(Last updated on: 29/04/2022)
The term Travel Influencer is one that I hear a lot these days…. but what actually is a Travel Influencer and what does a Travel Influencer do for work? Well, a couple of years ago I did some academic research to find out more about this, and this is what I found out…
- What is a Travel Influencer?
- The Travel Influencer: A definition
- Travel Influencers rely on the concept of ‘E word of mouth’
- The importance of reference groups and relationships to Travel Influencers
- Am I a Travel Influencer?
- How to become a Travel Influencer
- Making money as a Travel Influencer
- What is a Travel Influencer- further reading
Travel Influencer. Fashion Influencer. Sports Influencer. Parenting Influencer. Gaming Influencer. Any other type of Influencer… they all essentially do the same thing!
Influencers. They’re everywhere nowadays, and they mean business. But what does it actually mean to be an ‘influencer’? Or more specifically- a Travel Influencer?
What is a Travel Influencer?
It has become trendy to be a ‘Travel Influencer’ or any other type of ‘Influencer’ in today’s society. You seemingly get to travel to a range of exotic destinations, take flawless photographs of yourself wearing fancy clothes and expensive make-up, stay in luxury accommodations for free, fly first class and still have a hefty sum of money in the bank. At least, that’s what some of the top travel influencers lead you to believe…
Many of us are chasing the influencer dream, only to end up disappointed and penniless at the end. But what does it take to succeed? What is a Travel Influencer?
The Travel Influencer: A definition
Well, it seems there is no formal definition of a Travel Influence. At least, not in an academic sense!
If you Google ‘what is a travel influencer’ you will be presented with a number of websites telling you anything but. The most helpful is this thread on Quora, which has a number of explanations presented by random contributors, none of which appear to be of any academic or industry stature.
Here are some of the comments:
‘A Travel Influencer generates quality content and post on high authority or high traffic website.’
‘Travel influencers can promote destinations, services, or products associated with travel by leveraging their social media influence.’
‘A Travel Influencer doesn’t have to have a huge following to be successful. But having the ability to engage with a sufficient number of people is a must. That said, the major role of a travel influencer is to help increase a brand’s profile and engagement. This is accomplished by publishing sponsored posts (either photos or video).’
‘As any other kind of influencer, Travel Influencers focus on creating content about travelling, tourism and culture for their blog or social media. They usually partner up with airlines, travel agencies, tour companies and local businesses on said destinations. Travel photography is also a big part of their content, which usually contains scenery, food or pictures of locals and traditions. Their purpose is to share a passion for travelling and to inspire others to go on their own adventures, or to follow their steps and discover pre-made journeys that they could also participate in.’
A couple of years ago I was sat at my desk whilst working as a University Lecturer (and part-time blogger) and I decided that it was about time that we had a bit more clarity about what a Travel Influencer actually is! And…. I actually wrote a research paper all about it. Now, I won’t bore you with all of the academic jargon and methodologies here, but I will give you a brief background of the literature that I reviewed in order to be able to define the term Travel Influencer.
From my perspective, it all comes down to two main aspects:
- Reference groups/relationships
Travel Influencers rely on the concept of ‘E word of mouth’
EWOM, short for e-word of mouth, is big business and it is an important part of a Travel Influencer’s job.
Didn’t like the airline you flew with last week? Name and shame them on Twitter. Had a fantastic time at the holiday resort in the Bahamas? Check in on Facebook and share all of your gorgeous holiday snaps with your friends online. Want to share some important information? Ask your favourite Travel Influencer!
Throughout human history, we have always shared news via word of mouth. This has become so much more powerful since we started doing it online. No longer are we limited to only our own social networks. We now have hashtags, interest groups and targeted advertising. The algorithms used by our social media platforms are designed to facilitate viral EWOM. You only have to look at how many shares, likes or comments a post has received to see that this is true.
The importance of reference groups and relationships to Travel Influencers
When I was studying the background of the Travel Influencer, I also looked at the concepts of reference groups and relationships.
EWOM is all good and well, but we don’t tend to pay attention to just anyone. We form virtual relationships with these so-called Travel Influencers. These might be one-way relationships, in that you feel that you know the person that you follow on Instagram or Tiktok very well, but in reality…. they don’t even know your name.
But that doesn’t matter.
Travel Influencers have facilitated the formation of a new type of ‘reference group’. The concept of a reference group has a long tradition in social history; it is used to understand how individuals identify with and form relationships with other individuals or groups. A common understanding of a reference group is where a group of people or a person has the ability to significantly influence the behaviour of other individuals. Reference groups can be family groups, friends, sporting associates or work colleagues, for example. They can also be a group of people with a shared interest.
In effect, a Travel Influencer acts as the ‘head’ of the social group. People look to him/her for advice and reviews about all things travel related, or simply to follow their activities or opinions. Whilst the Travel Influencer may not be familiar with all of his/her followers, *they* are very familiar with the influencer. This bond facilitates a level of trust, almost like a friendship. This level of trust is difficult to establish through traditional marketing mediums and is why more and more organisations are turning to influencers for their marketing efforts.
Am I a Travel Influencer?
Whilst the above gives a brief background into why examination of the concept of a Travel Influencer is important, it still doesn’t answer the question ‘what exactly is a Travel Influencer’.
