Not Optimizing For Search? Shame On You!

When I meet with corporate marketers and their agencies these days, I’m frequently surprised to learn how little they think about search engine optimization.This is despite the fact that Google alone processes an estimated 750 million queries daily, and that IT professionals are some of the most active and advanced users of search engines.

One reason for this, I suspect, is that marketers are trained to be good at “push” marketing. Their craft has traditionally involved intercepting customers with messages that grab their attention and inspire action. Customers, however, are becoming more resistant to these tactics. Increasingly, they engage with companies and products on their terms when they’re ready to make a buying decision. That’s a much better time to reach them. The trick is to show up on their radar when they’re in this “pull” mode.

Google is now the universal homepage. Look at your traffic logs and you’ll probably see that search engines vastly outperform any other referral source. Yet many marketers devote lots of time and money to creating beautiful homepage designs that are rich in animation and graphics. Not only are these pages rarely seen by today’s web site visitors, but images and Flash animations are almost useless at attracting search engine traffic.

Successful IT marketers are learning to reverse the push model. They know that buyers start the research process in a search query box and that the sites that make the first page of results get 10 times the click-throughs of anything else.

The Great Equalizer
You might think search engines favor the big brands, but that’s not the case. Try this: Type “router” into Google and look at the results. Note that only four of the top 25 results are vendor sites. Now type “PC.” Note that the only vendor in the top 10 results — Apple — doesn’t even market its products as PCs! In fact, neither of the top two PC makers in the US market even makes the top 100 results on Google.

Now look at what dominates search results for both terms: sites that provide definitions and helpful how-to advice. This should tell you something. Your search engine performance will be greatest when you deliver content that helps customers make good decisions through practical, impartial guidance from knowledgeable sources.

Search is the great equalizer. The leading engines’ proprietary algorithms are designed to screen out material that their developers consider uninteresting. Your challenge is to match your content to their preferences.

Start by choosing the search terms that really matter. Be specific. Get general agreement that these are the terms you want to dominate in search performance. Marshall all of your internal web site contributors to reinforce those terms every time they write.

Discard terms like “industry-leading” and “innovative.” No one searches for those words. Start a blog or discussion forum. Both are search engine magnets. Pick up a copy of Search Engine Marketing, Inc. by Mike Moran and Bill Hunt. It’ll tell you a lot of the ins and outs. Make SEO a basic consideration in every marketing campaign. Then let those buyers reel you in.

How Good is Your Blog? Take This Test

Are you getting the most bang for your blog? Successful blogging is all about generating awareness, repeat visitors, search engine visibility and lots of inbound links. Take the following test to see how well your blog shapes up. Give yourself one point for each “yes” answer and 0 points for each “no.” Check your score at the end.

  1. Do you use a domain name that matches the search terms that are most important to you (for example, “”)? Alternatively, does your blog live within your business domain (such as “”)?
  2. Does your blog title include a description of what the blog is about?
  3. Do you post new entries three or more times per week?
  4. Do you vary the length of entries, with some short and some long?
  5. Do you tag your entries?
  6. Do you list your tags alphabetically or in a tag cloud?
  7. Are your headlines simple, descriptive and declarative?
  8. Do you make it easy for visitors to subscribe to your RSS feed?
  9. Do you regularly include photos?
  10. Do you regularly include streaming audio or video?
  11. Do you write mostly in first person?
  12. Do you always attribute and link to source material?
  13. Do you have a blogroll?
  14. Do you include a link to your company website or your other personal websites?
  15. Do you write about a variety of topics, some professional and some personal?
  16. Do you frequently file reports from conferences or events you attend?
  17. Do you invite comments from visitors?
  18. Do you respond to comments from visitors?
  19. Does the number of comments you receive exceed the number of entries you post?
  20. Do you have an “About” page with descriptive information about yourself?
  21. Do you have a photo of yourself somewhere on the blog?
  22. Do you provide a way for readers to contact you?
  23. Do you provide a search option?
  24. Do you make it easy for people to bookmark your entries to,, StumbleUpon and/or other social bookmarking sites?
  25. Do you have a copyright or Creative Commons statement?

