WTM calls ‘Travels of Adam’ One of the Best Hipster Travel Guides on the Web

In a press release sent out during the annual World Travel Market conference in London this year, the WTM organization recognized the fact that “hipster holidays” are changed the European city break.

Hipster Holidays - WTM

‘Hipster Holidays’ are changing the European city break landscape

Demand for ‘Hipster Holidays’ is opening up tourism opportunities in areas of European cities that were once undesirable but are now considered trendy, reveals the WTM Global Trends Report 2015, released today (Monday 2 November) at World Travel Market London.

The movement is changing the landscape of the traditional city break, with more visitors wanting to explore areas outside the mainstream. Many cities are encouraging the boom, as it diversifies urban attractions and helps to avoid the growing problem of overcrowded city centres.

A ‘hipster’ can be defined as a person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those outside the cultural mainstream. Hipsters live in ‘edgier’ areas and visitors are seeking out these neighbourhoods to experience hipster culture such as pop-up restaurants, vegan cafes, independent shops and craft galleries.

Local residents are spotting new business opportunities, providing authentic hipster tours of specific city districts, while online travel guides including Likealocal and TravelsofAdam list up-to-date reviews of the ever-changing hipster scene.

There appears to be a battle among European cities for the title of ‘hipster capital’. But while many places lay claim to the accolade, leading areas include Kreuzberg in Berlin, District VII in Budapest and Miera iela in Riga.

In London, Dalston is the key hipster destination; in Barcelona it’s Gracia, while in Amsterdam it’s Amsterdam Noord, reveals the WTM Global Trends Report’s list of key 2015 European hipster destinations. However, the districts are constantly changing.

Euromonitor International, Head of Travel, Caroline Bremner said: “The hipster trend will evolve as destinations become more popular and mainstream, resulting in other edgier locations becoming the new alternative haunts.

Adam’s Hipster City Guides can be found here.

Digital Marketing as a Blogger

Ugh… Here it is, 2pm on a Thursday. I should be writing an article about Amsterdam for my travel blog, but instead I find myself here on my newer marketing blog. This is a typical day for me — switching between one of my three current jobs /slash/ careers. I don’t really know what I am today or what I do everyday. This is what it’s like to work professionally as a digital marketer and a blogger… Always shuttling between my different jobs, while trying to maintain authenticity.

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I received the following infographic in my inbox this morning and while I have approximately one million other things on my to-do list, writing this blog post just seems like more fun. That’s where I’m at today as a digital marketer / travel blogger / freelance writer — some days you just have to go with your gut and do the things that will make you happy. And today it’s writing about digital marketing.

As an experienced and successful blogger, there are some unique aspects of digital marketing that work to my advantage. Outreach is certainly easier. Credibility is a little more difficult to define. Social media marketing works better as a lifestyle/travel blogger — I’m able to connect with other brands, businesses, bloggers and potential partners on a more personable level. The nature of my travel blog also works to my advantage—with a large following (I hit one million pageviews in 2014!), I’ve got quite a bit of clout in the travel industry so finding marketing partners as a online marketing manager has always been easier. I’m often approached as a blogger by other digital marketers, and when it’s not a relevant fit for my blog, sometimes it’s a relevant fit for my client — and that works to my advantage. Sometimes it’s a relevant fit for both my blog and my client, making it a triple win situation for everyone.

Anyways, the infographic below is a nice synopsis of the types of things I have to do as a digital marketer — except as a full-time blogger as well, part of my job entails a lot more social media usage and a lot more time writing blog posts and other content.

Digital Marketer
Infographic source: BestMarketingDegrees.org

Welcome to the Social Age: Travel Journalism Panel at #SMWHH

Yesterday I participated on a panel at Social Media Week Hamburg, talking about the new “Social Age of Travel Journalism.” Moderated by Andrea Frahm (from Andrea Frahm PR), the other panelists were Nuno Alves from Travelbook.de and Ute Stahl from GEO magazine.

