Our ‘Influencer of the Week’ series highlights the influencers who are kicking up a storm in the online world, with their brilliant blog content, impressive social media sorcery and general awesomeness! If you would like to be featured as an ‘Influencer of the Week’ in the future, shoot an email to email@example.com for consideration.
1. What made you start your own blog?
I was going to Korea! After graduating from college and struggling to find a job in what adults call the ‘real world’, I was ready for a change. In late 2007, I did some random searches on a job website and heard about a job teaching English in South Korea! After the usual questions of ‘can I do that?’ and ‘do I want to do that?’, I applied. Got a call from the recruiter the next day, and an interview scheduled for the next week. As I sorted out the visa to Korea, a few friends asked me to write them – Korea seems a world away from Kentucky, in central USA. A few friends became a dozen, and then a few dozen… I eventually e-mailed them all with the URL of my first blog, told them to read it, then set out to write stuff that would interest them.
2. What do you think makes for a great influencer?
Perhaps the best (and worst!) parts of blogging is the influence you get to have over people. I’m reminded of that philosophical quote from the classic Spiderman: “with great power comes great responsibility.” Your readers have to trust your opinions cannot be bought, even as you’re offered free trips, hotel rooms, or other stuff.
In short, great influencers offer authentic, legitimate opinions that may not always be the most popular. They stick with them anyway.
3. What kind of value do you think bloggers and influencers provide nowadays?
The $64,000 question! Again, it’s got to be authentic and a good fit with your audience (so knowing your audience is of paramount importance). I turned down a chance to eat at one of Bangkok’s finest restaurants recently – simply put, I don’t focus on food, and the high-end places are not where my wife and I normally go. Regrets? None.
4. Do you have any tips for newbie bloggers on how to increase your reach and become a trusted influencer in your field?
Connect, connect, connect. Read and follow the other travel blogs, recognize differences in travel styles, and reach out to folks. Pick a niche and stick with it – simply being a ‘travel blogger’, for example, makes you a very small fish in a very big pond. I, for example, focus on the offbeat, the weird, and the bizarre destinations in the countries where I travel. Others might focus on budget, luxury, family, ‘adult’ destinations, and so on.
5. What has been the highlight of your blogging career so far?
I went to a blogger’s conference in Bangkok recently, stayed at an exquisite hotel, met a ton of folks, and put my proverbial finger on the pulse of where businesses met bloggers. Before that, it was the random bumping into readers wherever I went around Korea. It might have been a bar or some concert, but it was still fun!
6. What is the most difficult part about blogging that many people may not realize?
It’s going to be different for everyone, but generating revenue is a big one. Blogging is the platform to get your name and brand out there, but there isn’t necessarily a lot of money in blogging. Another thing that’s difficult personally? Researching the travel destinations we aim to go to. Since we get off-the-beaten-path as often as we can, there isn’t always a lot of information about how to get there. My wife should get a lot of credit for her efforts as well – she’s awesome like that.
7. What kind of opportunities have you had as a result of your blogging success?
More than I can recount in a short interview like this – I’ve joined focus groups and panels related to tourism, met some awesome travelers from around the world. That my wife has the same interest of traveling and exploring means I got the girl of my dreams to join me on the trip of our lives!
8. What has been the most memorable or important piece of advice you received as a (beginner) blogger?
There’s a bunch of advice I’ve heard (and offered) over the years. Something that’s stuck with me, and I don’t remember who said it first, is to always offer value. Too many blogs end up being self-serving, full of ads, or forget who their readers are. You don’t have to give away everything for free to be valuable. As an example, I offer plenty of directions to a place in a blogpost – valuable, right? I’ve also written itineraries about the same places – in these, you get directions to get from point A to point B, specific suggestions while you’re in town, and so on. Still valuable – enough so that people happily buy them even though some of the same content is on the blog.
9. What kind of future do you see for your blog?
A long-term one. Seriously, though, I don’t see an end to it as long as I’m able to travel.Even if I end up moving back to the Western world, there will still be plenty of places to go.
10. Finally, who are the bloggers that influence you?
I read a bunch of different bloggers, so I’m reluctant to identify any specific bloggers as being more influential… There are definitely folks that have been blogging about their travel for a lot longer, though many of them travel so quickly that it’s hard to really get to know a city or area. There are other nomadic / ‘slow travel’ bloggers like myself that live in an area for awhile – anywhere from a couple weeks to months and years. Finally, there are bloggers that carry a full-time job during the week and travel during the weekends. In any case, the type of traveler you are will give you a hint of who will influence you.
Chris Backe is the avid traveler and blogger behind One Weird Globe, dedicated to highlighting offbeat destinations throughout the world. He’s written over a dozen books and itineraries about Korea and Thailand beyond the blog, and has been living the traveling / expat life since 2008.