How and why to blog about your travel through email, on blogs, social media or WhatsApp
My first travel blogs fulfilled the sole purpose of keeping my family and friends updated. I just wrote, added some pictures and then published without editing. The posts were long, because I wrote twice a month and a lot had happened within two weeks. The response was scarce, but friends and acquaintances generally were interested in my journey and I was sure they were reading.
If you are thinking of opening a travel blog, these are the first two questions you need to ask yourself:
- Why are you writing?
- Who is your audience?
These questions go hand in hand. If you are writing to keep your family and friends updated, they are your audience. But don’t underestimate the bragging power of parents: My dad started sending the links of the blog posts to his colleagues and friends, because he liked them so much. So the private audience quickly became a bunch of people I didn’t even know.
Ask yourself why, how and when they are reading or following you. Are they going to read long texts? Or are short videos better (Periscope)? What about daily quick thoughts and photos (Twitter / Instagram)?
Maybe you are a professional travel blogger, or want to become one. Or you want to journal for your own benefit.
Whatever your reason to publish and whoever your audience is – they determine your platform and format for travel blogging.
Here are some options. You can combine them, and there are more. But this should give you a quick overview.
Publish on a blog for friends and family with the possibility of expanding the readership. Blogs are also great if you want to reach a bigger audience, publish journalistically, inspire others whom you don’t know personally or even want to raise money or make some political, social or cultural phenomena public.
If you want to journal just for yourself, lock it with a password, so that you are the only one who has access.
I kept getting similar questions about how I was doing in Kenya. But I personally find emails to many people not very personal and sometimes even boring. So I record a video every month, upload it and send the link and password to a growing number of people.
I don’t have special equipment. Neither do I have a script. I just start talking in front of the camera, insert some photos or scenes I recorded previously and sometimes add some music. I always keep them around six to maximum ten minutes.
Watching a video is less effort to many people than reading a long email. And I feel more authentic towards the people who are genuinely interested in what I am up to.
There are plenty of options for platforms, tech equipment, professionality and formats. Some audiences may be satisfied with only seeing you talking. However, travel vloggers often have great cameras and microphones and their videos are full of action.
Shooting the video is only one quarter of the work. Vloggers usually have thought about a story before, and edited it later. And then there are data volume requirements and not everybody has internet everywhere.
If you want to do videos, you can also just record short clips, a bit like taking moving photos, and upload them on Periscope, in your WhatsApp or Facebook group or on Instagram.
Emails will definitely be found in someone’s inbox. There is no escape and people can’t miss it. And you know exactly whom you are sending it to.
Consider your audience here: Hardly anybody, apart from your biggest fans, take their precious time to sit down and read 3 000 words of continuous text about their friend or niece, who is currently travelling through a country they can hardly imagine.
If you want feedback, a WhatsApp or Facebook group is more attractive than email, simply because people can quickly like something or leave a short comment with one single click. Also, your messages might be shorter, more regular and not these big bites that nobody in the boring non-traveller’s daily life has time for and enthusiasm to read.
On WhatsApp or other messenger services you have more control over who gets to read what you are writing, and you will more likely get feedback, because it’s easier and quicker to answer.
Social media is usually more public. You can change the settings for who will be able to read and share though, or open a separate, closed group.
Photos, videos and voice messages will be easier to handle on social media, like Periscope, or a messenger service like WhatsApp.
Voice messages or podcasts are only suitable for people who know you personally, because they can imagine your face with the voice. Describing a different culture in a ramble for a podcast is a real challenge, and I would like to dare you here to be the next best travel-caster! However, most of it works better visually or when you have written it well.
If you are thinking of establishing a professional blog or brand, or you have already started out: There is a great blogpost by Regina of byregina.com where you can find out whether blogging, Youtube, Periscope and other platforms are right for you.
Some general hints
- Short is always good, especially online. People don’t have time anymore – unfortunately. Unless you are a predestined travel writer, keep your posts around 800 words, your videos under ten minutes and sort your photos before publicly uploading them all.
- Regular works better than long. If you can write once a week or three times a month, do it. This automatically helps keeping things short. It also “teaches” your audience when to check for news about you. You can announce new posts via email or social media. Or blog on a specific day so that people know, every Tuesday or every 10th, 20th and 30th of the month they can check back in with you.
- Different platforms give you different ways of control. Do you want control over who is reading or is it okay if it spreads? (Consider password protection, groups with invitation vs. Facebook pages, for example.)
- Maybe you are already familiar with one or several of these outlets – and you don’t have much time to start learning how to use a new one. Then the best is to go with what you are comfortable with. Register a blog, open a group or set up a profile. If you need to practice, start talking about your preparation, announce your flight, or answer questions you are already getting about your trip.
Do you have any favourites of formats for travel blogging? What did we forget? Let us know in the comments below.