What if influencer marketing does nothing?

The Yelp Elite Party Kiss of Death

In Melbourne, online review platform Yelp holds parties to reward their elite users, freebies where their high performing members get to sample the wares of Melbourne’s restaurants. Yelp’s elite are their best users who are handpicked for the frequency and quality of their online reviews, Yelp’s unpaid labour that earns each elite member some degree of influence.

The parties are replicated by Yelp the world over and for businesses have the same basic premise: that having these influencers in your business will improve the business’s prospects on Yelp. There’s good data to suggest that in other markets, a change in average Yelp scores has a causal effect on the profits of a business, so in theory, it should work well for restaurants.

In Melbourne, it marks a restaurant for death.

Senoritas, Joe’s Cafe, Virginia Plain, Orto Kitchen and Garden all closed post their Yelp parties. Happy Palace changed from offering an “ironic”/racist take on Chinese food to a paint-by-numbers burger bar. I’d hardly say that the Yelp parties are causing the closures and the correlation may have to do with a restauranteur having reached a point where they’re willing to try anything to market their business. The problem is that they’re not changing the status quo nor giving restaurants a boost that ensures their long-term viability. The failure rate is probably close to industry average which would mean the long term impact of this form of influencer marketing on a restaurant is zero.

Influencer marketing for food and travel either does nothing or its impact is so marginal that almost any other form of marketing is vastly superior.

The best travel bloggers money can buy

Over the last four years, I was social media manager at a destination marketing organisation, Tourism Victoria. I was the person that upon whom every travel blogger pitch would eventually land. As a social media manager, every travel blogger that you see is up for sale. About a year in, based on a huge body of research and a few campaign successes, I decided not to support any influencer marketing at all. No more freebies from my pocket, and as much as I could, discouraging it from everyone else in the whole state.

Over that four year period, international arrivals grew by 7.8%, outpacing the Australian national average of 4.3%. Domestically, it was a similar story. It’s unlikely that the decision not to do influencer marketing caused this but it certainly didn’t hurt. It also meant that I could focus on things that had more easily measurable results.

There was an inevitable backlash from bloggers. I particularly like this post from Caz and Craig Makepeace, who after I refused to bankroll their family holiday to Wilsons Promontory complain that:

But why haven’t I, or almost everyone else I’ve spoken to from NSW and other states out of Victoria, been there or heard of it?

For one, Tourism Victoria does a crap job at promoting their state. That’s evidenced by the fact that we only planned on being in Victoria for one month because we thought the state would be boring besides Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road, and possibly Phillip Island.

Tourism Victoria were doing such a crap job that where they were planning on staying in Wilsons Promontory was fully booked when they arrived.

We were super-annoyed that we didn’t plan better and book ahead for accommodation. We just turned up expecting to get a camp site and pitch our tent.

But with Wilsons Prom being popular with Victorians we had no chance of getting a powered tent site.

I’ve paid attention to what other destination marketing organisations are doing. Room 753 in Queensland; where influencers were invited for a customised, all-expenses paid visit to the Gold Coast. They held the world’s biggest Instameet with a reach of 22 million which would be the equivalent of 10% of Instagram if it was reach to unique users. The Human Brochure campaign in ACT which invited hundreds of influencers to experience Canberra and frankly, I thought was a great campaign from a state with a small budget willing to back a big idea. At the other end of the scale is Thailand’s BFF mega famil, where 900 journalists, bloggers and travel industry types got the best international junket that a military dictatorship could buy.

It hasn’t shifted the underlying problems anywhere whether they be dated tourism infrastructure and experience, the underlying wrong perception that a destination is boring school excursion territory or beachside murders during the first military coup that looks to have worn off the teflon. I can’t find any destination that has shown a measurable improvement over the past 5 years as a result of giving away free travel to anybody with an above average social following.

Both ACT and Queensland have lagged behind the other Australian states for tourist arrivals and expenditure. The states that are more heavily invested in influencer marketing are going backwards roughly proportional to what they’re spending on it.

What if they all picked the wrong influencers?

