Forget Influencers. Mavens Wanted.

We are flooded with pitches from “influencers” who are willing to trade a nod on their social network of choice for an all-expense paid trip to Detroit.

The irritating part is that nearly all of these influencers have zero influence.

Frankly, marketers in the destination marketing space are getting carried away with influencer marketing. We are sinking real money into the pockets of people who are little more than coupon clippers with an iPhone 8. After the influencer’s visit, we are left with a few tweets and an Instagram post (usually a photo of themselves).

We took a look at the data and confirmed our hunch. During a recent event, one influencer of the ten or so visiting generated almost 98% of the earned media value on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Yikes.

I’ve heard similar soul-searching anecdotes from other destination marketers. An influencer reckoning is coming. Thank God.

Getting Back to Basics

After some hard questions and a lively discussion, we realized that Malcolm Gladwell had it right when he identified the “Maven” in his bestselling book — “The Tipping Point”.

are “information specialists”, or “people we rely upon to connect us with new information”.[4] They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know-how to share it with others. Gladwell cites Mark Alpert as a prototypical Maven who is “almost pathologically helpful”, further adding, “he can’t help himself”.[8] In this vein, Alpert himself concedes, “A Maven is someone who wants to solve other people’s problems, generally by solving his own”.[8]According to Gladwell, Mavens start “word-of-mouth epidemics” due to their knowledge, social skills, and ability to communicate.[9] As Gladwell states: “Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know”.[10] — Thanks, Wikipedia

Destination marketers need mavens not influencers. Mavens will come to your city, create seductive content and dig up local tips like a hog hunting truffles. They can’t help themselves. They are passionate about discovery and their content pushes people to reimagine their world.

Time for a Passion Audit

How do you know when you’ve found a “Travel Maven?” Find their social audience and do a “passion audit”.

Evita Turquoise Robinson

  • Are people asking questions? Mavens have proven their value by responding to their audience. Follower questions show trust in the Maven’s reliability and expertise.

  • Does it feel like a movement? A unique perspective coupled with a burning need will birth a movement. Evita Turquoise Robinson is a Travel Maven who kindled the Nomadness movement. Her posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are drenched with purpose and passion.

  • Are people taking action? The hardest thing to do is to convince someone to either give you money or take meaningful action on your behalf. The best Travel Mavens routinely get people off their couch and on a plane.

You probably are thinking…Damn Stan — that bar is way too high.

It is not.

Your city deserves the best. It’s your job to find the best mavens and entice them to your doorstep.

By the way, Maven’s attract mavens.

Are you your city’s #1 Maven? If you can’t show it, you can’t attract it. So, riddle me this, what if you used your “influencer budget” to train and reward your own in-house travel mavens?

Now we are talking.
© 2020 Stanford Smith