Go Behind the Scenes with Tourism Currents

[tweetmeme source=”pagetx”]There’s just nothing cooler than a behind the scenes tour.  Getting to see something that most people don’t?  Well, that’s the stuff that bragging rights are made for! Come on.  Admit it.  Going behind the scenes makes you feel a little special, doesn’t it?  Well it should.

That’s just how I hope to make you feel with this post.  Special.  You’re going to get an insider’s look at Tourism Currents (affiliate link) – one of the best places to get social media training for tourism industry professionals around.   I wrote about Tourism Currents in a previous post. Go ahead.  Look for yourself.  You’ll see – it’s good stuff!

So here is some Q&A with Sheila Scarborough, half of the Tourism Currents team.  Becky McCray is the other half of the team.  Together, they possess a treasure trove of knowledge and experience.  They are the dynamic duo.  Trust me.  You’ll think so too.

1.  How did you and Becky originally connect?

We originally “met” on a blog.  Chicago-based Liz Strauss writes Successful Blog, and she used to have Open Mic Night on Tuesdays (sort of Twitter before there was Twitter).  Becky and I would see each other in the Comment box.  I invited her to stay at my house for the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) tech conference in 2008, and the rest is pulp fiction.

2.  What sparked the idea to start a business together?  How did you decide on Tourism Currents?

It was all Becky’s fault.  Back in May 2009 during the SOBCon “Biz School for Bloggers” conference in Chicago, we sat down during a session break and began drawing pictures.  Yep, like the 4th grade or something.  Circles and arrows, though, so it looked a little better than stick men.  We were trying to figure out what we knew a lot about that we could teach others.

One of the circles was travel.  One was tourism and economic development.  One was social media.  We drew intersecting lines through all of that and a new, big circle in the middle that we called The Intersection.  That intersection of our knowledge grew into Tourism Currents.

In our Tourism Currents online courses, we want to share everything we know about using the tools of the social Web specifically for destination marketing.  As thought leader Clay Shirky so wisely pointed out, our modern problem “is not information overload, it is filter failure.”

Becky and I want to help filter the social media “noise” and bring people helpful Web communications information that they can really use as tourism professionals.  We share what we DON’T know yet, as well –  social media moves fast, so we’re always “in the schoolhouse” to make sure that you get the best breaking news and up-to-date training.

3.  Tell us how the “sausage gets made”.  With you and  Becky in two different states, how do you get together to hammer out the lessons, the newsletter, and make business decisions?

We live for our weekly video calls on Skype, calls on our cell phones during road trips (never mind the note-taking on our steering wheels as we drive) and shared strategy documents on Google Docs.

Becky also sends me these things called “emails” and doggone if she doesn’t get mad when I forget to answer them.  She’s all up in my DM (Direct Message) box on Twitter yelling, “Go check your email!”

We also share hotel rooms when we have speaking engagements (one is coming up for TACVB in August 2010, about how to run a blogger fam tour/press trip) so that we can spend more time together arguing …. I mean, strategizing!

We have one ironclad rule: no secrets, no holding back.  The minute one or the other of us has a concern or idea or some other “burr under the saddle,” we ping each other and talk.

Our complimentary styles work well for Tourism Currents – when someone asks the time, Becky tells them the time, and I tell them the history of the clock and the mechanical engineering elements that go into its construction.

We love speaking together – the verbal volleyball is a blast.  Friends have said that we should sell tickets.

4.  How do you decide what to include in each of your lessons?  Where do you get ideas for content?

We based our lessons on how tourism people work, and the concerns and interests that they have regarding tech and Web communications.

Since we’ve both taught general social media workshops, we know that beginners want to know how to listen online, how to know what people are saying, and how to set up and run effective communications using tools like Twitter, Facebook, video and blogs.  We designed our more advanced course to cover topics like social media for festivals and events, blogger outreach, etc.

The monthly newsletter gives us the flexibility to highlight both basic tips and breaking news, like AR (Augmented Reality) and niche topics such as using LinkedIn for tourism.

We are both info junkies and are scanning our online and offline networks daily for fresh ideas and interesting examples of CVBs who use social media particularly well.  We bookmark many in our Delicious account.

The real secret is that we are nerds first, so we attend tech conferences and find out about geek things well before the mainstream.  This gives us a chance to evaluate how trends and tools can apply to tourism, or even whether they’re a good fit at all.  We like to keep our members ahead of the curve, using technology that produces results.

5.  Where do you see Tourism Currents going in the future?

Becky is a respected champion of small businesses in small towns, and I’m also very much interested in economic development and downtown development issues.  These all have a tourism angle, so we may well expand more into this area in the future.

We see ourselves as the ones who can show others how to use technology to highlight Main Street treasures and stories.

6.  So how can people sign up?

We’ve opened classes for a limited enrollment period (until early July) because we’ve found through member feedback that people like to move through our courses as a group, and we like to interact with them in the forum that way, too.

The newsletter and the Introductory Lesson are always available, but our basic, advanced and full courses open and close as class load allows.  In early July, we need to close new enrollments and focus our personal attention on the members at hand.

Well,  what are you waiting for?  Are you planning to sign up?

Photo courtesy of Mary P. from Pretty Good Things.

Update – September 4, 2010:

Tourism Currents is still open for enrollment, so there’s still time to sign up.  You might want to check with either Sheila (@SheilaS) or Becky (@BeckyMcCray) for more information on how long enrollment will remain open.

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for your post, Sarah! It means a lot to me and to Becky to have your support. We think you’re pretty special, too….

    • Thanks, Sheila. You and Becky don’t just have my support – you have my respect.
      — Sarah

  2. […] (Guest poster Sarah Page also blogs about technology, social media and tourism at Tourism Tech, where she tells the real story behind my startup project, Tourism Currents.) […]

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