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Local blogger shares Wairarapa

Exploring the Carterton countryside. PHOTOS/THE LEO STYLE

ARTHUR HAWKES
[email protected]

It should come as no surprise that social media has revolutionised tourism. Images of New Zealand’s natural beauty regularly “go viral” on sites like Facebook and Twitter, particularly so on Instagram [the more image-orientated of the social media platforms], fuelling bucket-list trips for citizens around the globe.

Larissa Carlson [@theleostyle], based in Carterton, has built her reputation as a blogger over several years. In the fledgling days of the web, this would have meant a lot of writing, but today blogging is a combination of choice photography, prose, lifestyle promotion, and brand collaboration.

The family at “whimsical” lavender farm Ranui Essentials.

This is a blend that’s spawned the term “influencer” – someone who drives trends and popularity through their social media presence.

Influencers are a mixed bag: they’ve been accused of projecting unrealistic images, being tone-deaf to culture and custom, and promoting irresponsible behaviour through their actions.

But there’s also the good side: they’re real people, not faceless corporations, and so they can drive up genuine interest in a subject without the artifice of traditional marketing, their independence allowing a greater level of honesty.

Carlson is using her clout [and her 15,000 Instagram followers] for good, promoting Wairarapa tourism and the region’s beautiful landscapes to a domestic market – and she’s secured a collaboration with vehicle manufacturer Jeep to do this.

“My husband and I met in Auckland, but he was living in Wellington as an executive at the ACC,” said Carlson.

“On one of our first dates, he totally bypassed Wellington and brought me straight to Wairarapa. He thought, ‘if you can pass that, then you’re my girl!’”

A day out at Cape Palliser.

Carlson said she had been in the influencer game for some time, but only more recently made the shift to a family-orientated platform, a project she shares with husband Isaac, who was raised in Wairarapa, and two young boys Ryder-Leo and August-Grace.

“I was a beauty and fashion blogger, so my blog grew from there, but when I got engaged, then married and had children, that’s when the turn came to a more lifestyle and family-orientated blog.”

Carlson recalled travelling outside of New Zealand, in countries around Europe. “Everywhere we went, when we told locals we were from New Zealand they thought we were crazy, they thought ‘what are you doing here? You live in a bucket-list, world destination country’.

“And we only really appreciated that when we left New Zealand – so we came up with a new direction for the blog: family bonding, connecting away from distractions.

“It’s enabled our family to form a deeper bond, and we also think it’s really important for our boys to be removed from the fast-paced, modern-day kind of routine.

“We came up with a family philosophy called 80/20: Monday to Friday we do ‘the things’, and then we head bush on Saturdays and Sundays.

“The only way we could do that was making the bold move to move our family here to Wairarapa.

Part of a family shoot series at Rose and Smith Tauherenikau.

“Then, when covid-19 kicked in, we thought it was a really good opportunity to join our motivations with supporting local.

“Wairarapa has been really good to us, so we’ve taken this opportunity to create some purposeful content for our region.”

The analytical data from visitors to Carlson’s website and social media platforms, suggested core follower groups were located in Auckland and Wellington, ie domestic tourist hotspots.

“We thought we could really use this to our advantage, so we could grow our wider New Zealand audience, and also to engage with the right platform for the Wairarapa region.”

Jeep liked what the Carlsons were doing and let them use their name, the first time the brand has done so in New Zealand, meaning that Jeep now promotes their content, and by extension Wairarapa, on a national and international platform.

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