Born and raised in California, Haley Dasovich, would often travel between Asia and America visiting family. After graduating college, she began working for a tech company in San Francisco but started vlogging in her free time about her travels, health and fitness habits, and special places in the Bay Area. Shortly after, she quit her job and pursued her passion full-time as she shares her experiences through her travels and encourages others to get off the couch and explore the world to find meaningful experiences.
We recently sat down with Haley to discuss what’s it like to be a travel influencer and working with renowned brands.
How did you get your start vlogging?
My family is half Filipino, so a lot of them live in the Philippines. My brother moved to Manila right after he graduated from college and became a television personality and model, but he knew it was short term due to the lack of creative freedom, so in 2015, he started uploading YouTube videos. He created a series on YouTube that ended up going viral and quickly gained 5-6K followers from this series. During a trip to Manila to visit him, he asked me to make a video with him of some fun family banter while just sitting at a desk and ended up getting 100K+ views! His subscribers started flocking to my YouTube channel, which at that time was just an account without any content, and with the encouragement of my brother, I started filming videos too.
I knew at that point I wanted to do something different after being in tech for 3.5 years and I had to figure something else out, so I started making videos of my vacations. In May 2016, I uploaded my first video and by October, I had 32K followers, so I quit my job and focused on vlogging full-time.
How did you build your following?
What helped me grow organically was consistently producing content on YouTube. I uploaded at least 4-5 videos a week, sometimes 6. At that time, I wasn’t so worried about the quality of the video and more on just getting the videos out.
I learned how to promote my videos by watching YouTube videos and realized how important SEO in the title and in the description was. A huge factor within the travel influencer world is that people know the countries to go to if you want to jumpstart your followers and what I’ve learned is that people in the Filipinos love watching the foreigners' experiences traveling around their own country, especially when the beauty of the Philippine islands are showcased at the forefront.
Another important aspect is how much I engaged with my audience. In my videos, I would ask them questions and say “comment below” or “what do you think”, and then read all the comments and respond to them. Creating this personal relationship was essential to my organic growth.
How do you approach the content you post for each channel?
Everything is tied together. Between my YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc. is to keep the brand identity the same. Most of my time is spent on Instagram and YouTube but I tend to recycle my videos and upload them onto Facebook.
With influencer marketing growing and evolving, companies are seeing how important it is to marketing. For example, Facebook is trying to engage with content creators, and I actually just finished a 6 month pilot program with them. I was tasked to upload a video once a week for 6 months straight. It’s interesting how these large platforms are going after personal touches and moving away from seeing celebrities because they’re involving influencers who are more relatable and personal.
I try to examine my numbers in terms of followers, but more importantly, by engagement and views. It’s a constant learning process: what to post, how to post, when to post and it can be a headache figuring out all the logistics! Plus, as soon as you figure something out, a network will change their algorithm or introduce a new feature you have to learn.
What does your average day look like?
My normal routine day outside of travelling for jobs is full of mundane business stuff, with video editing taking the most of my time. Editing is a different beast because with videos, you film the content for 3-4 days, then it takes a day to get all the footage and cut everything. At the same time, you’re trying to work in a story while editing, so I’m pretty much in a cave for days and days without stepping outside.
I think the flexibility of being an influencer is extremely appealing but it’s really more of an entrepreneurial venture and freelancing, doing everything on your own. If I had to say what I do, I would say I’m a freelancer. To an outsider looking in, liberating yourself from 9-5p and controlling your own successes probably seems like a dream, but it is a lot of work!
Since I don’t have a manager, I do a lot on my own, such as reviewing all inquiries, working through proposals, negotiations and the full content production process too. It’s really the burden of self-promotion and the struggles inherent in time management because you’re doing the sales, marketing, closing, and time management.
One of the struggles is I never really have time off. My time off is a few hours here and there because my trips and vacations are also work, but that’s also the beauty of what I do. Aside from the business part, I have to organize my upcoming travels and work on projects, which can sometimes be stressful.
What’s one of the biggest challenges when collaborating with brands?
Many brands struggle to measure ROI, so the vetting process is a not only a huge challenge for the brands, but for the influencers as well. Brands need to understand that vetting of the influencer and their quality of work may be closely tied to ROI. When a brand decides on a marketing campaign, they need to define what success looks like and ask the right questions.
