Part rant, part ‘come to Jesus moment’; you have been warned……
This may sound strange coming from me, but I am bored with social media. Not updates from friends and family, those I love. But I am bored with the artfully crafted, fluff that is passing for influencer marketing in travel. I am over it, both reading it and creating it.
I am craving posts from someone who is an expert on river cruising, telling me about a day that blew his mind. Or a luxury hotel expert sharing her latest great find. Or that delightful post from a first-time traveler, jet-lagged and hazy, marveling at their first taste of Paris. Those I love, but they are harder to find in the babble that is filling my feed. Will the cream of social media travel writing and marketing rise to the top? I think it already is and the shift from perfect post to interesting content is gaining speed.
I was going to title this “Confessions of a Former Travel Influencer”, so understand, I am a recovering influencer. I have ridden the wave from early adopter to prolific (some say obnoxious) poster to now taking a step back to figure out what’s next, for me and for the medium.
I never quite succeeded with the “themed” Instagram page….
Following the trends from Facebook to Instagram to Instagram Stories and so on, has been a full- time job. This has not been terribly intellectually challenging but instead, learning the tactical details of optimizing posts and exposure. And it has worked…sort of. I was able to get eyeballs on my posts; exposure that would never have been available to me. But over the past year, I have seen a shift in what is resonating and it is not the constant, perfectly crafted posts, but those that tell my followers something new and share something of value to a traveler.
Toxic Poppy Fields?
This shift has been aided by the deserved negative press surrounding influencers crushing poppy fields in California or lavender fields in France or worse those risking their lives for a viral shot. Over the past year, I have seen so many “Insta-worthy” sites, filled with influencers, changing clothes, applying makeup and taking 100s of shots while others wait in line. Suddenly, the spot that was once “viral” becomes toxic, to the travelers trying to experience it and to those who see the picture, for the 100th time, on social media.
It is no longer about gaming numbers, how many followers or how many likes you get. If you are using social to market travel, it is about getting the right potential client or past client to click on a link or to contact you directly. It is about inspiring travel, not inspiring other wannabe travel influencers.
These children inspire me to return to Ethiopia
The Almighty Algorithm….no more?
I have written articles about “Beating the Algorithm”, be it Facebook or Instagram. But in truth, all you want to do is attract the right client. Moreover, it is highly likely, if you are looking for the high net worth client, they are not responding to someone in couture clothing, with 1000s of likes and who posts religiously at the same optimum times daily. They are looking for information of value and a true personal connection to you. Standing artfully in front of a fresco in Pompeii may catch their eye, but if your post says “An old picture in Pompeii” or quotes Wikipedia, game over.
If, however you look a little hot and sweaty and show yourself with a crowd of people, then share that “This is why I always recommend Herculaneum to my clients, less visited, but some of the finest Roman frescos in the world,” you have won a valued follower/client.
Favorite Fresco in Herculaneum
Curate Your Content
If you are in the travel industry, obsess with showcasing your amazing talent and travel expertise. No influencer, even with tons of followers, can offer what you can.
When I post a good article, I know it, my audience knows it and it generates discussions. Whenever I struggle, compromise myself and post something just to post, my audience smells it, they know it is not me, not my voice. If I post 30 pictures because I cannot look at them objectively and decide which one or two really pop and tell the story I want them to tell, no one looks at them. Curate your content. Be you, be brutal and your audience will grow…or at least the ones that matter.
It’s a Long-Term Game
Sharing good content is a long-term game, not a matter of likes in 24 hours. If you are on social media to promote travel, be original, be you. You have worked to develop your expertise and it is Ok to show off. Not that you were upgraded to the Presidential Suite, but that you know the General Manager personally, and he/she will take care of your clients. Or that you know a hotel in Machu Picchu that is the world’s best-kept secret. Or for me, that I have been to Easter Island so often, I know the Moai by name and can introduce you to each and every one.
Instagram stories may be the vehicle du jour to get the most eyeballs and then clicks to your website, and you should use it, but that will change. Your expertise will continue to grow, and your content will always shine, regardless of the platform, numbers of likes or most recent trend. Establish your cred, show off your knowledge, show off your happy, messy face after walking 20,000 steps in Rome and finding the gelato you wanted. Social Media is your tool. Travel is your specialty. You need both to shine in today’s crowded world of marketing travel.
RIP Influencers, including me. Long live the travel expert.
Messy, unfiltered and wrinkled, but this, my friends is what I really look like on safari….happy.