View from a kayak influencer marketing in tourism

“I have 50 million followers who will do anything I tell them to do.”

Oh horrors! How many times have you heard some version of that statement?

It was a line on the TV series “Suits” a couple of weeks ago, which goes to show that influencer marketing has definitely gone mainstream.

Several CVBs and DMOs have asked us questions lately about influencer marketing in tourism, so here are some tips from both the DMO and the influencer standpoint…

(Don’t miss our free sample influencer contract template download further down in this post!)  

1.  How Do You Know If Someone Is An Influencer?

Some influencers have large audiences and broad reach, and there are also micro-influencers with small but very engaged audiences and a niche, specific focus.

Actually, who cares? Anyone who is online, connects actively with others, and shares their love of your community, your region, or your state, is to some degree an influencer. Quite frankly, it’s not about numbers, it’s about engagement. How engaged is a person’s audience with their content? Does that engagement influence behavior? That’s the benchmark you use to decide who is a true influencer.

Our colleague Deb Thompson – Just Short of Crazy – is an influencer herself, plus she organizes blogger/online media visits (press trips) for DMOs, matching quality digital influencers with destinations looking for media coverage.

Deb says,

“When working with influencers, I look for ones that meet the following criteria:

• Their audience lives in the region the destination wants to market to/reach. The influencer doesn’t need to live in the region, but I want their readers to live in that region.
• They have a passion for writing about what the destination is promoting. For example: festivals, food, outdoors, shopping, history, etc.
• They have a solid following (not necessarily a big number) with consistent blog posts and social media updates.
• They are professional (I’m fortunate that I know a number of individuals in the travel industry, so I can pick who is good to work with and who might cause some challenges).
• Their writing is engaging and free of grammatical errors.
• They have good photo skills.

If they hit all my checkmarks, I’ll invite them on a trip and 99% of the time we have a great event with excellent coverage. Finding people that are passionate about what your region offers is key to having a positive experience with digital influencers.”

In 2016, Leslie worked with Deb and brought a press trip to southern California’s San Jacinto Valley to focus on the Snowbird niche market – winter visitors to a warm region. The group was passionate about the area, and to this day the evergreen content that the group created is still being re-shared several times throughout the year, both by the DMO and by those who were on the press trip.

2. Speaking of Evergreen Content…

The type of content produced by influencers is vitally important for online visibility.

NOTE: do ensure that sponsored content and social posts are clearly disclosed according to the truth-in-advertising laws in your country. In the U.S. it’s these disclosure guidelines from the FTC / Federal Trade Commission.

Sara Broers, Social Connections, LLC, mentioned this when talking about content:

“In my eyes, bloggers offer online content that lives forever through the stories they share. They become an influencer when people book vacations through the stories and social media posts that are shared. Bloggers are multi-taskers who build relationships with their tourism partners.

A big mistake for both bloggers and DMO’s is for them to consider their influencer [campaign] a one-time deal through social media. For the most part, the content is evergreen, and both sides should embrace the partnership as a long-term relationship and treat it as exactly that.”

A few years ago, Sheila and Leslie spoke at the TBEX online media conference about DMO’s too often having a “one-night stand” with influencers – one trip, one effort to get some earned media, one quick blizzard of social media posts – and how that is not OK. It wastes an opportunity for ongoing coverage, visits, and word-of-mouth recommendations that can last for years. It still holds true today – remember, once you start a relationship, it’s so important to keep working at it and building it.

We cover influencer relationships in Lesson Four of our online course in social media for tourism, as well.

3. What’s The Focus?

From a DMO standpoint, it’s imperative that you understand the focus of the influencer who is coming to your area. Do your “due diligence”.

Tonya Prater (The Traveling Praters & Travel Inspired Living) shared the following:

“One mistake I see when a DMO or CVB is working with influencers is that they don’t take the time to know who I am or what I write about before extending an invitation, or before my arrival at the destination. As a mom approaching the empty nest years, I’m not a good fit for destinations that cater to families with young children and are looking for that type of coverage.”

