Harrogate council paid social media influencer £700 to promote town
Last updated Jan 26, 2022
Visit Harrogate provided one of two 'likes' on Facebook to the £700 post.

Harrogate Borough Council paid a social media influencer from Bristol £700 to promote the town’s Christmas Fayre in a blog — which only received two likes on Facebook, including one from the council itself.

Heather on Her Travels is run by travel blogger Heather Cowper and is aimed at people over 50. Ms Cowper writes about her trips to different places in the UK and abroad with articles focused on “authentic travel with a little luxury”.

In December last year, Ms Cowper, who has 8,000 followers on Twitter, 4,000 on Facebook and 17,000 on Instagram, published an article called “11 Fun Things To Do Over Harrogate – Our Winter Break”.

It named the council’s new Harrogate Christmas Fayre as the number 1 attraction.

The Stray Ferret discovered through a freedom of information request that the council, through its tourism body Visit Harrogate, paid Ms Cowper £700 + VAT for the article.

Its performance on social media raises questions over whether the fee represents value for money.

On Twitter, the article received just one retweet. It performed better on Facebook but still only won two likes, including one from Visit Harrogate.

Heather on her travels

One of the Instagram posts.

Several photos of the trip on Instagram fared better, receiving up to 50 likes.

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Other UK councils have used social media influencers to promote their area, including Edinburgh City Council. Edinburgh Live reported the authority paid £14,000 to Instagram influencers who praised the Scottish capital as a destination.

However, these posts were more successful, with one post about a bike tour around Edinburgh racking up almost 2,500 likes.

‘Attracts our target demographic’

Gemma Rio, head of Destination Harrogate, which controls Visit Harrogate, defended the £700 fee for Ms Cowper. Ms Rio said she produced “incredibly well-written content” that could help the council attract new visitors through social media:

“The digital landscape has changed significantly in the last few years with around 80% of adults (53 million) using social media daily, with the average user spending almost two hours on these platforms.

“Like many other destination management organisations – as well as most businesses – Destination Harrogate is keen to capitalise on this incredibly effective marketing tool to target specific audiences, especially around the tourism and travel sector.

“Heather Cowper was chosen as she regularly appears on the lists of top 100 travel blogs worldwide and has established herself as one of the best traveller bloggers. Regularly receiving thousands of views every month on her videos, photos, podcasts and blogs.

“Heather’s content is also incredibly well written – having spent many years sharing her own travel experiences and insights – and also attracts our target demographic.

“The joy of using social media as a marketing tool is that it is often more cost-effective and engaging than traditional advertising, as we can utilise photography and video as well as words. All adverts and promotions can also be evaluated extensively; whether that’s reach and engagement or driving traffic to our website, for example.

“We can also continue to adapt and tailor our approach to future campaigns, attract new visitors, as well as understand the behaviours of our target demographic to ensure a return on our investment.

“Social media advertising and the use of influencers to increase brand awareness looks like it will continue to be one of the most beneficial marketing tools. We’re keen to continue using it to showcase what the Harrogate district has to offer and stand out amongst competitor destinations.”

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