Hotels on Pinterest – Is anyone doing it right?

PinterestWe’ve all been hearing a lot about what an amazing tool Pinterest is, how a mind-boggling number of people use it on a daily basis, how it’s growing at an explosive rate and how it is a wonderful generator of traffic.

For anyone who has been hiding away in a dark corner and has managed to avoid the above here’s my crude summary: Pinterest is a social platform where you Pin interesting things on the web and organize them into boards which you then share with the world.

In my books, the main selling point for Pinterest is its highly visual layout which allows sharing in a completely different way to other social networks. Since you can pin practically anything that tickles your fancy on the web (as long as it contains images), with Pinterest you can organise information into visually engaging, theme-based chunks in seconds. All without having any design know-how or special software.

For hotels, Pinterest can be a great tool. Some great uses include:

  • showcasing a hotel’s design credentials,
  • leveraging interest about a particular destination by being an online destination concierge,
  • flaunting what’s on in your city,
  • sharing photos from events,
  • showing what a wedding at your hotel could look like.

The possibilities are as vast as your creative streak. The crucial aspect here is inspirational content which has value for your target audience. Creating boards with brochures, flyers and in-your-face promotional material will not get you anywhere further than ignored.

So now that we’ve established that your hotel brand should be on Pinterest – are any hotels actually there and doing it right? Well, the straight answer is that very few are. While a growing number of brands are creating profile pages on Pinterest (*hotelname* – go on, check a few big boys out), most are still bare and undeveloped. Some, however, are getting it right, these are three:

What it’s about: Sharing guest pictures of Indigo Hotels around the world, neighbourhood guides for several destinations their hotels are in.
Does a great job of: Cross-selling destinations, showing they pay attention to, and appreciate what, guests post about their hotels.

Four Seasons Hotel
What it’s about: Engaging destination guides, wedding trends, travel gadgets, a budding board about the local music scene.
Does a great job of: Selling Austin, Texas, strengthening the right brand associations.

Hotel Gansevoort
What it’s about: A series of boards around a “Get” theme – Get Style, Get a room, Get around, Get involved, Get pics etc.
Does a great job of: Pushing the hotel’s style credentials, making you want EVERYTHING they pinned.

Whether this has convinced you to jump into the fray or just wait a while longer on the side-lines, here’s a parting thought: your current and future guests might already be there talking about you, can you afford not to listen?

Travel boards, design inspiration, bucket lists, must-dos are popping up all over Pinterest and your hotel is probably featured. Find out what’s been pinned from your website by going to*yoururl* (replacing *yoururl* with your hotel’s website address eg – you might be surprised.

By Greta Muscat Azzopardi

Sixties Music: A Personal Journey

I remember Little Steven stating in one of his shows that the ‘60s was the last decade in which the most popular music of the time was also the best music being made. Even though I was born thirteen and a half years after the decade was over, I have to admit that I agree with him completely since I am a big fan of music released in that era.

I was introduced to pop music from the flower power era at a very young age because my father was still in love with the music as we were growing up. I still remember this orange cassette tape he owned and played over and over again in his car. I can’t recall each and every song that was on it because it was an eclectic mix, however I used to sing along to “Downtown” and “Raindrops keep falling on my head”.

Getting back to them took me quite a while. One of my brothers always had a soft spot for ‘60s music, especially The Beatles and The Doors, but as a young boy I was quite ambivalent to music. I would listen to anything that came along without giving it too much importance. At thirteen, however, there were two defining moments. First was when I was given three CDs as a present: Help!, Please Please Me (both by the Beatles) and Bridge Over Troubled Water (by Simon & Garfunkel). I didn’t own a CD player but listened to them repeatedly on my computer till they were burned through.

The next was a long-haul flight to New York, having taken no form of entertainment on a plane which had a couple of TVs at the start of each group of seats. The plane, did, however have a selection of music you could tap into by plugging in a set of headphones to the jack on the side of the seat. The channels only had numbers, but I remember hearing Downtown (again) and stopping on that channel. It had ninety minutes of ‘60s pop blasting through on loop, but I spent all the 18 hours of flight time (there and back) stuck to this channel, falling in love with one song: “Where do you go to my Lovely”, by Peter Sarstedt.

Following that trip I was completely in love with ‘60s music and have spent my life going from one band from that era to the next ever since. Some have been pop acts, others have been rock and some folk. Somewhere or other, however, there is always the same connection – they started off in the sixties. In the past two to three years I have listened to quite a few modern bands and electronic acts, but I always feel as if I’m walking back home when I hear something from the ‘60s.