In social media, there are no right influencers, insofar as somebody’s past performance is not predictive of their future performance and the most cost effective strategy is to target a massive number of average- or below average influencers(pdf) rather than cherrypicking from the top. This looks more like traditional mass marketing than influencer marketing.

But we got a lot of Likes

This is the end slide of every case study in social media influence in the travel industry. A number in the millions followed by a measure unique to a social media platform and a giant blue thumbs up. A reach the size of a medium sized nation-state. It’s rare to see a solid measure of effectiveness like sales, arrivals or even something vague but measurable like brand awareness or sentiment. It is straightforward to measure this with independent pre- and post-trip surveys of an influencer’s audience and thanks to Facebook and Twitter, it is cheap to target those audiences with a survey. But virtually nobody does.

Influencer marketing is a grand distraction for the tourism industry but at least it is one that seems mostly confined to industries that don’t traditionally hire people who study maths. There’s a reason that you don’t see many finance bloggers getting a free home loan. It is probably illegal.

24 Comments What if influencer marketing does nothing?

  1. Ed

    There’s more to it than that. The Yelp party is a one off and the places that aren’t busy do them more often than places that are packed out. The thing is marketing is like a tap. Turn it on and it works. Turn it off an it stops working. Doing one event doesn’t equal marketing. It’s a long term plan and commitment. You need constant engagement. Likes alone mean nothing. Each of those places that held Yelp parties also missed their market in the first place.

    Reply
  2. Stavros

    Hi Phil,
    Timely article. I’d like to know what influence the Tourism Oz knees up will have on Oz restaurants. A few years ago I went to a Yelp thingy at a CBD restaurant. Not one of the ppl I spoke to said they’d return if they had to pay.
    To my old school sensibilities, influence marketing just seems like a modern version of rent-a-crowd.
    An old boss of mine once said the people at the opening parties are rarely return customers.

    Reply
  3. pam

    I’ve theorized for a while now that the wrong voices are cheering for “influencer” marketing — they tend to be the influencer’s themselves, not the DMOs/CVBs/marketing team. A PR friend of mine says that as soon as someone uses the word “impressions” her bullshit meter goes off.

    Anyway, I’m wondering what you’d say YES to in social media marketing these days. What’s a social pitch that would make you say, “Tell me more…”?

    Reply
  4. Bret

    So, to paraphrase your story, you’re saying that ineffectively managed influencer marketing campaigns are ultimately ineffective? Gotcha. Perhaps the big problem is that too many DMOs are focused on influencer numbers rather than brand alignment and authoritative expertise within a niche. All too often, marketing strategy reeks of throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks rather than, as you say, “cherrypicking from the top” to get the BEST (rather than most popular) person for the job.

    Reply
  5. Chris @ One Weird Globe

    As a travel blogger who’s not yet made the leap into approaching DMO’s and the like, you present a fascinating thought experiment. Like all advertising methods, it behooves a marketer to experiment and figure out what’s working and what’s not. With that said, an experiment requires a static control – a thing that’s essentially impossible to replicate on the level of a nation or state. There are any number of reasons why Victoria’s growth outpaced the rest of Australia’s, the least of which is your marketing efforts, external factors, perceived or actual deals in the area vs. the rest of the country, and so on.

    Yelp’s program has its own incentives, naturally – places already doing well would likely balk at hosting dozens of people on their dime for some uncertain benefits. As you correctly mentioned, they end up with the ‘we’ll try anything once’ owners who are likely struggling and hoping for some star power. I’d hate to be part of the blogger group where the expectations are to turn around a failed program or to otherwise steer a ship heading the wrong way. That’s not our job, to put it bluntly, and our first responsibility is to our reader. If we’re not serving them, we’re not serving you, ourselves, or anyone else.

    For too many businesses, the case studies showing big numbers are what they want or need to see. 17,000 new likes! 1.8 million social media impressions! This helps a marketing manager justify their decision, earns them a pat on the back from their boss, and so on.

