Case Study #HolaGringo: 1 Blogger + 7 months = Reach of 11.5 million

Torres del Paine

In November 2012 I embarked for a 6 months lasting trip to discover the beauty of South America. At the end I extended my trip for another 1,5 months and visited 5 countries: Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. Beside exploring the big cities Lima, La Paz, Buenos Aires and Montevideo I visited some of the most popular tourist destinations in South America like Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Uyuni and the stunning national parks of Patagonia.

 

1. Subject

Accompanied by my video camera I discovered the diverse landscapes, the cities, the adventures and the activities one can experience at the mentioned destinations. The main goal was to produce a Travel Video Show along the way with 2 episodes each month. Moreover I wrote Travel Guides for each main destination and published Photo Essays to picture the experience. As this is the permanent Blog & YouTube content the work is still ongoing until fall 2013 (at the moment 8 out of aprox. 25 video blog episodes are published) – the numbers given in this report only include the published content.

Beside the mentioned permanent content, the campaign included Live-Content which was/is distributed through Twitter, Facebook & Instagram – all related content was/will be tagged with the unique #HolaGringo Hashtag.

 

2. Reach & Engagement

To measure the success of the #HolaGringo campaign all channels mentioned below have been analyzed weekly and absolutely for the timespan of 7 months (10.11.2012 – 10.06.2013). I focussed on the reach as an indicator for the audience that actually observed the content (views, plays) and on the engagement which stands for the interaction of readers with the content (e.g. likes, comments etc.).

I'm proud to announce a total reach for the last 7 months of 11.5 million and a total engagement of around 2.8 million for the #HolaGringo campaign.  As for now the majority of the reach is coming from the live coverage through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – around 75% of the permanent content (Video & Blogposts) will follow during the next months.
Due to the diversity of channels involved the measuring is different and will be outlined below in detail with pointing out statistics and special highlights for each to understand the value – Read on for a detailed view on each channel involved.

a) Blog

Started with around 800 Pageviews per week at the beginning I made it to 2.800 Pageviews per week. The reach measured by pageviews has been 32.100 in total (approx. 1.150 per week) for the whole duration of the campaign.

 

Content

HolaGringo on the Blog
HolaGringo on the Blog

As already mentioned the Blog is the platform for long-term content and will feature the most of the content in the future. Speaking for the beginning of June there are already 25 related posts published: 9 Travel Guides, 12 Posts with Videos and 3 Photo Essays (+ 1 post about the Carretera Austral)

 

Statistics

Pageviews per week for November - June (Source: Google Analytics)
Pageviews per week for November – June (Source: Google Analytics)

The audience has grown by factor 3,5 in just 7 months – 40% of the visitors are coming from google searches, which shows a high ranking in search results for related queries. Moreover the Page jumped up from Google Pagerank 1 to Google Pagerank 3, which results in even more visitors – this shows the success of the content as the key of getting upgraded are Backlinks from other Websites. Other Websites started to list back-packer.org as a resource for Travel in South America.

 

Highlights

On of the eycatcher of the most successful post - a recent photo essay from Montevideo
One of the eycatcher of the most successful post – a recent photo essay from Montevideo

The Photo Essay of Montevideo went viral on different channels – part of it was the fact that the Tourism Board of Uruguay picked up the article and shared it. It resulted in more than 620 likes on the article and 17 comments in only 1 week.

The 3 Torres
Torres del Paine – the trekking guides are very popular

Speaking about search engine traffic: the Travel Guide La Paz and the Trekking Guides Torres del Paine are the stars with 1.000 visitors in the last month.

 

b) Twitter

This Social Media Channel is possibly the most powerful if it comes down to live coverage. Only the Tweets which were tagged with #HolaGringo achieved an exposure of 400.000 each weak and with that an engagement of 100.000 per week through reactions like retweets, answers, discussions and stars.

 

Content

All related content from the Blog was shared via Twitter directly after publishing several times beside the live-tweeting of pictures and status updates from the road. Moreover my 2 permanent partners used #HolaGringo to tag their related content from my journey (like interviews, monthly roundups provided by me on their channels) which led to a broader audience.

 

Statistics

weekly exposure of the Hashtag #HolaGringo (Source: Tweetreach)
weekly exposure of the Hashtag #HolaGringo (source: Tweetreach)

Started with 1.500 Followers the audience grew up to 2.400 by providing around 50 Tweets per day, half of them have been tagged with #HolaGringo.

 

Highlights

The Partnership with Traveldudes created a big buzz on Twitter
The Partnership with Traveldudes created a big buzz on Twitter weekly (source: Tweetreach)

One of the biggest Boosts was the partnership with Traveldudes as Melvin reached around 100.000 followers per RT. As the reactions and RT vom Melvins #holagringo shares tell it has been a great success for both sides as the followers of Traveldudes appreciated the additional content from South America and shared it across their channels.