20 – 25 Jedi master
15 – 19 Accomplished blogger
10 – 14 You can purchase The New Influencers here
5 – 9 I’m kind of surprised you’re still doing this
1 – 4 You are a spam bot

Bookmarking Enhances Personal Productivity

I wrote last week about the power of social bookmarking sites to promote interesting Web content and to potentially drive a lot of traffic. But they’re also anexcellent personal productivity tool. This week I’ll describe a couple of tricks that I use to shave hours each month off the process of organizing information and publishing it on blogs and websites. The publishing features are some of the least understood and most useful services that bookmarking sites offer.

There are more than 50 social bookmarking sites on the Internet, including such popular brands as Feed Me Links, Linkroll, Ma.gnolia and Clipmarks. A good list is here. Most share a common set of features: You can quickly save and annotate Web pages, share them with others and subscribe to new entries. Most offer some added value on top of those basic functions, such as page previews, e-mail and ratings. All the services that I’ve found are free.

I use two sites that each excel at different things. For basic bookmarking and sharing, has the largest audience and the best browser integration. I can bookmark any page to by hitting a control key combination, entering tags (the autocomplete feature is a nice touch here) and then hitting enter. There are no mouse movements required (I’m a keyboard junkie) and the process is fast and simple.

What I don’t like about is its 255-character limit on annotations. That’s because I like to attach comments about the articles I read and upload them to my blog. There isn’t much you can say in 255 characters. Diigo plugs that gap. It’s a bit clumsier to use, but I can annotate to my heart’s content. Any annotations that I choose to make public are shared with other Diigo users who visit that page. I can also highlight passages and attach sticky notes to sections of the page that others can see.

The real value that I get out of both of these tools, though, is in publishing. I maintain three blogs and two Web sites, so I’m posting new material all the time. Web-based content management systems are slow and awkward to use, so I like to prepare and pre-format as much content as possible before logging on to the server. has a delightful feature called “link rolls” that enable you to automatically group bookmarks according to tags that you specify and feed them into a Web page. All you need to do is plug a little piece of JavaScript code into your website. Every time you add a bookmark, it’s dynamically displayed on the Web page.

For example, on my site’s speaking page, the list of recent appearances is nothing more than a bookmark list from So are the “Latest News” and “Recent Articles” sections in the two sidebars. All I have to do to update those lists is to add or modify my tags. My site simply grabs the latest feed and displays those entries.

Diigo has cool tools for posting to a blog. When I read something interesting online, I bookmark it with Diigo and write my description and commentary in the annotation box. I attach the appropriate tags and save. When I’m ready to post to my blog, I simply check the boxes next to the relevant bookmarks and Diigo automatically produces a page consisting of every bookmark I’ve selected, along with my annotations. I can edit the entries in the site’s simple editor and then copy and paste the whole thing into my content management system. Here’s an example of what the final output looks like.

Both and Diigo also offer you the option to tell them to post certain bookmarks and annotations automatically to your blog on a daily schedule. There’s no logging in to your content management system and the whole process is transparent. You can read instructions on how to do this on Diigo’s tools page or’ settings page. Here’s an example of what the finished product looks like.

I personally think does a better job of auto-posting, but I still can’t get around that 255-character limit. Given a choice between writing more briefly or settling for a little less than the optimum format, I’ll stick with Diigo.

How New Influencers are Reinventing Journalism

Ben PopkenMeet Ben Popken. You’ve probably never heard of him, but I recommend you learn what he’s all about. He and others like him are rewriting the rules of journalism and, with it, the practice of media relations.

Ben sits atop the editorial pyramid at the blog The Consumerist. In conventional media terms, that pyramid isn’t very big – only seven people – but Consumerist’s reach far outweighs its small staff. The site gets 15 million unique visitors per month, a number that has roughly doubled in the past year. Perhaps more importantly, it’s closely watched by mainstream media outlets. For example, The New York Times has referenced Consumerist 381 times, The Wall Street Journal 114 times and BusinessWeek 37 times. Consumerist gets picked up on the popular social bookmarking site constantly — 34,000 citations and counting. Popken was recently featured in a cover story in BusinessWeek and just wrote a 2,300-word article for Reader’s Digest. All without a day of formal journalism training.

That’s right, no journalism background; at least not as that concept is traditionally defined. Prior to joining Consumerist two years ago, Popken’s professional career had consisted of a variety of entrepreneurial sales ventures and odd jobs. He worked as a delivery man not long before joining Consumerist. He only got the job because the previous editor’s mother read his blog.