Today, for example, we had around four hours of driving to do and, as we tend to do whenever we rent a car abroad, we stopped at a service station for a coffee and bought a compilation box-set of CDs with music from the ‘60s. Having seen my fair share of them, I am always amazed at how similar these collections can be, given that there is over a decade of music to condense into around 100 songs. But give or take a few you know that you’ll have a core of about 30 – 40 songs present on each and every one of these compilations.

We spent the entire drive oohing and aahing at every new song, singing along to all of them (my father in better tune) and being a general nuisance to my wife, mother and sister sitting in the back seat. Oh the good old days.

(#31 of 366 X 2012 project)

Music – The Jersey Connection

The Gaslight Anthem

I’m not sure whether it is fate, a pure coincidence or the influence of Little Steven’s show, but some of my favourite musical influences in recent years have been from New Jersey. There is much more to the state than The Sopranos and Jersey Shore.

Little Steven

I got to Little Steven via Javi, a Spanish friend. I was crashing at his place for a week and The Underground Garage show was running on one of my friend’s favourite radio stations. Little Steven was a guitarist with Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street band. He was replaced by Nils Lofgren (another one of my favourite artists) on the band in the ’70s but nowadays he has one of the best rock’n’roll radio shows available. You can listen to the show on a weekly basis on his site. You need to register, but it is completely free of charge and gives you access to all the shows in the archive (about 500 of them!) They offer an insight into music like no other. This guy was there when music was still at its rawest. He hung out with legends and manages to secure interviews with the Gods of music on a regular basis.

The Gaslight Anthem

If there is one thing I am eternally grateful to Little Steven for, it is The Gaslight Anthem. He played American Slang in two consecutive shows, and I looked them up but thought nothing more of it. The next week I was researching a festival I was going to (Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park, London). I saw they were playing there and was over the moon. I wasn’t disappointed – in fact I now listen to all their material a couple of times a week at the very least. They are currently recording their fourth (full-length) album, which should be out this year.

The Gaslight Anthem: American Slang

Bruce Springsteen

The Gaslight Anthem hit the big time when The Boss unexpectedly joined them on stage at a concert. He loves their music and has supported them heavily along their way to success. I, on the other hand, arrived at Bruce Springsteen via The Gaslight Anthem. I was always aware of his music, but was never a big fan. I could not see past a couple of his big hits. When I got into his albums, however, I found that there is a lot of depth in his lyrics.

The Horrible Crowes

The Horrible Crowes are the dark and mellow side-project of Brian Fallon, the Gaslight Anthem’s front-man. They take the emotional side of The Gaslight Anthem and remove the punk-like riffs and upbeat music to produce music which is drenched in emotion. Forget liking them on your first attempt at listening to their music. You will need to take it in slowly – one song at a time – to fall in love. Once you do, however, I can pretty much guarantee they will haunt you forever. Elsie, their debut album, was my favourite album from 2011.

The Horrible Crowes: Behold The Hurricane

And that, my friends, is the end of our short musical tour of New Jersey. That is what you get for living in the shadow of New York City and having your name shamed by crass TV shows.

This article is (#17 of 366 X 2012 project)

Vida – The Long Kiss Goodbye

A couple of weeks ago I wrote my last editorial for Vida, a magazine I set up in June 2009 and published first in January 2010. Those 30 months were one heck of a roller coaster ride in which I learned a lot from every person I came in contact with.

Vida was an ambitious project by any standard, and the only reason I felt I could leave it peacefully because I had accomplished what I had originally set out to achieve. The brief from my employers in the very beginning seemed simple enough: to create a medium which can be accessed by everyone in the country. 162,000 copies were to be distributed for free to every household monthly – but getting it through the letterbox was the easy bit. We had to make people pick it up, read it and engage. We wanted readers to love it and look forward to the next issue. We had to transcend the (virtual) barriers of age, education, social standing, religion and politics.

In the first year I met a lot of people who told me they thought we were doing a good job. I was always happy to hear praise for the publication, however I always had my doubts about it since all the kind words were coming directly to me. People tend to be too nice that way, and there were issues I could have pointed out myself that few ever commented about.

I was creating a product with which I also had to attract people who do not buy (or read) magazines usually, people I had so very little in common with. Truth be told, by the end of it I was creating a magazine that I wouldn’t have picked up myself. A magazine that even had to captivate the portion of the nation which is usually glued to the TV. This was the hard part.

There is much more to it than choosing the right variety of subject matter. You need to write in a language that will not be missed by casual readers but at the same time it had to be one that would not alienate people who wished to dig deeper.

In the six months I spent researching before coming out with the first issue I looked at a lot  of the more popular magazines out there and analysed what made readers tick. I also tried to imagine what kind of reader would most likely pick our magazine up and did my very best to create a setup that would cater for the main groups of readers we would most likely have.