The chilean Tourism Board started to share the #HolaGringo Tweets from Chile
The chilean Tourism Board started to share the #HolaGringo Tweets from Chile

Before the start of the project I went to the WTM in London to get to speak to the DMOs of the countries I was about to visit – unfortunately the right people haven't been there and the focus on Blogger Projects for South American countries seem to be not that strong, yet. During the campaign I encountered more and more that I sparked the interest of the DMOs with the content and the buzz it created – they started to share it on their channels and produced an even bigger outreach.

 

c) Instagram

Another channel for live coverage and one of the most emotional ones as the focus is on sharing pictures. As I never used it before for a whole trip I was quite surprised by the reactions and the success of publishing content through it.

 

Content

Instagram snap from March showing some of the pictures from Patagonia
Instagram snap from March showing some of the pictures from Patagonia

I used Instagram to publish the most recent photographs from my adventures and shared it also directly to Facebook. Moreover I added Information for each shot like historical facts, storys, statistics and the geo-location to also use the chance of providing a deeper look.

 

Statistics

The growth of Followers (source: Statigram)
The growth of Followers (source: Statigram)

The daily usage of Instagram started literally with this trip, therefore I began with 200 Followers and ended up with 1010 Followers by June which means a growth of factor 5. The average reach per week has been 10.000 = 280.000 in total and is calculated by the number of published photos in relation to the average number of followers. The engagement has been an average 500 per week = 14.000 in total and is measured by the number of likes on each photo published in the mentioned period.

Instagram Engagement through likes (source: statigram)
Instagram Engagement through likes (source: statigram)

Interesting fact: more than 50% of the likes came from non-followers. The majority of those people started later on following the Instgram Account and some even started following the other channels because they appreciated the content.

 

Highlights

This picture inspired travelers to actually book flights to the place shown
This picture inspired travelers to actually book flights to the place shown

As a very emotional channel Instagram is a great way to inspire people – a recent study from Google revealed that most decisions of choosing a travel destination are done last minute and 83% are based on online research. The comments below the picture of the bay of Ushuaia show that in a perfect way – as you can see a group of friends planned a trip to that place directly after, speaking (in spanish) about booking flights in the comments (!).
Moreover other people commented expressing their feelings about seeing the photos and the intention of visiting the related places soon.

Most popular Instagram pictures are from Patagonia
Most popular Instagram pictures are from Patagonia

Overall the pictures taken in Patagonia created the most engagement and shares through other channels like Twitter and Facebook – the 5 photos shown above are the most liked pictures ever with a bit less than 500 likes altogether.

one of the many featured hostels via Instagram
one of the many featured hostels via Instagram

Beside that I published collages of each participating hostel I stayed at and tagged it with the mention of my Partner Hostelbookers – with that followers got an inside view of the Hostel facilities like rooms, common areas and breakfast of each hostel.

 

d) Facebook

The importance of Facebook grew during the campaign as the engagement rate went up by sharing content. Nevertheless this channel is a more difficult one as the edge-rank decides if, when and where content shows up for the Fans – a factor one can not influence as it is controlled by Facebook itself.

Anyway FB was the most important channel for content that went viral and for shares in general, as my audience used the ‘Facebook Like' Button for all content on the different platforms.

 

Content

FB - good for viral content (source: FB Insights)
FB – good for viral content (source: FB Insights)

The Fanpage is the main hub for all mentioned channels – announcement for new articles, trailers for upcoming videos, articles from other Websites featuring #HolaGringo as well as all Instagrams got shared via Facebook. With that Fans could get a complete overview what was/is going on with #HolaGringo.

Statistics

The reach and engagement (measured by "people talking about it") of 3 months in the middle of #HolaGringo (source: Facebook insights)
The reach and engagement (measured by “people talking about it”) of 3 months in the middle of #HolaGringo (source: Facebook insights)

500 Fans appreciated the content published on the Facebook Fanpage before I boarded the plane to Lima – by the beginning of June the number went up to more than 1.000 Fans which is a growth by factor 2. The average reach per week has been about 1.000 per week which adds up to a total reach of 280.000 (numbers by Facebook Insights). Please consider that these are only the numbers for content shared through the Fanpage – the traffic coming from Facebook to the other channels is very high but can hardly be measured (shares of followers, likes on other  content like videos or Blog articles).

