State pays local influencers $11K to promote controversial flight voucher campaign

Leigh Love
Posted at 5:17 PM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-29 19:19:36-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Around $11,000 in taxpayer dollars went to pay influencers to post about a state program that encourages tourists to buy hotel rooms to get a $250 flight voucher.

The Tennessee Department of Tourism’s Tennessee on Me campaign allocated $270,000 for marketing from their general fund. According to a spokesperson, they worked with 13 influencers, including @NashvilleTN @franklinTN @williamsoncountynews @TheNashvilleMom @TheNashvilleGuide @BNACarpet @CaroHobby @nashville_parentguide @thenashntwrk @nashville_eats @experiencenash and @theonlytennisee.

Here are some examples:

On Instagram, @Loveleighlove has 28,000 followers. She also has a company called Blogger Xchange where she connects influencers to businesses.

She's not surprised the state paid influencers to market their campaign. “As a blogger, I’m like, 'pick me!' No just kidding, they did not," Love said,"For blogging and influencing, they focus on travel so they have people that look to them to say what’s the next hottest destination."

The Tennessee on Me campaign uses $2.5 million in taxpayer dollars to give tourists $250 flight vouchers for booking a hotel. The purpose was an immediate non-refundable investment in local hotels. Some people weren't happy about paying influencers to promote it. Check out what some people said on Twitter:

Love said, "I don’t think people know that influencers are just a marketing vehicle."

While she was not part of the state's campaign, she's done similar work. "When I worked for another tourism board, I was invited up to their city basically to show off their baseball stadium, show off a hotel in the area, some bars, so I created some fun content."

Mega-influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers make a lot of money. "I will say a lot of bloggers, depending on their following size, they can charge anywhere from $50 for a post up to $5,000," Love said, "But I do know some bloggers that have 75,000 followers, they charge about $2,500 to $5000 per post... It’s mostly a female industry, they make about six figures just blogging and influencing."