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Content Marketing All-Stars Q&A: Laci Bovee of Expedia

By NativeAI / August 17, 2015
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Want to make the most of your content
efforts? Then take a close look at what Expedia is doing.

The giant online travel brand devotes time
and thought to every channel, finding the right way to use each to connect with
its audience. On Expedia’s Viewfinder blog, this means valuable suggestions
from real travelers as well as data-driven insights; on Twitter it means live
chats with rewards for participation; on its website it means things like a
(deeply addictive) Tinder-meets-travel tool.

Recently we sat down with Laci
Bovee, Senior Integrated Marketing Strategist at Expedia, to
find out how the company develops these ideas, and how it approaches content
marketing in general.

Check out the Q&A below:

Q: Fill
in the blank, the best content __________

A:  Adds value. At
Expedia we seek to build and provide original content that adds value for the
reader; that produces quality information to help with their travel discovery.

Q:  What is the role of content at Expedia? What
are your objectives with content?
 

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A: Good content for us provides the reader with the confidence
in booking. Traveling can be difficult, and the planning is big part of why is
it so complex.  Our main goal is to
provide compelling content that adds value for a traveler at whenever stage of
planning he/she is in.   

For example, our Viewfinder blog tells authentic travel stories from real travelers.  We want people to think of Expedia when they
are in need of travel advice or need to learn more about a destination – no
matter what type of traveler they might be.

Once we have given that confidence to our
readers, we can then drive transactions or bookings – that benefits our business
across the board.  Yes, we have some KPIs
that we want to meet, but at the core the focus is on providing quality content
that is emotionally engaging to our readers.

Q:  How do you measure that engagement? What are
the KPIs that you use to see that there was engagement and therefore that the
content is adding value?

A:  When we first
launched our blog we were focused on awareness and driving quantity of traffic;
now we’ve shifted to looking more at the quality of traffic.  

What we’re looking at closely is the
audience of our readers: Where are they coming from? How long are they spending
on the blog? How often are they clicking on other posts? What is their click-through
rate back to Expedia.com?

Q: What
triggered that shift?

A:  It was stepping back
and asking: What does our audience want from us? That’s where the shift came
in.  

You can have paid advertising; but what you’re
doing is buying that traffic. What we really want is to understand the information
that our readers want and then provide that to them.  

Q:  Let’s talk about the Match Made in Travel
campaign for a minute. Can you share how it came about? What did Expedia want
to accomplish and Tinder want to accomplish?

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A:  Well, it was a lot
fun to build. We had been talking with Tinder about a couple different projects
and they mentioned they were having an event to celebrate the launch of Tinder
Plus.  Once we learned that one of the
key features of Tinder Plus was called Passport and recognizing the intrinsic
connection to travel, we were more than happy to participate. Building a “Tinder for Destinations” was a natural progression. 

Our goal was to make sure that the site has
a similar experience to Tinder; we wanted it to feel natural, to have an
experience event attendees would be familiar with.  We also knew we wanted to promote it on
social media, so it had to have a good sharing functionality.  Lastly we wanted it to be fun and inspire
travel.  Tinder has a beautiful way of
making you feel special when you have a match with someone (so I’ve heard, I’m
married!) – and we wanted visitors to the site to get a similar boost when they
were matched with a destination.

Interestingly, we learned that the Twitter
share button was a key factor in the game’s virality; it drove the majority of
the traffic.  When users clicked on the share
button on the results page, a tweet was auto-generated which included a
customized message for the destination that they were matched with. The campaign
hashtag was also included, as well as a link to the game, a call to action for
others to play, and the Expedia handle. This all made it effortless for users to
share the results and made it easy for us to track and monitor the traffic on
the back-end.

Q:
Speaking of Twitter, can you talk a bit about the Expedia chats on the
platform? What has the reaction been? Any learnings for other brands about
Twitter chats?

A: Yes, love to! People naturally like to
talk about their travels, and they do it a lot on social media.  To help get involved in those conversations,
we started our Expedia chats three years ago. It was our way to lead the travel
conversation on Twitter (@Expedia) for an hour.  

The chat is held each Wednesday from 11AM
to 12PM PST. Expedia, along with an Expedia travel expert co-host such as our
Viewfinder bloggers, conduct an hour-long chat about travel.  The topics are derived from seasonal and topical
news and trends. During the hour we ask about 7 to 8 questions about the topic.

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We also offer a chance to win a $500 travel
voucher for participating in the chat.
The person just needs to answer one of the questions and respond with
the #Expediachat hashtag to qualify.

We usually see roughly 500 participants,
depending on the topic. Often we trend in the US during our chat and we see
positive feedback from the community for providing travel inspiration and
helpful information.

Some of the tips for other brands looking
to do Twitter chats: Make sure that there’s an awareness of the chat 3 to 5
days ahead so people can mark their calendars; keep the topic general for more
participation; invite influencers/experts to co-host; and participate in
existing chats to see what it is like to host.

Having the right influencers and the right
topics is key. Also, initially our chats lasted for 1 hour and 30 minutes, but
this year we pared it down to an hour; so it’s an evolution, we’re always
learning.

Q:
What’s your favorite piece of content created by Expedia?

A: Just one? Well I love how we add a
little science to content with our studies.
We do multiple surveys throughout the year asking the travel questions that
we are all were wondering about, so we can then answer them with an Expedia
service or product.  

This kind of content meets the goal of
adding value for our readers and makes it a unique to Expedia.  Some studies are even lighthearted and add a
little fun; for example, to kick-off the summer road trip season, we did a study
on driving etiquette.  We learned from
our 2015
Road Rage
report that “The
Texter” causes the most rage among American drivers, then “The
Tailgaiter,” “The Left Lane Hog,” “The Crawler,” and
“The Multitasker.”

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You might also remember our 2014
Airplane Etiquette report
, an
examination of the most annoying behaviors exhibited by air travelers,  (perhaps from Jimmy
Kimmel
) which included “The Chatty
Charlie,” “The Stinky Snacker,” “The Seat Climber,” ‘The Seat Kicker,” and “The
Landing Clapper.” 

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Q: What
about other companies, what other brands are doing a good job with content?

A:  So this is a going to
be my subjective answer: I think both BuzzFeed and Condé Nast Traveler do a
really great job.  

BuzzFeed continues to provide fresh, fun,
engaging, quirky, shareable content that tells a story visually. They also
often tap into user generated content to tell a story, which is interesting and
creative.  

Condé Nast Traveler does a good job of
providing content that’s tailored to a niche audience, and that’s also timely
and relevant.

Q:  Finally, how do you see the role of content
evolving at Expedia? And how do you see the content marketing industry evolving
overall?

A: Many brands are currently building out a
lot of content; there is a big opportunity right now to do well with content as
part of an SEO strategy.  In turn,
though, there will be ongoing questions about what makes content unique and shareable.  Because there’s a lot of it, you’re going to
have to break through.

With platforms centered on visuals, like
Instagram and Pinterest, you’ll continue to see an increase in rich visual
content marketing.  It’s just another
approach to storytelling and a great way to differentiate and provide content
that is more shareable and quicker to read.

As for Expedia, getting back to that rich
in visuals strategy idea, we are looking into more video content. We are also
trying more dynamic, interactive infographics. We are looking for creative ways
to get content visually in front of a reader, to provide added value that’s a
quick read.

Written by NativeAI / August 17, 2015