I just read a candid report at Hospitality Net about social media influencer marketing looking like a sham affair. Veteran marketer Larry Mogelonsky has opened a can of worms every hotelier should read. By the end of this report, hoteliers should have a much better guide to social media influencers.
The Question of Value
At issue in the HN story, Mogelonsky addresses three basic questions. I’ll start by answering his queries one by one. The owner of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited first asks about the ROI, or “Will you ever see any return?”
The short answer here is “yes,” but the measurement is going to be problematic. If driving bookings and revenue up is the hotel’s sole purpose, then social media influencers are not an answer. Influencer marketing practice is almost always a “top of the funnel” brand awareness strategy. That said, an “energetic” social media influencer can be incorporated into a larger hotel marketing or PR campaign with great effect. More on this farther on.
Next Mogelonsky asks the question, “What is the true monetary value of a single Instagram photo or Facebook post?” Again, the answer is yes. However, any influencer marketing campaign should be tied to engagement. CPE (Cost Per Engagement) and ER (Engagement Rate) are the benchmarks for determining how much those social media influencer shares are worth. For instance, if your hotel gives an influencer €5,000 euro worth of VIP service during a comped stay, then measuring this KPI becomes pretty simple. 50,000 social engagements end up costing €0.10 euro cents per increment. Now, imagine Lady Gaga in your hotel!
Okay, every influencer out there is not a superstar icon. And, to find out the monetary value of even her shares is a bit harder, but not impossible. Let’s say your sales and marketing team are paying CPC or CPI for ads. Using the expenditure there you can easily rationalize the influencer KPI. A much better solution is to incorporate your influencer into a bigger marketing campaign, on Facebook for instance. You create your own benchmarking database when you compare your own social media campaigns with those infused with influencer clout.
In order to prove this out, you can consult my friend Jeff Bullas, the world’s most famous CMO-influencer. He’s already done all the work using data and metrics to determine social sharing monetary value. He cites work from Everbright that says the value of a Facebook share is $4.15. I won’t get into the hard metrics here, you can trust Jeff. The gist of the whole influencer marketing issue is simplified below.
Finally, Larry asks the question all many hoteliers want answers to, “Can anyone honestly say that there is any return here for the hotel?” I think I already answered this, so let us move on to another point the marketing executive made when he talks about target overlap and the influencer’s following. Forget for a moment than half of the influencers on Instagram bought a chunk of their followers, the targeted hotel guest is the important variable. Jeff Bullas’ graphic above tells us all we need to know. We need to expect only “targeted” audience.
What percentage of the following lines up with your hotel, your destination, demographic, and geography? As Larry suggests, in most cases very few followers of a fashion influencer will be traveling to Zanzibar soon. Here is where your marketing and PR team come in. A little research will unveil the targets underneath that influencer. This is where the proper use of your $4.15 comes in. Someone has to decide which 200,000 Instagram followers will become guests or brand ambassadors.
Influencer Marketing DNA
My experience is this. Years ago I helped develop a brilliant platform called Buzz & Go, which in turn was an offshoot of one of the first such platforms. The idea and the value of this platform were pretty simple. Line up top influencers with hoteliers for a win-win in digital media power. The problems hoteliers have gauging social media influencers, they were the big issue when Buzz & Go was created. Many of the stumbling blocks seem to have been mediated, others have not. For this story, I performed a random check of influencer power using cases from Buzz & Go.
Without profiling individual influencers, it seems as if Buzz & Go’s vetting system is working. While I would not give five-stars to the influencers listed in cases here “energetic” workers, their efforts were rewarded by their following. The problem with these and other social gurus is that there is no deeper engagement. Their blogs are usually unseen or obscure, and they tend to only focus on one or two platforms. If I called them “lazy” I might be being unfair. Let’s just say they seem busy. In my opinion, this is something a platform like Buzz & Go will always have trouble with.
The last time I recommended a social media influencer to a hotel, my marketing partners got a signed contract for their hotel. By enumerating what is expected, which KPIs are important, the whole situation takes on a different complexion. In the end, the hotel got exactly what the influencer agreed to provide. I believe Buzz & Go has these contracts, but perhaps the stipulations are not so strict? This brings me to another point, influencer-hotel relationships, and my good friend Brian Solis.
A brand can be effective in influencer marketing with empathy and a little bit of homework. Lee Oden of TopRank Marketing
Brian was ranked 2nd on the latest List of Top 100 Digital Marketing Influencers compiled by research and monitoring tool BuzzSumo. Of all the social influencers I know, no one comes close to having Brian’s intuition and experience. I have known him since the days of Futureworks PR and Web 2.0. Solis’ research in “Influence 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing,” should be required reading for every hotel marketing professional. You can access this via another friend, Lee Oden, on the TopRank Marketing blog here. The cases provided by Lee mirror my suggestion at integrating social media influencers into marketing campaigns. Here is your recipe via the world’s most knowledgeable and successful influence marketers:
“Each campaign was supported by blog posts, organic social content, influencer promotion and some paid social.”
Avoiding Snake Oil and Mediocrity
As I type this I am looking at a blog with 20+ thousand readers per month and a blog post subject with 375 words written about a hotel. The lady has 100,000+ Insta followers and 23,000 Facebook fans, only she posts irregularly and only briefly about hotels. This pattern resounds, so I can only wonder at what mediocrity lies beneath the featured influencers. Maybe hotels are giving up really cheap rooms? As a hotelier you have to weigh the value of your own influence, against the value of social media influencers. The share from Fodele Beach Resort below illustrates how owned social media can perform well.
The problem with any influencer program is vetting and setting KPIs. Successful influencer marketing campaigns are not cheap, but the ROI is what makes all the difference. Part of the problem lies with the hoteliers too. Looking for a piecemeal and economical solution often leads to disappointment. Hotels always have empty rooms and a laundry service, what they do not always have is a big enough marketing budget. So, connecting influencers is only a piece of the puzzle, usually a reprioritized piece. Obviously, hoteliers should focus totally on ROI and end revenue, and not on expediency and short term economy. You get out what you put in.
I once set a Lithuanian influencer up for a week on the beach at a five-star luxury resort, only to have to work 20 hours myself in order to save a friendship with a hotel owner. You see, I often do PR and marketing just to “help” and without compensation. Multiply what I just told you by 100, and you’ll get that contract for services signed. This is the bottom line. A clear understanding and an agreement on what is expected from the hotel and the media person must be established. The marketing team simply must do their homework, as Lee Oden suggests. The rest you can trust to Jeff Bullas, Brian, Lee, or my other friend Neil Patel. :)