For the second in our Social Media Personalities series, we talk to Melvin Boecher of the extremely popular website TravelDudes. Always positive, always helpful, always good fun (and always ready for a beer!), Melvin has been very successful in his chosen career and is an inspiring example of what you can achieve, if you put your mind to it.
Tell us about TravelDudes – you are phenomenally successful – how did the whole journey start?
It all started with a trip through Indochina. I travelled with a friend of mine doing the typical route through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos for three months. We wanted to share our travel experiences with our friends and families. So we built our own website for that.
Do you view your blog as a mainstream business – are you self-funding? Has that been the hardest part?
Yes, Traveldudes is a mainstream business. It’s more than a full time job, but it’s the best job I can dream of for myself. I work very hard … and a lot, but I also enjoy it … a lot. People just love what we do and contact us to collaborate together. It’s a really nice experience.
What is your prime focus for TravelDudes?
We want to help travellers! And to explain it a bit more, we want to show how easy and how much fun it is to travel independent and free.
Where do you see TravelDudes developing in the future – where will you take the brand?
We will have some very exciting changes in the next few months, which I’ll share as soon we go public with them. In general, I’ve got plenty of ideas. I’m just still looking where I can vote for a 48 hour day, so that I can start working on them.
What does it mean to be a TravelDudes author? How can bloggers become one?
Traveldudes authors love to share their experiences. It’s not about showing off how much or how cool you travel. No, it’s about helping each other. So everybody can become an author, as long they share valuable information with other travellers. Also the travel companies are welcome to join, as long they don’t misuse the site for promoting themselves. But these posts won’t make it through our editing process anyway.
You always talk about community. Is that how you view the SM world?
Our travel community is amazing. There are so many who understood that you are more successful when you help each other instead of going into competition. That’s social media.
I love Twitter! It’s quick, I don’t have to type too much but it’s also a very open site and it’s a great site to meet other travellers. I’m getting warmer with Facebook since they changed their system to the timeline. I’ve started Instagram as they finally opened their site for android smartphones. I think Google+ got a lot of potential, but still need to understand social media. The recent changes that businesses have to pay to use it, is the wrong way, if you ask me. I like the concept of StumbleUpon, but they could do even better with the site’s usability. Flickr is huge and you find some really good photos there, also which use the free common licenses.
You have thousands of followers, how do you keep it personal?
I don’t… hahaha. OK, I do. I respond to each personal tweet I get from others, and I use the direct messages a lot. But I actually have to watch out that I don’t tweet too many personal tweets, as I might get lost in Twitter-universe and wouldn’t get back to work. That’s a bit sad, and it gets harder the more followers you have. Luckily, people love also my non-personal tweets.
What social media platform helps you the most with your blog?
It’s a mix of Twitter, Facebook, Google+ & StumbleUpon. Each site has its own focus of importance for Traveldudes.org.
Are you a pinner? What do you think of Pinterest?
I’m not into Pinterest yet. I see it as a publisher and business site of view. In the end social media needs also to drive traffic to your site. As far as I’ve heard from other bloggers, it doesn’t do that so much . The concept is of course good, but I’m already involved in so many other sites, that I don’t really have the time for Pinterest…yet.
About Social Media / Blogging
You are now seen as an ambassador for Social Media in many ways. Do you enjoy that role?
I’m not sure yet. It’s a very exciting time and it’s fun to be part of a new and growing industry. I work together with some really good bloggers and we have some fab ideas, which were and are very successful. We have a good feeling where to go and what to do. But it’s also tough to get there.
I didn’t started it all to get into that position and to be in the focus and that view hasn’t changed. But I will try to make travel blogging and social media more popular in the travel industry. Many understand how much value and potential it already has and there is even so much more in it.
Do you see the worlds of blogging and mainstream media coming ever closer? It seems to be a very emotive topic. I see the two as complementary but am aware that any discussion seems to spark off strong emotions.
I see and understand that there are people in the traditional media who see bloggers as a threat. But I personally think that bloggers and the traditional media could profit from each other in a good way. There are so many ways how this could work out and I’m up for it. Both sides just have to work on the relationship.
What tips can you give first time tweeters / Facebook entries etc
Facebook is much easier to use for people who haven’t tried any social media platform yet. But I think Twitter is much more fun. Especially the more you get into it. You just need to follow the right people and then read your timeline. See what they are up to and start interacting with them. Use the Twitter search to find people with the same hobby. If you like someone’s tweets, see if they recommend people on their Twitter lists. Then follow also some of these tweeters.
How important is photography to a blog?
I think it’s very important. A pictures tells more than a thousand words, right? It also makes a site more readable.
What are must haves for any blogger trip?
Free time, so that bloggers can experience things on their own and also work in between. Free internet is of course also very important.
What are no-no’s for any blogger trip?
It’s important to understand that most bloggers are not journalists, but travellers. We are storytellers and share our own travel experiences. So a blog trip needs to be organized differently than a press trip. Especially if you are interested to see the blogger’s full potential. Our Blog Ville project is a very good example for it.
Contributer: Sue Lowry
* Thanks to Kash Bhattacharya for the use of his imagery.
Melvin on twitter – @TravelDudes, on Facebook/Melvin Boecher, on Google+/TravelDudes, on Istagram and on Flickr/TravelDudes.
Magellan PR is on twitter: @MagellanPR, on Facebook/MagellanPR, Google+, Flickr and Pinterest. For more information on our company, visit www.magellan-pr.com. Follow our other blog focussing on travel in the South of England – A3 Traveller.