Discover Boating’s social media “influencers” program is kicking into high gear this month, with its 40-plus bloggers and video-makers reaching about 4 million combined followers. Organizers said on the NMMA’s e-newsletter Currents that the posts about boating on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest have gained more than 77,000 “engagements” (likes, comments and shares).
“This allows us to reach the followers of these influencers,” Carl Blackwell, president of Grow Boating, told Trade Only Today. “It works in a very organic way since followers trust the people writing about the subject. It’s a very different process than just putting out an ad.”
Blackwell said the influencers write about many different topics, from high-end fashion to outdoor recreational pursuits to adventure travel. One influencer, Jennifer Worman, has 334,000 followers on her social media channels. Most of her posts and videos are about high-end fashion and wines.
While it’s unclear how many of the followers will eventually become boaters, Blackwell says the exposure can only help the boating industry. He says it would be “nearly impossible” to reach Worner’s audience with a traditional media campaign. “Jennifer writes about lifestyle and fashion and is able to inject boating into the conversation,” he says. “I’m confident we wouldn’t be reaching those followers otherwise. And it sparks interest for potential new boaters.”
The record holder for “likes” for the boating industry has to be a recent post on a Correct Craft Nautique by Kylie Jenner, of “Keeping up with the Kardashians” fame. It exposed the towboat brand to 140 million followers and gained 5 million likes on Facebook.
“I did a little google research and apparently Kylie charges $1 million for a social media posting and we got it for free,” Bill Yeargin, CEO of Correct Craft, told Trade Only Today. “That was nice of her. It is exponentially beyond anything that has happened for our industry in social media before. We don’t pay influencers to promote our brands so when one does just because they enjoy being on the boat the benefits to us are huge.”
Discover Boating’s blogs and video posts tend to come from “micro-influencers,” which cover one specific topic, says Blackwell, but the widespread influence can be huge. The organization paid several influencers, but that amount is insignificant compared to its traditional media advertising buys, says Blackwell.
“For most, it was a matter of getting them on the water so they could experience boating and inject it into their work,” he says. “I can talk about boating until I’m blue in the face, but until you experience it, it doesn’t really mean much.”
Three influencers with larger followings, Devin Super Tramp, Knorpp and South, and Blacktiph, will be focusing on boating in multiple postings over the summer. Like the micro-influencers, these social media stars have distinctive followers, but they tend to be larger.
The introductory boating experience of Knorpp and South—a family of 11 who recently traveled by recreational vehicle for several years across the U.S.—hasn’t been smooth. Blackwell said the family found a boat they liked, but the dealer sold it from underneath them. A second boat they wanted to buy through a broker also fell through because the owner decided he didn’t want to sell. In the end, the blended family decided to join a boat club.
“Unlike an ad, you can’t control the content on these,” says Blackwell. “But in a way, their challenges turned out to be a benefit. Now, their followers will learn about boat clubs and boat rentals and that will remove a huge perceived barrier of entry to boating. That could bring a lot more people into boating.”
The Discover Boating ad campaign will run through the fall, says Blackwell, but he expects the impact of the influencers to run all year. “The advantage of social media is that consumers can watch it whenever they want to,” he says. “We’ll also keep going with the influencers whenever boating is possible, and that’s year-round.”