    I would ask, however, who’s at fault for the supposed lack of “easily measurable results”. Unlike, say, a billboard or newspaper ad, I can tell you (via Google Analytics) how many people have read the post, shared it, commented on it, and clicked through to a client’s website. I can tell you their ages, their genders, their locations, and perhaps their income levels in aggregate. I can compare stats for your post to the average for the blog to confirm they’re the same (or distinct) audiences.

    2015 will bring this concept of engagement into the mainstream – a quantifiable number of people that book the trip, make the call, or otherwise connect with a place in a meaningful way. Looking at engagement, a relatively niche blog such as my own (I focus on weird / offbeat destinations) not only competes with the Gary Arndt’s of the world, but ***might serve a place better***. The key remains matchmaking – connecting bloggers that reach the audience most likely to engage with the places specifically looking to receive them.

    Wow, that went on longer than expected. In any case, ‘influencer marketing’ *can* be measured. It has worked, and will continue to work for campaigns that select bloggers carefully.

    Reply
    1. Theodora

      You can also measure time on site, time on page and conversion, a highly relevant metric that seems largely ignored, particularly by those whose impressions come from Stumbleupon.

      Reply
  6. Nick

    Full disclosure: I work for Yelp.

    Yelp connects people with great local businesses, and our Elite Events are one of the ways we do this. As you noted, Yelp provides a huge benefit to small businesses and provides a two-way platform for consumers to share their experiences and for businesses to interact with their customers.

    In Melbourne, we have worked with over 100 businesses over the last three years (small local businesses of all sizes, not just restaurants) and many business owners have told us the great benefit they have got from events and the Yelp community as a whole. Here’s a few examples of great events and typical reviews of events and associated venues.
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/elite-event-can-yelp-will-travel-fitzroy
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/yelps-2nd-birthdaze-release-the-yeast-fitzroy?hrid=jLl2IzSMDskkV1JRFO6yNA

    I’d be happy to put you in touch with a few business owners if you’d like or to speak further if you’re interested.

    Reply
  7. Matt Gibson

    There have been some cases of measurably successful influencer campaigns. The best example is Quark Expeditions and the Planet D.

    Following their sponsored trip to Antarctica, Quark Expeditions gave The Planet D a coupon code for future expeditions to pass on to their readers.

    Their next expeditions sold out, and a large number of the sales used the coupon code.

    While brand recognition and overall visits are difficult — if not impossible — to correlate with influencer campaigns, it does not mean that they don’t work.

    Have you looked into the South Africa case? They’ve done several consecutive years of high profile influencer campaigns. I’d be interested to know how their international visitor numbers have changed over the same years.

    Reply
  8. Caroline Makepeace

    As we mentioned Phil, Wilsons Prom was popular with Victorians, and there are only limited campsites which is why it was booked out. Not because it’s well promoted. We stayed in Victoria for three months because we discovered many amazing places. We’d never ever heard of them promoted. I think that is poor from a tourism perspective, to have so many awesome places and not have them be promoted outside of Victoria. We’ve met plenty of people on the road who have said the same things about Victoria. Victorians themselves often express their disappointment to us as to how their state is poorly promoted.

    When we planned for our road trip around Australia we had a long list for every other state, but Victoria. That’s because the other states do a great job of letting you know the highlights. All we had about Victoria was Melbourne and Great Ocean Road, as it’s all we were aware of. And Bright because we’d been there before on the invitation from a friend. And when we arrived, I also exclaimed how have I never heard of this place? It’s now my favourite place in Australia. And I’d never heard of it before. I think this is poor.

    You imply that we had sour grapes because you did not “Bankroll” our trip? If we had such sour grapes why did we heavily promote the destination for 3 months? If we were sour I just would have said stuff it, I’m not going to promote anything. And we asked for assistance with itinerary and ground costs, not to bankroll our trip. We do a great job of marketing destinations, and we produce value so why can’t we ask for assistance.

    We even have a hub page for Victoria on our site. You can see it here
    http://www.ytravelblog.com/travel-destinations/australia/victoria/

    Something that is easily searchable and helps those who come to our site looking for information on Australian travel. We have hundreds of people who actually tell us they use our site as their planning tool
    How valuable is this to Tourism Victoria Phil?

