“How The Tourism Industry Can Work With Influencers”

While influencer marketing is all the rage at tourism conferences across the world, influencer marketing has been around for years.

Born in 1979, I consider myself an 80s baby. I grew up watching shows like The Cosby Show, Saved By The Bell, Different Strokes, Family Ties, Full House, Growing Pains and Alf. I wore brands like Adidas (with the fat laces), Eastlands, Ocean Pacific and Swatch. A lot of my decisions on what I consumed were based on the commercials I saw growing up. Michael Jordan and Wheaties, Bill Cosby and Coca-Cola… even Tony the Tiger had me wanting to try Frosted Flakes.

Fast forward to present day, and the conversation around influencer marketing is still prevalent and relevant.

We define influencer marketing as a form of marketing that involves celebrities or influential industry experts tasked with selling a product. The rise of social media has given birth to the term social media influencer, where brands work with people who have huge followings on various platforms to sell a product.

The tourism industry, in my opinion, is just now starting to understand the impact of influencers. While several tourism offices have been working with influencers for years, there are so many who have not and it is because of this one reason – they don’t know how to do it. Well let me offer you this one piece of advice when it comes to influencers, and it will be the most important thing you read in this article…

“There is no ONE WAY to work with influencers.”

Often times, tourism offices reach out to their industry colleagues to get advice on how best to work with influencers, but given the varying budgets, staff sizes and resources available, each tourism office will give you a different answer, which is why I always say there is no one way to work with influencers. Instead, allow me to give you some advice and insight that can help you define how your tourism office can work with influencers.

Here are five tips to help you:

1. Make sure your tourism office has an internal consensus for how you define an influencer. In today’s marketplace, anyone can be an influencer. The key is really determining if you think they can actually “influence” someone to come visit your destination. I am of the belief that influencers are part of the marketing funnel, but their greatest asset is content creation. In my view, I actually define them as content creators and use them in that capacity versus solely relying on them to influence people to come visit, because let’s be honest, I am not the only destination product they are selling.

2. Create a specific contract with deliverables for each influencer. Before you begin, start with the end in mind. You need to have a clear vision of what you want from each influencer you work with. Each influencer has a niche in terms of content they cover and assets they can create. The key here is finding what you are missing and working with them to fill your holes. If you are missing photography, put a greater emphasis on that. If you have photography but are missing articles, then put a greater emphasis on that. In the end, that contract should me mutually beneficial.

3. Decide what your office can and will offer in terms of compensation. To pay or not to pay? That is the question. Compensation is monetary and non-monetary, and while some tourism offices pay in the form of money, others who don’t have money, pay in the form of tickets and access. Whatever it is, you need to make it clear not only within the office, but with the influencer you are working with. Again, there is no right or wrong way to do this, but I think we can all agree that no one in this world works for free. Personally, I prefer to pay in terms of money.

4. Don’t ignore the people in your own backyard. Because of social media, there is now a rising class of influencers you can tap into locally, termed as micro-influencers. These are individuals who may not have huge followings in terms of numbers, but have highly engaged followers and they are local to the tourism office. Finding local influencers can be relatively easy, because most of them already love the destination and would be more than happy to assist you in your marketing efforts. And most micro-influencers, because of their smaller following, just want access and tickets.

5. Cultivate your influencer relationships for future opportunities. We are all familiar with the idea of “six degrees of separation”, and I would even argue that within the influencer world that number is probably even smaller. Most influencers travel with and know other influencers, so use those relationships to build other relationships with influencers across the world. You can even work with your local influencers to help bring out-of-market influencers to your destinations.

I hope these tips are helpful for you, whether you are beginning your journey into influencer marketing or even if you’ve been doing it one way for years, best of luck!

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