So you want to cast a wider net with your marketing efforts, getting your hotel or resort in front of as many engaged and interested potential customers as possible. You’ve checked all the boxes for the usual marketing channels, and you’re looking for something a little more social, more digital, more 21st century. Sounds like it may be time for your hotel to jump onto the travel blogging train.
As a property owner or operator, you’ve probably received messages from various travel bloggers over time asking to work with you. Or, maybe you’ve seen other hotels getting links and exposure on various private travel blogs. Well, it’s for good reason – travel bloggers can be massively influential in sending future business your way. It’s called “Influencer Marketing” for a reason. The best way to influence people to check your hotel or destination out is to meet them where they are, with a friendly voice they recognize and trust, and with Great Content (big buzzword these days) that educates, intrigues, and delights!
To risk overstating the obvious, good travel bloggers have a large built-in audience of people who are already interested in travel, and are at least at the aspirational phase of their travel research if they’re not actively looking for hotel or resort information on their already-decided destination. Additionally, these readers regularly check in with their favorite influential travel bloggers because they appreciate their unique voice and trust their opinions.
If you can get your business represented on one of these blogs with some genuinely valuable content to back it up, you will automatically be piggybacking on that very same appreciation and trust, with people who are already actively interested in travel. This is a deeply targeted marketing channel that you simply can’t afford to overlook anymore.
Oh, and anecdotally, travel bloggers tend to be some of the most business-friendly, approachable, and professional people we’ve worked with, which is just a nice little cherry on top of what is already a pretty appealing marketing sundae. If you’re ready to start working with influential travel bloggers to get your hotel even more recognition, first you’ll need to find the right bloggers to reach out to.
You can find travel bloggers in a number of places. Obviously, a quick Google search for something like “travel blogs” or “best travel bloggers 2016” should yield copious starting points. But while starting a business relationship via email is totally doable (not to mention common), you might consider meeting them in person at blogger expos or travel conferences. If you can make friends with some influential bloggers in real life, then obviously it’ll be that much easier for them to see the value of working with your property. Making a real human connection with them is a great way to start a professional relationship that has real staying power, providing returns for you over and over.
Colm Hanratty says on Trekksoft (full article linked at the end of this article): “There are lots of places to meet travel bloggers. These range from travel blogging conferences like TBEX, to travel trade shows like ITB Berlin.” While those are some great places to start, try looking online for others that may be closer to you.
Now, going to a conference or expo is obviously not feasible for every business. Another place to meet travel bloggers that feels more sociable and familiar than email is through social media. People are automatically a little warmer in a Twitter conversation or Facebook back and forth, since it’s so much less formal than email, and you can definitely build some great blogger relationships here. Says Hanratty: “Travel Twitter chats are another good place to meet [bloggers]. When you’ve figured out why you want to engage them, you’re going to need to meet them.” Some great Twitter chats include #RTWChat (Round the World Chat), #TTOT (Travel Talk on Twitter), and #LPChat (Lonely Planet Chat – yes, that Lonely Planet).
But as Hanratty mentions, before you go out to meet them, either over social media or in person, you’re going to want to figure out why you want to engage with them in the first place.
When you’re sizing up the value of a potential travel blogger to your business, you’ll want to make both quantitative as well as qualitative assessments. While they each have their own merits, and many marketers will probably be more familiar with one over the other, you’ll need both to truly get the most bang for your buck (or time, etc.).
As you can see, both qualitative and quantitative assessments are important. A great looking blog with decent engagement, variety, and consistent target demo and voice but not a lot of traffic is unlikely to send you many valuable customers. But a blog with tons of facebook followers and traffic won’t either, if it doesn’t have great user engagement or your brand doesn’t jibe with the readership.
When working with travel bloggers, keep in mind you will be working with writers who tend to move around for a living. Also, they are probably getting pitches and making deals with other hotels, resorts, travel destinations, tour guides, and travel gear manufacturers or retailers. Obviously, they are extremely busy. Setting and managing expectations – both yours and theirs – is therefore extremely important. Here’s how you do that.
Ah, now to the content part of this content marketing campaign guide. First, you should know this is just as much your responsibility as the travel blogger’s – in fact, even moreso! While they may be the “content producer” in this equation, you’re still going to want to direct the content as much as you can. Certain types of content require less direction on your part – for example, a simple review of your business. But if you want to create a helpful and informative post or something that highlights a specific element of your destination, you’ll want to conduct the content a little more than usual to make sure all your main concerns are addressed.
Make sure the content you and the blogger agree upon is “evergreen,” meaning it will have value beyond the days or weeks after it’s posted. Evergreen content is far more likely to be seen by readers well into the future, hopefully netting you consistent traffic over time. As an example, if you want to attract potential customers to the amazing local food in or around your hotel, the article “The Ten Tastiest Entrees to Try in [Locality]” would be better than “Restaurant A is Offering 10% Off their Entrees for Labor Day Weekend!” The former article will likely be just as relevant two months from now as it is today, while the latter isn’t much good to a reader after a clearly-defined point in time – though it may pull in more traffic within that restricted period, it won’t win out in the long run and will become functionally useless to your business.
You may want to consider “out-of-the-box” marketing options. Again, Colm Hanratty says: “Having a blogger write about your product is great, but it’s been done before thousands of times. Have a quick brainstorm with the blogger and see are there other ways you can collaborate. Maybe they could take control of your Instagram account for a day or maybe you could do a live Google Hangout with them? Whatever way you work with each other, try to think outside of the box.”
Or, look to bloggers like Drew Binsky, who is one of the many travel bloggers who are really blazing a trail – and finding success with – niche social platforms like Snapchat.
Now that you’ve done your research, started a conversation, and decided on a campaign scope, you and the travel blogger will need to settle on the sometimes unpleasant business of “cost.” But with a little care and knowledge, you should be able to come to a totally fair deal for both parties with minimal effort. So, what should you give and get in return for some great influential blog coverage?
Generally, this type of campaign comes down to two major archetypes: Press Trips and straight-up Advertising. “Press trips” are fairly unique to the travel sector, and entail your resort inviting an influential travel writer to enjoy a complimentary stay at your location in exchange for a review and some press. You are no doubt already familiar with this type of exchange. Straight-up advertising can be a little more convoluted though.
The first big tip here is you should NOT mention “buying” links right away, however you can talk somewhere down the road about how some travel bloggers do want “paid compensation” for their time, work, and opinion and you would be happy to oblige. Typically though, it’s a much better idea to allow the travel blogger to bring up whether or not payment is expected. Who knows, if you pitch an interesting enough idea, they may even give you some coverage for free.
As a general guideline, you can safely expect to pay for coverage if you are dictating what the influencer can or cannot say and what specifically to focus on. Additionally, you can expect to pay if you ask the blogger to do anything above and beyond standard write-up and posting (e.g., managing your Instagram account for a week or producing a video when the blogger typically just writes).
If you are offering the influencer a complimentary press visit to your business though, you may or may not need to pay; this depends entirely on the blogger, and then it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the extra cost. It often is, if you’re working with an influential blogger with a target demographic and tone that suits your destination. Many bloggers will cover your hotel for free, just for the opportunity to visit and provide some interesting and unique or exclusive content for their audience. Have something cool and new and exciting to offer, that you haven’t yet made available to the public? Pitch a market influencer on it and see if they’ll cover you!
Drew Binsky – @drewbinsky on Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook. Also on DrewBinsky.com