The last 3 years have been amazing thanks to Twitter, relationship built thanks to Twitter, and some old school Hustle. These are the highlights:
Won the inaugural 2009 Shorty Award for providing the best travel content on Twitter
Organized 2 Social Fresh Social Media Cruises with Chris Brogan, Ted Murphy, Jason Keath
Featured in Wall Street Journal, Forbes.com, ABCnews.com, BusinessWeek, USA Today, and many more
I've sold the most cruise vacations via Twitter
Cruised the world, 17 cruise ships in 3 years including my favorite the Costa Deliziosa Inaugural around the Italy.
Developed and Implemented a webinar series specifically for Travel Agents on how to build business through Social Media – [featured in Travel Weekly.]
Planned the Cruise4Haiti Fundraising cruise
Planned and promoted 2 Charlotte Twestival Events supporting Charity: Water and A Child's Place
Consulted #SilentClark's social media efforts raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
Manage Social Media strategy for all of the Travel Leaders Leisure group brands including CruiseDeals.com, SinglesCruise.com, Cruise Holidays, and Cruise Specialists.
Added to the advisory board for startup GroupStory.com
Invited to participate in the Twitter Promoted Tweets Beta program. @CruiseDeals is the first travel agency with a Verified Twitter account.
Teamed up Green Mountain Coffee and VaynerMedia on promotion that added 10,000+ facebook fans to the CruiseDeals fan page in less than 48 hours.
So those are the highlights, for those with a little more time I've included the whole story [you've been warned; it's long]:
As of April 2011, I've been using Twitter for almost 3 years now.... and it has been life changing for me. When I first started in 2008, I was 2 years out from a failed retail business. I'd spent 2 years in the store working 100 hour weeks with little time for anything else. Although, I had worked for 5 years at Bank of America and graduated from Georgia Tech, I did a poor job of staying in contact with friends and colleagues. So when I'd started my new career at CruiseDeals.com, my network was suffering.
@93octane [Lyell Petersen] introduced me to Twitter and a week later he talked me into attending my first tweetup. It was the Ballentyne Business tweetup #btynbiz, and if my memory is correct, it was attended by @ScottHepburn, @jakrose, @lisahoffmann, @Budesigns, and @bigfleet. The discussion was about how they were each using Twitter to get their news real-time unfiltered from real people on the ground and philosophizing about how Twitter was going to change to change journalism. This was a smart group of people... at the time if you said you were on Twitter, people had no idea what you were talking about and looked at you like you were crazy, but they had the forsight to see how was going to change many industries. I quickly learned that the true value of Twitter was in using it as a catalyst to meet like minded people face to face. Ever since then, I've had the mission to extend as many online relationships as possible into my real life. It has made all the difference.
Also in my first week on Twitter, I was watching @HowardLindzon founder of StockTwits on the Yahoo! Tech Ticker discussing the market and he said to following him on Twitter. So, I did. Within minutes, I was having a conversation with Howard about Sirius stock and his other venture WallStrip. I was sold that moment on Twitter because of the instant access to industry "experts". I've enjoy watching Howard grow Stocktwits into one of the strongest communities on Twitter as well as a very powerful platform.
In 2008, very few people had business accounts on Twitter. Most of the conversation on Twitter was about social media and blogging – and I was soaking it up. I'd been writing cruise advice and reviews on my blog CruiseSource.us mainly to share with my clients at CruiseDeals.com. I decided to run with two accounts on Twitter, @RichTucker (personal) and @CruiseSource (business). I was the first to use Twitter for the cruise industry and one of the first to have a business account. Marketing on Twitter was frowned upon, so I experimented with different approaches. Being transparent about the fact that I was the person behind both accounts helped put a face with this new brand I'd created.
Once I started the @CruiseSource account, good things started to happen fast. I cruised on the Carnival Destiny with my wife, and I blogged daily from the ship as I had done on a couple of cruises prior. But this time, I also was alson tweeting from the ship [a first as far as I know]. Social Media pros were always looking for case studies to write about and fortunately for me @ShannonSwenson saw my Tweets from the ship and wrote a blog post about Carnival Brand Evangelists on Twitter detailing how I was using it to attract potential clients. The fact that what I was doing was being praised by a social media pro really got me excited and gave me confidence that I was on the right track.
I decided the best way to attract new followers and to get followers used to paying attention to @CruiseSource in their tweet stream was to giveaway a free cruise. At the time, we had not seen anyone do a giveaway on Twitter. We used the old radio format of when we tweet the message to call in, be the first caller and you win. In order to qualify they also had to ReTweet a message which helped us grow the number of followers. Everyone trying to win the cruise were glued to their computers on the final day, and our winner was @Toryn.
A few months later, I won the Shorty Award for providing the best travel content on Twitter. Thanks to this award I was interviewed by BusinessWeek and Wired Magazine. In the articles, I was honored to be featured next to social media leaders like @GaryVee & @DanZarella. During my 140 character shorty award acceptance speech, I announced that we would be hosting Social Fresh Cruise, the first ever Social Media Conference at Sea.
I went on to successfully organize two Social Fresh Social Media Conferences at Sea with @ChrisBrogan @Ambercadabra @TedMurphy @LucretiaPruitt @GregCangialosi @Djwaldow @adrants @katebuckjr and a 100 other social media rockstars. Social Fresh Cruise has been called one of the most valuable social media events of the year by people who attend all the major conferences. Jason Keath, Founder of Social Fresh, has been an awesome partner. His conferences have brought the best that social media has to offer to Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville, Tampa, Portland and Cozumel, Mexico.
Twitter and social media in general is perfect for doing social good. Twitter has enabled me to give back to many worthwhile causes by planning and promoting events that supported non-profits.
I organized and promoted the Cruise4Haiti with @CruiseBuzz & @kidtravel supporting Airline Ambassadors and For Haiti with Love. We delivered pallets of donated goods and Christmas Presents to Haiti on the Liberty of the Seas. The Cruise4Haiti group visited with orphans in St. Maarten and Puerto Rico. We also raised money and awareness for the continued need in Haiti.
Leading up to the cruise, I tweeted for 24 straight hours in the #Cruise24 Tweetathon to raise money for Airline Ambassadors. Sitting in my office, doing nothing but tweeting for 24 hours was one of the toughest things I'd ever done.
Not quite caught up to presents day... but getting close.