9 Criteria for Getting Invited on Travel Blog Trips

 

In his first guest post for the TBEX blog, William Bakker of Think! Social Media talked about the challenges of measuring the value bloggers bring to DMOs. In the second part of this two-part guest post, William talks about the nine things he and his Think! colleagues look at when evaluating bloggers they’re considering for invitations on press trips.


Creative commons photo by influenZia via Flickr

Creative commons photo by influenZia via Flickr

Right now, blog trips and bloggers hosted by a Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) are still a bit of a novelty. I expect an explosion of travel bloggers in the near future as existing bloggers realise the benefits a blog trip can offer while new travel bloggers want to join the club.

DMOs need a way to sort through all these requests. We’re not big fans of a one-size-fits-all approach to measuring the value of bloggers but like to match bloggers based on a DMO’s specific marketing goals. We also recommend that our clients take a pro-active approach to bloggers by inviting the ones with the best fit instead of a reactive one by waiting for requests to come in.

We have a good relationship with dozens of bloggers and a database with hundreds more. We have 9 criteria to select bloggers for blog trips and other campaigns, which are outlined in detail below. When developing social media strategies we recommend that our DMO clients also use these criteria to manage individual blogger requests.

1) Value to the blogger

I mention this one first, because if there’s no value for the blogger then there’s no use in working together. A blog trip or campaign needs to be a win/win situation. We’ve learned that it’s important that the DMO and blogger know each other’s expectations. Sometimes a blog trip might not work out for a variety of reasons. And that’s okay. But it’s better to set out the realities and expectations on both sides ahead of time.

2) Reach; the size of the audience

This is an important metric, but not as important as you might think – at least, not to us. We would rather work with a blogger who has a smaller audience and a higher influence. A blogger with 2,000 Twitter followers may be of more value than one with 50,000 if those 2,000 people are passionate, engaged and are likely to be influenced by the person they follow.

We use tools like Compete.com, Quantcast and Alexa to get an indication, or ask the blogger for data. We will also look at Twitter followers, Facebook likes, and other statistics. For bloggers, it’s a good idea to have this info handy as DMOs will ask for this.

3) Audience demographics

This criteria includes things like what language you blog in and what countries your readers are from, their age, education, income, etc. We’re not that interested in where the blogger comes from because their audience might come from a completely different place.

We will use Quantcast and sometimes other tools for this, although a lot of blogs don’t have enough traffic for these tools to provide valuable metrics. We sometimes ask bloggers, but we have had to make assumptions at times.

4) Influence in a niche

This one is more important to us than reach. We’re looking for people who are an authority in a subject matter. That’s the power of the Internet – there’s a community for every passion. It’s safe to assume that a wine blogger has an audience interested in wine. If we’re working with a destination that is seeking to leverage its wine products or experiences, we will pick a wine blogger with a small audience over a general travel blogger with a larger audience in most cases.

In order to determine influence, we look at things including comments on a blog (volume and types of comments) and how the blogger interacts with her/his audience. Why? It’s that personal connection that makes a blogger unique and influential. And we will also look at repeat visitation to the blog. This is an indicator of how loyal an audience is and therefore the influence the blogger has.

What we sometimes observe is that bloggers with a large audience lose the personal connection with their readers. Their blog becomes more like a traditional publication online. That’s to be expected and not necessarily a bad thing, it just changes the types of initiatives we will invite them for, and the approach we take. They may be better suited for a traditional press trip.

5) Connection to other influencers

This one is closely related to #4. Blogging is social. We believe that a blog trip or a blog campaign’s value doesn’t just come from the value as a result of the produced content, but also from the personal connections created. A blogger with a lot of connections to other influencers is more desirable as that means there’s a better chance that their messages are then amplified or retweeted by other influences. A good relationship with one blogger can also lead to a referral to another. We often ask other bloggers for suggestions about other writers.

6) Quality and style of writing, photography and/or video

This one speaks for itself. We prefer blogs with quality content. And sometimes one blogger’s style fits better with a particular destination brand than another. And it doesn’t mean that we look for moderate bloggers only, by the way. We seek honesty and transparency, otherwise a message won’t be credible. The blogger at TBEX who writes critical posts just to make PR people uncomfortable would probably not be invited, though (see #9). Often, quality trumps reach and influence.

7) Speed of communication

We don’t have a specific preference. It varies from initiative to initiative. Most of the time, a blog trip is designed to create a lot of social content right away, and speed is important. Other times, it won’t matter too much if it takes a few weeks for us to see a post (months is pushing it). The longer it takes, the more the details and energy are lost. Plus, the copy ends up looking more like it belongs in a traditional publication.

8) Use of technology and tools

Does the blogger tweet, Instagram, or post to fan pages during the trip? This is obviously helpful.

And it also varies. If we’re working on a campaign where we want a lot of content in the moment, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are important. In some cases, they’re not.

Sometimes we look for quality, influence, and reach for a specific tool or network. We invited a big Instagrammer to Flanders, for example. The Costa Brava even hosted an Instagram trip.

