WTM: The influence of the influencer

We’ve just enjoyed three days of exhibiting at World Travel Market, and it was bigger and better than ever! The stands were spectacular, the talks were fascinating, but it was the topic of the moment, influencers, that dominated the event. A few years ago, no one knew what an influencer was, but now they play a vital role across the travel industry. They can help promote destinations, brands and experiences.

Here is what the travel industry had to say about influencers.

Some influencers are missing the mark…

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Keith Jenkins, CEO of iambassador, mentioned that being an influencer is much more than just posting jaw-dropping photos on Instagram. Has the influencer explained where they are, what they’re doing, or told the story behind the image? Without that information, the photo is useless. It may get a lot of likes, but it’s never going to sell the experience or destination.

He also discussed the worrying trend of ‘perfect’ travel photos, which are often staged and, in some cases, photoshopped. Keith said there are three things influencer content must be to be great at what they do:

  • Informative
  • Inspirational
  • Authentic

…but some influencers are getting it right

Melvin Böcher, Founder of TravelDudes, talked about how social media is good for having a direct impact, but long-form content such as blogs really gives influencers the room to inform, inspire and convert. When planning a trip, travellers are looking for detail; they want to know which bars they should visit, what activities they should do, where they should stay, etc. You only have room to do that in long-form content. It may take longer for this type of content to have an impact, but once it’s been crawled and indexed by Google, it’s likely to start showing up in traveller’s online searches.

Steve Hänisch, a filmmaker and blogger who works with G Adventures, is a great example of how great influencers can be. He explained that having a unique selling point is important when creating quality content. Steve focuses on using video to create a strong connection with his audience, and had some great tips for creating quality influencer content:

  • Be honest to gain your audience’s trust
  • Tell a story
  • Focus on your experience
  • Understand what’s important to your audience
  • Go where your audience is (YouTube, Instagram, etc.)

Building the right relationships

Several experts highlighted the importance of choosing the right influencers for your brand, rather than just the ones with the most followers. In a panel discussion, Joanna Duncan, CMO at Insight Vacations, Kash Bhattacharua, Founder and Editor at BudgetTraveller and Bart Platts, Head of Strategy at Melt Content, all discussed the importance of creating content which emotionally engages your audience. Start by establishing what your travellers need, and tailor your content accordingly. Bart was keen to push that content doesn’t just refer to blogs and social media posts, it’s everything that informs customer and helps them make a decision, from customer reviews to guides and videos.

Once you’ve found the influencers you want to work with, how do you build those relationships? Brian Young, Managing Director at G Adventures, said brands should aim to create longer relationships with influencers as this results in higher quality content. Play to each other’s strengths, make sure the content is suitable for both parties, and let your influencers bring new ideas to the table.

Some final takeaways from the experts:

  • Don’t get hung up on how one piece of content performed, look at the campaign as a whole
  • Sponsored content doesn’t perform as well organically, so make sure you’re putting money behind #spon or #ad social posts
  • It shouldn’t be the influencer’s responsibility to promote their content and increase its reach. Otherwise they may focus on creating content that gets great reach, but isn’t necessarily beneficial or relevant to the destination
  • Keep content relatable – your audience must be able to imagine being there!


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