Today’s guest is Rachel Hill of Rachel Travels. She’s a travel influencer, teacher, author, marketing guru, and just an all-around entrepreneurial force. She’s been an influencer for a long time, but in recent years Rachel has shifted a little bit to teaching others how to be influencers and harness digital marketing to grow their travel brands.
This episode is definitely for you if you are an influencer, or want to become one, but you’re worried you’ve left it too late. Rachel says it’s not too late, and we dive deep into what it means to be an influencer in 2022. We discuss how to pitch brands as an influencer, because Rachel is a pitching mastermind when it comes to approaching brands. She also makes it very clear that you don’t need a million followers on Instagram to benefit from what she’s talking about. We talk a lot about what it means to be a micro-influencer, or even a nano-influencer, and the power of smaller influencers.
The thing I love most about this episode is that Rachel lays out a roadmap for approaching brands, for partnerships, for sponsorships, and just pitching in general. She describes in plain terms the steps you need to take to be successful in today’s market. Our conversation was so inspiring, I loved it and I really hope you do as well.
Becoming an influencer and consultant
Rachel started her career working in tech for a Fortune Top 50 corporation, but after about five or six years, she decided that it would probably not work for her. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, but she decided to leave her job to travel. “I left my corporate job and I booked a one-way ticket to Thailand where I was just planning to backpack for a few months.” After that, she planned to come back home and apply for a job, but that never ended up happening.
In Thailand, she met people who were working online, and she realized she had the skills to do the same. At that time, she also started her blog, shared stories on social media and it just grew from there. Before ‘influencer’ was even a word, Rachel got approached by hotels, and she says, “I realized I could make money by sharing my experiences and taking really cool pictures.”
She then moved into helping destinations create unique marketing campaigns and finding influencers that are from different backgrounds, like Black American, Hispanic American, Asian American, the LGBTQ community, and how they travel in different destinations.
Over the years, her brand started to evolve from just blogging, to consulting. After many years of travel, it got exhausting and her priorities changed. “I was transitioning into helping other people who were traveling or wanted to travel, how they can tell stories from their own unique perspectives and share it to the world and also monetize their voices.”
The power of micro-influencers
Rachel thinks brands are moving away from a lot of big celebrities and are instead looking to work with what they consider everyday people. “When we think about it, how many of us really think that we could go have coffee with the Kim Kardashians? Or you look at an influencer who may have 5,000 to 15,000 followers, and you’re like, yeah, she has followers, but she seems cool. She seems like the type of girl that I would travel with.”
If you can prove that your brand is solid, that you have real followers, and a high engagement rate, you don’t need tens or hundreds of thousands of followers to start pitching brands. “A lot of times brands would prefer to work with small but mighty influencers and content creators versus these huge mega influencers who don’t have the same type of conversion rate. They charge way more, but maybe their conversion rates are the same as the micro influencers.”
How to pitch brands as an influencer
Rachel shares what it usually looks like to pitch a brand. You approach them and let them know about your specialty, some details about your audience, the type of content you create, etc. Then you ask if they would be interested to work with you to get their brand in front of your audience.
“Pitching a brand is essentially saying, I have something to offer you. And in exchange for this offering, there is obviously some sort of transaction, right? Whether that looks like a payment, whether that looks like an all-expenses-paid trip somewhere, it obviously depends.”
Then it’s a negotiation, you have to work out what’s best for both brands. People often want to get into the influencer space because they want the free trips and the perks, but there’s also a lot of work. “If you’re not really dedicated to your craft, it’s not going to be easy to convince the brand to work with you, and it’s going to be hard to produce quality content as well.”
What is a nano-influencer?
Rachel believes it’s still possible for people to become an influencer now, but the key is to niche down into something very specific, that you’re passionate about. You need only about 1,000 to 5,000 followers to be considered a nano-influencer, which is not that hard to reach at all.
Some people don’t know what to focus on, but whatever you’re interested in, there will be others who share that interest and are looking for an expert to follow. As an example, you may be a deep-sea fisherman who specializes in a specific hook, and though you have a small number of followers, 80% are enthusiastic about that hook. Anything you post about that hook is going to convert in sales really well, so you could get paid even if you have a small number of followers.
More from this episode
- Is Instagram still the go-to platform for travel influencers today, or is it easier to gain traction somewhere else?
- What is the strategy behind pitching brands, and what research does it involve?
- Is it better to pitch to tourism boards, specific hotels/restaurants, or bigger umbrella brands?
- Does Rachel mostly create content that she shares on her own social media platforms, or does she give content to brands for them to share and use however they like?
- Should you include specific data in your pitch to brands?