Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chimera's New Business Venture

I usually love fun, creative names on my blogs but I couldn't think of one for this. Besides, I wanted to make sure this one really got read - it's an actual serious blog, which is somewhat rare for me on Lilies and Elephants, but I'm excited about this new business venture and I wanted to share it with everyone that will read it. Don't worry, Chimera Travel is not going away. I still love travel, planning and helping people see the world. This is simply a new branch.

Most of you know that I love social media and blogging. All of you, I presume, know that I love to travel and plan travel. Fewer of you probably know that I have a M.S. in International Marketing from St. Joseph's and that I have for the last 5 years. While Chimera has certainly involved all three of the above, I have been looking for a way to use these skills for more than just Chimera itself.

When people ask me how I conduct research for my client, my number one response is social media. (There's a connection here - no pun intended - I promise). I have built up a network of followers, fans and truly new friends in the industry through my social media outlets - twitter, linkedin, facebook and now Google+. I have learned who has the most experience in various destinations, regions, and niches (i.e biking tours, culinary travel, etc). I have also made friends and connections located around the world. If I want to know the restaurant that serves the best gnocchi in a certain town in Italy, I know who to contact that's right at the source. I find this invaluable.

One place, however, that I've found a hole, is stand-alone hotels, often smaller ones. While it's easy to get a response from someone at a major chain, or even a smaller one, when I tweet out that I'm looking for a luxury, stand-alone hotel for a client at "x" destination, I may get a response from someone who's been or booked clients there, but often I never receive a response from the hotel directly. This means one of two things - either the hotel doesn't have a twitter account, or they do but don't have someone watching over it regularly to respond when queries like mine come through. This is the type of accommodation I work with most, and yet it's the trickiest for me to interact with on social media. I realized that this class of hotel is under-represented in social media - most likely because of resource restraints, both human and budgetary. It's tough for a smaller hotel to pull someone from their marketing team to do social media (I'm not sure this is a good idea anyways) and just as tough sometimes to hire someone full time for the task. These hotels are also often lacking blogs for the same reason. I want to help these hotels. I want them to be as much in the "playing field" as the chain hotels, as they're some of my favorites.

I decided to combine my love of travel, social media, marketing and hotels (yes, I truly love hotels) to begin doing social media marketing and blog consulting for stand-alone hotels.  I help create and oversee their social media accounts, create and work on their blog and can include additional tasks such as website copy, email marketing and e-newsletters/publications. Because I'm not super woman, a few things I can't do include website design, coding and anything of the like. I can take a look at a website and from the perspective of both the travel professional and traveler give my input on the appeal and the usefulness, as well as my thoughts on the design from a top level. I can't, however, actually create the new design unless you want to go with a blog on Wordpress, Blogger or similar templates (great for blogs but I don't suggest a template for a whole website). However, I have some very contacts contacts that can do this, and am happy to work with them on these tasks if the need arises.

I'm incredibly excited about this new business development. However, as I'm sure you're not quite as excited as I am - unless you're a stand alone hotel that needs social media marketing, in which case please contact me! - I'll end this rather long blog. If you're curious about my work, please feel free to ask questions, either in the comments or in private. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Goodbye, 31

This is my last week of year 31. It's become a family joke that my birthday is bad luck. It's not really, I hope, but there have been a lot of unfortunately timed occurrences that just so happen to have taken place within a week or so of my birthday over the years. Since teasing each other is an art form in my family, my unlucky birthday has become part of our standard repertoire.

In all candor, 31 hasn't been my favorite year and I'm ready to wish it good riddance. Still, there have been some wonderful aspects to this past year and I'd like to focus on those. I'm sure there are things my friends and family could add, so feel free - I'm sure I can't think of everything! These aren't really in any order, though I'd say the first one is probably right there at the top of the list. Enjoy, discuss, add to your liking.

  • My twin niece and nephew were born in December. My beautiful girl Maggie and my little man Owen are just precious and I'd like to think that they already love their Aunt Maya, but I'm pretty sure I'm putting words in their mouth, since all they say right now is "da da da da".
  • All of the Northen "kids", significant others and their kids got together for a family reunion. This might be the first time we've done this without a particular cause (wedding, major birthday, etc) ever. It was a blast and so great to see everyone! 
  • It took a lot of brainstorming and decision making and I figured out a new direction in which I want to develop part of my business. I'm very excited about it and learning how to put that plan into action. 
  • I became more involved than ever in some of my favorite industry organizations and have had the chance to meet and collaborate with some fabulous industry people. I look forward to keeping this growing during year 32. 
  • I've reconnected with some childhood friends that I'd either lost touch with or hadn't been in as close of contact with. Thanks to Facebook (truly) we were able to re-connect and are now probably as close or closer than we were as kids. 
  • I've made some wonderful new friends that I didn't anticipate making. I don't believe people just "come into and go out of your life for a reason" as so many say. I believe people make an effort for others and if both of you make this effort, you can become friends and the "out of your life"  doesn't have to happen. 
  • My family and best friends have, as always, been one of my pilars of support. I truly wouldn't be able to make it without you. 
  • I've allowed myself to be convinced that I'm amazing and deserve the best, that I don't need to apologize for everything and that I am worth making the effort for. This took 31 years to learn - almost 32. It's invaluable and I work every day to try to remember it and your frequent reminders help. Thank you.
  • I had quite possibly the best few months over the summer that I've had in a long time. I learned how to feel like a kid again, if even for a short while. 
To all those that have made 31 as good as can be, and all those who plan to make 32 the best year ever - as I'm convinced it must be - thank you. You're wonderful. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Curiousness of Friendship

