HOW TO WORK WITH TRAVEL BLOGGERS
A FEW SIMPLE GUIDELINES FOR DMO’S AND BRANDS TO FOLLOW WHEN WORKING WITH TRAVEL BLOGGERS & INFLUENCERS
July 25, 2016
Posted By: Kash Bhattacharya
This is not a comprehensive list but covers all the key areas you should look into when planning the blogger campaign. Welcome your feedback and thoughts so please share them in the comments below or by emailing me at: email@example.com
Clearly outline the social goals and content expectations of the campaign to the bloggers
The key deliverables of any blogger focused campaign from a blogger stand point is the blog content and secondly the social media expectations aka real-time storytelling aspect of your project.
You need to have a clear idea of what the overall deliverables are for the campaign and communicate that well in advance with each individual blogger.
Managing expectations is key in any kind of project and especially when it comes to influencer relationships. It sounds like common sense but it is amazing how many tourism boards or brands fail to specify clearly what is expected of bloggers when it comes to inviting them.
For example in a recent campaign with the Athens tourism board a group of 6 leading travel bloggers were asked to create content on their blogs and also on their social media channels using the #ThisismyAthens hashtag.
The bloggers were strongly encouraged in the briefing, wherever possible to interact with locals, both offline and online and ask them questions about the history, culture, food and traditions of the locations they visited.
Engaging and involving locals of Athens was a key deliverable of the campaign so this is something Toposophy made very clear in our list of blogger deliverables.
We also wanted to secure advance permission to use the blogger’s names and content on their owned social media platforms for the #ThisismyAthens campaign microsite on the agreement that Toposophy would credit and link directly to the blogger’s social media channels.
Again, common sense but seeking these permissions and being transparent, helps in building trust with the bloggers.
Quantifying the number of blog posts expected is important and also mentioning the minimum number of social media updates per day.
Guideline recommended (depending on which social media channels you are targeting) is at least 4 tweets a day, 1 Instagram and one Facebook post.
I have seen agencies asking for 5 Facebook posts, 5 Instagram posts and 5 Tweets a day. This is in my opinion is no longer destination marketing but asking the bloggers to spam their followers with content about your destination. The bloggers have often taken years to build up the trust of their followers so it is really important to respect that relationship and keep the expectations to a reasonable but defined minimum.
It is useful also to outline in your briefing to bloggers, the key headline figure for what would be seen as success for the campaign. While bloggers are not marketeers in the traditional sense, they understand the marketing needs and demands of DMO’s and will welcome you sharing information about your key campaign goals , the hard and soft objectives.
Again going back to the blog content, it would be good to specify the deadlines for delivering the content.
Having access to the internet from the moment the bloggers land at the airport…..( not until they reach their hotel) will be extremely important for the bloggers ability to tell the story of the destination effectively in real-time.
Ensuring bloggers stay connected at all times to the internet and giving them a mobile-WiFi device
Despite talking about this to numerous DMO’s and brands, it is amazing the number of times DMO’s forget to provide a mobile-wifi device or are unwilling to invest in a few. This is again a long term investment for the DMO, having these devices so it makes a huge difference having a few of these to hand out to bloggers with simcards. Also it is worthwhile having a few battery packs (10000 mah) to give to the bloggers to help charge their devices on the go. I have this but some bloggers may not have this so again worth thinking about this for current and future campaigns.
Sometimes, bloggers have unlocked phones : all they need is a sim ( I would need a micro-sim for my iPhone 6, so important to ask what kind of phone they have) and they maybe no need for a mobile-WiFi device. So this is something you should ask bloggers in your pre departure checklist.
Some bloggers may have their phones locked so best investing in a state of the art mobile WiFi device that offers 21.6 kbps download speeds and is 4G friendly. Huawei sells these and I would check the battery life on these.
Sometimes even if a tourism board remembers to offer a mobile-WiFi device , they don’t offer enough data. This leads nicely to our next recommendation.
What amount of data should we offer per blogger?
Again this depends on the social media campaign and goals.
We are now entering the world of live broadcast with Periscope and Facebook Live. So if you are encouraging bloggers to do a few Periscopes which again is a great tool for sharing the experience in real time, a ‘scope’ or Facebook Live chat can need about 1 GB of data for just a 15-20 minute live session. Based on a three-five day campaign to be on the safe side, I would make sure there is at least 10 GB of data available.
In that case, if data is unused, it can be used by the next blogger or for a future campaign.
Keeping the lines of communication open at all times
It is always great to have an open line of communication between the bloggers, the campaign managers at the DMO and partners on the ground: restaurants/transport providers/ tour operators who are welcoming the bloggers.
