all those exposures. Is it only about branding and expecting that someone will decide to come, or can we turn it into a more target-oriented marketing effort.

Let’s consider three major events that are expected to drive exposure for Madagascar.

–  Madagascar-escape 2 africa: the soon-to-be a major hit … Every tourism operator is expecting a lot from this movie. But expecting what? Everybody agrees that it will give a huge coverage for Madagascar. Lot of people also think that the cartoon does not depict the actual Madagascar. I am not sure the second cartoon will try to “correct” this. In fact, I am not sure what kind of tourist will be attracted by this cartoon to come to Madagascar: is it the kid who barely wants to explore more about Madagascar than what is depicted in the cartoon (and who will assimilate Madagascar to all the marketing goodies that goes along with the promotion of this cartoon: figurines, playing cards, T-shirts, games, …). Is it about the journalists- and their readers- that will give their critique about the movie? …  Frankly, I’m a bit lost when I want to find a answer that goes beyond “that’s a huge publicity for Madagascar”. I am even tempted to ask, if this cartoon will give a good coverage for the “Madagascar (the name)”, will it reflect what Madagascar tourism operators wants Madagascar (the island) to be perceived as?

South africa 2010- football world cup: yes, that’s a huge opportunity, and Madagascar is only 3 hours flight from Johannesburg. All the aficionados of football will come to support their team and have fun.  At least, this time we have a clear profile of the tourist that will possibly come , we also have a rough estimation of  journalists that will cover this event (2000)… We also know that the national tourism office is negotiating to have South-African tour operators to include Madagascar in the circuits they propose.That seems to be a more target-oriented approach and I personnaly think now is already the time for TO to seduce those probable customers.

– African Union summit 2009 hosted by Madagascar: yet another exposure opportunity for Madagascar. Although this is not about tourism, we expect to have a lot of journalists covering the event, and also making special reports on different aspects of Madagascar- the hosting country. I personally think that Madagascra definitely need to leverage on one part of Web 2.0 (user generated content) in order to give different (or same) point of view of what is going to be reported during this event. But this time again, from the tourism perspective,  do we have a clear idea of who are we targeting? Is it the delegations that are going to come here? Or is it only about brand (Madagascar) management

Now the question is: how to get the most out of those events to attract tourists?

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