The best travel influencers are the ones whose content give us wonderlust, and transport us to far away destinations through their photography. They inspire us to see the world and experience new cultures. Torben (@stagedives) has mastered this and has managed to make his Instagram profile look like a work of art. His account showcases hundreds of photos of his adventures in dreamy destinations, like the Maldives, Italy, Sri Lanka, and more. What makes Torben’s travel photos so captivating are the unique angles at which he captures his images, and his vivid use of colour.
Torben started using Instagram in 2013, and since then, he has grown an impressive following of 251,000 Instagram followers.
We chatted with Torben to find out how he became the successful travel and lifestyle influencer he is today, and what piece of advice he would give aspiring influencers.
Read the complete interview below.
Interview with Torben (AKA @stagedives)
- Would you say your Instagram account’s growth happened slowly over time, or quickly in a small period of time? I think that there is a big shift happening when it comes to influencer marketing and also influencer behavior. Some time ago before all the updates on the Instagram algorithm, it was all about the number of followers and you have been chasing the next big milestone. Theoretical reach was the KPI to go for and brands looked for when working with an influencer. Getting featured on big sites, receiving and giving shoutouts helped a lot next to the old algorithm.
I think that has changed a lot. AI enabled tools or other kinds of analytics get more and more sophisticated and also brands have understood that quality engagement, as well as the right audience and demographics, are much more important than the pure amount of followers. Micro Influencer marketing promises, for example, a higher engagement rate and a very targeted audience.As an influencer, I regard myself as a small brand on my own and as someone with a marketing background, I understand how important targeting is. That’s why I already started some time ago to narrow down my audience to be more relevant to the brands I would like to work with. As one example, if someone would like to collaborate with an influencer from Germany you would expect to have a big audience from Germany followed by some other markets. So if you, for example, have a huge amount of followers from, let’s say Mexico, you should ask yourself how relevant they are for you as a brand or if you would ever get booked from Mexican companies. As a travel and lifestyle influencer, a natural spread of your audience is expected but you should still look at what you would like to represent.So to answer your initial question, it started off with a steady and constant growth maybe until 150k followers, followed by a period of accelerated growth. Currently, I am trying to sharpen my profile as a mid-size influencer which also means removing followers.
- What have you found to be the biggest challenge as an influencer that focuses primarily on luxury travel & fashion content?I think the biggest challenge is to constantly produce great and appealing content that is loved by your audience. For an influencer in my niche, this might get a bit costly once in a while, so this is also a challenge.
3. Social media is used differently around the world due to cultural distinctions (eg the United States, Australia, Dubai etc). As a luxury travel influencer, is this something you need to consider when you’re posting new content?
My business is registered in Germany so I need to follow the German regulations which are a bit tricky. Apart from that, I try to stick to my style of content and so far it seems to work worldwide.
4. How did you get your start as a social media mogul? Was it a series of events, or one opportunity in particular that kick-started your career?
I am a big fan of social media and social media dynamics for a long time. I have been involved in social media tracking, managed a Facebook page for an online music magazine, where I also did a lot of concert photography and later started to do that for a small fashion label I have been involved in. Natural and organic growth started to slow down on Facebook so we decided to increase the utilization of Instagram in early 2013, which was much more visual and inspiring. So I started managing and growing that Instagram account, took most of the pictures, did the editing and so on. I slowly started to also post on my personal handle which I used more or less as a test account for different kind of strategies. My personal account grew and at a certain stage, I received an email from an agency that asked me if I would be interested to promote a shaver. And that’s how it all started…
5. You’ve had the chance to work alongside some impressive brands (eg Heineken). Do you still seek out sponsorships, or do you pick and choose from the brands that come to you?
It is clearly a combination of both. If you really want to work with a certain brand, you have to get in contact and pitch your idea. You cannot just wait and expect them to find you among all those influencers out there. Obviously, this is more effort than saying yes or no to a brand that is contacting you in order to collaborate. Currently, I have enough to do with the brands and agencies that get in contact so I am less seeking out sponsorships. But if I plan a bigger trip I am normally trying to arrange one or two collaborations around it.
6. How do you agree on a price for paid posts? Do you have any negotiation tips for aspiring influencers?
Influencers tend not to openly speak about their rates and pricing, so it’s not too easy to get an initial feeling or benchmarking for what your work is worth. I would recommend starting registering to some of those platforms who link influencers and brands. There are a lot of them out there and in most cases, there are no costs involved in registering. These platforms often suggest a pricing for a regular post based on your reach and engagement and this is a good first indication. My recommendation is clearly not to undersell your work and yourself as a brand.
7. For a lot of aspiring travel influencers, funding their trips can be an issue when they get started. Do you have any advice for travel influencers who are trying to overcome these barriers?
If you would like to become a travel influencer, you need to travel. Start small. There are so many places around, you can reach by car or with a low-cost carrier. So many amazing places worth visiting, which don’t require a major budget. Start creating content around that and if your content is beautiful and inspiring there will be opportunities.
8. What are your favorite brands to work with? In the future, are there any you’d love to work with?
I really enjoyed working with Heineken. They created a real and appealing experience around the Formula One Grand Prix in Monza and gave the influencers they invited their creative freedom without telling them what to write and how to post.
I would love to work with Singapore Airlines as one of the best airlines I know and it would be very exciting to plan and design a trip with them.
9. Have you ever really struggled to work with a brand? If so, how did you handle this?
I think it is important that you can identify with the brand you work together with, so I normally chose my collaborations carefully. But I did struggle some time ago with a collaboration where the brand/agency wanted to control everything up until the very last detail. It came even to the point that they provided the exact wording and text I should use for my post. So we did have a very long discussion and I tried to bring across how important it is that I use my own words and my own creativity. The more natural your post comes across the more your audience identifies with you and ideally the product/brand you present. It’s great to provide some guidance and an introduction to the brand and its’ values but please don’t treat the influencer you would like to work together with as a pure media channel where you can just book some advertisement. In the end, it’s a learning process and I think these days brands appreciate the creativity and individual touch a chosen influencer can bring to their brand. Also, the collaboration partner ended up being very satisfied with the results and insights of the partnership.
10. Influencer marketing is increasingly becoming a competitive business. What tips would you give to aspiring influencers looking to get their start in the industry (eg how can they set themselves apart from their competitors)?
I think it is more and more important to have a distinctive profile. You don’t need to have a huge followership to be relevant for brands. If you create content around your true passion, it will be true to you and will feel much more natural than everything you create because you think it is what people would like to see.
11. Have you ever hit a “creative roadblock”? If so, how did you overcome it?
Obviously you don’t want to create content always in the same way. You want to remain interesting and inspiring for your followers and also for yourself. So you need to think once in a while about how to make things differently or how to bring them to the next level. For me, it’s absolutely important to have friends around me who kind of fuel my creativity through conversations and experiences. But it’s not only people, but it’s also locations and visual impressions. Traveling helps a lot. Keep your mind open, change your habits once in a while and creativity will flow..
12. Have you ever taken any risks in terms of promoting a new product, or introducing new content? If so, what was the result?
If you believe in something I won’t regard it as a risk promoting it. When it comes to new kind of content it took me a long time before I started producing video content or talking to my audience via stories. I just did not feel that comfortable and natural and I think you can see that in my first stories. Fortunately, there is something like a learning curve and you cannot access my first stories of me talking into the camera anymore