While browsing online I’ll often see someone described as an “influencer.” My immediate image is of someone traveling around the world with an entourage of stylists, photographers and handlers, making sure that every picture posted to Instagram, and every Tweet and Facebook post is perfect. No food is unappetizing. No sunset is disappointing and every hotel room is immaculate. Only the best, most trendy and impossible to get into places are suitable for them.
This is definitely NOT the person who I’m going to follow or listen to about where I should visit.
But as I put more thought into it, what is an “influencer?”
I went to the internet to look for a definition.
A Social Media Influencer is a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.
I’m thinking back to when I started with points and miles or even just travel and Disney sites. I read the websites of those whom I felt were knowledgeable in their areas. I signed up for the SPG American Express card because I read Gary write about it on View from the Wing and how it was the best card you could sign up for at the time. We went to the now-closed Nara Dreamland because of a post I read on Theme Park Review. We even went to places like Salzburg, Austria and saw the sites from The Sound of Music without a tour because of the information we found online.
Does this make all of those websites influencers?
More importantly, now that I write for my own website and share information about what’s the best waterpark in the world (Schlitterbahn) or give a list of my most memorable hotels, am I now an influencer?
In my mind, the answer is no. Mainly because when I think of an influencer, I think of someone who’s being paid, or at least subsidized, to write about where they’re going. Now that I’m somewhat involved with this world, I’ve seen posts from people asking hotels to host them for a weekend so they can write about their property on social media channels. That’s not something I’m going to do for YMMV.
The one time we were recognized for writing the website was when we visited Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels shortly after writing the post: An Open Letter To The CEO Of Cedar Fair: Don’t Ruin Our Favorite Water Park!
We ended up, by coincidence, visiting the park on its 40th Anniversary weekend. We posted a picture to our Instagram account the day before the festivities.
The next morning, since we were there, we decided to watch the ceremony (and get a piece of birthday cake). As we were standing with the crowd, someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked if we were Joe and Sharon from YMMV. Whut?
Turns out, most of the head office of Schlitterbahn had seen our post from the week before and even forwarded it to their contact with Cedar Fair. They invited us to be part of the birthday festivities. As you can tell, we weren’t dressed to be Instagram fabulous. We were dressed for a waterpark.
I can say, this was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been representing the website we work on almost every day, even while visiting one of our most favorite places in the world. We even were interviewed, and I hope the footage will never see the light of day (Note from Sharon: Ditto!)
I don’t think I’m cut out of the “influencer” mold. That’s the whole reason we decided on the name “Your Mileage May Vary” for the website. It’s the ultimate anti-influencer title. It actively says that everyone may have a different opinion and that’s OK. My taste in hotels, restaurants and locales to visit may be totally opposite from yours.
I’ll tell you what I like but you can do with that information what you wish. I guess that makes me a passive influencer. I’m never going to tell you what to do. I hope if you’ve gotten this far into this post, that’s fine with you as well.
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