Dalene-working-train

Every week our staff at TBEX field numerous questions from a variety of brands about how to work with travel bloggers and other influencers. They are not always easy to answer given the breadth of possibilities that exist and the perpetual growth within the industry itself. How to find bloggers is one thing, but then they need to be vetted, objectives need to be clearly communicated, and key performance indicators should be determined so as to know whether such a venture was successful and worthy of replication.

Through our conference sessions and ongoing blog publications we provide insight to both bloggers and industry professionals, but we are also interested when members of our TBEX community step forth to offer solutions – and travel bloggers Dalene and Pete Heck have done just that. With input from several top industry representatives, and help from frequent TBEX speaker Jodi Ettenberg, Dalene and Pete recently published the ebook “How to Work with Travel Bloggers” which aims to quickly get brands and destinations up the steep learning curve faced when working with new media. Read their bio below for a special TBEX discount.

I caught up with Dalene to get her perspective on some of the toughest questions.

What are three common mistakes you see brands making when working with influencers?

  1. Sorting through the thousands of travel blogs to find the best fit can be a daunting task, and as such the biggest mistake we see brands make is partnering with the wrong people. We have literally heard some brands say: “Oh, you’re a blogger? Let’s work together!” with no concern as to whether or not we were even a good fit for their brand or if getting in front of our audience would be beneficial to them. In any case, whether there just isn’t a good fit in “voice” or the target demographics are off, brands will likely end up disappointed with the results. More effort in vetting needs to be done up front to ensure alignment of objectives.
  1. Often we also see brands mislead by big numbers. For example, tens of thousands of Facebook fans may look attractive in terms of brand exposure, but few stop to consider where those fans actually come from, or what kind of engagement the blogger may get. Thus, those big numbers could essentially be useless if they don’t represent the brand’s target markets, or if their posts are not being seen by their fans anyway.
  1. Both brands and bloggers need to do a better job of discussing goals and objectives before a campaign ensues. Up front, bloggers need to be clear about what sort of coverage they are providing, and brands need to communicate exactly what they are looking for from them. We’ve unfortunately seen it happen too many times where both come away with at least some level of disappointment and only because objectives were not discussed at the outset.

A hot topic is always whether or not bloggers should be paid for their efforts surrounding a press trip. What are your thoughts?

There is no way to address this issue definitively – every situation depends on the influencer and the objectives of the host of the press trip. Some bloggers have a strict pay-to-play policy and it will then be up to the brand to evaluate if the value they expect to get out of that payment will be worth it. Beyond that, brands should expect to pay if:

  1. It’s straight-up marketing. If the brand endeavours to dictate what can/can’t be written or has set guidelines around what should be produced by the blogger as a result, then that is beyond the expectations of editorial coverage and the blogger should be compensated for it.
  1. They are asking for special services i.e. taking over of an Instagram account, specific video production, etc. Anything outside of a blogger’s normal posting strategy should be with payment.
  1. The brand is asking to license content for use on their blog, social media channels, etc. beyond the specific campaign.

There are exceptions to all of this – for example, if the press trip is very high-value or in high demand, a blogger may be inclined to take it without payment just for the pleasure of the travel and interesting content for their channels. But a brand should not take this for granted nor expect that to always be the case. An arrangement that is seen as equitable by all parties will ensure a relationship that can continue to produce results long after a trip is complete.

You highlight the need to measure social media engagement instead of just looking at the number of followers. Why is that important?

Lately, a common inquiry I see from recruiting brands is that they are looking for bloggers with upwards of “50,000 fans across all of their networks”. Such requests make my head hurt.

Big numbers of “fans” on any networks are vanity numbers, plain and simple. They may look awesome, but don’t necessarily provide any proof of influence. These numbers can also be easily bought or manipulated and do not necessarily correspond to the engagement numbers that really matter. For example, last year, for a short while, Pinterest had starting introducing our account to all their new users and our followers shot up over 350,000. However, as many of those users signed on once and have yet to return, our engagement is extremely low in relation. If we were to call ourselves some sort of Pinterest experts and attract brand partnerships because of that giant number, the brands would ultimately be very disappointed in their return. Until we can get our engagement to improve, that large number is essentially useless and all for show.

The same goes for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blog pageviews, and more. Those who have big numbers that were not grown organically may actually have very little social proof to back them up. Brands must dig deeper and look behind the numbers to ensure that the showcased audience is valuable. In the ebook we dive into ways that brands can test the numbers on various networks as a means to verify the validity and potential worth. This is a step that is so often missed, but essential in the makings of a successful campaign.

Bio:  Dalene and her husband Pete have been blogging at HeckticTravels.com for five years and were named National Geographic Travelers of the Year in 2014. In the last two years they have merged their loves of new media and travel with their solid business backgrounds to create Hecktic Media Inc., working closely with many travel destinations and brands to design social media marketing campaigns. Their ebook, How to Work With Travel Bloggers is available to TBEX community members for a 20% discount.  Use the code “tbexcon” to get a 20% discount.