21 WAYS TO STAND OUT AS A TRAVEL BLOGGER OR INFLUENCER
If you’re a travel influencer or blogger then welcome to the big bad world of running a business. You’re now a brand (even if it is a personal one) so everything you say, do and post about matters. The key to being successful in any industry is figuring out how to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd. Yes, there is competition in every market but since travel blogging and influencer marketing is a relatively new industry the good news is there is still room for everyone!
Here at Sidewalker Daily we work with travel bloggers and influencers and understand how challenging it can be to figure out everything you need to know to be successful in this industry. As one of the original travel and style communities on Instagram, we’ve grown up with the travel influencer industry and have seen it all. We’re giving you 21 tips on how to stand out as a travel blogger or influencer so you can know what it takes to make it happen!
21 Ways To Stand Out As A Travel Blogger or Influencer.
Here are some of our favorite tips (in no particular order) to stand out as a travel blogger or influencer:
1. Brand Yourself
You need to brand yourself, period. Why? Because every company does and yours is no different.
Think about why someone would want to follow you or take your advice over someone else? When it comes to choosing a blog name or social media handles, think about the future – is this a name you will be good with in a few years…or is it going to be one of those AIM or Myspace names that you cringe at the thought of now?
Also, you need to make sure you can protect it legally. We always recommend doing a trademark search via the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) website to make sure you’re in the clear plus a little sleuthing around the interwebs to see if someone else is already using that name. When you’re just starting out it may not be a big deal but once your social media celeb status, you’ll want to be able to prevent people from using your brand name.
The next important thing when branding yourself is choosing a font, brand colors and theme that represent you and then stick with them. Being cohesive from the start can help you create a look and feel to your site. We recommend choosing two brand fonts that are complementary – one for your main titles (headers) and one for your sub headers and then you’ll have regular text too.
As for colors – try to stick to a palette of 4 (max!). You can go to an online HTML color picker and save the codes of the colors you choose so that you can keep everything uniform both now and in the future.
Have a logo? Great! If you don’t – you may want to invest in one. There are tons of free logo making tools on the web as well as independent designers on Etsy or Fiverr you can find to help you out. Another option is using the website, 99designs, which sources potential logos from graphic designers from around the world based on what you request. Creating an amazing logo is how to make your travel blog stand out from the crowd because it’s a great way for people to remember you.
2. Take It Offline
Online stuff is cool and all, but the real magic happens offline. How many times have you sent a pitch and heard nothing, but then met someone in real life and sparks fly? We’re huge proponents of encouraging our community to get their networking game on and pitching themselves in real life. Whether it’s through travel conferences or messaging people on Instagram to meet for a coffee, just get offline! Trust us on this one – it works wonders.
Networking in your community is also a good idea so you’ll be a local expert in your field. You may get invited to speak at events, conferences, get to shoot with local photographers, or even get work helping local companies with social media. Put yourself out there – you never know what good things will come your way!
3. Have A Killer Media Kit
Having a killer media kit is essential to standing out as a travel influencer. Like any company, you need to have marketing materials that you can use to convince people to hire you, work with you or buy from you. From the images to the graphics to the copy to your analytics, you have to show potential brand partners why you’re the best for the job.
Trust us, the combination is more important than you think! The same way you would dress up for a job interview (rather than roll up with a top knot and sweatpants), having a good looking and smart media kit will help you stand out!
You can hire a graphic designer to help you out or if you want to do it yourself, we recommend using the website, Canva, for all things media kit related. It’s also important to note that you should have a longer version and also a condensed version that’s action packed to hand out at in person networking events (no one wants to receive a 10 page deck in person).
4. Get Niche
Everyone talks about the “riches are in the niches” and this is very true! Being a travel blogger is great and all but we recommend picking a niche (or two) to really set yourself apart when it comes to pitching to brands. For example, food, adventure, romance, luxury, family, solo etc.
If you’re a travel blogger that also focuses on decor then hotels that take pride in design are going to be very interested in working with you. Same goes for culinary and adventure. At the end of the day there are tons of different types of travelers so brands are looking to work with travel bloggers and influencers that have a following of people that may be interested in their brand or destination. Basically, the more niche you are, the better chance that your followers are interested in that too!
There are definite steps to create a successful travel blog and having a clear message and niche is one of them. Need some ideas on how to find what niches tourism boards are interested in? We included that info in our post on pitching to brands you can read here.
5. Produce Creative and Unique Content
When it comes to creating content, you absolutely have to find ways to set yourself apart from everyone else. Unfortunately, just standing pretty by a big monument isn’t going to work anymore. There needs to be depth and thought to all aspects of production – from photo angles, to styling, to image editing – you can take a snapshot at a famous spot and really make it yours.