We talked a lot about social media trends in travel/tourism, which companies are doing what on which social media, and how exactly travel blogging works. The question-and-answer session from the audience yielded a lot more questions about travel blogging: issues about credibility, how to make money and how companies should work with bloggers. Watch the full video below:

Thank you to #SMWHH and Andrea Frahm for allowing me to participate in this panel and also to Hamburg Tourism for supporting my stay in the city. You can read more about my visit to Hamburg over on my travel blog.

What I Learned From Running My Own Travel Blog Sweepstakes

Late last year, to celebrate the relaunch of my blog with a new design and improved city guides, I reached out to Germany Tourism, Visit Berlin and airBerlin to sponsor a sweepstakes giveaway to win a trip to Berlin. The idea was to promote travel to Berlin and with my updated Berlin city guide, there was a newsworthy and interesting event to tie the sweepstakes into. All three companies were interested and generally happy to support my proposal. Ultimately, the sweepstakes promotion was supported by airBerlin and Visit Berlin—two partners that I’d hardly ever worked with previously. Here’s what I learned.

Getting Travel Companies On Board

My proposal was a strong one. I was able to prove through hard data that readers and visitors of travelsofadam.com were already highly interested in Berlin and making changes to their itinerary based on recommendations from the blog. At the time, the travel blog had over 80,000 views per month with almost half of those views on content exclusively about Berlin or Germany. To me, this looked like a clear win for any company interested in that market.

To get both airBerlin and Visit Berlin to agree to the promotion, there was a lot of back-and-forth. The timeline was tight for each company but thanks to their effort, it was able to happen.

What I learned, though, is that working with previous partners is not always a given. I had hoped for Germany Tourism’s support but due to internal staff changes and budget constraints, they weren’t able to support the promotion on any level. The opposite was true of working with airBerlin, however. I especially sought them out for this sweepstakes, believing it to be a perfect match for the sweepstakes. My struggle, however, was the fact that we’d previously never worked together before and our communication in the past had been rather tense—I might even go so far as to say they actively were uninterested in working with my blog. And yet we made it happen.

Sometimes your sponsorship partners are the least expected.

Running & Marketing the Sweepstakes

To gain maximum for the sweepstakes, I researched the best contest apps for websites. After a recommendation from a friend, Andrea of rearviewmirror.tv, I was sold on the KingSumo WordPress plugin. Setting up the contest page was quick and easy.

I launched the sweepstakes hidden in a single blogpost and put up banner advertisements across my website. My email list also received an initial blast 12 hours before the contest was officially announced on the blog.

From then on out, it was a matter of informing and notifying all previous press partners of the sweepstakes. Some of that communication had happened before the sweepstakes was officially put together, in an effort to get media partners on board. All total, the contest was featured by Out Traveler, Gay Star News, My Destination, the Apex (Airline Passenger Experience) blog, Details.com as well as some podcasts (Travel Writing 2.0, The Barefoot Journal, others) and plenty of social media exposure (including Lonely Planet, AFAR and Yahoo Travel). The sweepstakes was also mentioned in presentations at the WTM travel conference in London and a November Travel Massive event in Berlin.

Surprisingly, the only people to not share about the contest were the very same partners I was working with!

What I Learned

I learned quite a few things from running this sweepstakes.

  1. Don’t try to force a partnership. If a company doesn’t seem to want to work with you, there’s little point in suggesting to them otherwise.
  2. Start marketing as early as possible — before anything even happens. It took weeks to get some media partners to agree to promote the sweepstakes, and even then, some of it happened in the last weeks of the promotion. The sooner you get media on board, the better.
  3. Include cross-promotion as a requirement. It hurts to work so long on promoting a partner or brand only to be returned with little social support or recognition.
  4. You don’t have to work with bloggers for social media awareness. I promoted this sweepstakes 100% to media outside of travel bloggers and still managed to receive over 16,000 entries, using only my own public relations network and social media. I can count on one hand the number of my blogger friends who shared this sweepstakes on their own social media.
  5. Press releases work and they work well. I sent a single press release out to all previous blog partners and media announcing the sweepstakes which led to several media leads, social media mentions and even some offers for future work.
  6. It’s important to already have the targeted audience. I credit the massive success of this campaign (almost 4x more entries than a contest that airBerlin ran on their own the weeks before this one) to the fact that the travelsofadam.com audience was already closely engaged and interested in Berlin as a destination. This meant the conversion from website visitor to contest entrant was relatively high.

