How to get your expedition noticed
Documenting and sharing your trip on OpenExplorer can help grow your audience and engage your community. Here’s a short list of tips and advice.
OpenExplorer is growing. With the latest redesign, it’s sleeker and more functional than ever before. Recently, I completed From Surface to Abyss, an expedition through the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands and Guam talking to students about the Mariana Trench and showing them how scientists conduct research using ROVs. That expedition attracted six times more readers than the next most popular expedition this month. With From Surface to Abyss winding down, this is the perfect time to talk about how to maximize the reach of your expedition.
Post early, post often, and remember that the journey matters.
A good expedition begins in the planning stages. Begin posting early, letting the audience know where you’re going, what your goals are, and how you plan to get there. Update with route planning, gear organizing, photos from the preparation stage, video interviews with your team, any early press, and, of course, post a team picture (bonus points for robot-selfies).
The journey is almost as important as the end result. People want to see the trip, they want to see how you got to where you’re going and how you get home. Don’t forget to post from your layovers and pit stops on your way to the expedition, that’s part of the adventure, too.
By posting the preparation work, the packing, the flights and drives, it shows people that expeditions are built on effort, not fortune and good luck. Showing the gritty nuts and bolts involved in packing up gear and planning a route tells your audience that there isn’t some mystical, special knowledge that goes into launching an expedition. It shows them them that they are just as capable of mounting their own expedition. And it lets them know how to get started.
Diversify your content.
Some people like to read text essays. Other prefer photo montages, or podcasts, or tweet-length updates, or videos. When you post, think about the different tools at your disposal and how you can use them to diversify your content to appeal to the widest possible audience. Quick interviews with a smartphone, coupled with photo essays, combined with longer posts, with plenty of photos throughout will help you connect with a much larger audience. Maybe throw in a video of your teammate’s Ukulele solo, just for fun.
Don’t just diversify the types of content, think about the subject. Are all your photos of landscapes? Add a few pictures of your team to the mix. Are you just focusing on ecosystems? Think about the local history as well. By diversifying your content, you can help build a sense of place and tell a more compelling story.
Be practical. Offer Advice.
One of the great strengths of OpenExplorer is that, especially in the beginning, most of your audience will be other explorers hosting or planning their own expeditions. As you conduct your expedition, share advice about how you implement different aspects of the adventure. What’s in your kit, how do you pack your gear to protect it and make travel easier? How do you interact with students to help them understand what you’re doing. When things go wrong (and things always go wrong, that’s the nature of adventure), let your audience know how you got into trouble and how you got back out.
If you’re traveling with ROVs or other remote assets, talk about the environmental considerations that you take into account when traveling. That kind of advice can be invaluable. For example, what started as a post about invasive species evolved into a formal peer-reviewed study on mitigating invasive species transport via microROVs.
Tell people you meet what you’re doing.
When you’re out in the field, talk about your expedition and let the people you meet know that you’re putting updates on OpenExplorer. Make some cards with clear links to follow. Get in touch with local reporters. The people you directly engage with in person can become you strongest advocates and can help spread you expedition through personal and web-based social networks. Don’t assume that just because you’re on the other side of the world people aren’t just as active on Facebook and social media as your friends are back home. If you have a good enough internet connection to update OpenExplorer, everyone around you does, too.
Don’t forget to cross-post.
It’s easy, with OpenExplorer acting as a central repository for the expedition, to forget about other online venues. Don’t forget to update your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media accounts every time you update your expedition. Remind people where you are and refer them back to the OpenExplorer page. Use a service that lets you schedule updates, so you don’t have to worry about checking back all the time.
The expedition may be over, but by the time you reach the debrief stage, you should have the largest possible audience following along. Don’t just stop. Use this as an opportunity to post the content you couldn’t upload in the field, talk in-depth about how the expedition went, share advice and perspective now that things are winding down. Offer advice to people planning their next expedition (after all, what do you think this post is?).
And get people pumped for your next expedition, because the adventure never ends!