If you’re looking for tips for starting a kickass travel blog or already have one in the works, here are some ways we think you can stand out in terms of content creation:
- Photo or Video editing style – remember, let your page act as a portfolio for your work to get hired for future gigs.
- Going really niche – from finding the best street food or dating around the world, focus on a subcategory in travel and let people follow you on that journey.
- Chose a fun prop you take with you around the world or stand out based on your style.
- Use engaging captions to connect with your following.
- Give your followers a behind the scenes look at being a travel blogger -we all know it’s not as glamorous as it looks.
- Do tutorials to teach the followers who are eager to learn your tricks – from lightroom edits to booking travel, pass along your knowledge.
- Actually provide value to people looking to travel. If you write about travel tips or restaurant recs, don’t just provide generic info that people can find anywhere…go above and beyond and really make your advice count.
- Use technology to your advantage – find new apps that can help set you apart, whether it’s through editing or making cool Insta graphics!
- Take advantage of Insta stories- connect with your audience through stories. Just posting pictures isn’t enough because people want to get to “know” you.
6. Invest In Yourself And Business
Rome wasn’t built in a day and we hate to break it to you but no one can do it alone. We definitely recommend investing in yourself – whether it’s through taking a course on SEO or Ads, working with a coach or attending night classes etc. This is definitely one of the most important ways to become a successful blogger and influencer. The more knowledge you have, the better.
If you think about it, every profession has professional training courses someone has to take to be able to do the job. Since the influencer industry is relatively new in the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to find someone to “train you” and give you tips and insights. There no such thing as “influencer school” but there are ways for you to learn the important aspects of the industry like, SEO, social strategy, business, photography/videography, branding, pitching etc.
We strongly believe in the power of a good course or coach because it saves time and you’re able to learn valuable information you can’t find anywhere else (and from other people’s mistakes). Our team offers one-on-one coaching sessions to let travel bloggers in on the brand perspective, so if you’d interested in that, click here.
Did you know that blogging without keyword specific posts is just a big waste of time? Yea, we didn’t either, until we learned the hard way. If you’re going to blog, you need to invest in learning about SEO and how to make your blog posts optimized with keywords. If not, may as well skip the blog all together.
Investing in yourself can also be a question of dedicating time. By listening to smart podcasts or spending time reading free articles, you’re taking the time to grow your knowledge in this space which will pay off in the long run.
7. Write For Other Sites
So many travel bloggers and influencers are so focused on growing their own business that they may miss out on strategic opportunities by collaborating with others. When it comes to SEO and increasing your ranking on Google, you want to look at it as a popularity contest. The more websites linking back to you – the more “popular” you are and the better chances you have to get ranked on Google. And of course, the bigger the website linking back to you (Forbes, Huffington Post, etc) the better! If you can monetize your travels by dipping your toe into travel writing for other outlets, this is definitely considered a win-win and a great way to differentiate yourself.
On a side note, tourism boards and travel brands LOVE when an influencer also contributes to other travel outlets. It means more exposure for them and also means more goodies for you. Basically, you’ll have more of a chance to get invited on a press trip with a small following if you also contribute to a third party media outlet so it’s a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition.
8. Connect With Your Followers, Fans And Audience
Everyone talks about how important it is to provide content that helps your followers or fans – but content is just half the battle. You have to be available to invest in engaging with your readers or followers. Now we won’t lie, spending time on social platforms can be exhausting, but it’s part of the deal. Are you getting tons of comments on your blog, YouTube or Instagram page? Then you owe it to those readers to dedicate time during the day (even just 30 minutes) to getting back to as many as you can.
Remember, engagement is a two way street. The more you give back to them, the more they will be loyal to you. Also, the more you know your followers and what they like (and what they don’t) the more you’ll be able to really develop content that is valuable. And you’ll also know what type of content to stay away from. Brands love to see REAL engagement and this will definitely help you stand out!
9. Don’t Waste Your “Genius”
This lesson took us a bit longer to learn, but we’re so happy to share it with you! At the end of the day, you can’t do it all (even though you should always know how to). It’s very important to hire people to help you in areas that you are weak in so you can spend your time focusing on what you’re good at – there are only so many hours in a day.
For example, Nina (one of the co-founders of Sidewalker Daily) is really outgoing and loves meeting new people. That’s part of her “genius.” If we had Nina sitting at a desk all day, she wouldn’t be able to do what she does best – which is negotiating partnerships between influencers and tourism boards, hotels or travel brands. It’s in Sidewalker Daily’s best interest to have Nina out on the field and hire an assistant to help with the administrative work, so that relationships can be made and we can make moves!
