For DataArt and Brilliant Travel Media, creating a site simply dedicated to hosting a number of ranking lists of those in the social media travel space, based solely on the vanity metric Klout, was both an experiment and an opportunity.
As the Influencers in Travel site is now a memory, I thought it would be good to create some closure for a project which was a success in some ways, such as the technical implementation and the response from the travel industry, and a disappointment in other ways.
In the Fall of 2010, I was talking to an old friend and former co-worker, Greg Abbott (@jgabbott), about different ways we could get his brand, DataArt, some visibility within the online travel space. We had successfully worked together in the past and were searching for a unique idea that had merit and would get attention. After batting around a few different ideas, we noticed that Klout was currently getting a lot of buzz and decided to essentially create a ranking index of travel related activity on some social networking sites using Klout.
Abbott notes that:
As a travel software development organization, we [at DataArt] typically work on ‘less sexy’ technical back-end and integration projects for small to medium-sized travel tech companies. We saw the Influencers project as an opportunity to introduce our brand and connect with those who, very early on, realized the power behind emerging social media channels (i.e. the blogging community).
We also have heart for entrepreneurship and innovation and, wherever possible, we invest to support fresh ideas. As such, Influencers also represented an investment of this nature.
Lastly, for the ‘geek’ in us, Influencers provided an opportunity to work with the Klout API and to better understand how Klout scores would be received by the wider travel industry.
On the commercial side, it was agreed that DataArt would be the primary sponsor with banner ads throughout the site.
The site was live from November 2, 2010 until August 25, 2011. According to Google Analytics, it averaged 267 page views per day. During the site’s existence, 25,487 unique visitors came to the site 43,982 times and viewed a total of 79,348 pages.
From Greg’s point of view, he was disappointed that he “saw very little click-through on the banner ads and had no significant action to take on other projects from the community which Influencers was reaching.” Abbott added that, “One could argue that our banner ads were ineffective or that this is not our core segment and we wouldn’t disagree.”
So who looked at the site and where did they come from?
The audience demographic for Influencersintravel.com was made up primarily of college educated, 25-44 year olds with no children who looked at the site from home. When it came to traffic sources, there were a lot of the usual suspects. However, I was surprised to see that a single post on Tnooz covering the launch of the site resulted in a total of 863 visits, making it seventh overall on the list of traffic sources.
What did visitors look at when they came to the site?
The most popular page with 33,538 views was the Top 50 Influencers in Travel page which, on average, works out to be about 113 page views a day; fairly good exposure for those on the list. The two lists that included travel marketers, PR representatives, tourist boards and DMOs received over 10,000 views combined, yet were not added to the site until late February 2011.
On August 25, 2011, I found that the site had been hacked. The following weekend, after coming to the conclusion that the site would basically need to be completely rebuilt without any real interest in further sponsorship, the site was closed down.
Regardless of how relevant the lists were, I have seen many of those who were included in the rankings benefit in one way or another. At various conferences, I have actually heard decision makers, whether from tourist boards, PR agencies, or other travel or tech organizations, mention these lists during their presentations in regards to how the lists played a part in their decision-making process.
In the end, Greg believes that for DataArt, “it was an experiment and there was surely some goodwill for the DataArt brand, but, overall from the numbers side, we are unable to really demonstrate any significant return on our investment. Of course, this doesn’t mean we won’t try it again.”
Ultimately, in regards to Brilliant Travel Media, I was pleased with the exposure we received from some of the initial coverage. Specifically, the media put out a few really great quotes that included our brand. If I had to do it all over again, I would certainly call in much more than just Klout to maximize the relevance of the lists.
(Declaration: I am the owner of Brilliant Travel Media and played a major role in maintaining the Influencers site. I also retain ownership of its URL.)