We sat down with travel influencers Chanel and Stevo from @HowFarFromHome to get answers to questions every social media marketer has pondered. Find out how this traveling pair built a loyal Instagram community from the ground up and learn what it takes to collaborate with influencers - straight from the source!
Chanel: There were a few moments in our first year of travel (back in 2015) that made me say, “What?! Is this even happening?”. After our photo project was featured by Instagram (with one of us holding a chalkboard in each photo, with the total amount of kilometers traveled) we received a lot of interest and PR.
The followers kept coming, as did the interviews. Before we knew it, we were a year into our journey, speaking onstage at the annual Design Indaba conference in Cape Town. Which just so happened to be the exact same conference we attended as marketers a year before departing. After hearing Stefan Sagmeister’s talk about “the power of time off” we were inspired to take this trip.
It had come full circle, and with a couple retainer clients already requesting our photography and films, there was no way we were going to stop. We had somehow figured out a way to turn this passion project, into a lifestyle and career – we still can’t believe it.
Stevo: We are fortunate enough to receive great proposals from clients from time to time. When we receive a proposal from a brand, the number one factor to determine whether we take the job is “Does this fit within our brand and brand values?” Then we ask, “Would our community have a positive reaction to us incorporating said brand into our content?” If it’s a yes to both questions, then we get to work brainstorming what we could create and how we could put a spin on the collaboration. If anything, we see each brand project as an opportunity to get creative (that’s what gets us out of bed in the morning).
That being said, we still put a lot of work into being proactive and approaching brands out of the blue. There are a lot of influencers and content creators out there, so it’s important to reach out, and pitch ideas that we think would not only benefit a brand but also benefit our community.
Stevo: There is definitely a balance. Your community will ultimately get tired and bored with your content if all they are seeing are sponsored (and irrelevant) posts. We agree that authenticity plays a huge part in our job, and as mentioned in the previous question, we won’t take on a job that doesn’t feel authentic (we’re certainly not actors), so for us, creativity is probably the most important factor. If we produce something that people have never seen, or we entertain them, or we allow them to escape from their daily grind and get them to smile, then they will naturally appreciate it. That’s how we know it’s been a success.
Chanel: I think there are several factors that can make a collaboration (and ultimately the work) a success. For one, the client-influencer relationship needs to be a good one. If you can WhatsApp the client in the middle of the night and discuss an idea, or tell them you’re uncomfortable with something, or they feel that they can trust you to make a call on something, then you’re already winning.
Trust is also a big part – brands that dictate how and when and what you need to do with your community often miss the mark because it’s not their community, so allowing the influencer to interpret the brand’s objectives and brief in their own way is also vitally important.
A clear brief from the beginning is also key. We’ve worked with a couple brands that have changed their mind or wanted to change/add things after the campaign content was shot, making it very difficult for us to produce top quality work. We’ve been lucky to have worked with some incredible international brands, and our most successful and long-standing partnership has been with The Luxury Collection. To date, we’ve visited over 15 TLC hotels around the world, and we’re constantly in contact with them. We have a great relationship. They trust us, and as a result, we’re able to produce beautiful and creative work for them, especially because we’re always willing to go above and beyond for them because they always do the same for us.
Stevo: Yeah, it’s been a very interesting turn of events! As a person, I think I have grown in many ways. Just uprooting and leaving a secure job has changed me considerably. My personality has also evolved as we put ourselves in totally different situations than what we had before. I feel we wear many more hats than we did back home – where I had one job, and I received professional guidance from those above me. These days we have to make all the decisions ourselves. There is a lot more pressure on us in that respect.
That being said, we have taken many of the lessons we learned in advertising and used them to grow our brand. I honestly believe that the years we worked were invaluable to our current success, so just as we have told many schools and college students who ask us, “How do you do it?” – don’t quit that day job! Get schooled, get some experience, and then go off into the wilderness or on a trip around the world – it’ll be a lot more beneficial for you that way.
Chanel is an Award-winning ex-Creative-Director who gave it all up to listen to a gut feeling and head off on a creative journey around the world, Chanel lives by the motto “collect memories, not things”. Since departing on March 2nd, 2015, Chanel has traveled to over 160 cities and towns in 48 countries, embracing her passions for storytelling, photography, filmmaking, and writing. Chanel is a proud travel vegan, who is driven to help save the planet in any way she can.
Stevo is an Ex-Agency-Creative who won some stuff, and now wants nothing to do with stuff. Stevo is obsessed with foreign explorations, especially ones that push him and his camera beyond their safe place. Together with Chanel, Stevo was a 2016 Design Indaba delegate, sometimes blogs for The Huffington Post and The Outbound Collective.
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