Caveat.

I’m middle aged.

I care not for the latest youth trends.

But, nothing had quite prepared me for a night in the company of some Instagram ‘influencers’.

Tagging along with the ex journo in charge of the group, my eyes where opened to the most glaring and galling f*ckwittery.

This gaggle of twentysomething no nothings had been flown over from the US to take part in a culinary tour of these shores.

All at the taxpayers’ expense.

Once upon a time this would have been a press trip.

Not anymore…

In a vain bid to chase the youth market, some bright spark in UK tourism had figured that if we get some Millennials over to take pictures of their dinner, a horde of visitors would follow.

Seriously?!

To a tee the group were rich, spoilt and ignorant about food.

“Can we try some whiskey?

Eugh, it’s nasty…”

At best they sniffed what was put in front of them.

It certainly didn’t get eaten.

(Got to think of my figure).

Just snapped and uploaded without context.

Pic after pic of coffee, muffins and platters of untouched food.

That, very quickly, started to all look the same.

And the basic premise of their ‘influence’ seemed so flimsy.

Take a picture of, say a pizza, in the market in my hometown.

Say “yum pizza”, and this somehow encourages more people to visit

Which bothers me on a number of levels.

Firstly, the number of followers they have, which they were quick to bandy around.

“Oh yeh, I’ve got like 700,000 followers…”

So, how many of them are real?

Or even active on the platform?

How many view your posts?

Or even get to see them?

#algorithm.

And how many are ‘influenced’ to take action and pay a visit to the venue promoted?

All this chatter about engagement and likes is just meaningless, when you can’t evidence the impact you have.

I mean I get the basic idea.

If you see a regular person wearing something or visiting somewhere, it’s more real than an out and out advert.

But…

These people were so obviously paid to peddle, which undermined any credibility they claimed.

And while I’d take a recommendation from someone I know or respect.

Friends, family, Jay Rayner, the Sunday Times Travel Magazine…

Some girl from Miami I’d never met before, who was clearly paid to push each place she visited.

No thanks.

And the demographic targeting seemed so skewed as well.

Why chase the youth market for tourism, when it’s us oldies that have all the disposable income?

Surely, young people are too busy eating Tide pods to care for the culinary delights of Great Britain?

It just seemed like a marketing misstep.

Look there’s this new thing that’s all the rage – social media.

Abandon the old ways, because this is the future…

But in the rush to embrace it, we didn’t peek behind the curtain of hype.

Wrong channel, wrong audience.

I’m not dismissing it out of hand, but I think the importance of influencer marketing is vastly overstated.

And it certainly shouldn’t replace traditional channels.

On a recent trip to Nice, my wife and I spent a happy hour flicking through the Easy Jet inflight magazine full of well written articles on places to visit and things to do.

Just saying…

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