We did it without selling our souls though, and together with my colleagues I made a promise not to “buy” attention by going down one of the two easy routes. We committed ourselves to avoiding stories which were sensational for the sake of it, and to never cover gossip stories about personalities or celebrities.

Did we really make it interesting? We found out in December that year. We printed the first twelve issues of Vida in Italy because there wasn’t a web-offset printer set up in Malta at the time. December 2010 was the month in which most of Europe froze over, our truck missed the collection of the magazine by a day, which in turn meant we missed the next ship to Malta and received the magazine a week late. We could not handle the phone calls we received that week. People from all over the island were calling us to ask why they had not received Vida. Sometimes you just need a mini-tragedy to realise what a good thing you have going on.

A year later I wrote my farewell editorial. It might seem strange to many that I left my post so quickly, however there were a lot of personal reasons to do so. First of all I had always worked in publishing and it was time for a change. I am now working in marketing with GFI (a US software company).

The number of things I have learned in the past six months has been mind-boggling. I am working in a job where I have quite a few amazing people to look up to for directions, which means I can learn much more in the long run. Working at Vida for the foreseeable future would have been the easy option, but it would have meant that I would eventually get stuck in a rut – something I want to avoid at all costs. In publishing I didn’t have a boss, I learnt everything by trial and error and had no one to refer to when I had a dilemma.

Saying bye is never easy, and the fact that I was leaving something I created from scratch made it even harder, however now I am in a situation where I earn my keep working in a job where I have so much to learn and I can further develop myself in while writing and photographing whatever I feel like in my spare time. I can’t complain.

P.S. I wish the new (acting) editor, Sarah Micallef, the best of luck – Vida is lucky to have such a formidable person replacing me.

(#2 of 366 X 2012 project)

Stepping into the unknown

One of the things we tend to underestimate most in life is the importance of the people we have around us. There might be the obvious people who you find overtly rude and irritating, but it is far more dangerous when you are in the company of people who try to see the bad side of things, even if they themselves are generally nice people to be around.

I don’t know how to explain it – someone might be good fun and seem to be a generally happy person, however in the long run you realise that everything they touch must be approached from a negative aspect.

I had better move on quickly since I don’t want to be one of those people myself. Recently I have made some changes in my life which for a very long time seemed to be quite scary. I was not scared of the new challenge, however it meant moving out of my comfort zone by venturing into relatively uncharted territory.

My only regret now? Not having taken the leap of faith earlier.

The result is that I am spending much more time in a friendly atmosphere, learning new things and improving in various aspects of my life.

In reality it is similar to life on Google Plus. Even though it might seem stupid, the difference it has made to my life in its short history has been spectacular, and for this I would like to thank +Vic Gundotra, +Vincent Mo +Sergey Brin & the rest of the team for making it possible. It would also not be fair not to also show appreciation for +Trey Ratcliff +Mike Elgan +Guy Kawasaki +Tom Anderson+Angel Leon & +Jody Swaney (amongst many others) for making my stream so engaging.

Unfortunately a public forum is not really the ideal place to get into specifics about the other change, at least not yet, however I must thank one of my friends who told me something which resonated in my mind when taking the decision:

“The biggest risk in life is not taking any risks”

Even though it might sound like an idiosyncrasy, I believe that it is actually very true. I am still too conservative a person to take real big leaps into the complete unknown, however I really believe that if we take the plunge and push ourselves (even just slightly) beyond our comfort zone, we are usually rewarded.

Sailing trip results

The market at SiracusaNothing like a couple of days on a sailing boat to really set your mind thinking. Thanks to a very kind boss and by putting in a lot of extra hours in advance, I managed to take a day off work (in a very busy period) and spent four days on the family sailing boat (by combining the day off with a weekend and a public holiday).

In addition to visiting a city I considered to be a second home for most of my childhood (we had a sailing boat and used to spend most Summer weekends there), I also had a lot of time to sit and think – a luxury I do not really afford in day-to-day life.

The result should translate into a flurry of blog posts (I’ve neglected my blog for months) and a couple of long term projects to work on. The major challenge will now be to find the time to work on the long-term challenges. I can’t really make them public, however it should suffice to say that they could be life changing.

One (or a series of) the blog posts will be about the trip itself. Syracuse (in Sicily, not the US) is a city which oozes character and depicts life in Sicily wonderfully. I carried my camera constantly and the resulting photos seem promising.

Now I just need to keep the commitment to writing out the blog posts I have so well laid out in my mind – so I had better get cracking before I settle back into the daily routine which leaves little room for anything else.