News & Views

The Rise of the Digital Influencers (& Three Things To Do About It!)

If you’re a destination publicist who is buried in pitching, you might be surprised to learn that trust in the media decreased globally to 51 percent in 2015 (Edelman Trust Barometer). While academics and experts remain the most trusted source of information about companies, trust in “a person like me” has increased significantly since 2009. This change in consumer perception has led many destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to expand their communications strategies to include collaboration with digital influencers, who are considered in the “people like me” category.

So how exactly are DMOs tackling the need to leverage digital influencers in order to share their stories?

1)      Hosting Influencers on Press Trips: Influencer relations, in its most basic form, means that DMOs are now including digital influencers on press trips. While joining traditional media and digital influencers on a single trip is efficient, there are challenges that may arise. While traditional journalists are busy taking notes, digital influencers are focused on capturing quick snapshots, tweeting and looking for pithy anecdotes that make for strong blog content. This can, at times, cause friction between traditional journalists and digital influencers, which is why public relations practitioners are beginning to conduct print-only and digital-only trips.

St Croix Digital Influencer Instagram

2)     Influencer Take-Overs: Collaborating with a digital influencer is more than an opportunity to reach a new audience.  Don’t forget about the skills that made this individual a digital influencer in the first place, such as her clever storytelling or his keen eye for photography.  To highlight the extraordinary landscapes of Yosemite National Park, Visit California partnered with Colby Brown to create inspiring and engaging photography, reaching his digital networks as well as staging a takeover of the Visit California Instagram account.  Many DMOs have invested time and effort into cultivating their own social following, and can maximize their partnership with a digital influencer by using his or her talents to engage their existing audiences.

 Visit CA Colby Brown IG Takeover


3)     Hosting Influencer Conferences: The increasing need for digital content has led many destinations to seek out and host conferences that target digital content creators. This has become a proven strategy for boosting a destination’s profile within a particular market segment.  For example, when family-friendly Carlsbad, California, a small coastal community in North San Diego, hosted the TMS Family Travel Conference, the thirty social media-savvy delegates propelled the destination to trend on Twitter for the first time ever with an estimated 89 million impressions. Those impressions resonated among female, family vacation decision makers, driving up inquiries in spring break and summer vacations.  That’s exposure that the small DMO could never have purchased.



Are you a DMO that’s leveraged digital influencers in some other way? We’d love to  hear about it.

Written By

Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is President of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

More Articles by Karyl Leigh Barnes

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