For the uninitiated, influencer marketing can be confusing.
NB This is a viewpoint by Anthony Rawlins, managing director for Digital Visitor.
For starters, the success (or otherwise) of influencer marketing can be difficult to track. The same can be said of other promotional and PR initiatives, but at least there are some agreed ways of measuring traditional campaigns. Influencer marketing has yet to establish an industry-wide set of standards.
And yet, many of the foremost brands in the fashion, travel and retail industries - and to a certain extent the hospitality industry - recognise influencer marketing as an essential part of their overall strategy.
The value of influencer marketing
For these brands the rationale is clear, and it’s based on trust. More specifically, the understanding that consumers are more likely to engage with and purchase goods and services promoted by the voices and people they trust.
And that’s the inherent value influencers hold; the absolute trust of the following they’ve spent time and money building up over several years.
But don’t take our word for it.
The 2014 ‘Google Travel Study’ found that the internet is quite clearly the most influential when it comes to inspiring leisure travel decisions, followed rather distantly by television.
The same study found that over 80% of people use social networks and content sharing sites for leisure and travel inspiration, demonstrating how popular the main distribution channels used by influencers are.
Completing the puzzle, Nielsen’s 2015 ‘Global Trust in Advertising’ study found that ‘recommendations from people I know’ (78%) and ‘consumer opinions posted online’ (63%) were the top two ad formats acted upon by European consumers.
It’s no coincidence that both of these choices fit perfectly with influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing: three approaches for hotels
How you work with influencers will depend on your industry. Hotels and other accommodation providers, however, are an in envious position, as they naturally possess resources influencers find genuinely interesting and alluring.
Whether you’re known or want to be known for your world-beating rooms, food or grounds, you can easily source a range of influencers to cover your “product” from every angle.
But all of this means nothing without a solid influencer marketing strategy. A clear plan for engaging your target audience effectively is essential. So, with that in mind, we’ve put together a brief overview of our favourite influencer marketing approached for hotels:
This is perhaps the most obvious approach for working with influencers; a continuous promotion of your business secured through an invitation to stay, in exchange for coverage. And it’s a good one; if you have a spare room, there’s little outlay involved and influencers find offers to stay hard to turn down.
Inviting influencers to stay gives readers and potential visitors a comprehensive idea of what it’s like to stay at your hotel. Naturally, you’ll want to ensure everything runs smoothly. Remember, as much as good words from an influencer can deliver an uptick in business, bad words can be incredibly damaging to your reputation.
So, where does the theme come in? Well, you could invite bloggers year round, but inviting an influencer and their mother for Mother’s Day, or an influencer and their partner for Valentine’s is an effective way of maximising impact. Of course, you’ll want to plan this type of activity well in advance of the chosen theme’s event to ensure bookings for the intended period.
Perhaps not quite what you were expecting in a discussion about influencer marketing, Twitter Chats - a prearranged coming together of a group of Twitter users all interested in a certain topic, denoted by a chosen hashtag - remain an effective way of reaching new customers through influencers.
One approach would be to setup, support and promote your own series of Twitter Chats. However, if you don’t have the time or resources to achieve success here, most worthwhile chats do offer reasonably priced sponsorship options. Co-hosting a branded Twitter chat can deliver seriously good results - it’s not unheard of for one chat to generate as many as 7-10 million impressions.
Hosting a dedicated blogger event is a tactic we’d like to see employed far more frequently. What better way to get large groups of influencers engaging with your business? After all, there’s nothing influencers like to do more than get together for a catchup and a spot of food and drink.
You’ll likely get some coverage just by inviting them for an afternoon of tasters and a guided tour.
But we can do better than that.
For instance, you might like to invite influencers along for an InstaWalk, the main aim of which is to encourage them to share photos of your beautiful grounds or rooms on Instagram and beyond.
And it’s important to remember that almost every influencer, whether they are a dedicated Instagrammer or not, will have a potentially popular Instagram account.
This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list of influencer marketing strategies and tactics used by hotels and other accommodation providers. Having said that, they clearly convey the range of approaches that can be employed, with each one having something different to offer from the next. It goes without saying that the PR approach you adopt will largely depend on your particular commercial objectives.
NB1 This is a viewpoint by Anthony Rawlins, managing director for Digital Visitor.
NB2Image by Jakub Jirsak/BigStock.com