    Really and you say we have sour grapes? Look in the mirror.

    Travel is not something that gives you instant ROI. People don’t make decisions to travel immediately- it can take years. So perhaps the results from the digital influence campaigns that the other tourism boards has not been felt yet. Perhaps they’ll have the stats to outplay Victoria in the coming years.

    Andrew McEvoy once told me that the impact from the Oprah visit to Australia would not be felt for ten years after it. The head of Tourism Australia also knew that ROI for travel is not an instant measurement and can take years for the full effect for it to come into fruition.

    I agree that measuring ROI based upon twitter impressions and instagram likes is not great. These are great channels to promote live photos of destinations to bring awareness, but I think it should form part of a campaign that involves articles online – what bloggers do. Instagram and Facebook doesn’t have the ability to give travellers the tips and the information they need to take their travels from dreaming to reality, so most of the followers stay in the dreaming phase, until the next photo of a cat distracts them. And of course they have no shelf life.

    So yes I agree with you to an extent there. I do believe there is some value, but perhaps not as much as is being invested in it. However, blogging is a different story. Bloggers can provide the current live inspiration via their social channels but they can also offer the tips and highlights via the articles they write online which are indexed for life and shared by many.

    Therefore when that person decides they do want to travel to a place after being inspired by following our journey they can easily search for it. That’s why we receive over 80,000 visits a month to our site via Google. The most heavily searched term being “Things to do in… ” We get 12,000 every month alone to a post Things to do in New York City. I’m sure New York is grateful for how we help influence travellers experience there.

    We also have over 150,000 visitors come to our site each month via Pinterest. The pins that bring them over the most are ones such as 33 things to do in Sydney, Great Ocean Road Highlights etc. Helpful, specific information about their travel destination.

    Our articles often get featured by National Geographic Online and Lonely Planet. I’m also now writing for Conde Nast and they published an article recently on Western Australia. I’ve also written for print magazines on Austrlaian destinations. Victoria was mentioned in one of them. I’ve also shared many of our stories and destination highlights on radio interviews.

    And we’re currently in The States to attend the first ever travel summit at the White House. Apparently they understand the influence of travel bloggers as the top ones in the world have been invited to discuss policies on working and studying abroad. We are the market and we speak directly to those who want to travel in the language they understand. We’re relatable and personable and have the experience so can best guide and inspire them.

    So you’re saying we don’t have any influence?

    I have a folder filled with screenshots of our community members telling us how much we have helped shaped their travel decisions. They come to us via twitter, FAcebook, Pinterest, Instagram and email. I get so many that I’m not even great at capturing all of them, but I file as many away as I can.

    We reguarly get stopped on the street by readers who recognise us thanking us for what we do and how much they love it. One family stopped to tell us that because of what we had written and shared about Tasmania, they travelled there for three months. What’s the ROI on this Phil? Another travelling couple who stopped us on the street said they went to Tasmania for a month. Several people have also told us they’re now going to Wilsons Prom and Bright because they’d never heard of it and it sounds amazing.

    We’ve just had an email from a reader in D.C so excited that we are coming over and wanting to meet us as we have inspired her to quit her job and go and live in New Zealand for a year. What kind of ROI would that be for New Zealand?

    These are just small random encounters telling us how much we have influenced their travel decisions. How many thousands more are silent, yet actively following our jourey and travel tips and so making decisions based upon that?

    It is difficult to measure the ROI of travel. How do you know how many people are travelling to a destination based upon where they found the inspiration and information to do it? I’m yet to find a tool that accurately measures it. But based upon what I’ve heard from the mouths of our readers, we’re doing a good job of helping them to travel more and will continue to do so.

    Tourism boards need to do a better job of working with the right influencers and running smart campaigns that tap into the power of blogs as a platform that drives traffic to the information travellers need to get off the couch and go explore.

    Reply
  9. eatnik

    I note your comments on the poor follow up data of influencer campaigns – do other forms of advertising and promotion suffer from this too? Or are people better at assessing the real impact of traditional television/newspaper/other campaigns?

