We had the pleasure of joining eTourism Summit’s virtual conference to chat all things influencer marketing. The title of the panel was: “Without booming tourism, is there any room or need for influencer marketing?”

The caption followed:
Everything you always knew about influencers has changed…or maybe not? How is coronavirus affecting travel influencers and destination marketing plans? The debate is on. For sure, we can all agree that overtourism is yesterday and that diversity is now, getting much needed attention in brand promotions everywhere.

The panel featured Lindsay Fruchtl, VP of Marketing, Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Andrew O’Connor, Associate Director, Content Marketing, Destination DC, our own, Jade Broadus, Vice President and Creative Director at Travel Mindset. The panel was moderated by Deborah Stone, Founder & President, Pineapple PR.

The panel felt more like a fun conversation where each panelist suggested ideas and creative workarounds in a very strange marketing year. Here are our top 10 take-aways as you plan for 2021:

1) Influencers Win Out vs. Traditional Media Outlets Right Now

An influencer is relatable in ways that traditional media outlets can’t provide. Especially now, people want to see someone like them experiencing this new world. How safe is it, what do the new safety precautions look like? Social Media, and short form video like IG Stories, can share these moments immediately and with your target audience. They want to feel like “if they can do it, I can do it.” Plus they have the immediate attention of their followers. With Expedia and other research firms finding travel bookings the highest ever for bookings less than 7 days out, that immediacy translates to filling hotel beds that same weekend vs not.

2) Recovery looks different depending on where you are in the country.

Everyone in the country is at a different stage of recovery- don’t compare your brand to another brand in other parts of the country. What works for Augusta might not work for DC and vice versa.

3) Your Drive Market should be your #1 Market for Beginning of 2021

Without international visitors and fly markets in flux, continue to think about how to reach your extended drive market in creative ways.

4) Relationships are Still the Most Important Thing

Have you reached out to your local influencers through email or DMs? Have you done a virtual happy hour to reconnect with extended drive market influencers. They are traveling right now and to keep them top of mind, remember to be a person and make them feel special. They’ll return the gesture with organic social shares. Think long-term, especially now that the future is so unknown, and build a true ambassador for your brand.

5) A Local Focus will be important for months to come and they will continue to help in recovery.

Think Local from your influencers to your restaurants, attractions, etc. Augusta did a great campaign by reaching out to their restaurants and small businesses and making little videos about each one. Now all the businesses are small local influencers and felt the love from the tourism board and on social media. Think creatively about how to give love to your local residents, business owners and influencers.

6) Continue to promote the safety of your destination or brand.

Utilize influencers to help spread your safety messaging and advocate for safety on your social posts. Visit Little Rock had posted a photo of a mom and daughter dining outdoors. The comments quickly went to one was wearing a mask and one was not – the influencer was able to jump in and provide context and love to Little Rock that made the commenters all say thanks. Little Rock didn’t have to engage in the discussion- the influencer was able to respectfully have their backs.

7) Utilize influencers to show how diverse and welcoming your destination is.

Before you reach out to a new influencer, make sure to do an audit of your current website and social channels. Are you already showing how diverse and welcoming you are? Do you share photos of POC or LGBTQA+ or Persons with Disabilities? Really look at your own channels before reaching out. Once you have, reach out with specific goals and things in mind that you think they’d love about your destination or brand. Get on a call and get to know them so you can make a tailored itinerary for them. Remember that people like to see themselves represented in a destination before they choose to go there.

8) Pick an influencer who brings more to the table than just one social channel.

Ideally they are a great photographer, videographer, or writer in addition to having an engaged audience on social media. Additionally look at what other communities or groups they are apart of and how you can leverage that. One influencer is apart of a huge mom’s group, how can you tap into that audience.

We know budgets are slashed so what else could your influencer do while in the destination or while at home creating their content. Could they write some guest blogs for your destination website? Could you host a take-over on your IG account? Could they repurpose some video footage for REELS? Lead a Facebook Live about their trip and answer questions of followers? The possibilities are endless- get creative!

9) Get creative with new ways to repurpose older influencer content.

Similar to the above, but if you can’t have influencers come to your destination right now think about how they could repurpose old content in a new way. Could that old IG story video be made into a REEL, could you do guest post from a writer about great day trip options, etc.

10) Try new things – your audience is very forgiving right now! 

Whether it’s REELS on Instagram or TikTok or the next unknown social platform, don’t be afraid to try something new. Partner with influencers to help you create new content especially if they’ve already tried it and understand the media.

Did you attend the virtual conference? What was your biggest take-away?