6 Alternative Ways to Celebrate Christmas

With just 8 weeks to go until Christmas (yes, really!), we have put together a list of suggestions to help make this December truly extraordinary. Whether looking to ditch the UK for a dose of winter sun, hit the slopes in a far-flung destination or stick closer to home with a celebratory staycation, these ideas will ensure that this festive season is one to remember.

Feast on slope-side sushi

Skiing enthusiasts in search of fresh tracks should head to Japan where you can work up an appetite out on the legendary powder slopes before swapping the traditional brussels sprouts and stuffing for steaming bowls of ramen and sushi selection boxes with all the trimmings. Yum!

Powder Byrne (powderbyrne.com) offers a 10-day adventure through Japan from £3,750 per person including a complete itinerary of activities, luxury transfers between destinations and English-speaking guides along the way.

Learn to Play Polo in Sotogrande

Trade in traditional Christmas charades and monopoly to enjoy the run of the ranch with exclusive use of Polo Valley in Sotogrande. Let travel experts Powder Byrne introduce your family to the exciting sport of polo and spend your mornings learning from the best Polo Valley professionals, while afternoons can be spent indulging in local cuisine prepared by the ranch’s resident chef!

From £1,795 per person including 7 nights’ accommodation on a full board basis, as well as Polo Valley’s hosted riding programme exclusively for your party

Throw a festive bash to remember with a Cotswolds hotel takeover

Live out your Downton dreams and play Lord / Lady of the Manor with a takeover of the Calcot Collection’s Palladian House, The Painswick . With a full stock of classic board games to choose from, a pool table, two spa treatment rooms and plush sofas to sink into to enjoy a festive flick or two, you’ll never be short of activities to keep you and your loved ones entertained.

Prices available on request

Take a Cornish cold-water dip before dinner

Every community has its own festive traditions and every year in Falmouth, the 25th December sees a hoard of hardy swimmers make a beeline for the water for an invigorating (if a tad nippy) Christmas sea swim. Luckily for guests of St Michaels, the action takes place directly in front of the resort on Gylly beach, so you can dash directly from the sea (via the bar) to the spa to warm up afterwards.

St Michaels offers a 3-night Christmas break, arriving on Christmas Eve from £565pp or 4-nights arriving on the 23rd from £633pp including accommodation, breakfast and dinner each day and a festive lunch and evening buffet on Christmas Day

Add a touch of Christmas spa-rkle

Pip the January gym-goers to the post with a winter wellness break at La Réserve Geneva which will leave you feeling rested and rejuvenated before you ring in the New Year. After making the most of the hotel’s sprawling Spa Nescens facility, guests will be able to retreat to the Winter Lodge – an outdoor restaurant overlooking Lake Geneva, perfect for cosying up under thick fur blankets under the stars.

Superior Rooms at La Réserve Geneva start from 500CHF (approx. £410). For full details, please visit their website.

Santa, stockings and steel bands in Antigua

Just like back home in blighty, Christmas at Carlisle Bay means festive feasts, carol singing and long, lazy afternoons with your loved ones – albeit with a Caribbean twist! On Boxing Day, guests of Carlisle Bay are invited to enjoy a barbeque dinner at The Jetty Grill, accompanied by a live steel drum band to get the celebrations started. No cooking, no washing up, just delicious food served beach-side and bare-foot, infused with Caribbean spices and flare!

Powder Byrne offers any 7-nights over Christmas & New Year on a B&B basis with afternoon tea from £6,950 per person (020 8246 5300, powderbyrne.com)

Influencer Fraud: What It Means and What To Look Out For

Influncer Fraud Cove

Fake it until you make it, a phrase that up until a few months ago would have been the mantra for many aspiring influencers. However, as the influencer marketing industry continues to grow and the cost of a single sponsored post easily costing in the tens of thousands of pounds, the question still remains – how do you know that what you’re getting in return is genuine?

Research carried out last year by CampaignDeus found that out of the 700,000 Instagram accounts which it analysed, with followers ranging from 5K – 5M, as many as 12% had shown signs of buying fake followers.

So as the cost of influencer marketing is increasing, how can brands be sure that their budget is being used effectively and delivering the right results? The answer? Figuring out who is cheating the system and learning how to spot any influencers that are using or buying fake followers to ensure that your next campaign reaches real people and not just bots….

So what should you be looking out for?

Well, the good news is that many social networking sites have already been cracking down on the issue – by actively removing anything that it deems as inauthentic. Last year alone, Twitter purged tens of millions of suspicious accounts, while Facebook (who also own Instagram) began heavily investing in machine learning tools that would help them to detect and remove any suspicious account activity. But despite their best efforts, there are still influencers out there manipulating the system. Therefore, we’ve outline our top tips on what you need to look out for when vetting potential influencer partners…

Step 1 – Closely analyse their profile

When looking at any influencer profile there are a number of red flags which can pop up at any time. Firstly, look at the persons engagement rate. If they have a high number of followers, but little to no post engagement then there is a very high chance that they have previously bought followers. Secondly, scroll through the comments of a couple of their posts – this is often where you can spot any programmed bot interactions. Look for generic comments like ‘nice feed’ and ‘great shot’ as this will indicate that the interactions are unlikely to be genuine. Lastly, have a brief scroll through the influencers list of followers to see if they look like real accounts. If there are lots of accounts with no profile pictures or unusual usernames, then this could be another red flag.

Step 2 – Stick to the stats

It is widely known that many of the sites that sell fake followers operate the fake accounts from places like South America and Eastern Europe. Therefore, before you agree to work with any influencer you should ask for a direct screenshot of their follower demographics to verify that their audience is both legit and relevant to who you want to try and target.

Step 3 – Dig deeper with a third-party site

There are a number of different apps and programmes that claim to have found the ultimate algorithm to spotting fake followers. However, the truth is that no one platform has the answer you’re looking for, but they can occasionally help as part of the wider vetting process. Social Blade is the preferred platform for most, as it allows you to track user statistics across Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and more. Here you can find things like influencer’s engagement rate, their average number of likes and comments and most importantly their daily followers and following. It’s here that you are looking for any unusual spikes in new followers or lots of following and unfollowing. The latter strategy often involves following hundreds of new accounts one day and then once they have followed you back, quickly unfollowing them to leave themselves with a higher number of followers. While this technically doesn’t count as buying followers, it is a way for influencers to manipulate the algorithm and inflate their stats, which again could indicate that you should approach with caution.

Step 4 – Look for external mentions

While painstakingly obvious, a simple Google search of any authentic and well-respected influencer should produce a series of valuable external mentions. Look for published articles or interviews with the influencer to get a feel for their online credibility and history of past collaborations.

Step 5 – Trust your instincts

You can often get a feel for when something isn’t right, so always trust your instinct when it comes to working with influencers. Until an industry wide solution emerges, vetting influencers will rely on brands and agencies being able to closely understand and manage their relationships with social media stars. Therefore, if you’re unsure about anyone and have a inkling that they are up to no good, then keep searching until you find someone that perfectly connects with your brand.