Travel Social Media : Sponsors, Clients, Revenue & Reality

If you are reading this blog post you are using a Travel Social Media channel. If you found the blog post via Twitter, then you are familiar with engaging directly in Social Media to seek out Travel content.


Many people dream of traveling the world, many dream of making a living Tweeting and posting to Instagram and in this realm, there are scores of dreamers who want to make a living wandering the world and blogging, Tweeting and Instagraming it.  The idea seems to be that working in social media is easy, that all you do is show up, use Twitter, write a blog post and get paid … if you think this, then let me be the first to burst your bubble.


Yesterday morning I received an email from a college student majoring in journalism and marketing, who follows me on Twitter, has read Flying With Fish and who wants to go into what they call “Travel Social Photography.”  This student, who shall remain nameless wrote to me seeking help to find contacts at companies where the could seek out sponsorship for their up coming travels … the following is what they were seeking …


“My plan is this, to find sponsor airlines, hotels, clothing companies and credit card providers, then spend Winter Break and Spring Break documenting my whirlwind travels, tweeting, IGing and facebooking the whole time. I am certain my adventures can garner me upwards of 80,000 new followers to help blow up these sponsor brands and find me new sponsor brands. What would be a fair rate to ask from each sponsor, in addition to support from them by way of flights, room stays, clothing and credit cards? I am thinking $25,000 each, is that reasonable?”


This is not the first email, or Tweet, or phone call, I have received from someone seeking guidance in finding sponsors. Most people follow the weekly Travelers’ Night In (#TNI) chat on Twitter which has a number of large sponsor brands and seem to think “Hey I can do that also, how hard can that be?”  … but let me address this email, because as much as I hate to bust someone’s bubble, I think people should be encouraged while having their feet firmly planted in reality.


So …


Dear [Student Who’s Name I Am Withholding] ,


Thank you for your email. I always enjoy meeting students who are pursing journalism, and interested in travel, photography and social media.   As you may know, I spent many years as a full-time news and editorial photographer shooting for newspapers, wires, agencies and magazines before transitioning over to working in travel social media.   I arrived at where I am now entirely by accident, and have been involved in this niche market before we ever had Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.


As social media has grown, so too has the number of people who have doe eyed visions of making a living as a travel blogger or travel social content creator.  The competition for precious sponsorships is stiff and competition for direct financial compensation is something you will rarely find … and those dollars are dwindling.


I know a number of excellent full time professional travel bloggers, bloggers with substantial audiences that many people like you dream about, and they do not command anywhere near the financial compensation you are seeking. I reached out to a few of these ‘top tier’ travel social media professionals regarding how to reply to you and am choosing to not include their comments as they were shall we say … less than constructive, with words such as Idiot, Delusional and Chutzpah.


As my intention here is to be constructive rather than crush your vision and dreams I have a few suggestions for you.


1) Work on growing your audience, your voice and your brand. Presently you have a very small audience on Twitter and Instagram. Your Facebook is private. I can’t say there is anything wrong with a private Facebook, my Facebook is private, but you need to figure out your primary social media, focus on that channel, then grow other channels along with it.  Obviously my primary channel is Twitter and how I use it works for me.


2) Visit, check out all the travel chats for the week and check out a few. Join in, meet people, network, and grow your audience.


3) Seek out other travel bloggers, travel Tweeters, travel photographers, start conversations with them, learn from them.   Like anything, business is competitive, but you’ll find many people who run successful social-travel-brands are welcoming and friendly, especially to those with their own niche’ that is different than theirs.


4) Do a lot of research on brands you are interested in working with, find out how you can work with them in a realistic manner.   Find out how sponsorships work, find out what companies pay for, and determine if those are things you are interested in, and then if so, work towards those goals.


5) Ensure your followers are real. Finding 80,000 followers is some random arbitrary number, and if you seek to buy followers you are not only doing nothing to build your audience, you will be found out   (it is really easy to figure that out) and then have trouble finding any sponsors to work with you in the future.  Building your audience takes time and consistency is how you’ll get your traffic. If you plan to work with brand sponsors long the way focus on staying on topic and personalizing your engagement experience.


6) Consider how many people in travel social media make their living, finding other avenues to put your skills to work.  Many have a persona that they make their living off their travel blog or their public travel social media efforts, but the reality is that they do not. My blog, which I just picked back up, is how many know me, but it is not my real revenue stream.   The #TNI #Travel Chat, while it generates income for me, is not my significant revenue stream. My income comes from work in the shadows for companies, figuring out their social media needs, and that allows me the freedom to do what I love to do in many ways. Many do not want to admit to working in the shadows for others, it takes away a public perception of who they are, but that is what pays the bills. Are there some who make their living off their travel blogging? Yes, absolutely, but they are the exception, not the rule.


7) Promote others, genuinely, send your traffic to other travel bloggers and tweeters you like on Twitter and Instagram. Send your audience to blogs you enjoy reading and you will begin to get traffic from others sending people back to you.   Social media is about being social, sharing, and putting your audience’s needs first.    Give and ye shall receive. Embrace it; it will make you endearing to those who can later down the road help you out, but sponsors and colleagues.


8) Check your ego and take a reality check.   What you are seeking to do is highly unrealistic and if your ego thinks you can pull that off, you’re in for an ego crush and a painful defeat.



We all find our own path, but hopefully some of this advice helps you fulfill part of your travel dreams.   To quote Rush, The Point Of The Journey Is Not To Arrive.


Happy Flying!



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