This blog post was written for Development Counsellors International, view the original post here.
With a robust social following of nearly 280,000 followers across her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blog, 27-year-old Stephanie Buelna has taken the world by storm by visiting more than 200 destinations for her award-winning blog, TravelBreak.
As a digital nomad who is always on the move to her next destination, she receives a plethora of requests from destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to showcase their destination through her popular platforms. However, she says a successful partnership is based on much more than simply paying a content creator to post a picture on Instagram. Stephanie explains what she wishes DMOs knew about her, and digital influencer engagement more broadly, before they approach her for an influencer project:
1. In 120 characters or less, explain Travel Break?
TravelBreak is the bridge between my personal journey and professional agency.
2. How did you get started in the world of travel blogging?
I was traveling around the world while working remotely in marketing, I learned that travel blogging existed. I saw the potential and opportunity to use social media for business and to motivate others. Considering the digital nomad lifestyle was already my norm, I decided to do for myself what I was doing for my clients.
3. In today’s very content-saturated market, how do you differentiate yourself from other travel bloggers/influencers? Which type of content resonates best with your audience?
I’m just being myself. People want to connect with a real person. By being transparent and open, readers feel like they get to know me. However, “being myself” doesn’t mean there is no work. I produce high-quality content or don’t do it at all. My generation is spoiled by easy access to spectacular content. They may think a post took a few minutes, but I spend days on content. I’m very particular about my photos for Instagram, the graphics for my blog posts and the headlines for my articles. I believe in quality, not quantity. I also minimize the number of sponsored posts I do and work only with brands I align with. Holding content to a high standard but “keeping it real” is why people like my blog.
The content that resonates most with my audience involves beautiful pictures of nature and mentions the best hotels and restaurants. People are captured by photography but stick around for the details.
4. What do you wish destinations knew about you or your work before approaching you?
“Blogger” is a very ambiguous title. I’m a photographer, writer, speaker, on-camera talent and business developer.
I wish organizations would acknowledge the different roles of blogging and understand which type of content they need. I’m not just taking a selfie and posting it on social media, and I’m not a traditional journalist, either. When you hire a travel blogger, you’re paying for the photographer, the writer, the graphic design, the WordPress, the editors, the personality/expert endorsement and the advertising space. Managing and sharing content on each advertising channel is work, too.
Digital marketing campaigns are so much more affordable than an advertisement in a magazine. The best way to work together is for organizations to understand the services a blogger can and cannot provide and equipping the blogger with the right resources to promote the destination.
5. What do you consider a successful partnership with a DMO?
A partnership is successful when it’s a win for everyone, including our audience. Readers should learn about destinations that interest them the most. The publisher or content creator should have the experience that enables it to create high-quality, interesting content.
The DMO gets incredible content for its own channels and the publisher’s channels, and reaches people in its target demographic.
The best partnerships involve strong teams to cover all skill sets in content creation and distribution. This is the type of content that usually goes viral.
My most “successful” campaign included a local to show me around, a camera crew to capture us as talent and myself as a writer/photographer. The campaign wanted to promote Calgary but knew people already had interest in Banff, so we showed how travelers can visit Calgary when they visit Banff.
6. What makes a partnership opportunity with a DMO appealing to you?
My interest, or my audience’s interest, in the destination, or that it has a unique angle that hasn’t been done before.
7. How do you define your ROI as an influencer when working with partners?
- Quality of the content we capture
- Questions that people ask about the destination via Snapchat and Instagram stories
- Engagement on social posts
- Overall shares of blog posts
8. Fill in the blank:
I wish DMOs would create photography-based schedules and deliverable-based contracts when working with me as a digital influencer. It’s important to establish whether they really understand the value of influencer marketing and what they want out of the partnership.
9. Where do you think the future of digital influencer marketing is headed? What digital/industry trends are you most excited about?
I believe our industry will go through a wave. Everyone wants to be “Insta-famous” or “get paid to travel.” These people will work for free or work for travel because it’s not actually work for them.
They aren’t professionals on-site, nor do they provide professional deliverables. Businesses are then disappointed when they don’t get ROI on a “free trip” that still costs them money. Eventually, they’ll realize that a social media campaign is an advertising campaign, and they’ll hire professionals.
I’m excited for the wave of ambassador partnerships. I believe companies will start to partner with local, trusted content creators. It’s already happening in the fashion and beauty industry. Soon enough, DMOs will work with local content creators consistently, too.
10. What is one destination you would love to work with but haven’t yet had the opportunity?
Anywhere in Africa!