Bloggers, vloggers herald Hawaii


POSTED: Saturday, June 06, 2009

Chef Mark Tafoya, a celebrated foodie blogger, had to suffer the discomfort of a 4 a.m. wake-up call to catch a Honolulu sunrise and witness Honolulu's fish auction.

But his followers could have the pleasure of a near-firsthand experience without the discomfort. They could watch Tafoya peruse fresh catch on his Web site, culinarymedianetwork.com, or at the Hawaii Tourism Authority's new blog site, www.somuchmorehawaii.com, or follow it in real time on Twitter (a free social media site that lets users post and follow short, 140-word updates). They also could access content on video-sharing networks like YouTube, Revver, Vimeo, Viddler and Facebook.

“;It's hard to say how many people were tuned into my trip to Hawaii because they all share,”; said Tafoya, who was one of eight bloggers who were invited to participate in the state's first all social-media travel tour, which visited major islands from May 27 to Thursday.

While Tafoya has 1,000 followers on Facebook, 4,500 tweeple (Twitter people) and about 100,000 hits a month on his Web site, content sharing gets the message out to many more, he said.

“;That's what makes social media so powerful,”; said Christine Lu, who organized the tour for the Hawaii Tourism Authority and is the founder of Cilantro Media, a social-media boutique firm.

Once upon a time, it didn't take much more than pretty island pictures and clever words to get visitors on a plane, and if they stepped outside of Waikiki, they felt like they had experienced “;true Hawaii.”; Nowadays, travelers want to see content before they commit to the destination, and even the branding had better be authentic.

“;It's all about transparency, which is something that bloggers and vloggers (video bloggers) bring to the table,”; Lu said. “;Social media is about giving up some of the control in exchange for building a social community. Consumers want a two-way dialogue.”;

Hawaii tourism has tried to do this before, but less effectively, said Roxanne Darling, a Kailua-based social-media adviser. In March the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau targeted San Francisco residents with an interactive campaign titled “;Hawaii: A Thousand Reasons to Smile.”; The Web site allowed visitors to post their own pictures and memories; however, it was built on a 100 percent Flash interface that loaded slowly and strictly controlled visitor navigation, Darling said.

“;It made me frown,”; she said. “;They used old technology targeted at the most technologically savvy audience on the planet.”;

The decision by HVCB and the Hawaii Tourism Authority to bring a group of bloggers and vloggers to Hawaii righted Darling's grin and moved her to participate. Darling and her partner, Shane Robinson of Bare Feet Studios, shared their thoughts in a site posting about how to find good Hawaiian music.

“;This is definitely a step in the right direction,”; Darling said.

The tour, coordinated by David Uchiyama, HTA's vice president of tourism marketing, is a first for Hawaii and perhaps the first for leisure-travel destinations in general. It's so cutting-edge that many followers were marketers from other destinations, Tafoya said.

“;Since we started our chatter about 'so much more Hawaii,' Sedona, Ariz., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., have started following me,”; he said. “;I've been on other fam (familiarization) tours, but this was the first completely social-media tour that I've been on. It definitely ups the destination's cool factor.”;

While many businesses throughout Hawaii and elsewhere have begun to use social-media sites like Twitter to expand customer service and build brand loyalty, Hawaii wants to get ahead of the curve, said Jay Talwar, senior vice president for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

“;There are more chances to connect with visitors and more chances to miss them because it's more fragmented,”; Talwar said.

Bringing bloggers and vloggers with star power to Hawaii created a new opportunity to share intimate and unique visitor experiences with millions for very little dollar investment, Uchiyama said.

“;At the end of the day, we'll probably spend about $15,000, largely toward the development of the site,”; Uchiyama said. “;We can't get that kind of reach for that kind of money through our usual paid advertising.”;







        Aric S. Queen

A new-media producer focused on China who writes about value.


        Mark Tafoya
A foodie from New York City, who creates food and travel videos for Culinary Media Network.


        Leah Lamb
        A San Francisco writer and producer at Current.


        Sheila Scarborough
Travel writer from Austin, Texas, who specializes in the family market.


        Christine Lu
        Founder of Cilantro Media and self-proclaimed “;Geek Girl.”;


        Rick Calvert, a conference/CEO specialist from Las Vegas, who founded Blog World Expo.


        Shira Lazar, from Los Angeles, pop media star of jaunted.com, who is known for being a “;getaway girl.”;


        Jim Turner, an adventure seeker from Firestone, Colo., who is the social media director of Blog World Expo.


        L.P. “;Neenz”; Faleafine, a local blogger serving as a host and organizer and contributor of Hawaiian culture.