What’s even more interesting than his background is the way his staff reports the news. Consumerist gets about 100 e-mails a day from consumers talking about their horrible encounters with businesses of all kinds. Big box retailers, banks, cell phone providers, cable companies and airlines are popular targets. Editors read and respond to each and every e-mail and write up about 30 of those submissions each day for the site. They also monitor a variety of news services looking for important stories that affect consumers.

The New Journalism?
Consumerist editors do little fact-checking. They don’t have time with the volume of material they process. If something is wrong, they expect readers to quickly correct it. This direct reader input is the heart and soul of the Consumerist model, which Popken describes as “to empower consumers by informing and entertaining them about the top consumer issues of the day. We give them a voice by directly publishing their tips and e-mails and then following up on them as warranted.

A lot of journalists shudder when they read words like these. No editorial oversight? No verification of facts? It sounds like an invitation to disaster. But so far it’s worked. Consumerist gets the occasional legal threat, but it’s never amounted to much. And its laser focus on reader interests has won it a fanatical following. Have you ever sent a letter to a newspaper about a story you read and failed to get a response? At The Consumerist, you are the story.

With his site having already passed the venerable Consumer Reports in traffic, by some accounts, you’d think marketers would be beating down the door trying to get Popken’s opinion. Yet surprisingly, he told me he gets few invitations to speak or consult. Some companies that the blog has repeatedly spotlighted have taken proactive measures. Sprint, for example, set up a dedicated support line for Consumerist readers, but only after the site published direct phone numbers for many of its executives.

With no formal journalism training, no editorial oversight and none of the trappings of conventional media, Ben Popken is becoming one of the most powerful voices in consumer journalism. And what’s funny is that if you ask him about the secret of Consumerist’s success, he uses the same words that any good editor uses: “The secret is to be reader-centric in a fundamental way. The content is driven by the readers and reacted to by the readers. We’re really just a curator of consumer-generated content.”

Get used to this. It’s the online journalism model of the future.

Social Bookmarking Sites: An Essential Online Marketing Tool

According to my e-mail service provider’s reports, a lot of subscribers to my newsletter skip my opening essay each week and going directly to a little item called “Just for Fun” that I include in every newsletter. Just For Fun is a link to a funny, offbeat or just plain bizarre item that I find on the Web.

It may look like I spend hours each week looking for source material, but my real secret is StumbleUpon, which is a popular example of the new breed of social bookmarking sites.

Social bookmarking is one of the hottest group activities on the Internet, and it’s capable of driving enormous amounts of traffic if your site is lucky enough to be selected. Over the next couple of issues of my newsletter, I’ll look at some of the more popular bookmarking sites and explain how they work. Although I caution against relying on raw traffic stats as an indicator of success, I recommend you make social bookmarking a staple of your promotion efforts.

Bookmarks have been around since the early stays of the Internet, having been included in the earliest browsers. Bookmarks are an easy way to keep track of information you’ve seen and want to return to, but as a standalone tool, they’re not very interesting.

Where they do get interesting is when you share your bookmarks with others. As I pointed out in an earlier newsletter, social bookmarking is kind of a human-powered search engine. As more and more people bookmark and comment upon the same content, a richer description of the content emerges. Also, web pages with a lot of votes can rise up the popularity stack, making them more prominent and more useful to interested people. Social bookmarking sites aren’t nearly as exhaustive as search engine indexes, but every single entry has been vetted by a person.

StumbleUpon is one of my favorite examples of this genre. Once you become a member, you can install the StumbleUpon toolbar and immediately begin flagging interesting sites. Your selections and descriptions go into a common area where others can see what you chose and why. As others vote for the same sites, those selections rise in the StumbleUpon hierarchy.

As a user, you can subscribe to stumbled sites by category. When you click the “Stumble!” button in the toolbar, you automatically go to a random site that has been selected by other members. Sites that have been favorably reviewed more often are more likely to turn up in your random “stumblings.”

It’s perfectly OK to stumble upon your own site. This isn’t gaming the system, because your selection only becomes important if other people vote for you as well. If nobody else finds your page interesting, nothing much will happen, but if you attract enough interest you can draw an astonishing amount of traffic.

I found this out myself recently when I stumbled upon an entry in a blog I maintain called Newspaper Death Watch. Apparently some other people liked my selection. That blog, which normally gets about 100 visitors a day, received more than 1,200 visitors in one day, nearly all of them from StumbleUpon.Not surprisingly, most of those visitors came and left in just a few seconds. But a few of them did stick around and the site’s average traffic levels increased about 20% after that one incident.

