Social media ‘influencers’ turn posts into perks

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Successful social media ‘influencers’ can get free stuff worth big bucks.

Influencers likely have at least tens of thousands of followers, and whatever they’re promoting, like hotel rooms or meals, is usually free for them.

Kate Ruddell is an Indy-based influencer with around 17,000 social media followers. Her blog "Into Indy" gets an additional 8,000 visitors a month.

“My big focus is food and events,” Ruddell said. “I have men in their 50s with wives and kids coming up to me saying, ‘What do I do for Mother’s Day?’ or, ‘Where do I take my kids?’”

Her advice is her “side-hustle” she says, promoting local businesses online. She’s an influencer who posts for perks, compensation, because one of her posts generates hundreds of likes.

Phil Ray, the General Manager of the Indy’s JW Marriott says the hotel works with Visit Indy to lure big-name bloggers to Indianapolis, often with free meals or free hotel rooms.

“There are a lot of influencers, and it ranges from smaller to real, real big ones,” Ray said. “One tweet, one post, one blog can help influence a lot of people.”

The flip side are the posters who claim they’re influencers, asking for free rooms, but in reality may only have a few hundred followers.

Bigger destinations get dozens of pitches a day, so hotels filter through to see who’s legit and who’s just looking for freebies.

Ruddell says she only promotes what’s a good fit for her audience, and her posts do make her money.

“You’re creating content for them to use forever,” she said. “They can repost, hey Into Indy came last Christmas and this is her experience, come on out and check it out.”

Ruddell says, for a successful post, the poster should be in the photo, and the picture should pop with color and have a nice backdrop.