To some people, Alisha Miranda the travel writer is a different human being from Alisha Miranda the digital tech manager.
To put it another way, sometimes it’s her job to recruit influencers, and sometimes she’s the one doing the influencing.
Miranda is a self-described digital media strategist who has helped CEOs, small business owners, and media brands develop their marketing and revenue opportunities. When not working on media campaigns, she writes food and travel stories that inspire young people to see the world.
A true digital media connoisseur, Miranda was a featured public speaker at 2016’s Philly Tech Week Media Conference, where she gave a lightning talk about sponsored content, and she has been a panelist, moderator and speaker at countless other media events. Plus, she’s the co-host and co-organizer of #RadGirlsInTech, a social and professional meetup group for women in all areas of the tech industry—not just coders or developers.
Most recently, Miranda served as Client Success Manager at Technically Media, where she developed digital advertising and sponsored content product offerings for technology clients, built partner programs and led client service initiatives across departments. In the past, she’s worked for Masthead Media Company, Say Media and Thrillist.
We sat down with Miranda to talk travel apps, Philly neighborhood love and more.
ChatterBlast Media: First of all, how’d you end up in our beloved Philadelphia?
Alisha Miranda: Well, I worked in New York tech and media really since I was 19. I started out doing mostly PR work, but I got kind of bored. I wanted to tack on other things, so I ended up going to the event planning and production side, then I went further into the editorial side to build up my writing skills. I freelanced around and explored the community as far as tech startups and media goes.
After five years of living [in New York], I saw that my career wasn’t moving the way I wanted it to, certainly not as fast as I wanted it to, and the instability really started to affect my life. I got laid off at the end of 2014—I was working at an ad tech company—and I kind of said, “I think this is the last straw, I think this is it for me.” I went to college over in Jersey, and I really loved any time I spent in Philly. The cost of living [in Philly] was cheaper and it’s only an hour and a half or two hours from New York, so I was still close to friends and family. I was able to move in July of 2015.
At what point in your freelance endeavors did you start branding yourself as a travel writer?
One of my first gigs out of college in New York was working at a startup for a content platform. A couple of months after [I started], they realized that their users were using their platform to create travel content, and so we decided to spin it to be a travel community—an online travel network. I actually didn’t take my first trip until after the company folded and I didn’t have a job anymore. I left to Spain, and I really loved it—it was my first trip abroad as an adult, alone and on my own dime.
I wrote about my experiences, and people in the community were like, “You are a great writer. You should keep doing this.”
You once wrote a hyperlocal guide to spending the day in Chestnut Hill. How do you pick a location like that, and how do you promote your upcoming journey ahead of time so people follow your trip?
I’m a sucker for those small-town vibes where it’s locals only and you really do get to suck in the true character of a place. For Chestnut Hill, I was approached by their tourism representatives, but I was really drawn to it because at the time, I was still new to Philly and didn’t know anything about Philadelphia north of Market Street.
I try to write about places that leave a lasting impression on me. There are definitely places on my to-visit list for the same reasons that I look for places to hang out in Philly: Is there good food somewhere? Is there a good bar somewhere? Can I walk around for a little bit, is there shopping? Those are really my only requirements.
Want to #staycation in the city? @makeshiftalisha had a great time here in Chestnut Hill. https://t.co/RP8hOnJrIm
— Chestnut Hill Business District (@ChestnutHillPA) June 24, 2016
So whether I’m going to Chestnut Hill or overseas, the qualities are all the same as far as what interests me. When I go somewhere, those are the things people are most interested in: Is it affordable, are there good places to eat and drink, is there sightseeing, all that stuff. It doesn’t really matter if it’s my own neighborhood or somewhere far away.
How do you use FourSquare and Swarm when you travel?
Swarm is where you check in and FourSquare is the city guide portion. I make my to-do list via FourSquare, but I check in to places via SwarmApp. [On FourSquare] you can look up where other people have gone in a certain place and add that to your own to-do list. It’s fun to have the [Swarm] check-ins because, for example, I just had lunch with a friend who was going to Chicago, and I could go in my [social] history and find a bar I checked into that I wanted to tell him about.
Miranda’s Swarm profile (left) and FourSquare travel lists (right)
When you go on a trip and you know you’ll be writing about it, do you strategize in terms of how much you’re going to say about the trip live versus how much you’re going to save for your larger written piece?
I really look at Twitter and FourSquare as my archives of what I did that day to decide what I can actually write about in a blog post in a little more detail. I also do carry my own little reporter’s notebook everywhere I go when I travel so I can write down little things I want to remember to put in a blog post or an article I might be pitching. So it’s a mix of being in the moment and how much fun I’m having and how much I want to brag.
I’ve had a lot of people tell me they enjoy following me most when I’m traveling because they know I’m that’s when I’m happiest. When I was in Barcelona in November, all I was writing about was how fantastic Barcelona was while America was suffering in the aftermath [of the election]. I brag about where I am so [people] can follow along and have fun too.
Where do you think influencer marketing is headed? Is it even smaller-scale, where someone with 300 loyal followers is a more effective than someone with a thousand disconnected ones?
I would agree. I’ve worked on both sides of influencer marketing: I’ve been tapped into as an influencer, like with the Chestnut Hill thing, and then I’ve worked in advertising where I’ve had to put together campaign proposals, select what influencers would be the best fits, budget how much we pay these people and then hopefully have them do the content.
I think brands are going to figure out (probably the hard way) that putting money into a person with 15,000 followers can often give you the same result as someone like me—I think I probably have about 5,000 if you add up all of my social accounts. But people know to go to me for certain things. I can give you names of people that have booked trips to Spain, to Philly, to places around the world because they have read something that I’ve written about that place. Uruguay—who goes to Uruguay?!—well, you know what, I know three people who have gone because of me.
Uruguay—who goes to Uruguay?!—well, you know what, I know three people who have gone because of me.
That’s the ROI [brands] are going to get: knowing that someone has made a decision based on the content that they’ve created. For me in the travel space, my ROI back to a brand is that I can convince someone to take the same trip because I write about it in a way that’s engaging, interesting and true to my perspective.
You’re someone who’s been involved with influencer marketing since before it was a buzzword.
Yeah, I didn’t even know the term for it, but some of the stuff I was doing at my first internship at that travel startup was influencer marketing. I was responsible for seeking out freelance writers to write about certain destinations on our site, because we needed the content. I didn’t know the term for [influencer marketing], but it’s essentially what I was doing. That’s what a lot of food and travel writers do and a lot of how they make their money. And they’ve been doing it since…forever.
What’s your dream destination for someone to send you to write about?
I would say Iceland is the one place I’m obsessed with going. I’d also take Spain any day—send me back there as much as you want.
Know of a project that Alisha would absolutely slay? She’s on the job market. Do yourself a favor and get in touch.