Influencers for destination marketing – 5 things to consider

Influencers for destination marketing and tourism via Ivan Samkov on Pexels
Influencers for destination marketing and tourism (courtesy Ivan Samkov on Pexels)

Does using influencers for destination marketing make sense for you?

We’ve been around long enough to see the terms “travel blogger” and “food blogger” and “lifestyle vlogger” all morph into the term “influencer.”

It’s sort of a modern version of the brand ambassador or spokesperson, which dates back to writer Mark Twain selling certain fountain pens, and even before that.

The big difference between then and now is that brand ambassadors and spokespeople used to be only well-known celebrities. Some of them still are, of course, but there is a much larger group of influencers these days who are only well-known within their particular niche.

They built their audience, they know their audience, they create for themselves and for their audience.

In return, their audience trusts them to provide inspiration and advice.

Working with the right influencers does three big things for you:

  • It gets your destination, attraction, hotel, or tourism partner business in front of people that you might not reach otherwise.
  • It results in a stack of quality content across various social channels that you can easily re-share with your followers, or it may even reside on your own website and blog as a guest blog post, photos, video, or website copy.
  • It helps you build media relationships with the influencer community that can pay off in the future with additional connections, projects, and opportunities.

Here are five things to consider when working with influencers for destination marketing…

1) Influencers Should Influence YOUR Ideal Visitors, Guests, or Customers

It doesn’t matter how many followers someone has if they are in the wrong niche, are not aligned with your marketing goals, don’t publish quality content, get no engagement, or aren’t – well – influential with the right visitors, guests, or customers for YOU.

Not every campaign or project with an influencer will be an absolutely smashing success, but you can avoid a lot of disappointment by being clear-eyed ahead of time about the right influencer for your particular situation.

Ask trusted fellow marketers for referrals and recommendations. Review the influencer’s presence across multiple social media accounts – is this the kind of content that your audiences would respond well to? Google them. Contact their previous clients and get honest feedback. If they are not professional and responsive in initial communications with you, listen to your instincts.

Look for creators 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, unless you have a pretty big budget and can afford to go for that.

Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are great for momentary buzz, but you’ll get more long-term SEO (Search Engine Optimization) 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.

2) What Are Your Goals? How Will You Measure Whether Influencer Coverage is Working?

What are your goals, how will you measure, do you have trackable links, which stats matter most? How will you get those stats when the influencer has access to their own data and you do not? Figure all this out ahead of time.

We were recently featured on the Jason Falls Winfluence podcast, in his episode What Analytics Should Brands Ask For From Influencers? 

Jason asks,

“What do you have before [working with an influencer]? What do you have after? Have a plan to measure to your goal.”

Provide tourism partners with follow-up reports and stats, in addition to your Board. Show them the value.

Related blog post – Ask for these influencer campaign stats

3) Build a Relationship for the Long Term

When working with bloggers and influencers, a DMO or tourism partner should not regard them as a “one night stand” single visit project. Think long-term and be creative, so that a blogger’s content and visits provide maximum value over time for both parties.

If you can only cover travel expenses, entry tickets to attractions, meals, etc. for now, build on that to a paid content partnership. Yes, pro influencers expect to be paid, just like you’d pay a copywriter, a photographer, or a videographer. Make sure your budget is set up for that.

Related blog post – 5 tips for influencer marketing in tourism, plus a sample contract

To find people to work with, start with your locals, maybe through a DMO-hosted InstaMeet social event. Track your local hashtags and key locations on Instagram and look for talent.

Consider attending and/or sponsoring conferences like TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) and WITS (Women in Travel Summit) and the U.S. Midwest Travel Network (where our co-founder Sheila Scarborough is speaking next week!) plus organizations like the Black Travel Alliance and Latino Outdoors.

Tip —>> Who are the speakers at those events? Use that information as something of a built-in quality cut.

4) Interact Online with Influencers Before, During, and After

Engage and interact with anyone who is talking about you online, of course, but especially people you are PAYING to do your marketing.

We often see influencers we know who are out and about in a destination, posting a veritable firehose of good content, tagging the DMO and partners, and neither the DMO nor any of the partners are Liking the posts, leaving comments, or sharing over to their followers.

What a missed opportunity! 🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♂️

Make sure that your tourism or Main Street partners know ahead of time that an influencer will be in town, and that those partners understand the advantages of connecting and interacting online around the visit.

5) Make it Worth Everyone’s Effort. Continue Re-sharing.

Have a plan to re-share the best influencer content, not only immediately, but also over at least the following months up to about a year or even longer, including with your email list.

People are busy – they missed it the first or second or even third time. Work it into your content calendar planning process.

Again, get maximum value over time.

Have you worked with travel, food, or general lifestyle influencers? How did it go? Tell us about it down in the comments.

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