Maximising influence with | Sunday Observer

Maximising influence with

For a nation that depends so much on tourism, the travel community in Sri Lanka is still developing and the influencers hoping to make their mark have a much harder time getting the recognition they need. This has not been that much of an issue for Shenelle Rodrigo, for whom social media success has come relatively naturally, racking up thousands of views on YouTube for her acclaimed travel vlogs and even more on her hit Instagram page(@sheneller).

In a quick talk with us, Shenelle explained the hows and whys of her blog and how she and her team achieve their high end production travel ventures.

Q: How would you introduce your travel blog to the uninitiated? What would you say is the purpose behind it?

A: I would introduce it as a place where we share our travels and experiences. Our main purpose is to share the learning we have gained from t years of travel. Travel is honestly such an important aspect for personal growth and our primary reason for travel is just that.

We travel to learn the history and culture of a specific place whether it is here in Sri Lanka or in different parts of the world. I love to use my platform to invite folks to travel vicariously through us. We also enjoy sharing our tips and tricks on how to travel like us and maximise your budgets on long trips as we love to do.

Q: What kind of content does your blog offer? Does it do anything beyond the scope of travel blogging?

A: Yes, it does offer more than just travel, I initially started My page to share my modelling portfolio and since I have always shared my own sense of fashion through brands that I love to wear, be it for travel or local. I would also like to think that I share a bit of inspiration and motivation through my content for young girls out there trying to do the same or fight against the norm.

Q: What inspired you to start this up? Was there someone or some people specific that you modeled your blogs after?

A: As I mentioned earlier My page was primarily used to showcase my modelling portfolio at the time. Over time it evolved into a travel blog as we kept traveling internationally and sharing our experiences through Instagram stories. I think with social platforms such as Instagram it is not possible to attribute them to any single person as we are all drawing inspiration from different sources daily. It is how you bring your own touch to it that helps you differentiate from the rest and find your audience.

Q: How strong is the travel blog community in Sri Lanka? What has your experience been like within it?

A: I would say the community is fairly small in comparison to travel blogging communities one would find abroad. As it is still a growing community the level of differentiation one could find here in Sri Lanka is also still a lot lesser than one would find in the more developed markets.

The positives of it being a small community is that for those of us who started early, we do know many of the people who are in it. and so, it is nice be cause we are all able to cooperate and learn from each other.

Q: How have you interacted with the travel blog community? Have you collabbed? Is there any real benefit to that?

A: Some of our best friends are travel bloggers too, so, it’s really beneficial for us as we can arrange to work together. We’ve only done it a few times but it was a whole load of fun and it is definitely beneficial as the brand’s/properties we partner with speak to a much larger audience with a significantly lesser cost of hosting multiple times over. and from the content creators’ point of view it’s always great to work with likeminded folks to learn from each other and grow.

Q: Which demographic would you say benefits more from your content? How has the feedback been like, both local and foreign?

A: Currently ,my audience is 65 per cent Sri Lankan and 35 per cent foreign, So, I would think it is the Sri Lankan audience that enjoys it the most at the moment. but we create our content with the intent of sharing information for foreign travellers as they are the ones who are actually going to search for information on places to travel, budgets and practical insights which aren’t easily available online.

The feedback has been phenomenal with each month that passes by. it is really the driving factor for us to continuously keep working fulltime as content creators. Knowing that we are able to help those planning their travels as well help businesses reach a wider audience that converts for them is a truly humbling reward one gets from doing this line of work.

Q: How do you plan a trip out? How do you decide on where to go?

A: It varies on the duration of the trip. If they are short trips of 2-3 days we start by figuring out the main experiences we want to cover on the trip and plan everything else around it.

If they are longer trips likes the #thisissrilanka campaign or our Bali series, Shehaan starts off on an excel sheet with a budget and the number of days and works backwards according to the main highlights we hope to cover.

In terms of places where we decide to go. we always look at it from the point of whether our audience and potential audience would enjoy the kind of content we’d be able to create from it.

Q: During the worst of the pandemic, were your vlogs completely on hold? How does a travel brand cope in times where it is discouraged to go outside?

A: Sadly, some huge campaigns we had for Sri Lanka tourism had to be cancelled due to the timing of the pandemic.

However, in terms of content that we shared with our audience we were lucky as we had seven weeks of our recently filmed Bali series lined up which we started airing on March 16. As we always end up sharing only 10 per cent of the content we create when we travel if the push comes to a shove as it did during the lockdown, we still do have a lot of content to share with our audience.

As for how travel brands are to cope, I think the key is to be able to adapt. We took on the opportunity to share travel-based content to an audience that was literally starved for travel at the time. So, whilst some saw it as a negative. the feedback we got really made us feel like we offered even more value than we originally set out to create.

Q: Now that tourism is starting to get going again in Sri Lanka, how do your vlogs plan to proceed? Do you think things will be harder moving forward? Or is there some advantage to be had?

A: Currently, it seems to be an advantage to us as much of the island is empty and it is the best time ever to travel and experience the paradise island, we get to call home. On top of that fact that hotels and resorts have no foreign influencers or content creators to market their properties it does open up the space for more locals to create content for these brands. We are all for this as Sri Lanka as an island promoting tourism needs to build its own base of quality content creators, especially in English as there are no more tourists to do it for us.

Q: Considering that you’ve already started things now that the lockdown has lifted, how different is travelling now compared to before?

A: The experiences still remain the same with a much smaller crowd which makes it probably the best time ever to travel locally. However, it is really sad though to see how severely the tourist hubs have been affected by the complete halt of foreign tourists. as the chain is ever connected pretty much all stakeholders have been negatively affected. This is also why now more than ever we feel it is more our duty to help out to the best of our ability

Q: What kind of advice do you have for fellow travel enthusiasts and for anyone hoping to start their own travel blog?

A: Focus on bringing your own uniqueness to the table. A story can be told a 100 times over and reach very different audiences. now more than ever is the best time to do just that. As much as it is important to follow the trends, always make sure you are adding value to it. And of course, most importantly strive to achieve the best quality possible with continuous work on your craft. Gaining followers is very different to providing value on social media. and you can’t go wrong as long as you provide value.

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