This was hardly a make-or-break event, but it’s one indication of how social bookmarking can quickly generate a lot of visibility for your website.

The Future Will Be Twittered

The annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin, Texas is a showcase for geeks and their new toys, but the event held earlier this month broke new ground in another way. Anyone who runs corporate events or works in a time-dependent business should be fascinated — and maybe a little scared — by what transpired there.

The highlight was the keynote interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by BusinessWeek’s Sarah Lacy. Evidently, a lot of people in the audience didn’t much care for Lacy’s rather interruptive questioning style or her cozy familiarity with the subject. They were also put off by her failure to involve the audience more directly in the line of questioning.

So they started Twittering about it. And as the interview went on, the comments passed between attendees took on a life of their own. By the 50-minute mark, the emboldened audience was actively heckling the moderator. Lacy was a bit flustered, but she finished the interview. When she walked out of the auditorium a short time later, bloggers armed with a video cameras were there to record her reaction to the audience’s behavior. Here’s a video of the entire interview, annotated with audience tweets.

Sarah Lacy is a professional, and she will be just fine. She posted a response on her BusinessWeek blog and noted that the incident was actually good for pre-sales of her forthcoming book. What struck me about this incident is how it portends change in the speed of customer feedback.

The Feedback Conundrum
Veteran conference organizers know that getting audience feedback is like pulling teeth. They’re lucky if 20% of the attendees at an event even fill out evaluation forms, and it can take months to tabulate those results. Events are intimidating to audience members; they don’t control the microphone and they can’t communicate with each other very well. Services like Twitter change that equation.

The reason events at SXSW unfolded as they did is because audience members were able to communicate with each other. That’s the scary part. No speaker likes to think of a scenario in which his or her performance is judged in real-time, although I can certainly think of times when I wished I could pull a speaker off the stage.

The potential upside of this trend, however, is enormous. Imagine if you could stage an event — whether a conference, media campaign, product demo or something else — and get real-time feedback from the people watching. Or what if you could tie promotions to timely responses: “Text this number now in order to receive a 20% discount.” The technology to enable this interaction is here right now. I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the possibilities. What potential do you see?

Blogging, which started life as a rapid form of candid customer feedback, has now evolved into a near-real-time medium. When audience members feel they can comment directly to each other about a shared experience, their honesty is disarming. Marketers can learn to leverage tools like Twittervision, and Tweet Scan to tap into these conversations or to initiate new conversations themselves. All it takes is familiarity and imagination. An excellent list of third-party Twitter applications is available at the Twitter Fan Wiki.

Don’t Let Tools Distract You

I was presenting a social media seminar to a public-relations agency recently when the talk turned to uses of blogs. The people in the room were excitedabout blogging’s potential and were eager to apply the technology to new tasks.

I cautioned them that they were asking the wrong question. The issue isn’t what tool to use, but what problem to solve. Tool selection is secondary.

There’s nothing unusual about their attitude. People often start by choosing tools and work backwards to solve problems. Maybe management has just issued an order to start blogging, or the tool is seen as a tactic to improve search performance or it just seems like the thing to do.

But that’s like starting with a hammer and then figuring out what to build with it. If your objective is to make a house, then you’re off to a pretty good start. But if you want to craft a pearl necklace, you’ve got the wrong tool for the job.

I recently consulted with a client who wanted to build a social network for a defined customer group. It was an ambitious idea, but as we talked through it, we both realized that the process of getting it through internal and regulatory approvals could take a year or more. We finally settled on a more modest idea: Launch a relevant blog, try to build customer interest quickly and then take the results to management in hopes of getting fast-track approval for the social network.

Choose tools wisely
The building blocks of social media are simply tools and they’re not well-suited for every task. For example, if your objective is to alert visitors to a new category of products and provide detailed information on the specifics, a catalog page would be more effective than any interactive tool.

But it’s human nature for people to use the technologies they understand and figure out the application after the fact. Unfortunately, that can waste a lot of time and effort. E-mail is terrible for communicating between groups of more than about five recipients, yet people routinely organize massive projects with dozens of participants by e-mail. Even if the tool is poorly suited for the task, they reason, at least people know how to use it.

