How to work with Scotland Travel Bloggers
I have been a Scotland travel blogger since 2013. The travel industry worldwide has changed considerably in that time as the race to embrace digital as the way to go has taken it in a very determined direction. Despite the obvious realisation that more needs to be done at local and national levels, however, I’m continually encountering confusion and trepidation around the area of travel blogging. I do talks, webinars and more to tackle this but big gaps still exist. Here’s my go at attempting to tackle some of my FAQs on being a Scotland travel blogger.
What is a travel blogger?
Travel bloggers are those very odd people that travel relentlessly for work purposes. They write about their experiences, they take photos and videos, they provide promotion and reviews for their readers and they are addictively passionate about their line of work. The modern-day version of more traditional travel writers and journalists to a degree, they are required at the top levels to be skilled with social media, search marketing and industry (or niche) knowledge. They often have academic and/or practical backgrounds in marketing, languages or photography but may also simply be hugely enamoured with the subject they write about. In Scotland, most you’ll encounter are hobbyists doing this for fun – or as a part time job even – but there’s a very small handful that do this as a full-time job too.
What value does a travel blogger actually bring?
Content A fairly obvious one. They will deliver high quality text and visual content (photography, videography, even aerial imagery) for their own sites and platforms – and potentially client sites as well if this is agreed upon. This can help show businesses/destinations/activities in the strongest possible light.
Social A strong travel blogger simply has to bring a large and engaged social media following with them. By working with them you will have access to that following. As long as you have a clear connection with that following they are likely to have an interest in your brand/cause/business as it has been presented to them by a relevant, trusted and knowledgable source (the blogger). My own following now exceeds 50,000 across 7 platforms but, more importantly, my content is generally very well received and trusted – and therefore triggers high engagement. All sorts of (increasingly embarrassing) tactics are deployed to exaggerate audience size so the top bloggers will always encourage you to choose wisely and don’t be fooled by nice-sounding numbers. Use tools like Social Blade to help you identify the chancers.
Search Everyone wants to do well with the search engines as that allows them to bring in highly relevant visitors to their websites. One of the key ways of doing this is to work with bloggers who can – at least in part – help to pass the value of their websites on to your own. Search Engine Optimisation is a complex area that has many, many requirements in order to be done right. But a backlink from a top blogger’s website (NB not every website’s links are of equal value, making your choice of blogger essential here) can be a huge digital asset and the more valuable backlinks you receive from other websites, the higher your own chance of doing well on the search engines.
Brand Leading bloggers understand branding and will have a recognisable style and approach to the work that they do. By sharing their brand with you, it’s a chance to tap into not just their audience but the brand image that they have created.
Knowledge and Experience In the case of Scotland-specific travel bloggers, the best will know the industry well and will have worked with the biggest brands and organisations already. Having those contacts and the experience of knowing what works and what doesn’t makes them hugely valuable tools to boost your own marketing efforts. Read more here about why I do what I do in the country I love.
More about what I personally can bring (in terms of numbers anyway, which aren’t everything) you can read my Media Kit.
What do bloggers want out of partnerships/relationships/press trips?
This has to be the most common question we receive. Do we get paid? In a word the answer is yes – we have appetites, mortgages and bills the same as anyone else. The level of skill and promotional value that a good blogger can bring is more than most traditional media can aspire to so it only makes sense that this will require an investment. How much depends on the blogger’s rates, the time required from them and the circumstances of any project. Again, bear in mind that hobbyists may differ in their financial requirements but the age-old rule about getting what you pay for holds true in blogging circles as well.
Personally I don’t necessarily always charge a fee and – in the case of charities and small business start ups for example – there’s always some flexibility for helping to highlight the right project/cause. But it has to be relevant to my audience. The idea that labour intensive campaigns – primarily for partner organisation’s benefit, as is generally the case – could be done without any sort of financial recompense though is hugely disrespectful to the expertise of the professional that’s been approached.
With that in mind, I’d differentiate bloggers’ offerings into three areas:
Reviews – classic blogger reviews of hotels, restaurants etc that I would personally never charge a fee for. I think that defeats the whole idea and purpose. A blogger is invited as a guest (bearing in mind they may have travel expenses) to sample a product offering. What they produce is entirely up to them and what they believe will benefit their audience.
Sponsored posts – A blogger produces an article or imagery or video, paid for by a client. It’s up to the blogger whether to provide such content but the client can expect direct promotion in return for their investment. Legally, sponsored posts are required to be disclosed to blogger audiences. For me, I am absolutely not the kind of blogger who is interested in taking selfies with products unless they are precisely relevant to my natural content. Even then this is very rare. The ‘selfies in return for lots of free stuff’ generally applies to the hobbyists and is more commonly seen in the fashion industries, although it’s creeping into travel as well.
Social media/search engine campaigns – intensive, defined promotion with a blogger. Linking up with their audience, tapping into their brand and benefitting from their digital expertise. Of course this would come with a cost.
Content production – bringing in a blogger to produce content for your use (and potentially exclusive ownership). Many bloggers, myself included, also operate as freelance writers on occasion. Again, expect to pay for this as you would for any other marketing service.
