I am helping a client/friend build a site where he'll post a "definitive guide for the upscale traveler" for popular business and leisure destinations. I've already visited many travel guide websites, blogs, and communities to get a feel for what's out there. I feel like we do have something unique and useful for any traveler with money to spend on luxury.
Content is already written and consists of a list for each city, with a few selections under each category (i.e. hotel, restaurant, bar, etc). Each city is different and has special categories based on the culture and feature of the city. The author is a baby boomer and wants to market to that audience because of his tastes, writing style, and sense of humor. He does not participate much in social media (he has linkedin/twitter/facebook but doesn't use them too much), so he's unsure of how much "community" to integrate in the site from day 1. I'm inclined to keep things simple in a blog-type format and wait until we get an audience to develop the site further.
My question is pretty wide open, so any advice you can give as it relates to travel sites, or launching a site like this in general, is much appreciated.
-what platform do you recommend? (I'm leaning towards Wordpress)
-what types of community involvement would you recommend? (i.e. would disqus comments be enough? or should we aim for more facebook/video/other social media integration?)
-should we start with a forum? I have no experience starting forum sites and I'm intimidated at the idea of starting a forum with few posts/responses.
-any other ideas or suggestions? Thanks in advance!
I think Wordpress is definitely your best bet. The number of tools, plugins, and people who can support it are ridiculous. Also with the right caching plugins I hear it will scale well enough.
It is very hard to build community, I think your instincts are right that you should focus on building up the content and get popular before trying to add forums or building in social media features. There is nothing sadder than a forum with a handful of posts. Stick with the comments for now and build up more when you need it. I do think integration with facebook might be interesting, the baby boomers are starting to flood into facebook and anything they can use to show off where they are traveling might help jump start the site.
I think the major concern for a site like this is SEO, if you don't know it very well I would learn it or talk to someone who does. The travel space is very competitive in SEO since the CPM and affiliate rates tend to be pretty good. Search Engines are going to be how most people find your site (hopefully).
This is an interesting niche and if the content is already developed that is great. I like your approach of keeping it simple and seeing how it progresses.
Some sites you may want to visit would be:
http://www.jetsetlife.tv/ http://www.everlater.com/ http://www.tripadvisor.com/Inspiration They each have a interesting way of how they have approached this industry. Jetsetlife started out really simple and has evolved into the site it is today.
As for forums you may want to check out
http://vanillaforums.com/ It is tough to get conversations started early on in a forum. You will need to attract some power posters or incentivize the forums to get some traffic.
I hope this is of some help.
WordPress is a great choice for something like this.
The good news is that the barrier to entry is pretty low (easy to get started). The bad news is that the barrier to entry is low -- so there's lots of competition and you're going to have to find ways to differentiate.
The key for something like this is creating interesting content that pulls people in and then engages them somehow. I'd stay away from a forum in the early days (you need a following first). You might find that targeting an even narrower audience to start out with is a good way to go (that way, differentiation is easier).
I'd strongly advise to start participating in social media. Though it's not perfect, alternatives for trying to build a big audience are usually much more expensive.
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