    Reply
  10. Caroline Makepeace

    I’d also like to note the use of your language in this post and what you implied:

    “I refused to bankroll their family holiday to Wilsons Promontory”

    We still have the email correspondence Phil which actually goes like this.

    US: “We understand you had a brief chat with Nadine from the Remarkables Group about our upcoming road trip. We spoke with Nadine and we’d like to take the conversation up with you now directly about itinerary suggestions and any on the ground assistance Tourism Vic could possibly provide”

    Phil: “Sorry for not getting back to you quickly. I had a look at the project that you’re proposing, and it looks great – we can certainly help you get in touch with any tourism operators that you’d like to interview, and help out with itinerary planning, but I don’t have the budget to fund the project.
    Itinerary-wise, how long are you looking to spend in Victoria in November? ”

    US: Thanks for your reply. Yeah we know you have no budget, we were more just wanting to see if you could provide any assistance on the ground.

    Just finalizing our itinerary, but we plan to be in Melbourne for approx 10 days at start of Nov till the 11th. Want to take in the Melbourne Cup carnival. Then we go to Tassie for 6 weeks and then back to explore all of Victoria for about a month end of Dec and through January. Very keen to experience some of the Aussie tennis open as well.

    Places of interest would be Mornington Peninsula, Philip Island, Bright and Beechworth area, Grampians, Great Ocean Road, Daylesford etc. Open to other suggestions.

    Would appreciate your thoughts and any assistance or contacts.

    We didn’t hear anything from you after that. No mention of Wilsons Prom by us. No mention of requested bankrolling. And certainly no tone or words of “refusal.” Just a polite don’t have the budget, which is cool by us. Rejection is common in business. We’re fine with it as each one moves us closer to the more aligned yes.

    Reply
    1. The Guy

      I think it is good that the ACTUAL correspondence is showing here. We can now form our own judgements as to exactly how the conversation went.

      I think that you’ve cleared up the matter for us readers Caz and we now have the truth.

      I love your, Matt and Chris Backe’s response. I would certainly find it difficult to argue against such overwhelming evidence of the influences you guys have.

      Reply
    2. Steph

      If this is seriously how the communication went down then the author certainly owes YTravel Blog an apology for mischaracterizing their conversation. There are plenty of bloggers out there just looking for freebies but they aren’t among them. In fact, it appears they spent 3 months full-heartedly promoting your destination on their blog and social media at their own expense, which makes the freeloader accusations particularly galling.
      I do think there is a point buried in this article but it gets lost in the spiteful tone.

      Reply
  11. Gath

    Brave & very interesting post.

    I’m not sure that influencers have no effect on travel, though – more that their effect is probably proportional to the amount spent on them. Isn’t that one of the reasons that running a blogger campaign is popular is the relative cheapness compared to TV/Radio etc? Expecting an influencer campaign on 1/10th of a TV budget to have anywhere near the result is probably wishful thinking.

    If/when influencers prove that they get results (either individually or as a medium) then they will be asking for a lot more than a free trip.

    Reply
  12. Raymond

    Wow, looks like you really managed to piss off the blogger you mentioned! Honestly you both sound so personally offended and bitter that it sort of discredits what both of you guys are saying. Chill out and stop taking yourselves so seriously! :)

    Also, this is adorable: “We get 12,000 every month alone to a post Things to do in New York City. I’m sure New York is grateful for how we help influence travellers experience there.”

    Reply
  13. Erin (Travel With Bender)

    Hi Phil, it’s always refreshing to read a brutally honest opinion. That’s what I like about Aussies (we’re fellow Aussies too).

    As a both an experienced travel blogger and (even more) experienced marketer I’m fully aware of the current limitations within the industry as it’s still finding it’s feet.

    But to dismiss the impact travel blogging and influence marketing in general can have is simply narrow-minded and short-sighted. Trying to fit the “old media” methods around “new media” isn’t going to work. The way people book holidays today is vastly different than 10 years ago. The way people socialise with friends is vastly different than 10 years ago.

