Dive Blogging: Custom Content and Web Marketing for Manta Ray Bay Resort - case span: 7/2012 to 4/2013
The Manta Ray Bay Resort is Yap Island's original dedicated dive facility, hotel, restaurant, bar and spa. I was invited to provide Manta Ray Bay with content creation and strategic publishing that increases the resort's visibility. The mission was to connect more divers with the resort using custom content, social media and creative Internet marketing.
This marketing program showcases the destination, activities and operation to divers through the web and social networks. When someone comes across Manta Ray Bay content, it is fresh, attractive and leads to desirable actions. This lead to more traveling divers being exposed to the business' content and an increase in activity that correlates with revenue.
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Web Content, SEO and Publishing
This project was initiated after a chat with Bill and my recommendation to have an active blog showing researching travelers what it looks like at the operation today.
Before making a purchase decision most people research the destination and accommodations; the suggestion was to have, at least, an attractive blog showing the recent diving activity with content that inspires action.
I keep the resort's blog active with my photography and latest dive reports.
This is a tool for people who are making purchase decisions and want to know what the action looks like, today.
I post dive reports, guest stories and my own "Yap Status Report" articles that demonstrate Yap diving's Brand attributes - clear water, consistent ray interaction, sharks and high-quality macro.
These blog posts give readers a current view of the action in the water as well as support and grow search engine rankings.
Manta Ray Bay Resort Blog
New Web Pages
Most destinations have activities, amenities or events that are part of the value proposition.
Yap has the most intact traditional culture out of the Micronesian dive destinations.
I photographed and wrote a landing page for Yap Day, the island's most celebrated cultural event.
Landing pages are recommended for events, amenities or activities that deserve to be clearly communicated to attract visitors.
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Driving Revenue Related Activity
In every presentation created you will find a call out element driving the user to perform a revenue related action, i.e. call, send an email or book online. Custom graphics were created as part of this project that gel with the look and feel of the website, stand out in the presentation and call the user to take action.
This activity is measured by the number of people connecting with the business. After creating and publishing these graphics there was a noticeable increase in the amount of leads coming into the office from website pages and facebook posts. Increased performance of the same web pages with existing traffic figures.
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Manta Ray Bay became the most liked and active dive business facebook page in Micronesia with several months of consistent publishing activity. Engaged users increased by several hundred fans a month.
Social networking consisted of regular photo posts of the diving, strategic publishing and connecting with Mares® on a special initiative.
After learning about Yap's protective legislation creating a Manta Ray sanctuary, I created a custom graphic specifically for a viral facebook post.
I obtained a copy of the laws and created a timely post that followed a wave of manta ray related social activity from the CITES initiative protecting migratory species.
This strategic post is the highest viewed, most shared and had the farthest reach out of all social networking activity up to that point.
When activity is generated such as this, it creates an opportunity to ride the wave of action in the social network with follow up strategic posts and development.
Follow up activity and additional content about Yap's manta ray preservation initiative can be maximized with this kick-off post.
Organic Viral Performance and Reach
This one strategic message out performed all other posts by almost nine times. With the month's activity sorted by reach descending, the strategic graphic significantly out performed all other photo posts.
The next post down in the table below is a funny photo from Bill's birthday with captions and the next two are manta ray photos from cleaning station dives.
The social media traction experienced here was created organically - no give-aways, free stuff or contests were implemented to get Manta Ray Bay's facebook page fired up.
Mares® is heavily supported by Manta Ray Bay and I chose to contribute media and offer a branding opportunity through a custom Mares® facebook photo album. Photos were branded with the Mares® Diving Center logo and posted to the album several times a week.
Gaining Momentum in Social Media
This activity was shared on the Mares® facebook page pushing Manta Ray Bay and Yap diving media across the Mares® network newsfeed as well as branding the resort as a Mares® dive center to Manta Ray Bay fans and followers.
Facebook became the number one referrer of website traffic according to Google Analytics, bumping organic traffic from popular search engines and other top referring sites.
Social media activity worked as a spotlight for Manta Ray Bay on the Internet and mobile devices delivering tens of thousands of impressions to divers each week.
The Manta Ray Bay facebook page received regular maintenance, updates and photography additions averaging 1 to 4 posts per day.
Along with status updates, photo posts and replying to comments custom cover photos and strategic communication graphics were created to increase likes and drive the most desired action.
Social networking activity started from, pretty much a standstill, and ramped up to daily activity delivering impressions deep into a growing fan base network.
Getting traction in the space was the heavy lifting - with a growing number of facebook fans the Manta Ray Bay page activity climbs steadily with reasonable attention and post activity.
The most desired action in this case is to get viewers to contact Bill for more information about visiting the region, which typically results in a positive sales discussion or conversion.
