Lesley’s Start in Travel Blogging
Lesley Carter is originally from Nova Scotia, where she formerly worked as a high school teacher. However, when she moved with her husband to California under his work visa, she was unable to continue teaching here. Lesley took this opportunity to go in another direction. Using her travel and adventure experience, she created a travel blog.
At the time, blogging was not known to be an opportunity like it is today. However, she started to gain traction – starting with hundreds of views each month, then thousands, then a couple million in a very short time. This growth helped her connect with tourism boards, hotels, and other travel and adventure brands.
She was naturally thrilled because traveling is her passion and she loves writing as well. Fast forward ten years later, Lesley is able to travel for free with her entire family. To this day, she can hardly believe that.
“And I get to do these amazing experiences and share [it] with my family? I’m still to this day, shocked.”
Pivoting During COVID
Naturally, COVID put a damper on the travel industry and restricted travel greatly. To keep her brand thriving, Lesley pivoted and incorporated other niches. Since she has two children, she now works with toy brands and other companies that focus on children.
Her other niche within the travel industry is extreme adventure travel.
How Lesley Grew So Quickly
In the beginning, Lesley wasn’t paid much, if at all. However, she asked the travel brands she worked with to share her posts. This included blog posts, Instagram posts, and more, which these companies would share on their website and social media. While this didn’t put money in her pocket, she grew exponentially because she partnered with large tourism boards.
At the beginning of her career, it was less about the money and more about growth and building a name for herself.
Lesley’s Quick Tips for Influencers
So, what are Lesley’s tips for growth and working with brands?
- Pick a brand name you really love. It only gets more challenging to change your social media handle as time goes on.
- Work on growth at the beginning of your social media career. Once you get to a certain level, about five to ten thousand users a month, then start to consider asking for financial payments with your partnerships. She recommends waiting until about 10,000 followers on Instagram.
- Accept that you will be told no when you ask for money from certain companies.
- Reach out to companies that you are especially interested in. Look on their websites for a media contact and introduce yourself. Tell them a bit about what you do and what you’d be interested in doing for them.
- Understand your audience. Grow and pivot your content with the changing times.
How to Understand Your Audience
Lesley’s biggest tip is understanding your audience and pivoting your content as you go. For example, she started an Instagram account after her blog’s success. She was able to build a large following on her account. Since then, she has pivoted her content to stay relevant on Instagram. For example, video content is now more prominent on Instagram than photos, so she uses this to her advantage.
As you change up your content, she warns that it’s crucial to stay on brand. Many brands don’t stay on brand throughout all their social media platforms, website, etc. This can be confusing to the viewer and limit your growth. Continue your identity throughout all your social media platforms. This is especially important when you’re collaborating with brands too. It’s not worth compromising your brand identity for a paid post with a company. Don’t work with brands that don’t align with your ethics, brand identity, or lifestyle.
The Importance of Maintaining your Brand Identity
Make sure all the brands you work with line up with your social media goals and identity. For example, Lesley recently worked with Visit Florida. This lines up well with her brand because she is a massive fan of the beach lifestyle. In addition to this, large parts of her audience are from Texas and enjoy visiting beaches, so Florida is a great, convenient location for her audience to realistically travel to. On the other hand, partnering with a small restaurant in Seattle wouldn’t be a great fit for Lesley because she doesn’t have a large part of her audience located in or near the area.
When working with a brand, your audience and their audience should line up nicely. Otherwise, the message will seem inauthentic to your audience and not be a great fit for the brand either. A brand’s ethics are crucial too. Lesley speaks about family being important to her, as well as the black lives matter campaign because her own children go to school in a very multicultural setting. So, she looks for brands that support similar goals.
Similarly, she’s passionate about working with brands that are against cruelty to animals, especially makeup or skincare companies that don’t test on animals. Other examples include not working with companies that promote elephant riding. To Lesley, this is cruel and something she is very much against. So, she would turn down any company or tourism board promoting something like that.
Keeping yourself in check is also essential. For example, Lesley is frequently on free travel trips, and these trips are often filled with settings where everyone is drinking. It can be tempting to indulge. However, Lesley knows that she represents herself and the brand she is on the trip with. So, not overindulging and keeping what you say appropriate is always on her mind.
Maintaining her brand identity has brought excellent results for Leslie and the companies she has collaborated with. A recent campaign with Visit Florida lead to over 22,000 likes and more than 400 comments, along with many people driven to the Visit Florida website. She mixed up her posts on Instagram using both photos and videos to achieve this. Lesley uses a program called Klear.com to measure her engagement, insights, number of comments, and much more.
To sum it up, keep your brand consistent, authentic, and aligned with your values across all platforms for the best results.