Influencer events: from creating instagrammable moments to delivering ROI: Interview with Han Talbot, Project Manager at Traverse Events

This year, I was supposed to host the first International MICE Forum at ITB Berlin, but unfortunately, it was cancelled. The announcement came on 28 February 2020, just a few days before the trade show was due to open to international visitors. According to the official statement on the ITB Berlin website, the event was cancelled ‘due to the rapid spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Economics have stated their opinion that ITB Berlin be cancelled.’

When an adverse situation develops, opportunities often arise. Within a few days, ITB Berlin came up with a solution to offer a ‘Virtual Convention’ where planned talks can be recorded (whether live or online) and uploaded onto the new website of the virtual convention. 

The MICE programme at ITB Berlin was organised by the Verband der Veranstaltungsorganisatoren e.V., the largest event association in Germany. Following the event cancellation, they reacted rapidly to host a small event on 5 March at the International Club Berlin, which was initially booked for the MICE Night. This session brought together industry leaders to discuss crisis management, share experience and possible solutions. 

I was in Berlin to attend this event. One of the International MICE Forum panellists—Han Talbot, Project Manager at Traverse—travelled to Berlin despite the event’s cancellation. Being both in Berlin, we arranged to meet and record this session about ‘Influencer events: from creating instagrammable moments to delivering ROI.’ On 6 March, we met at the highly ‘instagrammable’ hotel niu Hide to record our meeting, and I’m delighted to share with you this insightful interview about influencer marketing. 

I was particularly eager to interview Han about the work Traverse does in this space because I have attended three of their events over the past two years: in Rotterdam, Hamburg and Trentino. These events are the most significant gatherings for content creators and the digital industry, and I learned a substantial amount during these events. 

Han has been a project manager at Traverse since last May, and she has joined the team to launch the Borderless Live event, one of three on their event portfolio (more about that later). Traverse is a marketing and events company specialising in working with content creators and digital influencers. They are based in London with a global client base. Han has also been a blogger herself for the last seven years, having initiated a blog while living in Brazil studying for a degree in languages, and that became a career in influencer marketing. 

What is the difference between press vs influencer trip or event?

According to Han, the traditional press involves writing for newspapers or radio broadcasts. People who work in the traditional press are behind the scenes, creating content for the traditional channels. Influencers, on the other hand, have established their channels online—whether it be a blog, YouTube channel, Instagram—and across all other social media channels. They don’t necessarily have a qualification in journalism, but may have launched a channel as a hobby or passion or as part of their portfolio, and their content is predominantly digital. 

Influencers and content creators are referred to as press because they are essentially reporting on an event, but Traverse as an agency sees the separation between the traditional press and content creators/influencers, with content creators covering predominantly digital channels. 

What are the objectives of an influencer event?

Traverse has three flagship events for content creators: Traverse, Key Frame and Borderless Live.

According to Han, at Traverse, they want to have a community at the heart of what they do. The events are fairly small and are based around a community. This event is more for technical and practical skills to learn about the business, how to create content and build networks, how to build and design a channel etc. There are various activities where attendees can get hands-on experience in photography and video. This format is different to a traditional conference where people will sit down and only take in information. There are also evening events as part of the programme to enhance networking opportunities. By the end of the conference, the delegates will gain new skills that they can apply immediately to their channel but also will be introduced to a community of other content creators. As a content creator, the process can often be lonely, so Traverse also takes this into consideration and offers vast networking opportunities. 

Key Frame is about video. It also offers a small event format to be able to provide great value; at a large event, the quality might get lost. This is more for content creators who want to build a video channel. It’s about having seminars and then going out to explore the city and getting hands-on practical experience. The city also has the opportunity to demonstrate its alternate side for content creators to capture. It’s also about cooperating with the destination as well as the skills and workshops that can be gained from the event. 

The Borderless Live is designed for content creators across all industries (food, fashion, beauty, lifestyle etc.), whereas the other two predominantly focus on travel. Furthermore, this event is also suitable for those who work in the traditional press and are looking to build their online portfolio. Whereas Traverse and Key Frame change destination every year, Borderless Live will remain in London, which is centrally located and easy to access.

How can brands capture the attention of busy, in-demand influencers? Is this possible only with monetary rewards?

According to Han, there is a misconception about content creators and digital influencers—that they are unreachable. Perhaps, if we compare them with celebrities; you can’t get a response, and you go through an agent—this process can be long. But content creators often start the channel themselves. Even if they are represented, they will still chat on social media themselves. 