Are you looking to increase revenue? Increase brand awareness? Or increase your social following? These goals should drive the partnerships and messaging strategy for the first reachout. Only after a goal of a campaign has been identified, can you determine which KPIs to track to see if your influencer or a piece of content has performed. I have a feeling that when a clearcut goal isn’t mentioned, the brand is used to working with influencers who don’t care about this and just want free things or free hotel stays.
Finally, you can’t talk about influencer marketing challenges without talking about fraud. The more rampant fraud has become, the more important vetting becomes for brands. Some influencers who have thousands or even millions of followers might not necessarily have an impact on purchasing decisions. This is where research and technology like Traackr are incredibly helpful.
Do you have an example of how you would love to work with a brand?
I worked with Six:02, an athleisure and fitness company, who really nailed the outreach and execution. They reached out to me and told me about their brand, acknowledged what they liked about my content, details of the campaign, and timeline, etc and having all that information in one email made it so easy, rather than having to go back and forth. They did a great vetting process because they saw my Instagram, went through my YouTube videos, and on their side, they presented how they wanted to work with me. There was no fluff and no gaps in communication.
What should influencers consider before working with a brand?
For influencers, the number one most important question is “are you really the right fit?” It’s impossible to ignore the rush of excitement of an inquiry, but you have to consider “does it fit your brand?” If it doesn’t fit, you can’t force it. For example, I got an inquiry to do a really lucrative video review about kitchen supplies, but I couldn’t do it because I’m not a parent and I don’t cook on a regular basis. I don’t want to push brands to my followers when it clearly doesn’t fit my tone of voice.
Secondly, influencers need to ask themselves, what are the brand’s objectives? I did a campaign a while back with a big haircare brand when I first started vlogging and they told me exactly what to write and exactly how to take my photo, but I had no creative freedom. It might fit their brand but we could’ve worked it in a way that fit both of us. As a social media person, we know our audience and our subject areas to a reasonable degree, so this puts me in a position where I should be able to drive that conversation with brands and set more realistic objectives based on that knowledge.
An influencer should also ask about the deliverables and scope of work. I try to avoid inquiries that just ask, “what are your rate cards?” To boil it all down to one number is a complete oversimplification, which typically implies they don’t really have an objective in place.
Lastly, formalizing the relationship with a written contract seems like common sense but it’s easy for influencers to overlook and forget to ask the right questions which inevitably causes frustrations and problems.
What are some travel predictions and trends do you see coming up?
The travel industry is starting to realize that they should be partnering with influencers because there’s a huge opportunity to educate travellers looking for their next vacation. A lot of times, people might not know where to go and they’ll jump on Instagram and get inspired by a beautiful photo.
People in their mid-20/30’s who have capital to travel want the services of a travel agent. They’ll use Instagram as a jump-off service. They might not know what they want, so they type something like #travelscotland and from there will see what looks nice and even look at hotels.
I believe travel agents and hotels can also gain trust by partnering with influencers. People trust influencers like they trust a friend. For example, the power of an Instagram photo can inspire you to go on that trip and take the same photo and the advantage of working with influencers is that you can reach a new audience in an inspiring way.
Conscious travel is huge right now, which is related to choosing a destination based on the potential socio-economic and environmental impact (human rights, animal rights, etc.). Another travel trend I’m noticing is choosing a destination based on learning or crafting a skill, i.e. traveling to Thailand or Bali to get certified in Yoga or volunteer work.
Do you have any travel influencers that you’re inspired by?
I follow photographers @christianschaffer, @nathanielwise, and @chelseakauai who create beautiful content in the United States. I get to travel a lot across the world, but I haven’t really seen many of the beautiful places in this country.
Also, any time I have a creative block, I typically go straight to Casey Neistat, who is my favorite social media personality. He’s the godfather of daily vlogging, being one of the first to incorporate cinematic transitions into his content, but it changed the game on how to tell a story in a daily vlog.
Thanks Haley Dasovich for the great insight in the day in the life of a travel influencer. Discover more about influencer marketing in the hospitality industry by reading our case study with Melia Hotels International.