At last year’s Annual Convention in Las Vegas, DMAI launched the inaugural Media Influencers Rally. The idea was to bring together some of today’s most influential traditional journalists, social media influencers and photojournalists at the largest annual gathering of destination marketers in the country.
At the 2015 event in Austin, we are looking to build off of last year’s success and help DMOs build relationships with travel influencers who can build content and reach for their destinations. This year we working with event sponsor Matador Network, the world’s largest independent travel publisher and creators of exceptional destination content like Visit California’s Dream Big campaign, to bring in the best influencers in the business and create education to take your content marketing to the next level.
The Matador Team stopped by to give 7 best practices for working with influencers that will help you prepare for the event.
Strong performance from social influencers has become a key to successful campaigns and driving massive brand awareness. That said, many brands and teams fumble—or don’t fully understand—the process of working with influencers.
Nearly all problems come from having a limited mindset, viewing influencers (and content producers in general) through the one-directional lens of, “How do we get the most value out of this person?”
A more constructive approach is, “How can our team set up a campaign to ensure the influencer creates the most value?” And then from there: “How can we parlay the great performance of a campaign into ongoing, long-term relationships with influencers?”
Remember that within any given vertical, social influencers—especially at the highest level—are a small and typically interconnected group of people. Which means: Your reputation—how you treat influencers, how well organized your team is, how efficiently you run campaigns—all of this gets around. You want to be known as a brand or team that “gets it.”
Influencers love nothing more than to perform well—to crush it—delivering content that blows up the brand and their following. Here are 7 best practices to make sure this happens:
1. Be prepared to pay, and plan in advance.
Your budget and lead time should reflect the reach of the influencer you wish to work with. At Matador we break this down to four tiers:
- Tier 4: <50K followers. There are many people who have between 10 and 50 thousand followers. They are eager for work, and relatively easy to book.
- Tier 3: 50K-250K. When an influencer’s reach expands beyond 100K they become more difficult to book; most will require a cash budget beyond the trip itself. At this level, storytelling / content-production expertise on the subject is the most crucial metric.
- Tier 2: 250K-500K. Influencers with followings this large are booked months in advance so timing is key.
- Tier 1: >500K. Top-level influencers. There aren't very many of them and all require cash budgets and lots of notice to book as they typically get dozens of requests every month. They are most interested in trips that provide exclusive access to special places, events, interview subjects, etc.
2. Numbers aren't everything.
Within each of these tiers, there’s still more digging that has to be done. An influencer’s reach has less to do with raw numbers than the level of engagement of those followers around the influencer’s work. Pay close attention to the number of likes/comments an influencer has on specific posts versus how many “followers” they have.
3. Match the editorial vision of the content to the influencer’s strengths.
Influencers are specialists. They usually do one thing—be it Instagramming, documentary filmmaking, landscape or lifestyle photography, etc.—better than everyone else. Don’t assume however that this means they’re good (or even capable) at other kinds of storytelling. It may be tempting to send an adventure-athlete influencer to represent your brand / produce content at a festival or some other event just because of their following / availability, but this doesn’t mean it’s the right match.
And even if you think you have the right match, your creative / editorial team will still likely have their work cut out for them in helping package, edit, and/or otherwise modify the influencer’s content to best fit your/your client’s brand. Prepare ahead of time by collaborating on the vision for the project as early as you can with conversations between the editorial or production team and influencer.
4. Avoid fixed itineraries.
Influencers are leaders by definition and dislike being on a strict/fixed itineraries or standard “press trips.” Invest time up front with them before the trip to collaborate on the itinerary and planning, allowing them to incorporate their interests and audience. Avoid large groups and over-packed itineraries! What influencers want most is free time to explore at their own pace: This always results in stronger media / storytelling than anything else.
5. Allow and encourage them to bring a companion.
Most of the influencers we work with are much more willing to take on a project if they can bring a companion. This means more fun, which translates into authenticity that shows up in the media. It also helps for the practical reason of having a built in model/subject to shoot.
6. Influencers (and their audiences) love to see and do things that are not available to the general public.
Examples: Being allowed to shoot a site before or after normal hours, backstage passes and VIP access to events. Work with local organizers / handlers, etc. to provide a perspective that is out of the ordinary.
7. Work well in advance.
Most influencers are very busy; getting them lined up at the last minute will be challenging. Starting at least 60 days in advance is a safe estimate for least time, and has as many details as possible on hand about the project when you approach them.