For more data points and additional information about this sweepstakes, please read the case study from my blog’s media kit.

Travels of Adam at Social Media Week Hamburg #SMWHH

“Travels of Adam” will be at Social Media Week in Hamburg later this month. I’m also serving as a media partner for the event and will be producing a city guide to Hamburg for tech startups & social savvy entrepreneurs.

social media week hamburg

I’ve had an interesting relationship with the Social Media Week organization over the years. Ever since first discovering the global conference in 2011, I’ve closely followed the event’s progress. In Berlin, I’ve attended a handful of events over the years—though the quality was always hit-or-miss. This year will be my first time attending the event outside of Berlin, in Germany’s most media-savvy city: the über cool Hamburg.

As a speaker at the event (read my bio), I’ll be on a panel titled Welcome to the Social Age: Travel Journalism 3.0. Along with social media experts from Geo magazine and Bild’s TravelBook, we’ll be discussing how travel journalism has changed and what it means to be a travel blogger.

Popular Journalists write their own blog “on the side”, bloggers have become contributors for renowned travel outlets, lifestyle and travel trends are increasingly being identified through blogger discoveries. Is it a whole new game, and if so, who’s making the rules? How do bloggers finance and market themselves? How do travel companies, travel media and pr agencies support them? Do they really change the way journalism used to work and, if so, how? We invite you to an inspiring discussion with travel and media experts. Read more about the panel here.

During my time at Social Media Week Hamburg, I also hope to speak about new trends in travel and how Millennials are actually making a difference in the way we travel and what it means for the world. As a media partner for the event, I’ll also be producing and sharing a Hamburg City Guide targeted for tech entrepreneurs. I’m looking to discover Hamburg’s coolest coworking spaces, the best cafés for networking, popular meetups and more. If you have any tips, please just tweet them at me: @travelsofadam

adam groffman - travels of adam

Learn more about Social Media Week: socialmediaweek.org/hamburg 

What Every Blogger Should Know When Working with Travel Companies

I recently gave a talk at the Berlin Travel Massive about working with brands both as a blogger, and also from the company side. As the owner of one of the more successful travel blogs (travelsofadam.com), I’ve had countless opportunities to work with companies in the past five years. But secondly — and perhaps more importantly — I also have helped to develop the blogger outreach and online PR strategy for one of Europe’s leading tour operators (eatingeuropetours.com). With the unique ability to speak from both sides of the equation, as a blogger and as a brand, I wanted to share my insight about best practices for bloggers when they decide to work with travel companies.

The following blogger tips were shared on the Travel Massive blog recently. View the original here.

Know Your Audience

As a blogger, you’ll be approached by countless companies. Many of them are looking for free exposure. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If it’s something relevant and interesting for your audience, make sure the company knows and see what you can make work that’s beneficial for not just you and the company, but for your audience.

Example: I was approached by ASOS to promote a contest they were co-sponsoring with STA Travel. Both brands were relevant to my blog’s audience and I was happy to promote their newsworthy, interesting and unique contest in a small way. By doing so, I then got the attention of both brands and ended up being paid for the promotion plus I was able to work with both brands again a few months later.

TL;DR: Sometimes giving a company free promotion or social media support can lead to work in the future.

Build Your Content

You need to have something unique on your site, something newsworthy or interesting or something that adds value to the reader. Find your niche, your voice, your style and work it to your advantage. Become an expert on something and use online marketing tools to find

Example: A longtime defender of the “hipster subculture,” I decided to adopt the word with a positive spin on my blog, providing my own special hipster definition and a series of guides and blogs featuring the world’s most hipster cities. Since the day I first published a Berlin Hipster Guide, I’ve received countless requests to publish other cities. It’s helped to set my blog apart in a crowded market. The series has only proven successful because even those people who wouldn’t identify as a hipster, still find the guides useful, interesting and shareable.