10. Do A Couple Of Things Well Instead Of Everything Poorly
Nowadays, it feels like there are hundreds of social media platforms and thousands of things you need to know how to do. Overwhelming much? We think yes! That’s why we’d recommend to focus on a few core strengths, and do them well – and put the rest on the back burner.
For example, here at Sidewalker Daily, our main social media efforts are our Instagram page, our private Facebook group and our Pinterest account. That means we said no to Snapchat, no to Twitter, and no to LinkedIn. At the end of the day, we’re perfectionists and would rather do those things well then half a** it and be spread too thin.
Although we may expand into other areas one day, we’re concentrating our major efforts on what is essential to our actual business – not just doing things because everyone else is or we feel pressured to do.
If you have a couple of super engaged accounts for example Instagram and Facebook (aka real influence) you’ll have an easier time pitching to brands then if you have 5 social accounts barely hanging on by a thread. You feel us? So basically, unless you have an unlimited budget – we recommend you keep things tight (and freaking knock them out of the park).
11. Befriend Your Competitors
We come from the school of thought, “don’t hate, collaborate.” Many travel influencers will look at other bloggers or influencers as competition, but what they don’t realize is that with the internet, there is ENDLESS room for all. The most successful bloggers are the ones who reach out to the “competitors” and try to work with them. They’re the ones who will stand out because they’re all about making connections and growing – not letting silly things like potential competition hold them back. Besides, the only competition you have is yourself.
Also, we see a lot of travel bloggers and influencers pitching themselves as a package deal to resorts and destinations. If you’ve hit it off with someone you met online and you are both great photographers then you can propose traveling together and shoot content for one another when you’re on the trip! Destinations will be able to get double the content and exposure for less than sending two independent travel influencers so it’s a great selling point.
Another thing that is awesome about making friends with people in your industry is you’ll be able to learn from each other and ask tough questions. Can’t figure out something on Instagram or need a second look over your new blog article – this is a great way to get some free (and useful) help. Another thing to keep in mind is if they are as eager as you to work with brands – you can swap contacts or even introduce one another to companies.
Basically don’t think of your competition as “frenemies” – think of them as part of your gang and you’ll be on the come up…together.
How To Succeed As A Travel Blogger Takes More Effort Than You Expect.
12. Join Facebook Groups
For travel bloggers, it often feels like Instagram is the social media drug of choice. But in order to stand out in this crazy market, why not do something totally different? Find another less crowded place to make connections. We vote Facebook Groups, such as our Travel Blogger and Influencer Society, to network and “meet” like-minded people who really “get you” and can help you grow professionally.
It’s crazy how much we can all learn from each other by sharing tips, tricks, what works and what doesn’t. Basically, if you’re in solid Facebook groups with other travel bloggers and influencers, it will help you make less mistakes because you can learn from everyone else. You’ll also be able to ask advice about things such as partnership tips, engagement tips, new industry trends, etc.
13. Get Into Video ASAP
We get asked all the time about “how bloggers can stand out in a crowded market” and the answer is… video! Video is all the buzz and experts predict it will soon take over the industry so you better up your video skills stat. :)
We all can agree that video is way more fun to watch than looking at a photo or reading text, but it also has a steeper learning curve and it’s more difficult (and expensive) to produce. Many people won’t take the time to get good at video so if you’re willing to put in the work then this is a major way you can stand out as a travel influencer.
Based on our experience, the influencers we work with that are stronger in video have a better chance of getting paid work, because brands look at them as production. Videos also rank better on YouTube and Google which is a HUGE way to differentiate yourself. Of course, the videos need to be SEO optimized (thumbnail, title, description, tags and slugs) to be able to make moves on the interwebs. But think about it – if you post an image of you in Thailand on Instagram it will get lost in your feed in a couple of weeks. If you upload a video of you in Thailand on Youtube (the proper way) then you’ll get hits from organic search and you’ll be more likely to get your content viewed (which will in turn up your analytics).
Video is also a lot more engaging and will quickly allow your audience to connect with you (and feel like they know you), versus static photos and captions. So yes, it’s more difficult to create video upfront but the payoff is definitely worth it!
14. Don’t Buy Followers or Fake Fans
Slow and steady wins the race. Growing an authentic following and influence takes a lot of time. Yes, there are shortcuts people take but in the end it’s not worth it. First off, people notice so you undercut your credibility and secondly, it’s not really moving towards what your goal should be as an influencer, which is to have influence.
