Influencer Marketing in Smaller Markets

If your visitors are anything like me, social media has become an indispensable tool for connecting with people, places and brands. Not only do I network with people I know, but I use it to review products, make purchases and plan trips. Just last year, my husband and I based our itinerary for a bucket-list vacation on images we had seen posted on Instagram by travelers who had gone before us. Since then, social media has taken a central role in how I plan for travel. And I’m not alone! 87% of millennials report consulting social media for travel inspiration, making it (potentially) one of the most valuable marketing tools in your DMO’s program of work.

Among the numerous ways social media can be used to foster positive perceptions about your place, influencer marketing has proven to be one of the most effective. But, if you think influencer marketing is cost-prohibitive for small- to mid-sized markets, think again. Influencer marketing can be scaled to fit the needs of your destination, with micro-influencers emerging as a more viable option than ever for marketers looking to make an impact on social media.

A word about micro-influencers

Micro-influencers and niche bloggers may not have the large followings of top tier talent, but they tend to shine when it comes to engagement metrics. Often, accounts with a smaller fan base post bigger conversion rates because they are far more engaged with their audience. Their recommendations are more likely to be trusted, and their followers are typically pretty loyal. And micro-influencers have retained the peer-to-peer dynamic that is a cornerstone of influencer marketing, typically enjoying a 50% higher engagement than influencers with very large followings. And most importantly, they tend to be far more in-tune with what matters to their fan base.

By collaborating with micro-influencers who align with your own target audiences, you have a unique opportunity to identify travel trends, experiences and messages that matter to them, ultimately informing your overall marketing strategy and broadening your sphere of influence.

Finding the right micro-influencers

Before you can successfully identify which micro-influencers your DMO should collaborate with, make sure you have a thorough understanding of who your target audience is and what matters to them. Partner with a reputable, third-party research firm to help you suss out the demographics, life stages and motivations of your visitors. Equipped with this information, you can then begin researching micro-influencers whose values align most closely with those of your target markets.

Micro-influencers can be found by searching hashtags on Instagram, researching trending topics on Twitter, seeking out niche blogs, and even talking with your peers. Who do they follow on social media, and why? You want to reach out to micro-influencers who have between 5,000 and 15,000 followers. Invite them to spend a few days in your city, empowering them to experience first-hand the amenities, attractions, activities, and culinary experiences your destination has to offer.

Pro Tip: Be intentional and specific with your searches. Broad search terms are likely to return an overwhelming number of results. For example — instead of #foodie, search for #southerncuisine; rather than #americanhistory, try searching for #civilwar.

As part of your influencer marketing strategy, consider including niche travel bloggers in your efforts. These social media personalities cater to very specific audiences — like specific types of adventure travelers, foodies or adrenaline junkies. Invite them to experience your destination, partner with them to publish their experience and then promote their work on your website and across your social channels. Niche travelers often trust the advice of micro-influencers and bloggers they follow, and this is a great way to establish credibility with them and earn your spot on their travel wish-list.

Locals — a different type of micro-influencer

In your pursuit of micro-influencers, be sure not to overlook members of your community who can share your city’s offerings within their own social networks. Promote local events and gatherings using a hashtag specific to your destination, and encourage residents to use that hashtag when sharing their experiences on social media. This approach does require stoking community pride and getting locals involved in discussions about what your destination does well and how it can be better — and that’s a lot of work. But your destination is more than just a collection of activities and attractions — it’s best defined by its community. And a supporting, loving and enthusiastic community can be one of your greatest brand ambassadors.

For more information about choosing the right micro-influencers for your market or questions about refining your social strategy, feel free to reach out to me at

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