Interpersonal personal relationships have always fascinated me. Probably because human thoughts, actions and interactions are something I've always been interested in - after all I was a psychology minor. The way people relate, or don't, the things that bring them together or push them apart is truly a mystery sometimes. Ever know two people that are close friends and you can't figure out for the life of you why? Ever have a good friend that at first meeting you'd never think you'd get along with? I'd venture to guess we've all experienced both. 

Before I write anything else I want to be very clear about one point - I absolutely did not write this post to be negative about anyone or point out any of my friends' short-comings. I know I'm the type that when I read a post like this, I always wonder "oh no, is that me? I hope I didn't do something wrong!". I wrote it to truly ponder aloud about friendship and to celebrate those that have been great friends either throughout my life, recently, or both. 

Over the years I've had friends come and go. I've met friends in some unique situations. For instance, I met one of my best friends standing in line at the airport waiting to board a flight. I've had friends that I've known since I was 7, who have been through everything with me and who I'm pretty confident will still be my friend when I'm 70. Recently, I've noticed a unique trend - reconnecting with people I was friends with as a kid who I may have lost touch with (or not been in touch with as often) who have now become good friends again. Thank you for that Facebook. Truly. One of the advantages of social media is that you get to connect with those you might otherwise not be able to and realize again why you were friends all those years ago. 

So what makes a good friend? Why do we stay friends with some people for years and years, and others seem to vanish from our lives over night? Why can we not see someone for years and then when we have the chance, it's like we haven't missed a day?  To me, it comes down to a few things. First is effort. I make a major effort for my friends. If they need me to run over in the middle of the night in my pajamas because they're going through a crisis, I'll do it (provided they're within running/driving distance and I'd hop on the next flight/train if I had to). If they need a good laugh, I'm happy to do something ridiculous and let them laugh at my expense. I appreciate those who do the same. I realize not everyone has the same amount of time to give and I don't expect it. But those that will lend an ear, help make me smile in a down time, laugh with me, make an effort to see me, reach out first so I don't always have to, those are the friends I value and keep.

The ability to be selfless is an amazing quality. My best friends will listen to me talk, gripe, ramble when I need to even when they've had an awful day (thank you). They'll answer the phone in the middle of the night, they'll stay up late or wake up early just to give me an ear. I understand that everyone needs to be selfish at some times. But it has to be a two way street. Those that understand this, I value tremendously. It can't be all about me, and it can't be all about you. It's not always even, but it should even out somewhere along the way. I walked away from a very close friend because of their selfishness. Truly, the ability to put the other person first sometimes is a must. Along with this goes compromise. People rarely see eye to eye on everything. I respect people that can compromise. They are willing to see my point of view and meet in the middle. I expect myself to do the same and would be ashamed of myself if I didn't. 

Finally, I think everyone needs to be needed. I have friends that I know I can go to when I need to talk, but that don't come to me. Or maybe they do, but only when no one else is available. I consider them friends, kind of, but not my closest friends. I call them happy hour friends. If you can't lean on me, how close are we really? I can have a beer or watch a ball game with total strangers at the bar next door (and do, on probably a weekly basis). I love light-heartedness and fun, but I need that intimacy of personal sharing to feel really close to someone. It doesn't have to be something terrible, it could be something great, or just something you need to discuss. If the only things I know about you I could find out on your Facebook status or twitter update, we're really not that special to each other.  I think of everything, this is the one absolute for me in a friendship. I really can't have a true friendship without it. 

I'm curious, what do other people need and hope for in their friendships? What makes people come together and drift apart - and sometimes come back together again. How can people be best friends one day and not speak the next (other than something obviously traumatic like a betrayal)? How can people not know each other one month and be inseparable the next?  To me, it's an ever-changing dynamic. There are some people that I can imagine, and hope, will be with me for life. They are my unofficial family. They've paid their dues, so to speak, and I love them for it. There are those that I've recently gotten close to that I can see joining that group. I don't necessarily believe that people come in and go out of your life for a reason. I believe that if both sides actively participate, they don't have to leave your life. For my part, I try my best and hope that I'm the friend that my friends want and need. I'll end this post with a big thank you, to all my friends - old, new and old-new. I hope that 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 years from now (if I'm still kicking) that I can happily still call you my friends.