Having real followers and fans (and true influence) will get you way farther in the long run because you’ll be able to give your brand partners ROI (return on investment). Brands and destinations don’t send travel influencers on trips or pay them to promote hotels for their health- they are a business and want something in return for what they are paying (or at least providing in free flights and accommodations).
Bots and loop giveaways are also dangerous and may eventually expose you when you’re unable to provide true results and deliver on your promises to brand partners. When your “influence” is all smoke and mirrors you can actually harm your professional reputation because people will think you’re a fake – and trust us, word travel fasts.
A side note on bots – they are especially dangerous because bots don’t read captions. For example, we’ve seen (more than once) people using bots leave a comment on a post about someone losing their loved one and the comment was super insensitive like, “Love this post, work it girl!” We cringed – what a nightmare!
Many people will be tempted to go the easy route (we’re all human, right?), but we strongly encourage you to build your following, fan base and influence the right way. If you spend the time to meaningfully engage with people’s images and captions they will definitely notice. For example, there are some people that religiously comment on Sidewalker Daily’s Instagram posts and even though we’ve never met them, we feel like we know them!
15. Make Sure Your Blog, Website And Social Accounts Are On Point
It’s important to make sure that all of your social media accounts and website look cohesive and put together when people visit them. Remember, in some cases you have a matter of seconds to convert a follower or fan. For example, let’s just say you stumble upon a new Instagram account, what do you do first – a quick scroll, right? If you like what you see then what – you may read their account caption to see if they are as interesting as they appear to be. If you like their content and they seem interesting then you will probably hit follow.
If it’s someone stumbling on your website through a Google search, before diving into your blog article they will take a look at your website images, colors and formatting before deciding whether they want to invest their time in reading your article.
Let’s put it into a real life example to really drive this point home. You can think about your website and social accounts like a retail store in your town- when you’re out and stumble upon a random store on the street, if it looks dirty and disorganized you probably won’t enter. But if it’s clean, pretty and seems cool, you’ll probably take a peak around to see what they have.
The bottom line is you have a short time to convert someone into a follower or fan so you need to make sure that every social account you have and your website or blog is ready to welcome someone with the hope they’ll stick around. This is one of our quick easy tips for making your blog stand out from the crowd that you can implement today!
16. The Power Is In The Numbers (And Not The Numbers You’re Thinking)
A lot of people get caught up in the number of followers or fans a travel influencer has on their social accounts. Don’t get us wrong, that can sometimes be important to brand partners (because they are not sophisticated influencer marketing experts) but for those deep in the industry we all know analytics are everything when it comes to building your digital empire. If brands are spending money, they need ROI (return on investment) to justify the spend. It makes sense, if you spend money on something, you want it to be worth it, right?
Without knowing the intricacies of your analytics, how do you know what your brand is truly worth? If you have a blog, you need to set up Google Analytics to keep an eye on your sources of traffic and learn about who is coming to your site and from where. Same goes for all other platforms. There are tons of third party sites that will provide analytics for you (both free and paid) that you can then include in your media kit to help you pitch to brands.
17. Build An Email List Of “True Fans”
While everyone is looking to grow their social media followings, you can go a different route and grow your email list too! Emails tend to convert better than social so if you have a banging email list you’ll be able to offer brand partners email campaigns on top of social promotion to earn more income from your influence.
Also, email lists will be yours forever (if one day Instagram decides to close up shop or your account gets hacked) your list is something you own.
If you think about it, people that read emails are looking for information, while sometimes people on Instagram are just looking to see pretty pictures and kill time. Many people won’t just give their email to anyone – so getting someone’s email is kind of a big deal.
If you build an email list you can bet that a majority of these people are your “true fans” who will go above and beyond for you, genuinely care about what you have to say and will take your advice and recommendations over someone else’s. These people are amazing to have in your corner because if you ever need to sell something for a brand partnership or launch a product, you’ll have a better chance with your email list than your Instagram followers, some of which are only half in.
18. Be A Human
Being a human is one of our favorite tips because people get so caught up in the hustle they forget to say “thank you” and be grateful for the opportunities they are given. Show gratitude to your brand partners, press trip organizer, tour guides, on ground staff etc. for their help on a press trip. At the end of the trip, you can say “thank you” by sending a handwritten note or even small gift (emails are ok but a more personal touch is recommended). This will not only give them a good feeling about working with you but also it makes you memorable because you will be surprised at how many people DO NOT do this.
For press trips, most of the time you’ll be dealing with a person in the public relations department and trust us, they will definitely appreciate these types of efforts. Some ideas for you to keep in mind:
- If it’s a thank you card – make sure it’s handwritten.
