By: Joy Donnelly
During my junior year of college in the month before I departed for my semester studying in Milan, I took to Instagram to find travel inspiration. Unknowingly, I had plummeted myself into a seemingly never-ending rabbit hole. I began to follow tons of women traveling for a living and different travel communities all over the world. To my surprise, I was not alone in my fear of an ordinary, mediocre adult life. These women were so inspiring that I began to listen to podcasts, sign up for online seminars, and find out all that I could about making travel a priority in my life. However, I was not alone in my newfound passion. This was around the beginning of the travel “trend.”
Fast-forward two years and I have created a small business of social media marketing and brand management for two companies in the travel industry. And it goes full circle back to good ol’ Instagram. Instagram is truly an amazing platform. However, as we know, platforms tend to explode and die with the next new platform created. While Instagram seems to be riding every wave and adapting to stay competitive, one aspect (of many) of Instagram has been really irking me, the influencer craze. I have followed the evolution of the travel influencer and believe that it is a huge bubble that will soon burst.
While I do appreciate the amazing travel influencers that have inspired me to get where I am, the travel influencer has lost its authenticity or genuineness on a mass scale. As one of my favorite influencers, @oneikatraveller, wrote a couple weeks ago, “It’s no longer enough to tell a story and post an awe-inspiring landscape, it won’t get likes. Instead, the winning formula for us ladies seems to be one in which we’re perfectly posed (usually facing away from the camera), in a flouncy hat (especially if we’re clutching the brim), and wearing a flowy dress. Extra points if the dress is brightly colored, has a bohemian feel, and is off the shoulder.”
As I scroll through my feed I have become numb to the same images, and while they are beautiful there is a shade of fakeness. It is as if I can feel how much time and effort it took to get that picture and I can see how edited it is. Like what place is THAT perfect in that random moment in time? No tourists around, perfectly blue sky, you aren’t dying of heat, and your hair and makeup is still perfect. It makes me beg the question is your travel simply a fashion shoot?
This feeling I have had is one that I am sure so many experience. Recently, I have been seeing lots of backlash against travel influencers and travel shaming occuring. While I do not condone being judgmental about how others travel, I do believe this travel shaming is going to lead to the bursting of the travel influencer bubble.
My diagnosis for the travel influencer that wants to stay in the game is to emphasize the importance of differentiating your brand. I honestly cannot tell you how many people look the same in the industry when it comes to their brand. Find a way to make your brand stick to your audience in a genuine way. Also, it is vital to explore other platforms. There are tons of apps being created daily that could be the next big thing. Stay ahead by being one of the first adopters, before it becomes mainstream.
I am currently working with a company developing a platform to encourage transparent travel called StampedTribe. Our goal is to create a community of open dialogue about our experiences to empower others through information. We will be launching in January of 2018, so keep a look out for that. In the meantime, feel free to join our Facebook group where we will be giving updates and growing our initial community.