Destination marketing needs to get more creative – are bloggers the answer?
“We’ve known for a couple of years now that the traditional booking funnel in the travel industry is getting outdated”. Debbie Hindle, managing director of Four bgb (a company that specialises in travel and tourism PR) speaks from years of experience.
“The standard concept of push-marking, where providing information leads to interest, then desire and then action, is something from the beginning of the 20th century. It doesn’t work like that anymore. So marketing needs to get more creative. And working with bloggers is a great way to do just that.”
At the WTM (World Travel Market) in London last week, special sessions were organised by TBU (Travel Bloggers Unite) to inform companies, PR and DMO’s about the possibilities of working with bloggers -and to teach bloggers to become more professional, because it seems they will (and already do) play an important part in destination and brand marketing.
It’s All About Engaging… And Content
Debbie Hindle continues to explain why marketing has changed so much over the years: “Nowadays, consumers build relationships with brands and brands return the conversation. It’s all about sharing. People want to be engaged and they also share with others in every face of the booking process.”
So marketing needs to be (more) creative to keep attracting costumers, even if they go ‘showrooming’ (browsing in a shop, then buying online). Companies have to start thinking: ‘why should people listen to us?’ And one of the key elements to this new approach, is that content (text, photo, video, etc.) is now a first priority.
“Traditional Marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content marketing is showing the world that you are one.” – Robert Rose
How Travel Bloggers Impact the Booking Funnel
Travel bloggers are of great value, according to Debbie, as they already talk to potential customers of companies. They already have a specific niche and demographic they communicate with. Selected for the right campaigns, they can create amazing and relevant content.
Showing examples of the Exodus #feelmorealive and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines #SVGLiming campaigns, Debbie shows how bloggers can work on creating content pre– (a Facebook homepage takeover by the campaign, contests…), during– (live instagramming on a #hashtag wall…) and after a campaign (blog posts, image galleries, video content, additional content for the tourism board…).
Professionalising the Blogging Industry
As travel bloggers organise themselves more and more in professional associations, it gets easier for Marketing/PR to find the right blogger for their campaigns as well.
“Bloggers can bring travel destinations alive, as they use their own content and their own world to show new travellers what they too can experience”
How Bloggers Change Consumer Booking Decisions
Keith Jenkins (Velvet Escape, iambassador) adds that not only do travel bloggers share their experience, they become niche experts that create interaction and built trust over time.
And that trust is vital to give readers a nudge to want that same experience. That’s when inspiration leads to a reaction (like booking the same tour/accommodation) and that’s when bloggers change consumers’ booking decisions.
Now we can clearly see that we’re not talking about a booking funnel anymore, but more about a cycle as this happens all the time. Bloggers often get feedback or questions on their travel experiences. For example, when Keith posted a photo on Facebook about a new product (Icefloating in Lapland), he got 2250 views to that image, and the company selling the product received 4 bookings within the next week.
Another advantage of a blog, is that not only the bloggers, but also their readers get to comment in public. And this feedback will be read by other future trip planners.
Successful Blogging Campaigns
During one of last year’s most successful blogger campaigns, Blogville in Emiliana Romagna, Italy, host Nicholas Montemaggi let bloggers free in their choice of activities, bringing a standard blogger press trip to epic heights.
The bloggers explored the region and the rest of Italy on their own pace, being provided with a home base, a survival kit of local products and WiFi. The response the bloggers got from their readers was overwhelming. Emails to the tourism board of people that wanted the exact experience, people that changed their itineraries to visit the region and even coverage in traditional media as international newspapers and TV-shows.
Finding The Right Travel Blogger for Your Brand
“When qualifying the right blogger to work with, it’s important to identify your key message first”, says David Arcifa (Social Media Manager of MSC Cruises). He recommends bloggers and companies to meet face to face (for example at events) first, and to both look for possibilities that give a win-win partnership. Think about what your campaign is doing for the long term, too.
Ross Borden (CEO of Matador Network) also advises companies, PR and DMO’s to use bloggers as it’s good for storytelling. “It keeps your company message natural and you’ll get great content.” But, as David said, a good partnership will only occur if you have clear what you’re trying to accomplish. You’ll need a solid content strategy.
Claudia Saleh (blogger at Aprendiz de Viajante and founder of RBBV, the Brazilian Travel Blogger Network), adds that companies often don’t realize how valuable the content bloggers produce is: it stays online for a very long time. Her advise is to target niche bloggers, that are the right fit to your brand.
Should Bloggers Get Paid (On Top Of A Free Trip)?
This question is one of the hot topics at the moment and I was a bit surprised that the panel showed a little bit reluctant to taking a firm standpoint on this matter.
They did mention bloggers can offer many services that can be paid for, such as extra photos for the tourism board, a video (series), social media consulting and translated content, among other things, but I strongly feel that when you select the right blogger for your brand and when that blogger proves to be of great value to you (and that doesn’t only mean create loads of additional content –or have a high number of following (as we all know nowadays all numbers can be bought and some bloggers do…), but rather a more niche market and highly engaged readers), that value should be worth something to begin with. A free trip does not pay bills and valuable content should be paid accordingly from the marketing budget.
A great example that the panel did mention and I think links back to what Keith talked about earlier, was a blogger (Clare from Need Another Holiday) that once wrote about a hotel in Liverpool that was so centrally located, she named it ‘high heel approved’. When she only had about 70 followers on Facebook, she managed to sell a bed the next week. Now that is proving the value of a travel blogger (directly changing consumer booking decisions) right there, doesn’t it?
Top Tips For Working With Bloggers
The panel answered some great questions from the audience during the session, and I would like to share with you some of the top tips they gave for working with bloggers:
- Look Close To Home – There are always bloggers in your city/country, so you don’t always have to fly people in. Start reading other blogs and check social media to see who is around! And also check which blogger is already writing the content about the products you are selling for a great match.
- Start Small – If you organise a trip for bloggers to come and visit your destination / try your product, start small (1-5 people), not with a big group.
- Avoid Group Itineraries – Don’t over plan a trip. Let bloggers wander around and they will find great moments, instead of create packaged content. Bloggers are authentic and they have their own brand too – use that advantage!
- Set Your Objectives – What story do you want to tell? What is your Social Media strategy? Be curious and create new story angles.
- Communicate – Bloggers are always keen to talk to you to brainstorm about ideas for future campaigns, and they are also non-competitive. If you’re looking for a blogger on a specific topic and they know someone, they will tell you!
It seems bloggers have a fair bit of influence and we’ve only just started taking
advantage of the immense possibilities this creates for the marketing world. If you have any comments or questions about working with bloggers, I’ll be happy to answer you!