In summary, a travel influencer is essentially a person(s) who promotes a product, service or company by distributing eWOM through their online digital channels and presence. These digital channels and presence come in the form of:
- organic/paid reach
- domain authority (trust flow etc)
- search engine optimisation (SEO)
To put it simply, a travel influencer can thus be defined as;
‘a person who has the ability to influence the behaviour or opinions of others within the area of travel and tourism’.
Interestingly, there is no prerequisite for any set number of followers, views, engagement rates etc, although it goes without saying that these metrics will play a role in how successful you are as an influencer. Quite simply, a Travel Influencer is a person who can influence others, on whatever scale that may be.
How to become a Travel Influencer
If you want to become a Travel Influencer there are a few things that you will have to master.
1- Travel Influencers need to be an expert in their field
You could be a general Travel Influencer or you could focus on a specific location (e.g. my friend who blogs at Peak District Kids) or you could have a specific focus, such as Travel Mad Mum who focusses on family travel or The Wise Travellers who focus on sustainable travel.
It doesn’t matter what your exact focus is, but if you want to gain respect from your followers you need to demonstrate that you know your stuff!
2- Travel Influencers need to be good at marketing
I used to hate marketing when I was at college, but ironically that is the industry that I have found myself in recently by becoming a ‘Travel Influencer’!
Travel Influencers will generally become a brand- often their brand is them- it is made up from their personality and viewpoints and by the things that they share.
Many Travel Influencers will work with brands and organisations, such as hotels, credit card companies, tourist boards etc who wish to promote their products and services- this is marketing!
3- Travel Influencers need to be patient
Becoming a Travel Influencer rarely happens overnight. Whether your main platform is your blog or social media (Tiktok, Instagram, YouTube etc), it takes time to build up a following.
Don’t fall for the ‘sub-for-sub’ trap- numbers are not the main things that is important as a Travel Influencer- instead it is how much influence you have. Brands want to pay people who can help them to enhance their own business, whether that is by selling more handbags or hotel rooms or by getting more traffic to their website- just because you have a lot of followers on Twitter, does not mean that any of those people are actually listening to what you have to say! Let your following build naturally and then the followers will be a much higher quality who are more engaged with the content that you produce.
4- Travel Influencers need to master social media (usually)
Being a Travel Influencer usually involves social media. But when social media is your job it is very different from when you might normally use it. No longer should you aimlessly swipe through Instagram stories or Tiktok videos, when you work in social media you need to analyse accounts, key terms, hashtags etc. You need to be strategic and plan what and when you post strategically.
Working in social media actually requires a lot more work than many people realise. It is for this reason that most Travel Influencers will choose what is their main social media account and focus mainly on that. This is because being a YouTuber and an Instagrammer and a Tiktoker (is that what they are called?) and everything else is extremely hard work! It is generally best to do one thing amazingly well than to do lots of things to a mediocre standard.
Making money as a Travel Influencer
Whilst some people will choose to become a travel influencer as a hobby, many will look to monetise their influencing methods. This is something that I have also been looking into in recent months and it seems that it can be a very competitive business! This post- Travel Influencer income: How much can I earn per month? gives you an idea of average income earned amongst influencers, along with the range of salaries as identified in my research.
If you’re looking for specific methods of monetising your influencer business I highly recommend you take a course and learn from some of the best. I have had this blog since 2011 (wow, where have the years gone!?), but I find that I still learn new things about blogging and influencing all the time! I have recently signed up for two courses, which have been super helpful in helping me identify suitable monetising strategies and increasing my blog traffic.
Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging
The first course is Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging. This is a comprehensive course that walks you through all of the stages of turning your blog into a successful business. This is a ten-week programme that is perfect for beginners and more established bloggers (like me). Matt provides lots of details about his course with student reviews etc here- Superstar Blogging.
Ready Set Blog for Traffic
I have also been working my way through Elna’s course called Ready Set Blog for Traffic. This is a shorter (and cheaper!) course with a totally different focus. It addresses the two main areas of SEO (search engine optimisation) and Pinterest. When I started my blog back in 2011 SEO wasn’t really a thing and until recently I had never dabbled with Pinterest. I have since found that these are two fantastic ways of driving traffic to your website and I have doubled my traffic in the past few weeks since starting her course! It is pretty generic so suitable for any type of influencer, whatever your niche. You can read more about her course here- Ready Set Blog Traffic.
The Psychology of Persuasion
My final recommendation is the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. This gives an excellent overview of the methods that you can use to influence and is highly recommended amongst many successful influencers! You can find the book on Amazon here.
Not only do you need to make sure that you have the right techniques and skills (which you can learn in the courses named above) you might also need to invest in a few things to begin with. Travel influencers who are successful in monetising their blogs do need to invest in their business (if you plan to make money from your blog then you are essentially turning it into a business- Neil Patel’s article is super helpful if you want to know more about this). Common things that influencers spend money on include:
- a good hosting provider (I use Dreamhost, who I love)
- a high quality theme (Studio Press is really popular and reasonably priced)
- social media scheduling programmes such as Buffer or Tailwind (click here for a free trial on Tailwind)
- editing programmes such as Grammarly
As you will see in my research report, 84% of respondents stated that they would classify themselves as a Travel Influencer, with a significant 10% being unsure. This in itself indicated to me that there is an uncertainty in the air about what a Travel Influencer actually is – hence the need for me to research it!
What do you think of my definition? How would you define an ‘Influencer’? I’d love to hear your comments- drop them below!
What is a Travel Influencer- further reading
If you enjoyed this article explaining what is a Travel Influencer, I am sure that you will find these articles really helpful too-