    Compare the ridiculous millions of dollars Australia spent on an international TV campaign about “where the hell are ya?” and the complete flop that was. I’m sure that was “measurable” in a traditional sense, but that doesn’t guarantee any more success than influencer marketing.

    To compare the growth of incoming tourism into Victoria with your (lack of) influence marketing is a meaningless correlation. It’s just as likely that plenty of cashed-up bogans from QLD and WA’s mining booms wanted to go further afield on holidays and Bali was too 3rd world for them. So they settled for Victoria.

    I’ve seen first-hand how many campaigns we’ve run for partners has generated more hotel books, tour bookings and enquiries simply because of our “influence”.

    Try searching Google for “what to eat in Greece” and you’ll find our site out-ranking Lonely Planet, Huffington Post and BBC. Can you imagine now an Australian family of 4 has more international influence on this topic than multi million/billion dollar companies. And you can access the influence of people like us for a small fraction of what it takes to share the influence of BBC and Huffington Post.

    That just makes smart economical sense to any DMO, hotel owner, or tour operator. Traditional media and traditional strategies will still have their place in the future, but their influence is very much waning.

    I admit that it can be harder work dealing with many different bloggers/influencers and they don’t all perform the same way or deliver the same results. But just be careful not to throw out the baby with the dirty water.

    Reply
  14. Erin

    Hi Phil, it’s always refreshing to read a brutally honest opinion. That’s what I like about Aussies (we’re fellow Aussies too).

    As a both an experienced travel blogger and (even more) experienced marketer I’m fully aware of the current limitations within the industry as it’s still finding it’s feet.

    But to dismiss the impact travel blogging and influence marketing in general can have is simply narrow-minded and short-sighted. Trying to fit the “old media” methods around “new media” isn’t going to work. The way people book holidays today is vastly different than 10 years ago. The way people socialise with friends is vastly different than 10 years ago.

    Compare the ridiculous millions of dollars Australia spent on an international TV campaign about “where the hell are ya?” and the complete flop that was. I’m sure that was “measurable” in a traditional sense, but that doesn’t guarantee any more success than influencer marketing.

    To compare the growth of incoming tourism into Victoria with your (lack of) influence marketing is a meaningless correlation. It’s just as likely that plenty of cashed-up bogans from QLD and WA’s mining booms wanted to go further afield on holidays and Bali was too 3rd world for them. So they settled for Victoria.

    I’ve seen first-hand how many campaigns we’ve run for partners has generated more hotel books, tour bookings and enquiries simply because of our “influence”.

    Try searching Google for “what to eat in Greece” and you’ll find our site out-ranking Lonely Planet, Huffington Post and BBC. Can you imagine now an Australian family of 4 has more international influence on this topic than multi million/billion dollar companies. And you can access the influence of people like us for a small fraction of what it takes to share the influence of BBC and Huffington Post.

    That just makes smart economical sense to any DMO, hotel owner, or tour operator. Traditional media and traditional strategies will still have their place in the future, but their influence is very much waning.

    I admit that it can be harder work dealing with many different bloggers/influencers and they don’t all perform the same way or deliver the same results. But just be careful not to throw out the baby with the dirty water.

    Reply
  15. Chris Christensen (Amateur Traveler/BloggerBridge)

    Phil,

    I don’t want to be one of those, “this guys is against travel bloggers therefore he is wrong” kind of voices. I think the call for using some math in all a destinations marketing is a good suggestion and I have been a big proponent of that approach. I just generally ask that a destination applies that math to all of their marketing equally.

    http://tourismmarketingconsulting.com/2013/08/29/how-much-is-the-attention-of-travelers-worth/

    I think there is as much a tendency for people who don’t use influencer marketing to justify their decision as there is for bloggers, who do clearly have a bias, to defend it. I also think that as the Yelp experience suggests, there are “influencers” and there are influencers. I would also agree that there are bad pitches from bloggers as well as bad programs from destinations.

