Influencer marketing in the leisure and travel industry – Interview with travel blogger Matthias Derhake

This week we are excited to welcome Matthias Derhake, travel blogger, nature lover, enthusiast and adventure seeker as a guest author for our blog. In our interview he shares his thoughts and opinions on influencer marketing in the leisure and travel industry with us.

We first met Matthias at our second Travel Massive event this June where he gave a presentation on “International Travel destinations in Crisis: Can Germany benefit from the current Political Instability?”

We are truly grateful for the time he has taken to give us some great and useful advice on why and how to work with influencers.

 1. Can you please introduce yourself and your work?

Hi, I’m Matthias, travel blogger at TravelTelling – Stories of a Slow Traveler.

On my blog I broadcast travel stories and provide tips, insights as well as recommendations about slow and responsible traveling. My work includes reviewing related services and products and to work with tourism destinations (DMOs), accommodation as well as tourism service providers. Travel blogging is mainly about traveling and testing to finally create content and social media broadcasting.

2.  How and why did you become a travel blogger?

I did my Bachelors and Masters in Tourism Destination Management in The Netherlands. I fell in love with the travel and tourism industry, and was working in online-marketing and PR departments of travel agencies and tour operators within Europe. As I am a big fan of traveling off the beaten path and getting in contact with locals, I always felt the desire to inspire people about slow and sustainable travel. Two years ago I tried to find a synergy of my passion and my profession in order to do my own thing. So, I created TravelTelling plus I started offering consultancy services related to online-marketing, SEO, website optimization and blogger relations for tourism companies. I wrote a business plan, quit my job as an online marketing manager, took my savings and started working my ass off to realize my dream of working as a so called digital nomad.

3. How has the travel blogger scene changed/ developed over the last couple of years?

It has changed a lot! Back, let’s say five years ago, it was quite neatly arranged. Nowadays it is much easier to set up a blog and market it through social media. But because of that, it has also become much more difficult to stand out from the crowd. A blogger who blogs about budget travel for example has to be much more creative and good at what he does because he is not only sharing this niche with ten other bloggers anymore but with hundreds nowadays. What has changed too, I think is the motivation behind blogging. Whereby most people back in the days wanted to help others by giving tips, solving problems, inspiring and clarifying things, now it is also the commercialized aspect which has made it more mainstream. In my opinion in the end authentic travel bloggers who define their niche, want to help others and work professionally will be successful. The same goes for corporate blogs. With the increase of social media channels there is also the growing importance of video blogging and video producing nowadays. And finally, the increasing budget companies set for working with bloggers as well as the degree of professionalism relating to both sides working with each other has also changed.

4. How would you describe the influence of bloggers on the leisure and tourism industry?

It is mainly the result of a few bloggers who started travel blogging back in the day. Whereby it was very hard to approach a hotel to test it and write about it, today it is the hotel or marketing agencies approaching the bloggers. Even DMOs are working closely together with professional bloggers as part of their marketing campaigns. Why? Simply because bloggers provide something that is very difficult for companies to reach: Trust.

Because of the amount of free information accessible online and the growing mistrust towards commercial companies, today’s consumers especially Millenials are much more critical about their consumer behavior and demand trustworthy information which they search for on their own. I mean, common, who of you still trusts traditional advertisement?

Most travel bloggers would never recommend things they don’t believe in, haven’t tested or places they haven’t traveled to themselves. Which makes travel bloggers an authentic and therefore highly trustworthy source of information. Consumers identify with bloggers rather than with any fully commercialized service website.

5. Could you explain what influencer marketing is and how a company can benefit from it?

Influencer marketing is a marketing strategy that involves benefiting from the impact of opinion leaders and their reach. In this case an influencer can be a blogger, Youtuber , Instagramer and so on. A destination wanting to promote cycling and hiking tourism needs to look for new distribution channels. In this case, what would be suitable is professional travel bloggers who are blogging about this niche and therefore serving the right target market. A tour operator who offers community based tourism should look for a blogger who shares the same values and beliefs. Keep in mind that working with influencers can turn you as a company into an influencer yourself. It may not give you a high increase in sales from the beginning, but much more a trustworthy image which is the fundamental base and will be rewarded in the long term.

6. What are the advantages of influencer marketing for leisure and activity providers?

Consumers do not click on spammy ad-banners on websites anymore. Plus today’s newspaper with your little expensive print-ad will end up in the trash by tomorrow. Once you as a company have found your perfect influencer, it is mainly the communication and image creation through a trustful and authentic character to the right target group you benefit from. A travel blogger serves the right audience in the long term much more than any print ad could ever do nowadays. Bear in mind that millennials and/or blog readers are today’s and tomorrow’s consumers.

Most important here is that tourism is a service based industry. Thus, it is an experience, an intangible product which is sold. Experiences are best spread and sold by recommendations. Watching the blogger’s video about him or her doing a trip through Sri Lanka communicates the experience in the best, most suitable and most authentic way possible in today’s Experience Economy in which we live. Therefore, content in form of an article, images or video stays online and can be re-shared and will thus always be in “word of mouse”. It grows in reach by time but you only pay for it once. Wouldn’t you show this great video to your friends on your mobile phone?

7. What products or services are especially suitable to be promoted via influencer marketing?

In the USA travel bloggers are even becoming brand ambassadors nowadays. So, in the end it is not only the product or service but the company as a whole which needs to be worth recommending. I would never recommend a tour operator who does not employ local people on site or provides bad working conditions just to offer an unbeatable damn cheap price. So, in the travel industry it is especially gear, accommodation, activities, tours, travel websites, travel insurance, credit cards for travelers, miles and more programs, cameras, travel gadgets or technical devices like portable chargers for your camera, mobile phones etc. which are suitable to be promoted via influencer marketing.

8. Where can an interested leisure and activity provider find a travel blogger to cooperate with?

Organic search is the most important way to be found as people look for help in google first if they need information regarding travel services or products, too. Use keywords such as “best travel bloggers in Ireland” or “best backpacks for a trip through new Zealand” and see who pops up. Another method is to search for blogger databases such as iambassador, traveldudes, Blogger-Kodex, etc. or on blogposts on other blogs which talk about “the best”, or “favourite” travel bloggers i.e. this one.

9. How can someone recognize an unprofessional blogger?

That’s my favorite question. First of all it is always important to know that “what you pay is what you get”. So be prepared for that. Influencer marketing has its price.

Here is a check list to bear in mind when looking for quality and authentic travel blogs.

On the blog:

  • Check the “About” section
  • Check for contact details, privacy policy and up to date year in the footer
  • Check frequency of posting
  • Is there an extra page for PR and cooperation?
  • There should not be too many sponsored posts with do-follow links. These articles should be marked as advertisements.
  • Most articles should have so-called “no-follow links” instead and be written in an authentic style by the blogger. Recommended links in an article should link to helpful and trustworthy websites. Read two articles. Are they helpful or inspiring?
  • Check the number of social shares of an article and comments
  • Check the number of social media post likes, fans, and interaction rate

10. What is your special marketing tipp for leisure and activity providers?

If you are looking for bloggers to cooperate with approach them in an easy going but yet professional way. Consider long term relationships and keep in mind a blogger-trip is not a press trip. If you search for bloggers and see they have 25K followers on Instagram but a low like and comment rate, go for the ones with 5k and a relatively higher rate. Nowadays fans and followers can be easily bought. Don’t choose a blogger only because your competitor has chosen him or her. Look for your perfect match in order to make it a long term cooperation or even brand ambassador partnership.

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