A better approach is to define business objectives and then search for tools that support them. For customer feedback, for example, blogs and social networks are a good choice. However, podcasts and video won’t do the trick. So if your objective is to improve customer relations, a podcast may not be a good place to start.

Technology vendors encourage the tool focus. Many of those firms are run by engineers who love to create cool new stuff. They’d much rather talk about features and functions than how to solve business problems. You need to block that tactic. Any vendor that won’t give you references to customers who are solving problems that are similar to yours is blowing smoke.

Social media tools are cool, but they’re always irrelevant if they don’t solve problems. Don’t let technology distract you.

When to Let Employees Do the Talking

Two organizations that have a — shall we say — problematic public image have recently launched blogs using a tactic that I think more marketers should consider:They’re letting their employees do the talking for them.

The Transportation Security Administration launched Evolution of Security in January. Its purpose is to explain, in a calm and rational tone, the reasons why the TSA does what it does.The bloggers have methodically taken on the most common complaints about TSA practices and tried to make sense of them for a skeptical traveling public. In addition to explaining their tactics, they’ve highlighted incidents of bizarre passenger behavior that give a sense of how unpredictable their jobs can be.

The branding is subtle: the TSA logo appears only at the bottom of the page. The slogan — “Terrorists Evolve. Threats Evolve. Security Must Stay Ahead. You Play a Part” — is meant to invite the public into a discussion about security. Initial reaction has been mixed. There were more than 700 comments on the welcome post, according to the blog. Only about half of them were published because of obscenities and other inappropriate comments.

Comments continue to trend toward the negative, so much so that the TSA has playfully posted a “Delete-O-Meter” to count the number of contributions that were filtered out. I don’t think any of this sentiment surprised TSA officials. Their early statements indicated that they expected a lot of hostility and their bloggers are remaining relentlessly cheerful in the face of it. I think they deserve a lot of credit for that.

I only recently became aware of Check Out, a Wal-Mart blog about gadgets. It was launched last August but has been seeing a lot more activity in the last couple of months. Wal-Mart, of course, has been a controversial player in the blogosphere.It famously sponsored a 2006 blog about cross-country travel that BusinessWeek outed as being written by paid freelancers. It has also funded an organization called Working Families for Wal-Mart that has been ridiculed for being a PR stunt to counter Wal-Mart’s controversial labor practices. (Note: In an ironic twist, that organization’s web site has been replaced by a placeholder page referencing It turns out that Wal-Mart never registered the domain, and it has been co-opted by a foe).

What interests me is that both the TSA and Wal-Mart have elected to use ordinary employees to tell their stories. The TSA blog is written by five people: four mid-level employees and a PR person. Given the volume of comments, I assume that these people were offered ample relief from the demands of their day jobs, but it’s still important that they represent the front-line TSA forces and not the executives in Washington.

Wal-Mart took the same approach, selecting nine people just like you and me to speak for the company about their passion for consumer electronics.No one is likely to get very worked up about this topic in the first place, so Check Out is a safe move by Wal-Mart. But I’m sure that the decision to let employees speak for the organization wasn’t an easy one.

None of this activity is meant to replace the communications that still emanate from these organizations. It’s important that companies and government agencies have the means to issue statements on behalf of the entire entity. But when it comes to personalizing the interaction –- as blogs do — the decision to use ordinary people is a smart one. Social media is personal, and corporate executives aren’t always able or willing to communicate in that fashion.

The use of individual employee voices is also a subtle reminder that institutions are made up of people and that those people have personalities and interests and motivations that deserve attention.There is no better way to humanize a faceless entity than to expose the people within it. That’s a difficult concept for many marketers to swallow, since marketing communications has historically been built around executive communications.But when you look at examples like these, as well as other successful corporate blogs like those from Southwest Airlines, Kodak and Google, you can see why this trend is gaining momentum.Trust your employees to do the right thing, give them some clear parameters and they will astonish you.

The Social Network Wars Are Over; Now it Gets Interesting.

If you’re sitting on the sidelines waiting for the market to pick winners in the social network race, you can stand up now. Hitwise data for 2007 shows that MySpace and Facebook together accounted for 88% of all visits to social network sites. The next closest competitor, Bebo , got a little more than 1% of the traffic.

There simply is no more competition in the general-purpose social network market. Other social media winners include LinkedIn (which wasn’t included in the Hitwise data), YouTube and Flickr. If you’re a big brand pursuing a broad strategy, you can safely place your bets on these services. For the next year or two, the also-rans will be busy finding buyers and merger partners.