When spikes in social media activity are created the opportunity to catch the wave and leverage it for maximum benefit are seized with more custom content, marketing graphics and Yap photography. Here in the last week of May the amount of activity skyrocketed and while the wave was breaking, I launched a special offer graphic that was viewed by thousands of divers within hours.
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The media created here had a specific target quality value. The very first underwater photo was professional. This makes the diving and underwater business world unique in this aspect. Photography for online marketing purposes needed to be taken seriously by divers and measure up to the expectations of dive media consumers. I call it a "5 to 7" on a scale from 1 to 10, none of these photos are going to win a contest, however for the web and mobile device distribution these weigh in with solid marketable value to researching dive travelers.
For an updated album of this project, see my facebook photo share: Diving Yap
Diving in Yap offers a few key things:
- A year-round Manta Ray population
- A healthy reef shark population
- Exotic macro and other marine life, as well as
- Clear blue water
When presenting the diving, these defining characteristics are reinforced and demonstrated in the media.
When consuming content over the web or a mobile device, users judge a presentation in a few seconds and determine if they like it or not.
The goal here is to present Yap diving and make viewers want to participate. In 3 seconds or less the answer to "Would you like to be in that picture?", should be Yes.
Positive reader feedback and virality of the media are the rulers used to measure publishing success.
Media development that makes divers want to be there.
My media provides a "shotgun style" ride-a-long view of the diving, destination activities and operation.
That's what it looked like on the shore or reef with people, divers, the day's conditions and wildlife.
Photography and Brand Messaging
Key messaging is framed in the photos published. Yap is one of the only places in the world where any given day you can have an arm's distance encounter with a Manta Ray.
I capture that message in my photography creating a "don't take my word for it" presentation consistently showing Mantas and divers within close proximity.
Other messages included in this case are the population and frequency of natural shark encounters as well as exotic sea life sightings that divers travel the world to see.
Each time I hit the boat dock I bring back a story and photos of wherever we dive and whatever we dive with demonstrating the conditions, environment and sea life, then positively present it with solid promotional value.
Underwater journalism is what this is, I bring back the story of what's going on out there including guest reactions, wildlife encounters, even some bloopers.
Every dive is a mission to return with a useful experience and media that showcases positive attributes that fuel promotional activity. This kind of media development ranges from writing engaging dive reports, to stories showcasing the performance of the dive guides or boat staff, documenting wildlife encounters, demonstrating the conditions or even humorous stories just to make readers smile.
Productive Wildcard Media Creation
All of this activity results in useable media somehow.
In some cases the media simply backs up a story of what we saw, such as a distant shot of a huge Silvertip shark, that is valuable as part of the day's dive report, and other times the conditions and wildlife encounters result in media that can replace last year's brochure photos.
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Brochure / Print Media Communication
Brochure and print media communication consulting was provided and several of my photos were used, including the brochure cover shot of a Manta Ray at the local cleaning station dive. Yap dive operators have a broader mission of promoting the destination in their marketing and communication strategy. Other tier one destinations the operators are splitting hairs trying to win more business from the destination's traffic. The original material sold the hotel and my recommendations were to sell the diving and demonstrate it.
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Other Visibility and Communication Work
The photography and creative content was the core of this program, however there are some other supporting actions that round out this pilot project. This activity included increasing Trip Advisor reviews, creating a Pinterest.com account with multiple boards and pins as well as publishing the quarterly Manta Report newsletter.
Trip Advisor Reviews
Manta Report Newsletter
While diving and networking with guests I encouraged Trip Advisor activity by offering my photos to be used in their genuine review of the diving and operation.
Direct Trip Advisor review links in multiple languages were added to follow-up emails sent to guests after their stay.
Trip Advisor reviews increased by almost 40% during the pilot program period.
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Third Party Content - Print and Web
< Scuba-blog.com Guest Author
Print Content and Photography >
Getting off the Manta Ray Bay Resort domain to present Yap Divers media to a new network, I jumped in with Scuba-blog.com as a guest contributor and started my article base with a general destination review of Yap.
My article is just over 1,500 words with about 30 photos rendering a 4-5 page review that presents Yap as the exotic, unspoiled paradise that it is. With just over 1,000 divers a year coming here, the vacation is a very personal and exclusive dive experience.
My Yap review on Scuba-blog.com
Another off-domain content project is keeping up with wholesaler material. Writing projects for wholesaler and online destination directories are constant and each of these tasks have custom requirements.
For the 2014 Caradonna worldwide catalog the presentation required ~370 words and allowed 4 photographs. The challenge is to champion the best diving attributes while communicating the resort and dive shop amenities using limited text.
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