Recently in Indonesia the issue of fam trips has reared its ugly head once again. It’s a mess of jealousy, arrogance and bitterness and I wanted to comment on it from an outsider’s perspective. How am I an outsider when I’m married to an Indonesian traveller blogger? Because 99.9% of our travel is self funded and we very rarely seek freebies. That’s not because we don’t like free stuff, it’s basically because we are too busy doing our own trips.
The recent argument is similar to previous ones in the Indonesian travel blogger world. It’s about a select group of bloggers rolling in from around Indonesia to cover a particular city in Indonesia, Semarang. Ostensibly, bloggers from close to this region are unhappy that they weren’t invited. They argue they should be invited because they know the area better, that the bloggers who were invited are always invited and that bloggers from outside of Jakarta never get free trips.
While some of the sentiment sounds ok, I think the argument being used is wrong. There is only one broad argument to in my opinion and that’s whether government tourism authorities (Destination Marketing Organisations DMOs) should be selecting bloggers based on merit or not? And when it comes to merit, the main issue is statistics — pageviews and followers.
Fam trips are useful for destination marketing organisations in order to promote their message to a wider audience and have traditionally been given to traditional media. Traditional media usually has a massive audience and a 2 page article in a magazine has the advertising value equivalency (AVE) of 2 full page ads. Probably more because it’s part of editorial and readers respond better to that.
When a blogger goes on a trip, you’ve got to ask what return on investment (ROI) they are providing (as measure with AVE). And this is where things become tricky. To measure this is extremely difficult. But in order for an investment of airfares, accommodation, meals and tours to pay off, the blogger has to have a big readership, big Instagram following or big Twitter following — preferably all three. Why? Because if a blogger only receives 1,000 pageviews per month, only has 2000 instagram followers, only has 2,000 Twitter followers, there is no way that the massive investment of the fam trip is going to be paid back — that is, the ROI is negative. The AVE of a blogger with these stats is probably less than Rp. 1.000.000. In other words, you could just buy advertising on the blogger’s site without giving them a free trip for Rp. 1.000.000 and get the same coverage. So if the cost of the fam trip is more than Rp. 1.000.000, that is a bad investment and leads to negative ROI.
Clearly, you need to have a certain amount of pageviews and/or followers for the investment to be worth it. What that number is is up for debate. But I think the number is quite high because many fam trips are expensive!
Some people argue that stats are not everything. That engagement and tone is important as well. I agree. People with no engagement and a poor tone should not be selected for fam trips. But people with poor stats should also not be selected. Which leaves you with people with medium to big stats that also have a good tone and good engagement.
So what would be the minimum stats I would recommend for an international fam trip? Well, for an Indonesian blogger, I would expect a minimum of 30,000 pageviews per month. I would expect a minimum of 8,000 instagram followers. Twitter is not as important these days, so it’s a bonus. Of course, if you’re pageviews are a lot higher than 30,000, you would be able to lower the Instagram number. And vice-versa. If you’ve got 30,000 Instagram followers and only 10,000 pageviews, that would be good too.
For a local trip within Indonesia, the expenses are lower, so I think it’s OK to select people with lower stats. 20,000 pageviews per month would be OK as well 5,000 Instagram followers. In Indonesia, there are LOTS OF TRAVEL BLOGGERS WITH THESE STATS. So they should be chosen first if they meet the criteria of good engagement and tone. Again, these are rough numbers because a fam trip to Raja Ampat is much more expensive and you would want someone to have very good stats for that sort of trip. But for a trip to DuFan, you might not care about stats at all.
I get the impression that in Indonesia, people are scared of stats. People believe it to be sombong to ask about stats. But without these stats, how can someone’s performance be measured? It’s none of my business what your stats are. But it should be the business of the DMO. They should ask for people’s stats and select people based on those stats.
Just so you know, there are lots of Indonesian travel bloggers who regularly receive more than 50,000 pageviews per month. I’m guessing here, but there would be more than 10 who receive more than 100,000 pageviews per month. Are there some with more than 150,000 per month? Yes. Aside from this, there are lots of instagrammers with more than 20,000 followers. Lots.
The counter argument to what I have talked about here is this: “why should fam trips be reserved for people with big stats only?” The simple answer is that people with low stats simply aren’t worth the investment — that is, if you choose them, you get a negative ROI. You will not increase the number of visitors to Pangandaran if a traveller blogger with 2,000 views per month writes about it. The same goes for an instagrammer with 2,000 followers. It is better to spend that money on advertising directly on a blog rather than sending a blogger to the destination.
The other argument is that it’s not just about that one blogger, but all the bloggers in combination which promotes a destination. For example, a big group of bloggers might get a destination to be a trending topic on twitter, might collectively get more exposure for the destination compared to bloggers just going one by one — therefore you can’t single out smaller bloggers. They are all part of a team. I accept this argument. But why not fill the trip with bigger bloggers for bigger impact? That is important to ensure a big ROI.
Diversity in Fam Trips
One thing I have also noticed with fam trips is that marketing people are sometimes lazy and they sometimes just pick the same bloggers as were picked last time. This is a problem. Why? Because if there is no diversity in fam trips, you end up with the same people promoting 20 destinations in a year. This means that their audience gets bored of all the advertorial style blog posts about why xxx destination is so awesome when we all really know that everything is awesome when it’s free! (you see this with food bloggers all the time). The other problem with lack of diversity is that people who aren’t included in fam trips get jealous.
So I think diversity in bloggers should be high on the fam trip list of requirements to ensure the DMO message gets across more broadly and without the audience becoming blind to endless PR posts from the same bloggers. But also to ensure those people who are good enough to go fam trips, actually do go on fam trips.
Please please comment on this and put your view forward. English or Indonesian is welcome. I write in English because it’s easier for me, you can write in Indonesian if it’s easier for you. I will be able to understand it. But please also keep the discussion civilised. Any nastiness will be deleted. But I do welcome opposing views.
I am not taking sides. I just want the money from the government to be spent wisely and fairly so that Indonesian tourism can really benefit. No KKN, no waste, no abuse.