Now is when it really gets interesting, because now the action shifts to vertical market sites. For many marketers, this is where the more interesting opportunity lies. For example, in the area of health, there’s, Wellsphere, Patientslikeme, and iMedix. Seniors can choose from Elder Wisdom Circle,, Eons, TeeBeeDee and Multiply. Mothers can sign up for Cafemom,, MomJunction and MothersClick, among others.

And the action isn’t limited to consumer markets. Sermo is a social network for physicians, which now boasts more than 50,000 members. Doctors exchange information about serious medical issues and review cases in real time. Pairup connects business travelers for peer advice, networking and assistance. There’s a list of more than 350 social networks here.

Don’t let small membership numbers fool you. Many of these sites may be attractive marketing venues. Scan the groups, discussion topics and participants and look for content profiles that match your market. Prices are generally lower than those of the big social networks and the audience is far more targeted.

Marketing to vertical communities is very different from mass marketing, of course. If you’re interested in building a campaign on Facebook, have a look at what Southwest Airlines and Victoria’s Secret are doing, or the group started by Starbucks fans that has over 60,000 members. There’s nothing particularly high tech about their presence. They mainly provide a place where customers can keep in touch with the brand and have access to special offers and downloads.

When marketing to vertical communities, you need to dig deeply into the expertise in your organization. Members of a health-oriented network, for example, want to speak to people who have lots of expertise in nutrition and treatment. Discounts and promotions won’t work nearly as well in narrow markets as they do in broad ones. If you have articulate, interesting domain experts in your organization, now’s the time to pull them out of the shadows and engage them with knowledgeable communities. Live chats, webcasts and Q&A forums are particularly effective.

Much of the media attention in the last year has focused on the battle for social network supremacy. With that competition now over, the market will subdivide itself in interesting ways. This process will continue for years, presenting an ever-shifting landscape of new marketing opportunities.

Courting Online Influencers

In the previous articles in this series, we talked about how our hypothetical Quebec resort can find online influencers. We’ve seen that the process involves more than just a Google search. Now that you’ve identified people to engage with, you need to craft an approach and an incentive that’s right for them.

Influencers aren’t reporters. First, make an effort to understand the influencer. In a case of a blogger, scanning a few recent posts, reading a biography and noting the categories or tags that the person uses can give you a quick idea of what motivates him. For someone who contributes to a group blog or recommendation site such as, consult her profile and list of recent posts to learn this information.

Make your initial contact meaningful and positive. If the e-mail address isn’t on the site, use, or to find it. Even if you don’t like what the writer is saying, find something you do like and post a positive comment on her blog or Flickr portfolio. Bloggers love comments and links.

Offer something of value. This doesn’t have to be expensive; it can be a discount, free sample, trial offer or just a link from your web site.

Follow through. Drop a writer an e-mail or make a comment on his site every so often to show that you’re engaged.

Treat influencers the same way you would the media.Some companies worry that this is a slippery slope: if they legitimize bloggers by treating them like journalists then there is no going back.

You don’t have to treat all influencers the same. Decide what criteria a person needs to meet in order to merit special treatment and be prepared to explain those criteria to people who object.

Create an incentive. New influencers appreciate being taken seriously, so think of how you can get the people on your short list involved with your business. This doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be special. Here are some ideas:

Photo weekend. Your research has shown that photo and video enthusiasts are an important constituency, so consider hosting a weekend gathering of top photo bloggers. Invite 10 key people to bring their cameras for a weekend, with accommodations on the house. Don’t require them to publish their photos online, but ask them to tag any images they publish with your resort name and ask to feature the best work on your site.

Contest. Raise the stakes a little and sponsor a photo contest. Winners will have their work featured on your home page and win a weekend trip for two. Or offer to feature the winning photo on your brochure. You can even have the community vote on entries. The cost is negligible and the payoff in prestige is substantial.

License content. Sponsor a ski weekend and invite key ski bloggers and videographers to attend. Offer to incorporate their best work into your collateral for a small licensing fee. Offer to introduce them to some of your travel industry colleagues in the area, too.

Free trials. Contact a few influencers and offer them 50% off the price of a weekend stay. Make it clear that you chose them because you admire their work. Flatter them. It’ll get you everywhere.