With this in mind, setup a closed Facebook group for the campaign which gives ‘room’ for the bloggers to talk about their experiences, ask questions, a place for local partners involved in the campaign to share tips , assist the bloggers and feel involved in the campaign. The Facebook group will also be the place where post campaign, bloggers share their articles which the group can then share on their personal FB pages.
Just as a back up, it would be great to create a list of the social media profiles of all the people involved in the campaigns. Starting with the social media coordinator at the tourism board, the bloggers handles and also all the hotels/guides/ tour operators/museums- everyone involved in the campaign.
Circulate this list to everyone in advance of the campaign so everyone can follow each other in advance and break the ice.
Curating the content of the bloggers in real-time
Again, a major failing of many blogger activated social media driven tourism marketing campaigns is the failure of the client to not curate the social media content of the bloggers in real-time.
Bloggers create, DMOs curate. If there is one line you remember me from this guide, let it be this line.
Bloggers have the ability to share the stories from the trip via a number of channels: Instagram/Twitter/Facebook and now you have Periscope/Snapchat/Facebook Live.
DMOs has to curate and share these stories in real-time on their own social media channels. You can use the social media content of the bloggers to start a conversation with your fans on Facebook or Twitter when the bloggers are in the destination. This is a crucial aspect of the campaign that must be addressed.
It is very frustrating when a tourism board spends a lot of money to invite me to promote their country, only to find them not sharing any of my content on their social channels.
By retweeting and commenting on a tweet whether it is a memorable meal or learning glassblowing in the glass museum- it amplifies the conversation to a bigger audience which in turn then gets more people involved into the conversation about the destination.
Plus it shows that the DMO is passionate about the bloggers involvement and again it reinforces the trust element. So don’t be passive. Curate. Curate. Curate the bloggers content in real-time.
Beside retweeting on Twitter, share images on Facebook page and re-share on your Instagram feed. I would also recommend using Storify to summarise the social media activity and stories from each day. This storify can then be published as a blog post.
Creating a ‘My destination according to locals’ document
To help bloggers prepare for their trip and give them a flavour of what to expect, it always great to give them a briefing document.
Besides including the itinerary, key things mentioned like contact details in case of an emergency, social media handles which we’ve discussed already have a section dedicated to tips based on the key themes of your campaign.
Crowdsource these tips from within your organisation. Crowdsource them from locals and partners involved in the campaign. Encourage them to share their tips with bloggers in advance of their arrival on their social media channels using the campaign hashtag. This again is a good way to engage, involve more people in your campaign.
Share with the bloggers the best places to eat street food, drink , party and also any cool, unusual facts and pieces of history about the city. This again is a great exercise for engaging locals and again gives the bloggers some really cool, unusual tips. If time and resources permit, we can divide these suggestions based on the key personas that the bloggers cover. This is what we did for the #ThisismyAthens campaign and the end product was a document with more than 100 tips. The city of Athens tourism board will use the tips and recommendations made by locals and partners for future campaigns with bloggers and journalists so this kind of exercise has long term value.
You can also add to this document, articles that were written about the destination based on previous campaigns. In fact, if possible, contact all the bloggers, journalists involved in previous campaigns and encourage them to share their old content using the hashtag before the campaign launch and also to offer suggestions and tips to the bloggers involved.
Make sure the document has practical things included like nearest pharmacy to the hostel/hotel where they are staying, English language website which give people information about the city plus essential apps to download to help plan their trip better.
Also if any bars or restaurants would like to invite bloggers for a meal or offer discounts: include this in the document.
Make sure this document is personalised and sent to each blogger in advance of their arrival.
The briefing document should have all the information, tips and advice that the blogger needs but depending on the blogger niche, each blogger may have a specific request or need for information. So again, it would be great to have someone dedicated within the tourism board who will be available most of the time to help plan or offer suggestions.
Helping plan the blogger itinerary
For the #ThisismyAthens campaign we offered a fixed amount for daily expenses of up to €50 a day that could be used by bloggers to cover meals (excluding drinks) and other incidental expenses, as long as they held onto receipts. This allowed the bloggers to be flexible in planning their daily itinerary and reduced the workload for the tourism board. Feedback I received from bloggers and based on my personal experience is that this is something bloggers will prefer this. This allows for more spontaneous travel and gives the bloggers more freedom to make the most out of their day. This is something worth considering when planning the individual itineraries.
As is standard practice when hosting journalists, it is also great to have a letter from the tourism board that explains the purpose of the trip and setting up access to all the key visitor attractions in advance, in case the individual blogger wishes to visit them.
I hope this posts covers key points. I think if you follow these guidelines you are definitely on the way to having a very successful blogger campaign.
Kash Bhattacharya Blogger outreach specialist, Toposophy and publisher, editor of BudgetTraveller.org