I don’t normally write about the back end and day-to-day duties of being a travel blogger (there are plenty of great sites for that) but I feel I have to speak up on the topic of working with a travel blogger and how to avoid the ones just looking for a free ride. While I was in Cape Town I was asked to speak at a South African Youth Travel Confederation meeting on the topic as many members have been burned working with a travel blogger in the past. I agreed to do so because A) Cape Town and South Africa are amazing and have been great to me and B) the freeloaders affect me as well.
Just the other day I got an email from a tour operator in Prague that wanted to work with me but had a bad experience working with a travel blogger in the past. This is becoming a familiar response and needs to stop. It’s not good for the tourism industry and certainly isn’t good for me.
With that I’m going to quickly go through what working with a travel blogger can do for your brand, how working with a travel blogger is getting a bad rap, how to work with the right blogger, and how to make the most of your investment.
What travel bloggers can do for your brand:
Good or bad, a travel blogger can create content for your brand. This creates material you can use to show how great your service is. In return it can help with your search engine optimization (SEO) – without getting too deep into that subject, the more content you have about your brand on the web the higher you can rank on Google which makes it easier for your company to be found online.
Blogging is a form of social media itself but working with an established travel blogger means you can utilize their audience on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as well. It is a form of publicity and can reach a lot of people if executed properly.
TripAdvisor is king when it comes to reviews but it is not very personal. Having an experience shared by someone real can go a long way, especially with a travel blogger that has a good following. Even if he or she doesn’t have a large reach you can still use that content to your advantage which I will get into shortly.
This all sounds great, right? Then why is there a black cloud forming around working with a travel blogger?
Where it’s going wrong
If you do a search on “How to Make Money with a Travel Blog” you will find many sites saying how easy it is. The top hits will promise free hotels, excursions, and flights – all you have to do is snap a few pictures and jot a few things down. Let me tell you, it is not that easy. Some of these posts are done by those trying to sell you on a program or ebook on the subject and has to lead to some misconceptions about travel bloggers and has made it a bad name to some in the travel industry.
Yes, anyone can do what I am doing but…
It’s almost embarrassing how long it takes me to complete a blog post. From writing the content to editing pictures and putting it all together in an attractive and presentable way, it is a lot of work. A lot. Add site maintenance (I have had a new website in the works for months now and cant get to it), staying on top of social media, and actually travelling – it’s a tough gig.
Now, this isn’t a “poor Shaun post” as I am well aware of the perks and am fortunate to receive them. What I am pissed about is the bad light that is cast on working with a travel blogger because of those that are just out for a free ride. Travel blogging is hard enough for those that are serious about it. The ones that are looking for a free ride are making it even more difficult.
With so many travel blogs out there how can you be sure you are working with the right one? Well…
Working with the right Travel Blogger
When you receive a request from a travel blogger or are considering using one the first thing you’re going to do is check out their site. Have a look around. Read some content and see if it would be a good fit for your brand. If they pitched you are they looking for an exchange of service, payment, or both? Paying for the service of a respectable travel blogger is becoming the norm and can ensure you are getting someone who is looking for more than just a handout. The saying “you get what you paid for” is valid in the blogging world too.
Next, take a look at their social media channels and see if they are active and can back up their claims. If the pitch did not include a media kit ask for one. An established blogger will have this readily available and can back up their claims (site traffic, social media numbers, etc) with it.
If you are still on the fence about working with this travel blogger ask for references or reach out to the brands they have worked with in the past. This again will weed out those looking for a free ride.
The above should give you a good idea of who you are working with but to ensure you won’t get burned let’s talk about how to make the most out of working with a travel blogger:
I have had my share of hotels offer a free stay without asking for anything in return. You would think this would be great for me but it creates a working relationship where there are no expectations – which is not good for either side. Instead, set expectations. ask how many tweets, Instagram pictures, and blog posts you will receive for your investment and when you will receive them. This does a couple of things – it sets a working relationship instead of one where the travel blogger does the bare minimum, it sets deliverables, and it may weed out those that may not be beneficial to your brand.
Another way to make the most of your experience working with a travel blogger is to get involved. This goes hand in hand with setting expectations as it continues that working relationship and ensures that deliverables are met. This means sharing the travel bloggers’ tweets and pictures while he or she is experiencing your service and making a big deal about the story they post afterwards. To take getting involved further you can create hashtags to work with or set up a giveaway or contest to promote the visit and coverage.
Use the Material
Even if the coverage the blogger creates doesn’t garner a lot of reaches, you still have that content. Use it. Share it on your social media and place a link on your website. If your website doesn’t have a place for it create a press or review page. It will get a lot of views. Personally, I don’t produce a lot of direct bookings through my site – something I don’t guarantee. What I do see is a lot of traffic coming in from sites I have done reviews for. This says that people going to the company’s website, whether through Tripadvisor or organically, and are clicking on the reviews to help them decide.
Let’s get to work
So that’s my quick overview of making the most of working with a travel blogger. Hopefully, that clears the air and helps those on the fence when thinking about working with a travel blogger.
Again the main points are:
- Content creation – it’s a valuable thing. Use it.
- Set expectations – this creates a professional working relationship upfront and weeds out the fakes.
- Get involved – this ensures deliverables are met and maximizes your investment.
If you have any follow-up questions you can always contact me!
What say you?
Have thoughts on Working with a Travel Blogger?
Bad experience or something positive?
Let’s hear it!
For more Travel Tips see HERE.
I hear you Shaun. Thanks for this.
Cheers Marshal. Thanks for the comment.
I can see how this is a pain for both sides. So many people these days are “travel bloggers” so how do you tell who is legit? I agree with you that it comes down to content and if you like the style the blogger writes.
Exactly Chad. I am no different…except I work my ass off!
Best of luck Shaun! I have enjoyed your adventures and reviews and live vicariously through them!
Thanks Sally! Love having you along for the ride!
Cheers Pat! I rely on working within the tourism industry so sharing this message would be great!
You couldn’t have said it better…..
Thanks Beena! Please share away. Would love to weed out the useless travel bloggers!
Great post, Shaun! I follow some “legit” travel bloggers. You can tell the difference when people are really working hard to create quality content, or just wanting freebies.
I am a blogger myself. I mostly write about family, but I also travel here and there with my family. I am lucky enough some places are offering me complimentary stays in exchange of a honest review. Although my specialty is not about traveling, I still do my best to write clear and detailed reviews. Not easy when you have a toddler interrupting you every 10 seconds, lol.
I will definitely share your post.
Cheers Anita! Thanks for the comment and the share!
Now attend to that toddler!
Thanks for posting this. Really good insight into what is a strange and wide open industry. Overall, very good advice for all of us.
Thanks! Hopefully the word gets around and the value is taken more seriously!
The real keeper with this article is the paragraph about expectations:
Agree on the deliverables. Blog post, how many word, how many tweets, how many instagram posts etc. When and where are they going to be shared.
I guess there should also be a paragraph about expectable returns on investment and what happens when they r absolutly not meet – on both sides 🙂
Interesting post with lots to think about, thanks!
I love the part about using the content even if it doesn’t get as much reach as you hoped for on the blogger’s site. Very relevant. I hope brands are reading this.