As travel bloggers, we do what it takes to stay on the road, and — like it or not — sometimes that means compromising our artistic integrity. I personally have sold links on my site, written fluff pieces for a quick buck, and would probably acquiesce to the offer of a sponsored IG picture if I cared to build my followers. What bothers me isn’t the money, but how some bloggers pretend these sponsored posts and links aren’t ultimately affecting their content. And doing so consistently can make travel bloggers lose touch with their readers.
In some sense, this is inevitable in any given profession. If you start out in the mailroom of a law firm, you’re probably going to forget how to relate to your coworkers once you’ve passed the bar and start expensing $100 lunches (ok, I’ve just described Saul Goodman). The more you become an expert at something, the more you change as a result. While someone like a lawyer doesn’t necessarily need to justify this change to anyone in her profession, travel bloggers and artists do if they want to keep their following.
As travel bloggers increase their income and are presented with more and more luxury opportunities (especially if they’re comped experiences), covering these expensive destinations could be a turn off to readers, especially if you started as a budget travel blogger and built your audience off of that concept.
With online content, this isn’t even necessarily a matter of money. Eat Your Kimchi, a successful Canadian couple’s YouTube channel, grew famous within a Korean audience since they covered K-Pop and other aspects of Korean culture. When the couple decided to move to Japan and posted a video about how much better their quality of life was versus Korea, much of their loyal Korean audience pushed back on them. The vloggers’ lives changed, but some of their audience wasn’t ready to change with them.
Have you noticed any changes in your blogging style?
It is possible for your audience to evolve with you. You can start out being a carefree spirit, aimlessly wandering the globe, and transition your content into responsible travel, environmentalism, prevention of animal cruelty, even politics. But always remember where you came from, and how your followers made it possible for you to travel. Do your best to bridge the gap between the core origins of your blog and its future.
You may like the person you are now better than the one who started that blog or YouTube channel years ago, but subscribers don’t have that same insight into your life. If you see yourself going in a different direction, explain to your followers why you’re pursuing a new or more focused path. Maybe that means losing some followers in the short term, but being honest and producing content you’re passionate about now is a better choice. Plus, you may be able to grow your following to a different audience.
You can survive without changing… but do you want to?
The beauty of the Internet is that it reaches everyone across the globe. While no one is universally liked online, chances are there is an audience out there for you. But your motivation as a travel blogger should never be about fame. Obviously, some marketing is involved to reach more than a few hundred people, but there will come a breaking point between producing the content you have become passionate about and catering to what you think you should write for your audience. Travel bloggers who don’t even try to test the waters can burn themselves out writing about how spiritually awakened they are after a sponsored retreat when all they want to do is rant about how pointless it felt.
How to keep your audience, if you so choose
- Honesty is the best policy.
Write about where you see your content going. If it’s radically different, explain why. Just as if they’re reading a book, followers are going to be curious about your journey, and the ending.
- Throwback on occasion.
Just because you’re a different person than when you started blogging doesn’t mean there aren’t traces of her that spring up from time to time. When that moment strikes, be ready to capture it. Even if it doesn’t, post some of your old entries on your current social media feed to remind everyone.
- Don’t resent who you were, and don’t resent readers for remembering.
So you’re no longer a budget traveler and instead prefer resorts and business class. That’s no reason to act like such things are beneath you when someone calls you out on Twitter or Facebook. If travel used to be about finding the best beef around the world, but now focuses on the best vegan restaurants, don’t get offended if a follower who’s been with you since the beginning asks you about Brazilian steakhouses.
Humble beginnings or not, we all have an origin story that has defined who we are, for better or worse. Instead of burying the past, embrace it as what led you to where you are now. Let it inform your future adventures and blogging endeavors, and invite your audience to join you for the ride.