Highlights

The viral articles I've encountered show the success of marketing via Facebook but also the win-win situation for the brands/sponsors that share it as well as the content creator, here are the 3 most successful shares:

Uruguay Natural, the toursim board of Uruguay recently shared the Photo Essay of Montevideo - it resulted in 226 likes, 12 comments and 143(!) shares. The article on the Blog received 600 likes later on.
Uruguay Natural, the toursim board of Uruguay recently shared the Photo Essay of Montevideo – it resulted in 226 likes, 12 comments and 143(!) shares. The article on the Blog received 600 likes later on.
The Facebook FanPage "PeruPais" has more than 800.000 Fans and shared the video from Puno providing also the Website and FB Fanpage- it lead to 386 likes, 15 comments and  26 shares
The Facebook FanPage “PeruPais” has more than 800.000 Fans and shared the video from Puno providing also the Website and FB Fanpage- it lead to 386 likes, 15 comments and 26 shares
Hostelbookers shared a picture of me in the Salar de Uyni - it received more than 180 likes, 33 comments and 12 shares
Hostelbookers shared a picture of me in the Salar de Uyni – it received more than 180 likes, 33 comments and 12 shares
 

e) YouTube

Mostly used as the platform to upload videos and focussed on sharing them on the other channels, YouTube became an own channel after the Redesign by the beginning of 2013 with more and more visitors coming from the platform itself.

 

Content

The YouTube channel after the Facelift
The YouTube channel after the Facelift

All video episodes including trailers and some specials are shared via YouTube and can be used / embedded on most of the other channels without restrictions. Additional information involve links to the sponsors, geolocation and related tags.

 

Statistics

The number of views went up nearly every week
The number of views went up nearly every week after the Redesign

As stated YouTube was not on the list as a standalone channel – therefore it was surprising who the numbers went up here as well as most of the viewers are not having an account on YouTube. By the beginning of Novemver I only had 20 Subscribers and around 200 views per week – mid june this number grew by factor 3,5 to 700 views per week. The number of Subscribers went up to 130.

 

Highlights

The video from the Death Road is until now the most successful of all episodes from #HolaGringo – around 2.400 minutes have been watched which means that most of the viewers watched the complete episode (which is very unusual for YouTube!):

Most Popular Videos on my YouTube channel
Most Popular Videos on my YouTube channel
 

3. Project Value

To calculate a project like this upfront is nearly impossible as the mix of channels is very broad and the duration is longer than usual. The aftermath is easier: with the numbers and statistics given above it was possible to sum up the reach and calculate the value for the exposure given.

Project value calculated with the onlineroicalculator.com
Project value calculated with the onlineroicalculator.com

 

For this I used the ROI calculator which was developed by industry experts exactly for the purpose of measuring the ROI for Travel Blogging campaigns. The result for all channels is a total value of 14.563 €. Please consider: this number is the value for each partner who was part for the whole duration mentioned above for the all the content that is already published, future publications are not involved in this calculation.

The data used to calculate are the average numbers of Followers, Visitors, Viewers and Friends over all channels as well as the influence data from platforms like Kred, Klout and PeerIndex. Together with the size of banners/logos which are included (In-Video Branding, mentions of the sponsors in Meta-Data and in articles) this is what I came up with. For more information about the calculation visit onlineroicalculator.com.

 

4. Sponsors & Partners

As this was the first long-term project I did since I work as a freelancer the acquisition of sponsors has been tough – especially as my goal was to work together in long-term partnerships with well established, international brands. During the trip it was easier to work in short-term-partnerships with local tourism industry as they are focussed on certain content related to their object.

I started the trip with 2 long-term partnerships:

  • Hostelbookers.com – providing accommodation during the whole duration of the project
  • Traveldudes.org – supporting the campaign with providing exposure throughout their channels

During the trip I worked together with local companies who provided tours, activities or transportation:

  • Machete Tours, Peru – providing tours to Choquequirao, Machu Pichhu, Lake Titicaca and transfers in the south of Peru
  • Gravity, Bolivia – providing the tour on the Death Road, Zip-Lining and rappel “Urban Rush”
  • Banjotours, Bolivia – providing a “off the path tour La Paz”
  • Street Art Tours Buenos Aires – providing tours in Buenos Aires
  • Canal Fun, Ushuaia – providing a rafting trip at the Tierra del Fuego National Park
  • Tango & Che, Ushuaia – providing a boat trip on the Beagle Channel
  • Chimanga Tours, Puerto Varas – providing lodging and a tour in Puerto Varas, Chile
  • ExChile, Futaleufu – providing a 3 day Rafting trip with lodging in their camp, Chile
  • Circuito Chico Mountain Bike – providing bikes for a trip in Bariloche, Argentina
  • Spanish in Rosario – providing classes and tours in Rosario, Argentina
  • La Lechuza Hostel in Rosario – providing Accommodation after the Sponsorship with Hostelbookers ended
  • Mate Hostel in Cordoba – providing Accommodation after the Sponsorship with Hostelbookers ended

Muchas Gracias to all involved partners & sponsors!