- If you end up sending a small gift, we recommend anything under $25. It’s supposed to be a thoughtful little touch and not overly expensive.
- If you can get your card or gift branded with your logo and website, even better!
And don’t forget if you’re on a press trip, be kind to staff, housekeepers, waiters, tour operators etc. Even if you are a famous travel blogger or influencer, don’t let it get to your head. Be gracious and always say thank you – you’ll be surprised how much farther it gets you than being too cool for school.
19. SEO Is A Secret Weapon
If you’re looking for more traffic to your blog and to up your website analytics then you need to be fluent in SEO…like yesterday. Search Engine Optimization (or “SEO”) is key to building sustainable traffic to your website which in turn, ups your chances for brand partnerships, collaborations and press trips.
Since brand partners and destinations are looking for ROI – if you have killer website analytics to add to your media kit (on top of your following and engagement) then you’ll be ahead of the game. For example, if you’re headed to Iceland and looking for travel tips you may enter a quick search in Google, “Travel Tips in Iceland.” You’ll most likely skim the first few article titles (or even first page of Google) and then choose one of them to open and read. This is what SEO (when done right) does for you – gets you as close to the first page or top spot in Google as possible so people will actually read what you have to say.
So having great SEO strategy can also help you get new followers and fans to your page…organically. And the more page views you have the more clout you have for pitching to brands. It’s pretty simple.
20. Don’t Get Comfortable
The social media landscape is the “Wild West” and things seem to be changing at lightning speed. For example, the mysterious Instagram algorithm always keeps everyone guessing (and seemingly confused) and you have to be ready to change your strategy at a moment’s notice.
The minute you notice your engagement dropping or feel something is going on, trust your gut. This is when you can reach out to other travel bloggers or influencers in your Facebook groups to see if they are experiencing similar issues and you all can swap tips and tricks to problem solve together.
Also, amazing apps, helpful websites and blogger tools are coming out all the time. Many people that are early adopters of these new tools get ahead of the curve…and stay there. For example, when Instagram Stories came out people didn’t really know what to do with them – should they still Snapchat, should they Snapchat and Insta story or just Insta story. The early adapters of Instagram Stories built a strong following of people eager to see what they’re up to. Now just posting pics of you in a beautiful destination doesn’t cut it anymore. People want to get to know you, hear about your adventures and feel connected.
Also, we’re all about testing to see if new strategies work better than what you’re already used to. For example, if you have a large Instagram following but are looking to increase your website and blog views then consider posting a caption prompting followers to go to your link in bio to check out your new blog post. Do this a few times and try different pictures and captions to see what makes people take action and click over. And don’t forget to create a trackable link (i.e. bitly) so you can see what works best and how your efforts are paying off.
Even if you want to try out a new photo editing style to see your follower’s reactions, we’re all for it – you never know if they will like it better unless you try, right? The point is that sometimes going outside your comfort zone can help you grow and discover new ways to have better engagement and a more loyal following because as trends change, so does the type of content people are looking to consume…gotta keep up!
21. Understand The Client And Brand’s Perspective
Some travel bloggers and influencers forget that even if they are going on an all expenses paid trip, staying in hotels for free or receiving expensive products at no cost that they are still getting compensated, just not with dollars and cents. If you’re getting something for value in exchange for your time and work then the brand partner is basically a client and you need to respect their wishes.
For example, if a hotel hosts you on a press trip and asks you not to go off property…. don’t (unless they change their mind). If the hotel does say it’s OK to go off property, pay attention to where you go to make sure you don’t ruffle any feathers (like a competitor hotel that has an “Instagrammable” pool or lobby). Why? Because they may feel taken advantage of and that’s never a good feeling.
Also, if you make a good (and lasting) impression for your clients they may want to work with you again in the future (with more trips or even paid gigs). For example, if you go on a press trip to a hotel in Jamaica and they happen to have other locations around the world then you may be able to travel to their other destinations too.
This scenario also applies if you’re working with a travel PR company responsible for various clients around the world. If you were a dream to work with for one destination they may send you to one of their other client’s locations, or even offer you paid content creation jobs along the way.
Remember, the travel PR industry is very small and word travels fast so if you’re difficult to work with or don’t honor your agreements it’s going to be a rocky road. To be honest this tip is probably the easiest to implement because it’s based off the Golden Rule of “treat others like you’d want to be treated.” So always try to put yourself in the client’s shoes and think about if it’s worth it before going rogue.
We hope these tips helped you understand how you can build a blog that stands out among the millions and influence that counts because we’re rooting for you!