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by Destinate News on 12.08.2015

In a previous column I wrote about the 101’s of digital marketing and working with online influencers, but earlier this year I was in Hamburg for the Social Travel Summit with the likes of Visit Britain, Emilia Romagna, Germany Tourism and Tourism Ireland, and I learnt a lot about how we should be talking to the industry about working with bloggers and online influencers.

What does working with bloggers entail and why is it important?

Working with bloggers can include inviting them to experience destinations and offerings in exchange for coverage on their blogs and social platforms. It is very unlikely that sending bloggers press releases will get your story published, but let them experience it for themselves and the value you receive in their sharing is priceless.

Today, bloggers are no different from traditional media and, not only are their online articles worth just as much as a print piece, they often provide added value in sharing their stories across their social media channels. Top international bloggers and influencers are professional and honest about their work with destinations, which in turn creates a level of trust in their followers. They come with a unique and engaged following, which brands often would not be able to reach without these partnerships. Online content creators engage with their readers and will publish quality content and images that resonate with their audience, who they know inside-out.

What was my most important outtake from #STSHamburg?

The industry needs a shift in mind set - away from thinking that hosting key media and professional online influencer’s in-destination are “freebies” and “comps”. These terms downplay the value and importance of storytelling and content creation through independent influencers.
If influencers are selected well and the guest relations programme is managed properly, it is a critical element of any destination marketing strategy.

How do WE change the perception of the industry?

Educating the industry brings with it an opportunity to move all of us towards a new way of thinking and even greater levels of creativity.
The Social Travel Summit brought to light that everyone working with online influencers on guest relations programmes deal with very similar issues, but everyone agreed that it is a crucial part of destination marketing.

The key is to start talking about media and blogger hostings in a more positive light, underlining the strategic importance of these kinds of partnerships and managing expectations around what the tourism business will gain in return for a hosting.

How can INFLUENCERS change the perception of the industry?

Top influencers know their audience and are great at what they do. They work at building relationships with DMO’s and companies they want to work with – they do not wait to be offered opportunities without a promise of coverage in return. They measure the success of their platforms regularly and are able to share their most up-to-date stats at the drop of a hat. 
By knowing their onions, working at those relationships and being able to prove their worth, influencers can help change the perception of the industry.

More interesting learnings from #STSHamburg…

Andrew Grill, Vice President of the Social Business at IBM said: “You do not tell people that you are influential. You become influential by what you do… Brands are slowly waking up to the fact that just because you have a ‘high score’ does not mean you are useful to an organisation. Don’t just look at the scores – look at what lies beyond... Look beyond the basic metrics. Big data combined with ‘social’ now becomes big business!”

True affinity results in trust, trust results in freedom, freedom results in love!

Collaboration is Key – the overall goal is “moving to merge”.

Education is Key – from audience figures to arming your influencer with the right information.

Change – is constant. Move with the times.

A campaign is successful when it becomes visible to local partners and makes the ordinary extraordinary – when it has the power to empower.