Can travel bloggers influence tourism marketing? Seasoned veteran Matt Gibson, aka XpatMatt and inbound president of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association, shares his strategies on how both sides of the industry can work together effectively.
At what point in your career did you realize you could make travel writing your primary focus?
I studied writing in university so I always had a fairly good idea about the path to becoming a career writer. I actually started writing about travel simply because I moved to Taiwan after I graduated from university.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about travel writing?
That it’s a lot of fun. Don’t get me wrong, I like travel and I’m grateful for my job. But imagine trying to put in a 50- to 60-hour work week while also taking a flight every week, changing hotels every few days, and never knowing where you’ll be able to find reliable Internet. It’s certainly not as glamorous as it looks and it’s definitely a lot harder than the better-paying office jobs my friends have.
How can you leverage travel influencers to market your company or destination? Meet Matt Gibson at the upcoming PATA Travel Mart 2016 in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 7-9, 2016.
Are there questions you consistently get from aspiring travel bloggers?
There’s really only one question I get from most bloggers: How can I make money travel blogging?
What are some of your tips on monetizing a travel blog that goes beyond sponsored content?
There are several ways to monetize a blog and a good blogger will employ several. Affiliate marketing is a good way to make money. Brand sponsorships are another common method. The most common, however, is using the blog to market other services such as writing, photography or videography.
I earn money through affiliate sales, selling photography and writing services, and through my marketing company, Xpat Media, which relies heavily on my personal blog, Xpat Matt, as a source of legitimacy and portfolio of my knowledge of — and success in — online marketing campaigns.
Do you travel to a destination with some stories in mind, or create your content on the road, or when you get return?
Normally, I like to explore a destination with minimal knowledge so that my trip is more a journey of discovery than a planned trip with specific expectations. So, on those trips, I just explore during my trip and write about it later.
When I’m working with a client on sponsored content about their destination, I will work with them to identify a specific story angle and create an itinerary that will enable me to explore that specific story very much like a journalist would go about researching a story.
How important do you think it is for a travel blogger to have some formal journalism or writing training to succeed?
I think it would be good for bloggers to understand the ethical philosophy of journalism because they face similar ethical issues. But that’s not necessary for success. Formal writing training is not necessary at all for blogger to succeed. The skills that are most important to blogging success are branding and online marketing.
How do you define an “influencer” in this space?
I recently revised the Professional Travel Bloggers Association’s (PTBA) definition of an influencer: a person who consistently creates content for distribution on one or more online platforms with the intention of influencing a specified audience.
What are some of the benefits of being certified by PTBA?
They are similar those of other professional organizations. We provide education and professional development information and resources to both our blogger and industry members. We hold industry-blogger networking events. PTBA bloggers are being invited to every PATA conference to network with PATA members. And, of course, we have a search engine on our website that enables our industry members to find the exact bloggers they need by searching our blogger members by criteria such as location, audience size, social following size, and niche.and