Other Blogger Considerations
Deliverables – as bloggers, this is a common pet peeve. We frequently receive vague approaches that do not stipulate what is really desired from working with us. The feeling we often get is that everyone wants to work with bloggers but don’t really know why. Approaching bloggers in advance with a clear idea and desired outcomes helps us know whether a. we can actually help you; b. what kind of investment we’ll require and c. how we can prove to you that your requirements were met afterwards.
Ethics – every blogger has their own business so will choose their own path but most bloggers, myself included, will only ever endorse destinations, brands or businesses that they see as genuinely good. If I have a terrible experience at a hotel, restaurant or destination I absolutely will not promote it. So there’s a slight element of risk there when working with us in that most serious bloggers will retain autonomy when it comes to what they write about on their own sites. To not do so would risk being disingenuous to our readers.
Relevance – the best bloggers, particularly niche bloggers, only want to review and experience things that are relevant and of likely interest to their readers. Being Scotland-focussed it’s fairly obvious that Scotland-themed projects are the ones for me. My leanings towards the outdoors, history and whisky are likely to be particularly interesting. It’s important to respect what a blogger is all about before approaching them. We are inundated with proposals every single day – unfortunately only a small percentage of these are of any actual relevance to our chosen areas of expertise and most go straight in the bin as a result.
Instagrammers vs Bloggers vs Influencers?
As I mentioned, blogging has evolved. All sorts of off-shoots have popped up in recent times, loosly grouped together under the catch-all ‘content creation’. Instagram has been the principal driver of this as, thanks to its unfortunate algorithm, it initially created thousands of overnight influencers by giving them massive digital followings. But while Instagram is a useful marketing tool, it has pretty obvious limitations and, after an initial flurry of buzz in 2017 and 2018, the bubble has burst leaving many of these new influencers struggling to justify the investment that their inflated follower numbers initially suggested they’d be capable of repaying. Instagram realised they’d made a right mess of things and threw their algorithm into reverse to now (since 2018) make it almost impossible to organically grow (followers or reach) on their platform. Vast marketing budgets have been squandered as a result.
Due to its inability to effectively handle links, Instagram has an almost negligible impact on your Search Marketing efforts. Unlike Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and most of the rest….Instagram is purely about time-limited social impact. It is, therefore, much more difficult to measure return on investment from an Instagram campaign compared with from visitors who have arrived on your site via Google. Liking nice pictures does not correspond to sales unfortunately – despite what some of the chancers on Instagram may have you believe.
That’s not to say Instagram is useless now, it certainly isn’t – I’m very active on it myself and you can follow me if you like. But, in reality, bloggers already are active on Instagram so, as a marketing consultant myself, I would advise working with blogging ‘influencers’ over the Instagram equivalent. The former have their own high-traffic websites and are active across all social media platforms, the latter rely entirely on what has become a bit of a one-trick-pony platform.
How do I know which travel bloggers to work with?
That’s largely up to you and your needs but ask some basic questions. Do you like their writing? Is their photography any good? Are they experienced? Do they have some personality and a strong brand that could compliment yours? Does their blog feel like a business or a hobby?
I would always suggest working with those that have all of the above skills I’ve laid out and that you have a real connection with. Deomographics of audience are a consideration too. Those that do well on the likes of Instagram and Snapchat are likely to resonate more with a proportionally younger audience. Those that do a lot on YouTube and video platforms are likely to be very brand focussed. Twitter’s always been great for networks. And so on.
Social media remains a quick way of gauging how big an impact working with any particular travel blogger is likely to bring. Big followings are important but at least as important as that is whether their audience is constantly growing (even slowly) and also the level of engagement that bloggers receive. In the world where fake followers can be easily purchased using dodgy tools, it is now a stronger indicator to monitor their engagement. High engagement suggests that their audience is much more actively interested in them and that they are, therefore, stronger ‘influencers’ as people trust or value what they are saying. Having 100,000 followers is no use if none of them are actually listening (or are even real people). Being valued by the algorithms of each platforms is much more important than a blogger’s follower number.
Remember also that not every travel blogger will bring the same value in what is a very saturated space – you generally get very different skills from blogger to blogger. Professional or semi-professional travel bloggers are those that spend a great deal of time monitoring the industry, have comprehensive digital and tourism skills and knowledge and will bust a gut to make sure their readers and partners benefit from the work that they do.
This was one of the reasons I helped start the Scotlanders – a Scotland travel bloggers collaboration. The idea behind this was to allow brands to work with several of the country’s top travel bloggers simultaneously. So if you’re a business looking at moving into this area for the first time, the increased reach and broader appeal of working with multiple bloggers may also be of interest. You can see the Scotlanders case studies as evidence of our impact on the campaigns that we’ve worked on.
How can I/we start working with Scotland travel bloggers?
If you’ve read the above and have identified what you are looking for from working with a blogger(s), start by simply dropping them a line. Lay out what you’re after and why you think they would be a good fit to work with you. It certainly helps to have a budget declared, a timeframe in mind and a clear strategy. Even if it is just the origins of an idea though, a good blogger will always be able to help guide you in the directions that will achieve success.
If you have any further questions about the way I work, what I look for and what I can bring just get in touch.