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Inside Influence: One On One With Kiersten Rich, The Blonde Abroad

I spoke to Kiersten Rich, the travel blogger and influencer better known as The Blonde Abroad, about her best advice

Adam: What is something about you that the many people who follow you don’t know?

Kiersten: I share so much of my personal life with my followers that there isn’t really too much left unknown! However, before blogging, I worked in Financial Planning and also have my black belt in Tae Kwon Do!

Adam: How did you become an “influencer”? What is the inside story?

Kiersten: When I started out, I just wanted to share my travel experiences. My mission is to inspire women to live a life that they love and follow their passion to travel. With anything I do, I continually strive to empower women around the world to push their boundaries and share the ups and downs of my experiences along the way.

I think “influence” is something that takes a lot of time to build. There’s no secret to becoming an influencer, the fact is that you can’t get a dedicated, authentic and loyal audience overnight — it’s taken me six years to build the audience that I have. In my opinion, with time and trust, comes influence.

Adam: What advice do you have for those interested in working with influencers?

Kiersten: Having worked with countless lifestyle, tech and travel brands I would say the most important thing you can do before choosing an influencer to work with, is to do your research. Do they have an engaged audience or just a lot of followers? What’s their audience actually interested in based on the comments? Do they covert their audience to sales or does their audience just like pretty pictures? Are their audience demographics the same as your target market? These basic questions can help you rule out thousands of influencers.

I think the biggest misconception on Instagram is that big numbers equal big results. With the amount of fake followers out there today, you have to make decisions based on engagement — average number of likes on a photo, the number of engaging comments, click throughs and swipe ups on their Instagram Stories, etc.

If you’re looking to work with bloggers, ask for a few screenshots of their Google Analytics to verify their analytics. Any professional blogger will happily hand those over!

Adam: How do you do decide who to work with?

Kiersten: While I get offers to work with all types of companies, I try to stay within the female travel and lifestyle niche. I like to work with a variety of travel partners and lifestyle brands because my brand reaches so many types of women all around the world.

I only endorse products I personally love and use, and I think it’s important to always provide honest experiences, whether it’s good, bad or just okay. I think my audience appreciates the honesty most of all.

Adam: What advice do you have for those interested in becoming influencers

Kiersten: My biggest piece of advice would be to make sure you have a passion for whatever you want to create content about BEFORE starting out. If you’re becoming an influencer just to get free things, more times than not, it will lead to complete burn out. You have to be willing to put in hours of work (often years) before you see anything in return.

Adam: What is the biggest misconception about the influencer world and life as an influencer?

Kiersten: That an “influencer” gets everything for free. Nothing in life is free, as they say! There’s a ton of work that goes on behind-the-scenes. If you can’t provide an authentic, engaged audience that’s interested in where you’re going, what you’re wearing, which products you recommend, etc., then why should a company want to work with you or give you anything for that matter?

And to get an authentic, engaged audience, you have to work your butt off for weeks, months and years to reach a level where your posts create a return on investment for brands.

Adam: What has being an influencer taught you about branding and marketing?

Kiersten: Everything! I didn’t study marketing in college, so I was a little bit behind when I started out. Plus, social media wasn’t as big in 2011 so I had to learn each new platform as it came out (and still, as they continue to evolve.)

I’ve learned that Influencer and Digital Marketing is now the best way for companies to reach their target market, because it provides a much more targeted approach and access to niche audiences compared to traditional marketing.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Kiersten: I would say that traveling is my hobby, but the truth is that I never really turn off “work mode.” I absolutely love what I do so I’m always taking photos and always sharing my experiences. I’d say one of my biggest hobbies has become scuba diving, and it’s opened my eyes to a completely new way to see the world. I used to have tons of destinations on my bucket list, but exploring the ocean has changed the way that I look at the world and my dream destinations completely. For example, I’m dying to explore Egypt, not only to see the ancient pyramids, but to dive the Red Sea.

Adam: Who have been the biggest influences in your life and how do you pay it forward?

Kiersten: I’ve found inspiration from too many people to count, but I’d mostly credit where I am today to the support of friends, my team, and my family. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without the first girl that came on my team, Lauren, who believed in me when I was still a much smaller blogger. She’s been with me for 4 years now. My mom is also my biggest cheerleader. She’s retiring this year and also joining my team to launch some new and very exciting branches of business. I had always wanted to pay it forward by taking her on her first international trip, so we traveled to Brazil on a cruise over Christmas a couple years ago!

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