Welcome to another Student Spotlight! If you’re wondering how to build a business online as a blogger or social media influencer, read on. In this series, I’m handing the microphone over to my students to tell their stories, share their missions, and give their best advice for working online.
INTRODUCING: Madison Krigbaum
Today’s student spotlight welcomes Madison, USA based @madisonsfootsteps, a travel blogger and self-proclaimed rooftop bar enthusiast! I love her passion and realness in this interview and know you will too!
Tell me your story. Why did you start your travel blog and Instagram?
I started my travel blog, Madison’s Footsteps, because I’ve never felt happier or more like myself than the times I’ve spent traveling the world. In the last three years, I’ve had unforgettable experiences in all corners of the world. I’ve driven an ATV around Santorini’s black beaches, sipped Italian wine at rooftop bars overlooking famous Duomos, sped down the Swiss Alps in a toboggan after dark, gotten lost in Marrakech’s medinas and learned the best way to make traditional pad thai in Chiang Mai. At any given moment, there’s nothing I would rather be doing than traveling.
After my semester abroad in Rome (It’s a huge cliche but yes, study abroad changed my life), I decided I needed a way to share my passion with my friends, family and total strangers on the internet. I started my travel blog, and corresponding Instagram account, over the summer of 2017 with absolutely no idea what I was doing. At that point, it was mostly just a convenient way for me to give travel advice (sending a blog link vs. typing out 18 paragraphs in a text).
I had no idea that I could monetize my passion and turn it into a second stream of income!
After moving back to Italy in 2018, I visited even more unforgettable places and became a very confident solo-traveler. I began carrying a notebook with me on every trip and made note of anything I thought my followers/subscribers would be interested in learning. My Instagram account grew significantly and I had the time of my life living in Florence!
I returned to the states in November of 2019 (perfect timing I know), and accepted a position with a luxury travel company in Chicago. With the pandemic… I bet you can all guess how that plan turned out (cue me moving home with my parents for the last eight months). Currently, I’m working as a Virtual Assistant and spending all my free time growing my travel blog and my Instagram account. I’ll be moving to Roatan, Honduras for the month of January. I’m hoping to add even more valuable content to both of my platforms over that time.
Tell me about your business and your “why”!
I create travel content for adventurous and travel-hungry women! I’m 100% fixated on authentic travel experiences. To quote Kristin Newman, “I love to do the thing you’re supposed to do in the place you’re supposed to do it.” I’m meticulous about documenting everything I see, do and eat in every city I visit. And my goal is to share those authentic experiences with my audience.
In the weeks leading up to a trip, I spend hours researching traditional cuisine, buying tickets in advance to museums, making dinner reservations and mapping out the most geographically efficient way to see each destination. Since I enjoy the planning aspect more than most travelers, I blog about the best of each and every city. So my followers can enjoy their vacation without needing to spend hours on Tripadvisor beforehand!
I’m especially passionate about viewpoints, rooftop bars and trying the best restaurants in every city. I also always attempt to learn a few words in the local language before visiting each destination. So you can expect to find some useful phrases in most of my blog posts as well.
How did you discover Christina?
I first discovered Christina through a Facebook ad for the Influencer Bootcamp back in December of 2019. Although I immediately wanted to take the course, I was still unemployed after leaving my job in Florence and wasn’t able to afford it at the time. When the pandemic hit, I was laid off from my new travel job in Chicago (who doesn’t have a sob story like this one after 2020 haha). I was forced to move home to Madison, WI and found myself with a ton of free time on my hands. It was the perfect time to take Christina’s course and I’m so glad I did! It completely changed my views surrounding social media and the influencer lifestyle. I realized that this was something I could be successful at if I worked hard enough.
Which courses of Christina’s have you taken and what inspired you to enroll?
Both! Although I’m not quite finished with the Blogger Bootcamp. I enrolled in the Influencer Bootcamp in March after the pandemic hit and I lost my job in the travel industry. It was a very low point in my life and I was feeling very lost and unsure of where to go from there. While I was living at home and figuring out my next move, I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. I decided to make use of that time by taking online courses and learning as much as I could about social media and making it as a travel influencer. Christina’s course was at the top of my list!
