Tourism NI has spent nearly £60,000 since 2019 on influencers, including a canine social media star, to promote Northern Ireland attractions, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Popular Irish duo Gastro Gays have been contracted by the publicly funded body every year from 2019 to 2022.
The phenomenon of influencers has been fueled by social media, with members of the public often with no advertising or marketing experience developing an online persona for the promotion of goods and services.
A Tourism NI spokeswoman said it typically spends less than 1% of its annual marketing and advertising budget on influencers.
The details of the expenses were released after a freedom of information request from this newspaper. Harlso the Balancing Hound, an East Belfast dachshund famous for balancing objects on his head, was on Tourism NI’s payroll for an excursion to the Causeway Coastal Path.
In exchange for paid or free goods, influencers post favorable content on social networks like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. The content is seen by your followers who, at best, will be inspired to seek out the same experiences. The Belfast Telegraph has listed the number of followers each influencer has on Instagram.
Tourism NI has paid around 40 influencers more than £58,500 in recent years, the FoI application revealed. Many operate in pairs, such as Co Louth-based Gastro Gays Patrick Hanlon and Russell Alford, and Robert Ainley and Lynsey Hollywood, who have a blog called Down The Hatch NI.
Many are based in the Republic, the market Tourism Ireland most enthusiastically targets. Influencers protect their brand, and those contacted by the Belfast Telegraph did not return a request for comment. One commenter did not want his name used.
He said paying influencers gave companies a more direct line to customers than traditional advertising. “By working with a food and travel writer, for example, a brand can be sure that my audience and other food lovers are food and travel lovers like me, and that their brand or products they are being seen by the right people,” he explained.
“The days of wasting money on large-format, concentrated advertising to a wide audience with poor performance are gone. Social media advertising and targeted targeted marketing campaigns make sense for brands in the modern age of fast-paced social media, getting results faster and being more financially savvy in an age where marketing budgets are shrinking. they are cutting back and businesses need all the help they can get. ”
Tourism NI said: “Influencer marketing is an increasingly important aspect of Tourism NI’s marketing mix. We have been recruiting influencers from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland since 2019. Over the period 2019 – 2022 we spent a total of £58,510.78.”
He added: “Consumers are increasingly turning to influencers for ideas and inspiration to inform their travel decisions. Tourism NI works with influencers, particularly from the Republic of Ireland, to increase awareness and interest in Northern Ireland as a getaway destination. We develop custom itineraries that include a wide range of experiences and events that are likely to be of interest to a specific influencer and her followers.”
Tourism NI did not say how much it spent on each influencer, or even which of them got paid the most. He said he carefully measured the returns on his spending. He added: “We assess a number of key performance indicators that are agreed upon with each influencer in advance and are aligned with the campaign goals.”