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Spotted by Locals - Bart van Poll

Staff (Social Media Portal) - 23 February 2009

Spotted by Locals Profiled


An interview with Spotted by Locals' co-founder, Bart van Poll

SMP: What made you start Spotted by Locals?

BvP: A city trip in Brussels in early 2007. We had been to Brussels a couple of times before, and did not like the recommendations by our guidebook. This time we decided to rely solely on tips from local Brussels inhabitants from the internet. To our surprise, it was very difficult to find updated information from locals in our language or English.

Eventually we found a personal blog by a guy we thought shared our taste. He wrote about a lot of subjects, but also about what he liked to do in Brussels. We decided to "follow" the  tips he had, and go to the bars and restaurants he frequents, and walk around in the hidden local neighborhood that was certainly not in our paper guide. We had one of the best citytrips ever, because of the tips of this Brussels guy we don't even know!

On that trip, around a good Belgian beer, we decided to investigate the idea of a series of cityblogs, written by locals we'd personally meet. It'd be the perfect job for us... Back home, we found out this does not exist!

Since then, we have found a lot of supporting evidence that city travelers are progressively looking to learn more about the local culture of their chosen destinations. They do not only want to "do a city" by visiting standard highlights. The huge success of the Couchsurfing project is an excellent proof of this.

We (my wife an I) quit our jobs to fulfill a new mission in life: To offer modern travelers the opportunity to experience cities just like a local, by offering local tips through a new network of blogs on European cities.

SMP: What was the most challenging part of building the service?

BvP: We have been traveling for 6 months to meet potential Spotters in 20 cities. The most challenging part was definitely getting in contact with high-quality potential Spotters that really love their city and would like to share their passion for their city.

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?

BvP: City travelers are generally better educated than “other” tourists, and earn a more than average income (ETC, 2005). The age-range is quite broad: 20 to 60 years old.

We are aiming for experienced travelers, that plan their trip individually (not with a tourist agency), and travel solo or in very small groups (2-4).

SMP: How did you initially attract users to your site /service, and how do you do it now?

BvP: Word of mouth is definitely the most important way of promoting our cityblogs. We currently have have 95 Spotters in the 20 cities we cover, that spread the news about Spotted by Locals.

Also we have a large group of people that have subscribed to our newsletter, RSS- feed, or became a fan on our Facebook page, and stay up to date this way.
Now that the first 20 cityblogs are (almost) live, we will focus more on Search Engine Optimization and getting publicity in the media.

SMP: What are your high and low moments of what you have been doing so far?

Highs
BvP: Definitely the “Europe-tour” of 20 cities we visited. We met so many special people, who are very passionate about their city, and would love to share this passion with others.

Lows
BvP: It is always a shame when Spotters leave Spotted by Locals, because they are going to leave the city they write about. It has happened a couple of times. There just isn’t much we can do about it, since Spotters tend to be a mobile bunch of people. Fortunately, in most cities we have a waiting list.

SMP: Now that you are established; what do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities?

BvP:
We really don’t feel we are established yet. It’s only just starting now! Getting more visitors to our website is definitely the biggest challenge we are facing.

SMP:  What are the next moves for Spotted by Locals; how is your blog network different?

BvP: Of course we’ll keep on expanding to other cities in Europe. In 2009 we will also launch the mobile version of our site. We will keep on expanding the vibrant private community we have developed for Spotters. Also, we want to include more community features into our website.

SMP: What’s the next big step for social media and networks?


BvP: Social media and networks are growing out of the “cool” phase quickly.  It’s time to work out business models that really generate income.

SMP: What’s going to be hot throughout 2009?

BvP:
Outside our own field: Corporate Social Networking! Companies that are specialized in this field, like KREM are to be watched!

SMP: Best way to contact you?

BvP:
You can contact us via e-mail, or phone (+447937007277). We would be more than happy to discuss possible partnerships, and ideas you may have for Spotted by Locals exposure in the media.

Now some questions for fun

SMP:  What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

BvP:
Pasta-leftover for lunch!

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

BvP:
Just donated to a Dutch / Iranian foundation that helps familiy-members of dissidents in Iran.

SMP: How many hours do you work a week?

BvP:
50. But fortunately I don’t have to travel outside of Amsterdam!

SMP: If you weren’t running Spotted by Locals what would you be doing?

BvP:
I would hopefully still work for KREM, a leading Corporate Social Networking consulting company in Amsterdam

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?


BvP: The 6 month tour throughout 20 European cities we just did was hard work, but on the other hand it felt like holiday! A few months before that we had our last “real holiday” to Goa, India.

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

BvP: Check my personal e-mail & RSS-feeds.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?


BvP: I wish I didn’t need any sleep. So much to do, so much to enjoy, so little time!


Read more about Spotted by Local here

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