    One thing I know for sure is that people keep telling me that what I do is influencing their travel:

    “…so I was thinking of a possible short haul flight when the episode on Luxembourg was broadcast. Not a place I had thought of but the enthusiasm of your guest motivated me to book a trip…”

    “Two years ago when Amateur Traveler had an episode on Iceland. Iceland had long been on my bucket list — stories of Vikings, rugged shores and volcanoes had been on and off my radar since I was a child. When I listened Episode 204, with guest Dave, I was inspired to learn more. Doing the usual research I do before a trip (some on-line, some with library books, always with at least one good travel guide in hand) Iceland soon moved to the top of my travel list. Within a few months I had booked a week’s travel in Iceland.”

    “I listened to Amateur Traveler episode #167- Travel to Israel, and the seeds of a journey were sown…”

    “I had been living in Ho Chi Minh City at the time, which was one of the most densely populated cities in the world; I was craving open space. I was fascinated with the herding, nomadic culture and that it was still actively practiced in such a modern world. Finally – I recalled hearing about the annual festival of on the [Mongolia] podcast. The culture of horse racing, archery, and wrestling fascinated me – I immediately had a desire to go experience it!”

    “Believe it or not, we had 3 (THREE!!) visitors in our museum yesterday because of your radio show [really a podcast]. One single traveler (who had it downloaded on his iphone and listened to it on the airplane) and a young couple from the US. All of the three loved the museum and your show and we really had big fun together. THANK YOU CHRIS – and thank you Vienna Tourism Board for connecting us !”

    Chris Christensen
    http://AmateurTraveler.com
    http://BloggerBridge.com

    Reply
  16. Darren

    I would love to see a breakdown of the percentage of an influential travel bloggers’ audience. I suspect, 70%+ of visitors will be travel industry, i.e. other bloggers. You only have to analyse their audience on social media to see this.

    Using an influential travel blogger to promote your destination only makes other bloggers aware that your destination is a great place to source a free trip.

    Give me hard evidence, that travel bloggers are influencing consumers, people like my parents, who are online, but, are searching for travel ideas. I bet you will find that very few true consumers have been inspired by a blogger.

    Reply
  17. pam

    Folks claim how great these initiatives are, and sure, okay, but the data points are missing.

    “Following their sponsored trip to Antarctica, Quark Expeditions gave The Planet D a coupon code for future expeditions to pass on to their readers.

    Their next expeditions sold out, and a large number of the sales used the coupon code. ”

    Where does this data come from? Is this Quark data? Did Quark do A/B testing to see if the same campaign would have worked without sending anyone? Did they release data saying that the sales came specifically from working with those particular bloggers? What, exactly, is “a large number of sales” compared and what percentage of those used the specific coupon code?

    Data.

    I’m not saying the statement is invalid, please don’t interpret my questions this way.

    What I’m saying is that in order for this statement — and others about efficacy — to be proven accurate, we need data from the DMO/tour operator/etc. Quark’s data is the stuff that would prove Phil wrong, not anecdotal evidence from the “influencer” advocate side.

    I didn’t get invited to the White House, by the way.

    Reply
    1. Matt Barker

      It’s unfortunate that these discussions become so adversarial when we could instead be focusing on fixing the relationship between brands/destinations and bloggers/influencers.

      There are many ways for the two to work together, in ways that are ethical, constructive *and* satisfy Pam’s absolutely correct assertions on data and ROI. It’s not rocket science, but it does take more work and creativity than just chucking money at sponsored trips/posts/whatever.

      More on this: http://www.tnooz.com/article/influencer-engagement-travel-right/ (discl. – I wrote it)

      Reply
  18. Rob

    One of my takeaways is… If you use influencers or influencer groups, pick influencers wisely… And determine how you will measure the impact.

    Reply
  19. Simon

    We had Yelp host an event when we opened but it wasn’t to gain page likes or more images on yelp etc, we just wanted to do something with Yelp as most of the staff use the app and it was good to beta test some of our food on some non professional critics. All in all it was a fun night and we see some of the yelpers on a regular basis over a year later.

    Reply

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