9) Personality

Is this blogger easy to work with?

We will happily sacrifice reach or influence for a nice person when we’re hosting a group of bloggers. Personality type tells us something about the bloggers’ relationship with their readers, and that’s important in social media. Other factors including professionalism and attentiveness are equally important. If it takes weeks for somebody to reply to an email, or if they don’t follow practical instructions we get worried. We often check references as well by calling another DMO the blogger has worked with.


We have good results using our criteria above. In the future we hope to build out our database so we can be a good matchmaker between bloggers and the tourism industry that delivers benefits for both.


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’m just getting started in travel blogging and this is all really helpful… Doing these blog trips for DMOs sounds cool, but was honestly never even on my radar. These criteria just seem useful for being a good travel blogger in general. Definitely going to take this to heart as I start my travel project… especially the one about influencing a niche!

  2. Great Ideas, thanks a lot for these cool hints.
    My own travel blog is in german language, but there are also many companies in Germany who would like to sponsor trips. I’m looking forward to use your hints in the near future.

  3. Thank you for the tips. When I was in print media I was invited on some awesome art media trips. I started my
    Blog in June, 2012, and you just gave me the best idea for a new category on my blog. I ‘ve been formalizing an art walk in Denver, l’m on it now. Great info and inspiration for me.

  4. Getting invited on blog trips wasn’t even something I considered possible at this point in my very young blogging career. After reading this post, my doubts have been confirmed: I’ve got a lot to work on, especially when it comes to social media.

  5. I only started blogging end September 2012 as a hobby. After joining some of the Travel blogger’s groups, I learned about blogger trips and much more. For now I have decided to just keep blogging as a hobby and enjoy my travel photos again 🙂 I think my blog is to new to be considered for any of this anyhow but would for sure be great once I reach the stage that I would be invited for these kind of trips.

  6. Looking forward to the next series of TBEX guest posts, as I found this article very useful and informative.

  7. Awesome tips. I’ve already been on my first cpl press trips but hopefully now using these tips I’ll be able to get even more. Thanks! 🙂

  8. Interesting post William. Thank you. I think I’ve got a few of the points covered. My question is: how do they find the relevant blogs among all the travel blogs out there?

  9. Awesome post. I agree, i’ts so important to actually understand the value of a blog before even approaching the blogger. I’ve also found that social interaction is a really reliable factor in terms of ensuring that the blogger is authoritative in their niche and people care about their shares, retweets, and that their voice is actually heard.

  10. This is really helpful & interesting. Thanks!

  11. MERCI for this comprehensive list to use as a barometer for striving to continually improve my blog! The Travel Blog Trips sound great, and I look forward to hearing you speak at the Dublin conference. See you there!

  12. Wow, I never actually knew how destination bloggers were selected. I was beginning to think it was age and looks! 😀 Good to know I shouldn’t take it personally and just keep at it. Thanks for the tips!

  13. Thanks for the inside view. I’ve been sponsored for a few trips, long before blogging was invented.

  14. Some great advice. I’ll definitely keep this tips in mind so that I can become a valued blogger for potential press trips

  15. So useful, especially to know it’s not about the size of your audience as much as how engaged your readers are. And really agree about the blogging network and being social, I’m loving using my blog to meet likeminded people and share insights. Thanks.

  16. Thanks for the tips! I am just starting to think about moving towards press trips and this was a really helpful read!

  17. As I am just starting travel blogging, I found these tips extremely useful and I was particularly motivated to know that a blogger with a small but engaged audience is as valuable as a big established travel blog. I hope in 2015 I can get to do my first blog trip!

  18. Really interesting my blog is about Thai food and I also do food educational holiday trips for bloggers and companies. This would be a good add on for me. Any ideas of anyone to contact?

    • Mary Jo Manzanares says:

      If you come to TBEX you will have an opportunity to meet and mingle with other bloggers, as well as network with potential hosts.

  19. I was wondering if anyone would invite a travel blogger just like that for a press trip. Now I know what all things are going behind this process. I will keep them in mind for my future post. Thank you for these great, insider information.

  20. Great info, really. Thank you! I’ve recently decided to take my blog seriously and am hoping to be on a professional level in the next year.. This advice is appreciated. Thank you.

Trackbacks

  1. […] This post was first published as a guest post on the TBEX blog. […]

  2. […] Not to mention, bloggers with smaller, more loyal audiences can trump the bigger blogs every day of the week, at least in terms of interaction. Traffic is not the only determining factor in whether or not your blog is reaching your targeted demographic; it’s also important to look at the level of interaction, sales percentages, click-throughs and beyond. A perfect example of what I’m talking about can be found at the official TBEX Blog, with a guest post written by William Bakker of Think! Social Media, talking about the 9 Criteria for Getting Invited on a Travel Blog Trip. […]

  3. […] Bakker: Personality evaluation is key when DMOs are planning blog trips. If a blogger has an ego, say no.  Note: For more of William’s thoughts on selecting bloggers check out his guest blog for Travel Blog Exchange. […]

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