From Fran Stephenson, with Step In Communication and who works with DMOs to arrange media visits through the state-focused Texas Travel Talk …

“I think a key mistake that destinations are at risk for taking in working with influencers is not taking the time to research them and qualifying/clarifying what they are requesting. Too many destinations think because they’ve been approached by someone, they must be good. Finding out more about them is the first step to determining if they are the right fit for you.”

You must work with the right type of influencers for your destination, and it’s up to you to research them and know how they fit into what you want to promote and your long-term destination marketing goals.

4. Hello…Are You Out There?

Something we notice in our own travels is that many DMO’s do not share what we write about them, nor do they acknowledge when we mention (tag) them on social media.This is free word-of-mouth marketing for you; why wouldn’t you share it with your followers?

It’s a major fail, and Tonya also mentioned this to us, saying:

“It’s disappointing to visit a destination, create content, and not have the destination share my content to their followers. As a blogger and travel writer I have two goals … #1 is to draw attention to the destination, and #2 is to gain new readers and get eyes on my content.”

From Kami Huyse, who works with Fran at Texas Travel Talk and is also the founder of Zoetica Media  –

“DMOs often don’t amplify the content that was created for and about them in their own channels. And even if they do, they only do it once. This is really powerful third-party content that can be used over and over, and shows a perspective that someone who follows you might not find on their own.”

Never let a mention go by without acknowledging it in some way, whether it is a “Like” from you in response to a Facebook post, or leaving a “Thanks for visiting; come again!” comment on a blog post.

Remember, those who mention you have reached out to you, and it’s up to you to respond in order to either keep a relationship moving forward, or to start building a relationship with the person who took the time to recognize you.

5.  Influencer Marketing In Tourism Bonus Tip:  Avoiding One-Hit Wonders

Look for influencers who publish across multiple platforms, rather than focusing on one particular social media network. Avoid the one-trick pony who only works one social platform.

Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are great for momentary buzz, but you’ll get more long-term SEO value from content like blog posts, Pinterest pins, and YouTube videos. Lasting, meaty, evergreen content can easily be re-shared and re-purposed by both the DMO and the influencer.

Deb Thompson, wearing her influencer hat, says,

“As a travel writer/influencer I love discovering new destinations and sharing travel stories with my audience. Locations that offer a hosted trip give me a way to experience the area first-hand which is then converted into an enthusiastic and organic story that takes my readers along on the adventure with me. Hosted trips that I attend usually include travel to/from the destination, hotel accommodations, attractions, meals and, in some cases a stipend if extensive influencer deliverables are required. In return, I provide coverage on all my social media platforms, my blog and, in some cases, print magazines.”

It is up to the DMO to decide what to offer the influencer.

If you don’t have the budget to pay for their travel, perhaps you can make that up in some other way by covering meals and lodging, or offering other perks. You may decide to contract for some paid content (photos, videos) as a part of the visit.

—->>  Here is a sample contract template download in Word for working with bloggers and influencers,  based on an actual document used by a DMO. There is always room for improvement, but it can get you started.

Again, your appeal as a DMO is higher when you share influencer content with your followers. No one wants to come on a visit, produce a bunch of coverage, and have the DMO ignore it. We know that sounds crazy, but it happens.

Just getting started with infuencer marketing? Look in your own backyard first.

For example, host a fun Instameet for your local Instagram and photography enthusiasts, to show them your most visually interesting locations and attractions. You might be surprised to find a few area residents who are highly connected that you can partner with as informal brand ambassadors.

Once you have worked with locals, then it’s time to branch out and find others outside your area who love your destination and can’t wait to experience all that you offer.

When you find these people, these influencers, work on your on-going relationship with them and make them part of your marketing team, because in the end, that is exactly what they are.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments below….

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