 

5. Conclusion

This project has been the longest, most intensive and most challenging I've ever started in my career. I'm overwhelmed by the reactions of my audience, sponsors and supporters along the way. The mails, comments and personal reactions showed me that my content inspires people to travel, to follow their dreams and experience new destinations.

At the beginning of the project I would not have thought about the numbers in reach (11.5 million people!) & engagement (2.8 million) only one person can achieve. My sponsors and partners benefit as they got/get unique content which is created by an actual traveler, picturing the real – emotional and very personal – travel experience connected to their brand/services. Moreover each of my sponsors and partners is “on the radar” for the featured destinations of those people who followed and will follow along.

As mentioned in the first part the reach & engagement of the permanent content will grow rapidly during the upcoming months as more than 50% of the content is not published, yet. The numbers of the Blog audience as well as the YouTube audience has grown by more than 200% since the start of the campaign and increases daily. The majority of the visitors in both permanent channels are driven by Google/YouTube searches for destination related keywords and will lead more new visitors to discover the content created during the #HolaGringo campaign every single day.

I want to thank everybody who was involved in making this project such a success story and I'm looking forward to upcoming projects! 

  • Steve, can I be the first to say; Nice. Fucking. Job. :)

    Well thought out projects that work with significant sponsors and are put together well from the beginning is a much better strategy as a blogger than press trips or random travel journaling. I’m sure there will be quarrelling about the value of reach, but so be it. As you say, most of your content is yet to be published and people will continue finding it and the people you worked with for a long time.

    I can also confirm I nearly booked a trip to Patagonia a couple of times from looking at your pictures and other content. Once again, nice fucking job.

    • Hey Peter – thanks for the nice word’s. You’re totally right with your concerns about the reach – it is a number a figure I got asked by a lot of people, including some touroperators and sponsors.

      Personally I think engagement, certain comments and reactions are more important but difficult to evaluate. On the other hand the average engagement rate is about 2-5% per post in Social Media. So it’s different in each channel – Instagram for example can be really powerful, here only viewing content could have a big impact on the decision of somebody who is about to plan the next vacation.

      I tried to give a broad picture by providing also those “highlights” and explaining the numbers.
      It is also important to line out the emotional factor – providing content as an actual traveler means much more personal information and therefore also a more personal connection to my audience as I interact, react on questions and try to focus on the stuff my readers/viewers/fans are interested in. This is something a usual Advertising campaign can hardly offer. How to measure that? I don’t know, yet ;)

  • You did good dude.
    What gets measured, does gets managed.
    I have a question though, how did you actually measure the reach? Also, how did you account for the overlap of users on multiple platforms?

    • Love to hear that, Kerwin! :)

      The reach was measured different for each channel, let me explain it for Twitter: I used TweetReach each week to measure the reach for the HashTag #HolaGringo. Above you see that I had around 400.000 impressions per week on Tweets containing this Hashtag – this means my Tweets travelled quite far due to RT and interactions but also shares of content from other channel through Twitter.
      I did similar for the other channels (weekly statistics) and added the numbers up for the mentioned duration.

      About the overlap: that’s impossible to do, as we speak about thousands of Followers. And there comes the point again: reach is just a number but not the most important factor — see my reply to Peter above :)

      • Thanks Steve.

        Yeah, the reach is always questioned; but you do have to do it by channel as that makes the most sense.
        I’ve found that with my campaigns, I get the most reach from facebook.
        One thing too is that my twitter followers re not necessarily commenters unless they feel strongly about what I tweet. They will however tell me they liked what I did when i see them though or through a private message :-).

  • Brilliant summary Steve. I agree with ‘Peter’, the value of working with sponsors and arranging your own trips has so much more value that a packaged up press trip and you can see from your results that that it has added a lot of value to your site too.

    Are you planning on doing another trip like this?

    • That’s totally right. I’ve just been on one organized Blogtrip before – it was great but the focus was much wider as it should fit for all niches. I would say Press trips are good to get to know a region, for a deeper look and focussing on certain topics as well as working on valuable content for your readers it is better to build your own.
      Moreover I prefer working with long-term partnerships for these kind of trips – it reduces costs in communication, organization and creates much more opportunities.

      I’m preparing the next adventures at the moment – first of all it’s some vacation time and afterwards I’ll go on a small Europe tour :)

  • great post and great work on reaching out and getting sponsors!

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