TL;DR: Become an expert on a particular topic to stand apart and get noticed by media.

Work on Your Marketing

Network like crazy. Always try to say yes to coffee. Don’t be stubborn and think you’re above someone. The person you meet for coffee might end up as a magazine editor the next week. People are incredible and I don’t know why you might want to shut people out. You should also learn what you can about marketing a blog. It’s an online publication so there are basic online marketing strategies you should be aware of and utilize. A blog is often a one-man (or one-woman) show so you need to be responsible for it all: the writing, marketing, business development, strategy, etc. Content is important, yes, but content needs to be found and the best way to make that happen is with marketing.

Example: I self-taught myself SEO when starting my blog and then took on several online marketing internships to learn more, plus the occasional online course. I specifically targeted relevant keywords for my blog — not every part of my blog is search-optimized, but as a Berlin-based travel writer, I knew what my areas of expertise were and made them work for me. By making my site rank for any number of Germany-related travel keywords, I’ve found myself approached by publications looking for local, on-the-ground experts for freelance writing opportunities.

Some useful websites for learning more about online marketing for bloggers:

  • Google.com – Type in your topic into Google to see what the autocorrect suggests, plus what the top 10 results are already showing
  • SEMRush.com – Use this software to research potential keywords, checking what sites in your same niche (including competitors) are ranking for
  • Buzzsumo.com — Useful to see what content is the most popular on specific domains
  • Also check out my Pinterest board of useful travel blogging tips

TL;DR: Content may be king but marketing is its queen.

Attend Relevant Events

I’ve already written about the importance of networking above, but sometimes the easiest way to network is with like-minded individuals. (That’s why I like Travel Massive so much!) Find events, local and international, that are targeted to your audience, your niche, your topics of interest. It’s important to prepare before you go. Don’t just go because you heard it was good. Do some research and find out if the companies that will be there are the same ones you want to work with. When approaching these companies, make sure you can show numbers and results from previous campaigns. Have an elevator pitch ready.

TL;DR: Only go to the events most relevant to your needs and prepare in advance to make it worth the cost.

Stay Authentic

Remember why you started a blog in the first place. Usually it’s because you wanted to write, to share a story or a photo or just memories. Remember that and don’t lose sight of it. I think it’s important to maintain a personality. Brands that lack personality are easily forgotten. Thankfully, as a blogger, if you’re the only one working behind the scenes, chances are the voice will always be yours.

Example: I’ve found that by manually updating all my social media and manually following new users, I’ve created an authentic brand. Followers know they can reach out to me because there’s a real person on the other end.

TL;DR: Blog because you want to, not because you have to.

Why I Started a Travel Blog (And What Makes it so Successful Today)

Hello and welcome to my newest blog 🙂

This summer marks four years since I quit my job as a graphic designer in Boston. To celebrate, I’ve changed my former design portfolio into a blog and website where I can share more of what I actually do these days.

Back when I was a designer, I’d been working at one of the world’s leading publishing houses for the three straight years post-college. And while I loved my job, I had also reached a certain point. Call me impatient, but I had goals to achieve, places to see and things to do (and plenty to discover as well). My corporate job was a good one, but it wasn’t providing me with everything I wanted. (This is your cue to refer to me as a millennial. I don’t care.) I knew what I wanted. And I went after it.

And so here I am, four years later, with a successful travel blog where I’ve been posting regularly for nearly five full years. Can you believe it?! I hardly can. I never expected my life to take me down this path. The transition from print designer to full-time blogger was a strange one, and yet here I am sitting in my Berlin apartment faraway from the life I never even imagined.

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I started my travel blog for a number of reasons. It ultimately began because of a tweet. I’d just returned from a life-changing trip to Iceland. While planning that trip, one particularly kind stranger sent me heaps of tips and advice over Twitter. With that simple but kind gesture from a stranger, I was hooked. Social media was already a passion, but with that flurry of tweets, I knew there could be a useful way to use social media while traveling.

