Case Study: Visit California Nonprofit Takes A Tour With Travel Influencers

travel influencers visit california
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Instagram Marketing Case Study: Nonprofit Taps Travel Influencers To Promote California Tourism

With U.S. travel revenue up in 2017 and more growth predicted this year, travel influencers are expanding alongside the industry on social platforms. Hospitality and other travel-oriented companies have used influencers on social media to help raise awareness around their brands and entice people to explore destinations and use their services.

According to data compiled by MDG Advertising, more than 90% of Millennials post their travels on social platforms, and 30% of travelers in the U.S. use social media for inspiration. UK-based Schofield’s survey from last year found that “Instagrammabilty” was an important factor for 40% of 18-33 year-olds when choosing a vacation. Despite numbers like these, travel brands with a social presence or influencer marketing campaign aren’t guaranteed success online. Some travel brands have started to rethink their influencer strategies as they assess effectiveness and navigate evolving regulations.

Visit California Invests In Influencer Marketing With New Influencer Board

travel influencers visit california

Travel brands aren’t the only entities exploring the potential of social media to reach consumers. Tourism boards from around the world are investing big in social and influencer marketing as they attempt to woo travelers. Earlier this year, Visit California — a nonprofit dedicated to developing marketing strategies that inspire state travel — established a Digital Influencer Advisory Board that brings together travel influencers from Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to help advise on influencer partnerships and best practices.

According to Visit California President and CEO Caroline Beteta, “Visit California recognizes that the industry’s leading digital influencers are masters of a diverse skill set: they are talented content creators, savvy entrepreneurs and curators of highly engaged audiences.”

Related Post: Marriott & SanDisk Travel Influencer Case Study

Travel Influencers And Visit California Catch The Winter Wave


  • Raise awareness of California winter activities and destinations.
  • Reach out-of-state visitors, as well as California residents.
  • Entice travelers to explore California’s Central Coast and Eastern Sierras.


While California naturally conjures up images of sun, beaches, and desert, Visit California has tapped influencers to help promote the Golden State’s many winter attractions. Earlier this year, Los Angeles-based travel photographer, Tiffany Nguyen — better known as Tiff Penguin to her followers — as well as Dave Bouskill and Deb Corbeil of The Planet D travel blog and Instagram feed, partnered with Visit California on their “Catch the Winter Wave” campaign.

travel influencers visit california
Using sharp lenses to capture surreal landscapes in incredible detail, Nguyen gives her 336,000 followers access to the striking visual breadth of the amazing destinations she visits. For her Visit California partnership, Nguyen posted four images and one video, highlighting her travels along California’s Central Coast and Eastern Sierras. Documenting gorgeous beaches, stunning rock formations and mountains, as well as natural hot springs, Nguyen’s posts made repeated mention of how surprised she was by all she hadn’t experienced within her home state.

travel influencers visit california

Brightly colored images of natural phenomena, famous monuments, and enchanting animals from around the globe populate The Planet D’s Instagram feed. Bouskill and Corbeil posted six images for Visit California, showcasing an array of eclectic scenery from Lake Tahoe, Monterey, Big Sur, and other locations. In their captions, the two travelers highlighted what they loved about the destinations, as well as the appeal of visiting during the winter season.

travel influencers visit california

Both Tiff Penguin and Planet D posted breathtaking images that were described to their followers in a casual and conversational manner. The hashtags #visitcalifornia and #catchthewinterwave were used in the majority of posts, and Visit California’s Instagram feed @visitcalifornia was tagged as well. Nguyen tagged her posts with #ad, while Bouskill and Corbeil used Instagram’s “paid partnership” tag.


Tiff Penguin

  • Social Reach
    • Instagram Followers Targeted: 336,000
  • Engagement
    • Instagram Likes: 54,371
    • Instagram Comments: 1,620
    • Engagement Rate: 16.66%

The Planet D

  • Social Reach
    • Instagram Followers Targeted: 224,000
  • Engagement
    • Instagram Likes: 26,721
    • Instagram Comments: 1,271
    • Engagement Rate: 12.50%

Combined Total

  • Social Reach
    • Instagram Followers Targeted: 560,000
  • Engagement
    • Instagram Likes: 81,092
    • Instagram Comments: 2,891
    • Engagement Rate: 15.00%

Tiff Penguin Soaks Up California’s Natural Beauty

With 15,440 likes and 381 comments, Nguyen’s image of a heart-shaped natural hot spring from Mammoth Lakes generated some of the most views and greatest engagement among her Visit California posts. Many of Nguyen’s followers commented on the picturesque scene, as well as expressed their interest in visiting. Nguyen engaged heavily with her followers within the comments, offering @replies and answering questions.

The Planet D Makes Winter Waves In California

A hugely popular location for professional and amateur photographers, Bouskill and Corbeil’s daybreak photo of the Bixby Creek Bridge in Monterey earned 5,825 likes and 393 comments. Mesmerized followers offered their compliments in the comments section, while Bouskill and Corbeil replied with personalized “thanks” and well wishes.


  • The Tiff Penguin and The Planet D accounts helped Visit California raise awareness of wintertime destinations and experiences within the Golden State.
  • The content posted to each account matched their existing feeds, making the posts feel organic.
  • Both Tiff Penguin and The Planet D addressed their followers in the comment sections to increase engagement.
  • The sponsored nature of the posts was properly disclosed and didn’t appear to displease followers.
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