When most people think of digital nomads, it’s with a touch of envy: free-spirited Millennials using the power of the internet to travel the world and get paid while doing it. Any way you look at it, it’s a pretty sweet gig. But it can be a sweet gig for your business, too, because these world explorers can be ambassadors for your brand, spreading the word to all corners of the globe.
How does this digital nomad thing work, anyway?
Despite the envy they tend to generate, they do need to make money. Some of the most common ways to generate income while living the nomadic lifestyle include:
- Having a “real” job: Companies of all sizes are embracing the idea of remote work. Employees love it, and technology has obliterated former barriers like collaborating on projects or attending meetings. It also reduces overhead, as it’s estimated that, depending on location and other factors, companies can save up to $11,000 for each person who works remotely rather than onsite.
- Freelancing: Freelancers make up the largest segment, using online job boards (plus the always-welcome referral) to find opportunities. There are job boards for freelance developers, writers, editors, translators, etc. Gigs range from long-term jobs to completing surveys.
- Blogging, vlogging, and social media: The most famous ones fall into this group. Through a combination of luck, timing, dedication, lots of hard work, and an intuitive sense of what to post (and when), they attract a following that’s large enough and engaged enough to generate money. Ad revenue tends to be a big part of it, but savvy nomads also offer digital products like ebooks, online courses, etc.
How can digital nomads help my brand?
They can help your brand by being your ambassadors, representing your brand everywhere they go. You can either give them specific assignments — like “have someone take a picture of you walking by a famous landmark with our backpack slung over your shoulder” — or encourage them to use their own creativity, which often comes across as more authentic.
Here are just a few of the ways these folks can help you further your content strategy:
- Post pictures of themselves and others with your product in exotic locations. No cheesy selfies here; these photos should look natural and unplanned. Spontaneous photos of other people using your product can be even better, provided you cover all of the legalities (more on that later). And don’t limit yourself to areas where your product is sold: Your ambassador’s friends and followers will see the photo, too, and it could just inspire them to make a purchase. It’s product placement, kind of like the Reese’s Pieces cameo in E.T.
- Post pictures of themselves visiting local landmarks and blog about the experience. Engaging photographs are a great marketing tool for travel agencies, airlines, hotels, and even governments looking to increase tourism. Personal, authentic descriptions of the experience can inspire others to hop online and book their vacation.
- Write about your restaurant, store, bakery, etc., from the perspective of a local. It’s not that reviews from tourists aren’t valuable, but reviews from locals provide context. Digital nomads who are calling your city home for a while can write about how the smell of your bread baking wakes them up every morning, or how your restaurant’s hostess wound up there after writing a novel, playing professional soccer, raising five kids as a single mom, etc. There’s nothing like local color to lend authenticity to a marketing campaign, and authenticity is what today’s consumers crave.
- Recommend your brand to people they meet during their travels. If there’s one thing these folks need, it’s reliable, cutting-edge technology. Whether it’s a speedy internet connection, a SaaS platform for accepting payments and tracking expenses, or the best tool for video conferencing, a personal recommendation from one digital nomad to another can carry a lot of weight.
- Share the things they’ve learned: Whether it’s telling fellow travelers which countries don’t allow visitors to bring their dogs, warning them about little-known laws that could land them in a lot of trouble, or simply sharing information about travel documents, currency exchange, and translators, they can help you position your brand as an authoritative resource. And that’s not just for travel and hospitality brands; it’s a great way for retailers to spread the word about clothing or travel gear that digital nomads love.
Those are just a few examples. The ways your brand can collaborate with these potential ambassadors are unique to you, your business strategy, and your customers.
How do I find these world travelers?
Unless you want the additional burden of trying to persuade people to quit their “real” jobs to travel the world, the best way is to hire someone who’s already doing it. And the best way to do that is to — you guessed it — hang out in the same places they do. Fortunately, there are a lot of those places, since one of the main things they say they miss is a community of like-minded people. So here are a few suggestions:
- Start with your own social media accounts. Your brand’s followers already love you, so somebody who’s on the other side of the planet wondering where they’ll find their next gig might think your Tweet is a dream come true.
- Post to digital nomad job boards. With remote work becoming so popular, these job boards cater to people who want to work remotely — some of whom will be digital nomads.
- Join their social spaces. Spend some time on a few of the many Facebook groups dedicated to digital nomads. Join the conversations, learn more about what they like and what they worry about, and then tailor your brand ambassador job offer accordingly.
What else do I need to know?
Somebody in your brand’s legal department! While using brand ambassadors is perfectly legitimate, there is some red tape involved. In the U.S., for example, the FTC requires anyone who posts something on behalf of a brand to disclose any compensation they receive for doing so, whether that compensation is monetary, a product, or a free night in a hotel. There are also some risks associated with user-generated content that are important to know.
Things get even more complicated when you cross national borders. The U.S., for example, is one of the few countries that allows pharmaceutical companies to market directly to consumers. So if one of your brand ambassadors posts that she has a chronic illness and your drug is the only thing that allows her to maintain the nomadic lifestyle, that could be a problem for both the individual in question and for your brand.
Digital transformation (and the regulations that go with it) are developing far too quickly to tackle on your own, especially if your company operates multinationally. Play it smart and involve your legal counsel.
According to a report by MBO partners, there are already 4.8 million Americans living and working as digital nomads. Add to that all of the digital nomads from other countries — some of who are temporarily living and working in the U.S. — and you have a vast number of people who can talk or write about your brand authentically and in a way that’s addictingly engaging to armchair nomads who, for now, are enjoying the lifestyle vicariously.