The way Christina made a living doing what she loved and paved the way for so many influencers to follow in her footsteps inspired me. It motivated me to chase my dreams harder than I ever had before. Now, eight months later, I’ve started my LLC, have gained almost 4,000 followers on Instagram and have worked with 11 brands. At Christina’s suggestion, I’ve also switched my site from a limited WordPress.com version to a beautiful theme on WordPress.org. I’ve launched my free PDF guide, I am gaining subscribers every day. And I am hoping to monetize with ads beginning next year. Christina is an amazing educator and her courses are 100% worth the investment!
What 3 – 5 “lightbulb moments” did you have while taking the courses?
The first “lightbulb moment” I experienced while taking the course was realizing that I should leave thoughtful comments when engaging on relevant accounts. I used to just sit and like every photo under a recent hashtag. And hope that would get me a few new followers. I also never used to respond to the comments on my posts and now I always do!
The bootcamp also made me realize the importance of showing up on stories. I used to leave my account with no stories for days at a time. After taking the Influencer Bootcamp, I realized the importance of a consistent presence on social media.
Lastly, I realized how many companies try to take advantage of influencers with “affiliate programs” and discounts. I learned firsthand how much work goes into each and every collaboration. And, at the very least, influencers should be receiving the product for free, if not additional compensation.
What are the 2 – 3 most exciting things that have happened since completing the courses?
The first exciting thing that happened to me since finishing the course was my first paid collaboration! I worked with a skincare company based in the UK on a small collaboration. It was the first time I’ve ever been financially compensated for my work on social media.
The next exciting thing was when I scored my first hotel collaboration in Fort Collins, CO. We arrived at the hotel, which was absolutely STUNNING, and found a handwritten note and a bottle of wine in our room. As well as branded wine glasses for us to take home. I framed the note and have it sitting on my desk as a reminder of what I’ve achieved this year!
Lastly, I was amazed at how quickly my followers responded to the changes I had made on my account. I powered through the bootcamp in less than a week. I immediately began following Christina’s advice when it came to longer and more valuable captions, showing up on stories, only posting photos in portrait and using relevant hashtags. Using Christina’s strategies, I was able to grow my account from 4.8K to 8K in less than four months!
What do you love most about being a travel blogger and influencer?
First and foremost, I LOVE getting to travel. For me, there’s no better feeling than waking up in a new city with a whole list of restaurants, museums and viewpoints to visit and an empty SIM card in my camera.
When it comes to the work I do online, I love getting recognition for doing what I love. It feels amazing when people value my advice for certain destinations. Or seek out my blog before traveling to a new place. I love sharing my knowledge of travel with my friends and followers so that they can have the same amazing experiences that I had in those places!
I also love creating content for my blog and my Instagram page. But I used to get stressed out when I needed to create new content because I felt that I wasn’t as good at photography and editing as other accounts I saw on Instagram. This past year, I’ve learned that everyone has their own style and methods when creating beautiful content. Variety is what keeps Instagram interesting as a platform for creators!
What’s next for you? What’s your next big goal or project?
I have two major goals at this point. The first is improving my photography and editing skills. I have a lot of beautiful travel content from my time in Italy. But most of it was shot on an iPhone 7. Sadly I haven’t had many opportunities to capture travel content in my hometown. I bought my first camera this year and intend on learning how to use it like a pro!
My second goal is to land a press trip in 2021! I would love to travel with a group of like-minded influencers and bloggers. And help each other shoot beautiful content in a new destination.
What is your number one piece of advice for aspiring travel influencers or bloggers?
I have two pieces of advice. The first is the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Growth doesn’t happen overnight so if you want it, you have to be prepared to work for it.
The second piece of advice is to not get discouraged when people unfollow you or when someone doesn’t follow you back. Although I am trying to grow my account, this past year I’ve started using Instagram in the way it was intended to be used, to gather inspiration and enjoy beautiful content. I don’t follow people anymore simply to have them follow me back. I follow accounts that inspire me, regardless of if they follow back or not.
What are your favorite accounts to follow on Instagram? Favorite bloggers?
Where can people find you?
Travel Blog madisonsfootsteps.com