So every time someone comes across my Instagram profile and find me traveling around the world, they ask the same inevitable question: how do I sustain this lifestyle if I don’t have a job. “Do you get paid to travel?” they would ask. And when I tell them that I do (get paid to travel) because brands hire people like me — the so-called travel influencers of the digital age — to promote their services and destinations on our channels, they sound even more confused. “What is this term travel influencer, what does it even mean? Why would a brand hire you to promote them” and a few other relating questions that come next, almost effortlessly.
It happened to me recently that I was contacted by a medical student asking me for a way to have a quick escape in her life. She wanted to travel around the world and needed a way out. And as I started explaining things, and with that, using some technical jargon, I figured that I was only confusing her more.
Speaking to her, I realized that the first thing that people need to understand before actually jumping into this business is an understanding of what this business, in reality, is.
What Is A Travel Influencer?
A travel influencer (or an influencer of another industry: say, fashion, adventure or automobile) is basically a person, who, over time, has gained followers online. Now, these followers can be following the influencer on a social media channel (like Instagram and Twitter and Pinterest) or on a blog-website or youtube. As long as the person has some sort of influence over the online community and the general public show their interest (in the form of comments on their social media channels or website) to follow the influencer’s footsteps, the person is an influencer of the digital age. Having said that, here’s a hard truth, and a simple equation: more than what you write or the kind of videos you produce, a brand is always interested in sponsoring you basis on what kind of exposure you can offer them, in terms of reach and engagement, and that makes you an influencer.
For example, when I started blogging back in 2016, I started from a scratch, with Footloose Dev having no online presence. No one knew about him. But with time, as I kept traveling and writing about my journeys, Footloose Dev gained a follower base (on his blog and social media channels). Now there was no set score bar that, when crossed, made Footloose Dev a travel influencer, but with every follower gained, he only became more influential. Meaning, brands were less interested in him when he had 10,000 followers on Facebook, then compared to today, when he has nearly 50,000 followers on Facebook.
For my readers and followers, I am a travel blogger; for brands, I am a travel influencer!
Having said that, I repeat the hard truth, and the simple equation, once again: more than what kind of content you produce, a brand is more likely to sponsor you, if you have got a higher number of followers on social media channels and more readership on your blog, than your competitors. But this doesn’t mean that the kind of content you produce has no value. Most brands give the quality of content a good weight too. And then again, if your content isn’t good, catchy and unique enough, you’re not going to get any followers in the first place — so you fail, before you even start!
Can You Survive Only On Instagram?
Over the years, Instagram has positioned itself as the most useful social media channel for advertisers and promoters. And this has resulted in many influencers working hard to have a strong Instagram presence. But is it possible to survive as an influencer by only having an Instagram presence?
Well, to honestly admit it, yes. It’s possible! I know a few influencers (particularly the fashion influencers) who use no other means of digital presence and have no personal blog or website, but just an Instagram profile to promote their work. And they get sponsors or even paid campaigns.
If you have a certain amount of clout and engagement with your followers and you think someone totally random stumbling upon your Instagram profile will perceive you (in the first impression itself) as thought leaders in the world of travel, because random strangers are showing their interest in your content and endorsement, then count yourself as an influencer.
So yea, you can very well live off by having a strong presence on just one platform, and Instagram happens to be the most powerful among all. But the more presence you’ve (on different channels) the better!
How To Be Successful As An Influencer
Now that you’ve got the idea that travel bloggers and video-makers of the digital age get sponsors because they work as influencers, let’s take the next step, and learn… How to become a stronger influencer, travel the world for free and even make money traveling!
Branding Yourself Better
Just like in any business, your success as an influencer depends on how well you brand yourself. Think about why someone would want to follow you (and for brands to sponsor you) over someone else producing similar content. There may already be a dozen ‘motorbiker/rider travelers’ out there but what distinguishes you is important. Calculate what additional value you can offer to a sponsor, other than providing them with a bigger audience base.
To start with, choose a name for your blog and social media handles that synchronizes with your style. Additionally, when thinking of a name think about the future – is this a name you will be good within a few years. I’ve seen people using names like ’20 Something Traveling’ or ‘Traveling The Himalayas’ and restricting their work before they even start.
The next important thing is designing your website, blog and social media channels. When it comes to Instagram, think of it as your magazine cover. Keep your online channels impressive.
Trick Your Reach By Working For Others
As I said earlier, more than what kind of content you create, it is your reach (in terms of your followers) that motivates a brand to work with you. But this doesn’t mean that no one is going to sponsor you if you had just started yesterday.
A smart way to increase your followers from Day-1 is by start writing (or producing videos) for other already established channels out there. For example, until last year, I was writing for a couple of offline magazines on a regular basis to keep brands interested in working with me. Because if GoPro didn’t seem interested in work with Footloose Dev as it had a monthly readership of 10,000 blog readers, the monthly readership of AirIndia’s in-flight magazine coupled with 10,000 monthly blog readers of FootlooseDev will certainly do.
I hope you get the idea!
Have A killer Media Kit
When I started blogging in 2015, I had no idea what a media kit is, and how crucial it is to have one for me as a travel influencer. If the term Media Kit sounds unfamiliar, imagine it as your portfolio or your resume that you will take to an employer while applying for a corporate job — a brief document speaking about you.
A Media Kit talks about you and your blog’s market-value. It includes mentions of your skills, interests, your blog’s statistics and the value you can add to a sponsor if they decided to work with you.
So make a Media Kit, and make it look killer! Hire a graphic designer to help you out or if you want to do it yourself, use Photoshop. If you’re not aware of Photoshop, use websites like DesignBold or Fotor, to help you with designing.
Further Reading: How To Create A Media Kit For Your Travel Blog
Invest In Your Business
Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day and Taj Mahal took thousands of men to set its foundation, you can not do it alone either if you want to progress quickly. So I recommend investing in yourself and your business. Invest some money in taking a course on SEO or in hiring an agency to do it for you.
Similarly, invest in good photo-editing and video-editing tools. Buy a great camera from day 1. Own technology that can help you cut long processes short. Invest in good travel products. Listen to smart podcasts or spend time reading free articles on how to grow as a travel blogger or an influencer.
If you think about it, every profession has a professional training course, but not the influencer industry. In this business, it is hard to find someone to “train you” and give you exact formulas on how to grow. 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, branding, pitching etc.
So invest in yourself and your business and escalate the process towards success!
I hope these tips helped you understand who is a travel influencer and how and why travel influencers get paid to travel. If you have any doubts, read more related articles right from How To Start A Blog to Getting Sponsored Trips As A Travel Blogger: