How can destinations measure the value of travel bloggers?

 

One of the most anticipated sessions leading up to TBEX Girona was on measuring blogger ROI – something most of us are pretty interested in figuring out. The session was co-anchored by Melvin Böcher, Keith Jenkins, and the author of today’s guest post, William Bakker of Think! Social Media. William came at the topic from a different angle than Melvin and Keith, and here he offers his perspective on how DMOs measure the value of working with a blogger.

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Creative commons photo by Horia Varlan via Flickr

Creative commons photo by Horia Varlan via Flickr

Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) have hosted influencers for a long time. It used to be the exclusive territory of travel journalists. They were courted, invited and hosted in order to generate awareness and consideration for a destination.

In order to measure this PR most DMOs used the “Advertising Value Equivalency” (AVE). You take the size of the produced piece, use the equivalent cost of running an ad of the same size in the publication, apply a multiplying factor because editorial is more credible and there’s your equivalent value of “free” advertising.

Most people in the PR industry agree that AVE is significantly flawed. But for years, it’s all we had. It was simple and easy to calculate – and at least it was consistent, something we could monitor over time, and benchmark against the competition. At least that was something.

There’s no such direct measure for blogger-based campaigns at the moment. Keith (Velvet Escape) and Melvin (Traveldudes) presented a first draft of a method calculating the value of a blog at a TBEX session in Girona. It was loosely based on AVE and an attempt to quantify the value of a post in dollars.

I applaud the attempt because at least it will provide DMOs with some guidance and offer benchmarking possibilities. But I’m not a fan of trying to use an old-media method that’s already shaky at best and applying it to a new world model in order find a social media equivalent for it. It assumes a specific blogger will provide equal value to all destinations and that’s simply not true.

There are a multitude of travel blogs out there, and with careful research, we can unearth a blog and a writer who has the best fit with a specific destination and its objectives. Often we end up bringing bloggers who have a specific skill or niche. And when we bring a group of bloggers together, the composition of that group, the mesh of personalities, matters.

It’s not just the size of a blogger’s audience that’s important, but the likelihood of delivering a relevant, credible, and authentic message to their network. Passion speaks volumes. We need to believe that their message will influence a reader’s travel decisions.

At Think! we love working with bloggers because they are, generally speaking, very passionate and excellent creators of content. We work with dozens of DMOs around the world, helping them arrange blog trips, and we involve bloggers in many of our campaigns. We tie the way we measure a campaign involving bloggers to the specific marketing objectives.

We research, identify, and approach the right bloggers for the campaign, assist with the trip planning, and provide consultancy to clients on how to make these travel (or cultural) writers feel most engaged or valued.

For example:

    • In Belgium we worked with Tourism Flanders to identify, contact, and send 100 travel and music bloggers to festivals all summer long, with the objective of generating awareness for Flanders as a prominent festival destination in Europe.

 

    • In Richmond, British Columbia, we helped find a food blogger who would eat and blog about a different Richmond restaurant every day for a year with the objective to position Richmond in the centre of the foodie community.

 

  • In New South Wales, Australia, we organised a month-long bus trip of bloggers including a photographer and videographer with the objective of showcasing the destination and creating content in a more social way.

Through our work we know many bloggers and we hope we have developed a good reputation amongst them. Because we have these relationship it makes it easier and easier to find the right bloggers for our projects.

Stay tuned!
In his next guest post, William will talk about the criteria Think! uses to determine which bloggers they’ll invite to work with DMOs.

Travel Destinations: If you’d like to learn more about the value of Travel Bloggers, come to TBEX in Toronto!


Author bio: William Bakker is chief strategist at Think! Social Media, a global marketing agency focussing exclusively on the tourism industry. He is considered a leader in the world of digital destination marketing and speaks at conferences around the world – including at TBEX in Girona. He blogs about tourism marketing at wilhelmus.ca.

Comments

  1. I’ve had my travel blog since 2005 (the Stone Ages of blogging) and still feel I have so much to learn, as my blog evolves from a creative writing exercise to a potential platform. I wonder given that the old-world model, is, well, old, and a passionate message resonates, how then, does one gauge the quality of a message and find the right model to get the message out? I’ve read a lot of travel content out there that wouldn’t make the grade in journalism school, and, in essence, that’s what travel blogging is, that kind of New Journalism popularized by Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe.

    • Thanks for the comment Katrina. I believe that cream floats to the top. Producing good content will ultimately win in the long run. But with the help of good online marketing practices such as SEO will speed up the process. But what some people might lack from a skills perspective, they can make up in passion and personal storytelling. The most populair TV shows aren’t exactly the best quality shows either.

  2. I’ve started pointing DMOs to the number of comments I get in my videos. The feedback and engagement that we get in our blogs / social media channels has no parallel with the mass media publications. I behave in many ways as the customer rep of the DMO, and that has an important value.

  3. I love when you said “Passion speaks volumes”! It is so true. It is amazing how much difference a passionately written piece reads…it draws you in so much more that an article written because that is the topic of the day, or there is a deadline!
    I have been writing my travel blog for over a year now and still have loads to learn….but I learned one valuable lesson from the start…if you heart isn’t in it, the words are harder to find! I recently went to the NYTimes Travel show and met some of my fellow travel bloggers in person…what a passionate group. I thought I was nuts about travel, but put a group of us together, and wow – the excitement level goes up! I can see why you have had success putting together blogger promotions like Belgium and NSW – passion leads to inspiration…and in the competitive world of tourist dollars…inspiration is key!
    I wish I could have heard your talk in Girona…hopefully some other time! Maybe Toronto?

  4. Hey William! I heard you speak at SOMET12 in El Paso- great talk there and happy to see you on TBEX. I really liked the Flanders presentation, but remember hearing the Flanders representative say that out of the 100 bloggers, over 50 still had not blogged about the trip at all. Are you working with the tourism boards to get contracts with the bloggers and make it more of a business? With 50 bloggers not writing about it, did Flanders see the campaign as successful? Just wondering how to approach other tourism boards and make the campaign as successful as possible. Thanks!

  5. Thanks William for mentioning our algorithm. The website to it is: http://www.onlineroicalculator.com :)
    I agree that it’s very important to choose the right bloggers for your campaign and that’s what we do with our http://www.iambassador.net all the time and very successful. It makes no sense to get a wildlife blogger to cover London, even if that city seems a bit wild also sometimes. :)
    But what you have described is a normal method, which PR agencies did as well in the past by choosing the right journalist for a press trip. ;-)
    The AVE model for print media is a joke, as nobody knew how many people have seen your content. But we’ve included that very important factor. Now we’ve created a very good formula to calculate your ROI for online media (not just for bloggers). So far there is nothing similar in use I know off and nobody was able to tell me an amount of value I provided. Sure, our formula is not perfect and never will, but which one is? But we are already working on improving it and will keep on working on that.
    The title says “HOW CAN DESTINATIONS MEASURE THE VALUE OF TRAVEL BLOGGERS?” The ROI (Return of Investment), like our algorithm provides, is that kind of value. Choosing the right blogger gets you a good value, but doesn’t measure it.

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