Food and travel are blossoming as digitally native millennials prioritize experiences over belongings. Naturally, who doesn’t want to eat Spaghetti alle Vongole in its native home of Naples, Italy? Marketers within these industries are always looking for ways to authentically scale their content to relate to consumers. Fortunately, with social media and influencer marketing, marketers are finally getting the answers they’ve been looking for. Learn how these up-and-coming travel and food influencers built niche communities of followers who are passionate about experiences and see what marketers stand to learn from their success.
With a mission, “to create incredible possibilities of transformation for humankind to live lives of impact, purpose, and badassery,” Jen Morilla is always on the go. Visiting the most beautiful places on the planet, such as Costa Rica and Scotland, Jen strives to make a social impact and learn about the many nuances of cultures throughout the world. As well as backpacking for a living, she has a blog where she gives meaningful insight to her community of followers regarding essential packing lists for travel and how-to-travel guides to the best tourist locations. Jen explains that her audience is a mirror of herself, and brands that she works with need to reflect that as well.
“I work with socially, sustainable and eco-conscious brands. I am an Impact Traveler which means that for the last 4 years I’ve been traveling with clean water-filters to developing countries and creating content/stories around social issues and purposeful travel.”
With a growing Instagram community of 23.6K, Jen continues to travel the world dispensing clean water to in-need communities and gain unique cultural experiences. Her mission-driven message is one that helps brands connect with her passionate community.
Luisa Ruocco, otherwise known as the #HungryTraveler, is taking food to the next level. Luisa spends her time traveling the world where she enjoys delicious meals at unique trendy restaurants and shares her findings with her 51 thousand Instagram followers. Luisa has explored different food options from London to Bali and is constantly on the move to discover more hidden gems. Luisa’s offers some sage advice to brands seeking to work with influencers:
“…find someone who really resonates with the brand image you are trying to get across to your audience and know their worth. In my opinion, a brand would be better off paying a little more to an influencer who has a cult-like following than someone who has a large follower count but low engagement rates.”
Whether it be a gourmet chicken recipe or the best chili fries around, Ruocco is determined to seek out the tastiest dishes in the world and share them with her community while working with brands who share her values.
Kimia Kalbasi has built a personal brand for herself revolving around tasty food and cool restaurant spots. From exquisite sushi rolls to indulgent slices of pizza, Kimia is determined to find the best places to eat for her community of food lovers. Not only does Kimia showcase delicious foods, but she blogs about her favorite healthy recipes and shares with her readers how they too can indulge in guilt-free goodies. Becoming an influencer isn’t easy, as Kimia shares her community-building journey:
“The time and dedication are the most challenging as you’re juggling countless other projects, campaigns, meetings, etc. Communities are not based on the ‘build it and they will come mentality.’ Communities need to be nurtured and cultivated in order to grow healthily but always have to remember the rewarding fulfillment it brings.”
Specializing as a San Franciscan food enthusiast, Kimia loves to work with hip young brands, such as David’s Tea and Sejoyia Coconut Bites. So, if you’re a Bay Area brand with a food-driven mission, Kimia may be the perfect match to seek out your target customer. With 17.8K followers on Instagram, Kimia continues to connect with people through her journey of finding the most delicious bites.
Imagine if visiting quaint boutiques, enjoying Rosé, or visiting gorgeous beach scenery could actually turn into a hobby that puts cash in your wallet. Luckily for Emily Fanning, her community of Instagram followers has made this dream her reality. Emily fangirls over cutesy feminine brands, such as Pink Blush and Madewell that resonate with her community of “brunchers”. Emily showcases a brand’s products in some of the best tourist locations, like Cape Cod or Santa Cruz. Emily advises a cautious approach to brands looking to work with influencers.
“Numbers are not the end-all-be-all. Fortunately, many brands have caught on and are starting to pay attention to engagement as well as follower count, but they should still be careful – it’s far too easy to buy likes, which will feed into vanity metrics.”
With authenticity as the backbone of her following, Emily is working on organically growing her number of 7.5K Instagram followers. If aesthetically pleasing shops and dainty vacation spots are your things, be sure to hit Emily with the follow button, and if you’re an elegant yet chic boutique, antique shop, or cafe, definitely consider partnering with this influencer.
Lauren Mims encompasses all things, Colorado. Lauren spends a lot of time in the outdoors of her beautiful state, where she goes on scenic hikes and hangouts out with her best friend, Coco (her adorable dog). As well as hiking trails, she shares with her followers some of her favorite #foody meals, such as cauliflower pizza or churro doughnuts that are to die for. If you’re looking to tap into a localized audience in Colorado, Lauren is your go-to-girl! She advises brands:
“Do your research (on influencers) and don’t take it lightly. A huge follower count is so alluring, but could easily be inflated. Check their entire sphere – even use specific platforms for making sure an influencer’s engagement is legitimate. You should work with influencers that are on-brand and authentic or you will never see the return you’re looking for.”
At a following of 17 thousand on Instagram, Lauren hopes to continue and grow the size of her community to work with brands that resonate with her brand of travelers and site-seers. In the meantime, her localized personal can help brands strategically understand a curated local audience.
As influencers continue to connect with niche audiences and build authentic relationships with consumers, embracing influencer marketing is absolutely imperative for brands. Instead of running into pesky ads, consumers are open to influencer content that highlights a variety of brands from retail labels to household products, making the content trustworthy and organic. Travel and food brands can connect more closely with their audience by embracing influencers.
User-generated content creates a story for travel destinations and restaurant experiences giving travel and food brands the perfect channel for improving brand-customer relationships and loyalty. Influencers are trusted by their community of followers, and this helps build social proof for brands and brings awareness to tourist locations and food joints. So, whether you’re a hotel chain, trendy diner, or beach resort welcome influencers into your market strategy and watch your conversions grow.
Isabella Tarantino is a senior at the University of California, Riverside and a marketing Intern at Pixlee. Majoring in Administrative Studies with a marketing emphasis, she is excited about marketing trends in the digital age.