Sparking Recovery with Digital Influencers

February 04, 2021
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Digital influencers can do more than promote your destination. They can promote how to visit in this new normal. They are powerful allies, and we’ve touted their benefits time and again.

It’s a new horizon for some destinations who have never engaged with influencers, and, especially during the pandemic, it’s increasingly difficult to know what’s best practice and what’s not. If journalists aren’t attending press trips, then how can we expect influencers to travel for their work?

Fortunately, as we enter recovery, we can start thinking of ways to approach influencers to create healthier, more beneficial relationships with them going forward. We already started this conversation a few months ago, but it’s time to take a second look, especially as destinations look to ways to spend their CARES Act funding to promote safe travel. Creating best practice now means your destination will be ready to play the game more fully once the travel industry is back on its feet.

Influence safely
When forming relationships, make sure your influencers are ready to embrace the safety standards that your destination puts forth. The very idea that influencers travel during the pandemic is a question in and of itself, with some receiving criticism for doing so.

So if there are influencers pushing out social media posts that are promoting your destination, make sure they are adhering to your safety guidelines. The last thing you need is a headline about a social media influencer traveling without a mask, attending some illicit party in your destination. Influencing is now not just about promoting a destination, but promoting how to visit it.

It’s the classic scientific principle of monkey see, monkey, do. Make sure they are seeing the right thing in the first place! It’s even working in the efforts to get people to take the vaccine, so there are still many lessons to learn.

Look locally
When universities started hiring their own students to work as safety influencers for campuses, the innovation was not lost on us. The relationships that influencers build with their audiences are important and personal, even if they are spread across thousands of people. Tapping into that to promote safe travel as the pandemic continues is key – and a great way to utilize CARES Act funding that you may be receiving.

But with restrictions on traveling, destinations should look locally – like the universities – to find local talent who can play the role of social media influencers, tapping into their local audiences. Is it a long-term solution? Of course not, but with so much up in the air and so many things changing daily, you can at least count on your local citizens to be there to support your destination – even if it’s just promoting it to the local market.

Quality over quantity will come into play here, especially until restrictions are more fully eased.

Create equitable contracts
We said it once and we’ll say it again. Treat influencers seriously. As our research into influencers during the onset of COVID-19 shows, it was all too easy for destinations to drop travel influencers and end contracts. There was no security built in, no reassurance, no long-game being played. Influencers need more.

Start thinking about other ways influencers can work with you more holistically, to not just share photos and videos but to contribute to other areas. Maybe they can double as photographers. Maybe they can create marketing content. Maybe they can work as ambassadors at events. There are plenty of avenues to consider. We’ll help guide you if you’re curious to hear more.

Include them virtually
With virtual press trips and FAM trips becoming normalized, be sure to include influencers in them as well. Maybe it’s a more abbreviated sample of local experiences. Maybe it’s a visit through the eyes of a younger resident instead of a more traditional press trip with stakeholders. You have a lot of leeway to get creative and play with the concept because, for the most part, the industry hasn’t dealt with these sorts of FAM trips before.

We are seeing an increasing appetite for virtual trips and a need for new content, and global rises in COVID-19 are making them even more appealing. While influencers can’t use these virtual FAMs for their usual content, it can lay some groundwork or start conversations that will be beneficial for everyone once travel resumes as before.

Diversify and Go Niche 
This could be the moment to look at influencers to identify those who speak to audiences you may not normally attract. Or maybe you do attract them but don’t know how to reach them. Influencers can help.

Not all influencers are affluent Gen-Z or millennial travelers who seem to not have a care in the world. On the contrary, influencers – the ones we want for you – are passionate about topics from sustainability and food to budget traveling and wellness experiences. Some take a sexier approach to influencing, which is fine, but to engage real travelers who will come and experience your destination, think niche.

People want to see themselves reflected in destinations and niche influencers can help. Start by identifying someone who works in promoting destinations for disabled travelers to collaborate. And then continue to look at Black influencers, or LGBTQ+ influencers, or family influencers. Think of an influencer as their own magazine for these specific groups. They know how to tap into what these consumers want, and connecting them with your destination will be powerful.

This approach will create long-term success by engaging audiences you may never have truly tapped into before.

As we settle in for a winter that will look very different from what we expected, we don’t need to sit around and twiddle our thumbs. Sharing positive stories and keeping people dreaming about destinations is still very much in the cards and influencers are a creative hand that we can play. Like all of us, they are adapting, but reaching out to them and learning what they can do for your destination is the first step.

Interested in experimenting with influencers for the first time, or enhancing your current influencer program that may have stalled during the pandemic? There are a lot of balls in the air, but DCI has 60 years of experience juggling and our recent work with influencers has set the bar for destination marketing. Get in touch with Daniella Middleton at [email protected] to learn more about how we can make your influencer strategy shine during this prolonged recovery phase.