Shortly after that trip to Iceland, I made a few life-changing decisions. Most important was my strong desire to see more of the world — whether by transferring jobs or just going abroad out on my own. Either way I decided I would need a blog. Plus, with my newfound respect for social media, I knew I’d want to give something back to the world at large.

The travel blog took shape as I was studying web design and playing with social media. It became a sort of testing ground where I could learn how to use certain web tools. It was a way to use social media professionally (or semi-professionally) and see how far I could take it. I always loved challenging tradition; it was one of the best parts of my job working in print publishing. The industry was changing and I knew from early on that I wanted to be a part of the change. As publishing was increasingly transitioning from print to digital, I knew I’d need my own platform. And that came in the shape of a blog.

Travels of Adam - Hipster Lifestyle & Travel Blogs

I’d blogged before, of course. There was Xanga and LiveJournal and some small, indie blogging platform which I can’t even remember. Facebook was created at the same time I was a freshman in college, so there was that (back when it was THE Facebook). I always loved sharing stories and blogging was just the next iteration of this. With travelsofadam.com, the goal was to start yet another blog, but this time a bit more focused. At first I used it as a testing ground, learning how to use WordPress, practicing web design & coding and exploring what social media existed and how to use it for marketing. Despite my love and passion for design, I’d quickly grown fond of Twitter—often trying to convince friends of its countless benefits.

Over time, as my blog evolved and changed (as did my life!), I became more and more interested in online publishing. What could I do when I control the entire publication? How far could I push it and what could I achieve with it? And of course there was the sweet temptation to make money. It wasn’t the goal when I started out. The blog was originally my testing ground, and my way to practice writing, publishing, marketing and social media while I traipsed around the world spending the very last bits of my $20,000 in savings.

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By the time I landed in Berlin, desperate to live abroad and quickly falling in love with the city, I realized there was so much more potential to my blog. I worked hard at it over the next several months, updating it to the next level and using my new-found knowledge in SEO and online marketing to effectively optimize the site. It took another four or five months until I could take the blogging job full-time, but the wait was worth it. This is the job I never dreamed of, the job I never expected.

Blogging in Berlin

But what makes my blog successful?

I’ve got a few ideas. First: one of the things I believe will make anyone successful in any job they choose to do, is having a certain amount of passion. Passion and drive goes a long way, and if you’re doing what you love, it’s no surprise your chances of success are higher. You’ll want to achieve more, to do more. And with self-made careers such as blogging, passion can do wonders. Social media was always a passion of mine. I had a Twitter account well before my travel blog. I never started my blog to make a career out of it and because I genuinely enjoyed the process from writing and editing to photographing and marketing, I kept at it. Many will tell you that consistency is key when starting a new blog. And yet many still burn out. You’ve got to want to do it.

Second: it’s experience. My short career in publishing, working on everything from design to marketing, certainly helped me to better understand the online publishing world. Not just the complicated publishing process, but the importance of artist copyright, the power of design (and typography!), editing and marketing. During my years working in book publishing, I pretty much involved myself with every process of creating a book, from prototyping to brainstorming content to even selling books in stores. All that knowledge has helped me to understand what publishing does and what it can do. Undoubtedly the challenges in an online space are different, but the roots are the same.

Blogging isn’t for everyone. But the beauty of blogging is that anyone can try. I started my blog out of personal interest and a chance for professional experience. Certainly there are challenges that come with a career out of travel blogging (or any type of blogging). Online publishing is a diverse space with a lot of room for creativity. What works for one website may not work for another. My blogging career has changed countless times over the past five years. With the flexibility that comes with owning all aspects of the publishing process I’ve had the chance to test and try new ways to make blogging successful. I’ll be covering that here on this blog. Look out for additional digital marketing tips for travel businesses on this space and on Twitter.

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Follow Adam on Twitter @agroffman for relevant travel industry marketing news, or on Instagram @travelsofadam to see where in the world he’s at today.