So, most of the time, it’s simply about dropping a line—whether that be an email or via Instagram. Instagram for me makes it even easier to talk to people. It’s just about reaching out and being personable. Very few of the content creators are used to being in the business immediately, so just putting a line in on Instagram saying, ‘I love what you do, and we’d love to invite you to an event.’ I get responses 9 times of 10, even with some of the top-level influencers, even if it’s sometimes ‘talk to my agent.’ So, it’s a lot easier than people may perceive, and it’s about how you treat and how you reach out to that person because I know some people feel that they need to talk to the influencers as if they are a business, but you don’t always need that. When reaching out to influencers, it’s recommended to be personal and relate to a recent post, such as ‘Hi Han, I saw you were in Berlin/ at this event, how was it? It looked really fun.’ The focus is mainly on having this conversation and being human. It’s very simple and effective in return. 

How can brands measure the ROI of an influencer event?

This is such a new industry, despite some having been in it for 10–15 years. ROI measurement varies, depending on what a client wants. It can be a mixture of anything—from the number of attendees alone, ticket sales and the new age of influencer marketing that includes likes, comments, shares online. It can be the number of posts on Instagram, Facebook and across other platforms, a YouTube video, but then you can also go more deeply and track how many impressions were made online, how many accounts were reached and how many times a hashtag was used. There are different levels of how you can measure it. 

From our perspective at Traverse, the focus is mainly on the number of attendees, but when you can just leave it open and flexible for people to just enjoy it as an event and in return create content because they love what they are seeing and experiencing, it will be more successful. 

However, there is a difference between trips and events. Often, we’ll have certain aims or KPIs for a trip that we have to meet—whether that be the number of attendees or number of posts. We know how to better manage that; so, we never try to push anything unreasonably, because we understand where content creators are coming from—it’s their business, and we don’t want to push it because then the relationship can become sour, and they will be significantly less willing to create content if they are pushed. Thus, for trips, we’ll agree on (or pay for) a set amount of content to be produced, or the trip can be the monetary exchange for the content. It varies depending on what the client is after, because they can be saying they just want brand awareness; therefore, ‘go ahead and create.’ Sometimes, we’ll need to have a certain amount of Instagram posts created about a particular place that we’re going to or a campaign they are pushing; therefore, it differs substantially depending on what you do. Content creators are often just very excited about what they do, and they see things from such an incredible perspective—you just give them that creative reign, and they go and create some fantastic content. 

How can brands create instagrammable moments at an event or trip for influencers to share on social media?

According to Han, the more the brand can tell us about what they are looking for, the better because then we can meet their expectations. For example, if a client has an item they want to be featured, they should say it in order to create space for the item to be photographed. Generally, brands understand that we need a photo aspect to it, something that influencers can go and say ‘I’m here’; hence, they take a picture. Generally, an increasing number of brands say they want to create a photo element, and if they put their branding on, it helps them. We also want to create as many photographs as possible—whether that be a trip or event. During a trip, we’ll attempt to incorporate sufficient time to provide a good view at sunrise or sunset, and we constantly look at different ways to create such opportunities. It’s a quick win for brands. If you are lost for inspiration as a content creator, having something nice and easy to capture is a quick win for them as well—it works. 

How necessary is briefing pre event or trip, and what will such a briefing include?

Generally, creators would want to know the handle for the trip/event and the hashtag. We do talk about expectations of content—we’ll brief them about the trip schedule, so the content creators know what they are doing. For events, we don’t tend to have that as often because most of the time, we just want people to come and have a great time and be exposed to the brands. The hashtags will be visible at the venues, and most of the time, people will look for the handles so they can tag other attendees. We put the hashtag on the newsletter, social media and name badges. For us as a brand, there is more openness and flexibility around that, and there are also events that are free to attend, so we don’t want to force too much. We’d ask speakers that they will tag us in case they post about it online to enable people to track it. It’s not just for us but also for other attendees who want to see who will be there. So, it’s a 2-sided thing—not just for us as a brand, but also for the community.

Can you share tips of a successful influencer collaboration?

One of such campaigns was with Three, where we created the Three Film Festival and had digital content creators produce their content on phones. Afterwards, we had a cinema screening and provided workshops where people talked about their experience. Another example is the Treverse in Trentino last year, which was also a big success, and we therefore returned this winter for a mini-conference for a winter campaign. People love working with us because we understand both sides of the picture—the digital content creators, how they work and also the brands—we understand them and care about their brand message.

Photos: Thomas Loris

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