A recent study by GlobalData points to influencer marketing becoming more important than ever before in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Since the world was forced into various forms of lockdowns, social media and the influencers who rule much of the conversation can boost sagging bookings. However, there is a cloud covering this silver lining.
GlobalData says young, independent travelers may be a key link for travel sector recovery. Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, was quoted by a good many travel news outlets recently, saying:
“Amid the pandemic, consumer habits have changed and the importance of having an effective social media presence has been heightened. Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) should engage with influencers and operate across multi-channel platforms to ensure a stronger position for recovery.“
She went on to point out how ad images are not as authentic as the perceptions of travelers who visit a place first-hand. The data executive implies that influencers are more credible emissaries, and especially with their larger audiences, which is mostly true. The problem for hospitality marketing departments is understanding the ins and outs of the whole influencer business.
Unless you can afford to hire Lady Gaga to Tweet or Instagram about your travel offer, you need to take care of who you pay or reward for socially broadcasting our touristic value. I’ve been in the digital influencer business since digital began, and every “influencer” is not created equal. That free weekend with flight included will, more often than not, fail to provide the desired result. There are many reasons for this, but the most prevalent one is outright laziness.
Yep, I said it. 99% of those mystical “influencers” out there are just so stuck on themselves. They’re convinced by their hordes of fans that they are gods and goddesses of opinionated virtue. Most I’ve dealt with in building influencer marketing startups or campaigns for hotels, they just don’t bring the clients. One I set up to visit a resort here on Crete some years back , she ended up costing me hours and hours of my own time just to make up for even recommending her. This goes to prove that even social media gurus can goof up selecting the wrong person.
At the end of the 3-night stay on the front beach in a luxury resort on the Cretan Sea, this influencer popped some images and text on a virtually invisible blog, shared an Instagram or two, made one mention on Facebook, and left me holding the credibility bag. Ironically, I did the marketing chore for a friend as a favor and had to provide the value myself. This is but one horror story in a hundred I’m familiar with, where so-called influencers under-produce.
Naturally, all brands seek ways to reach consumers via more native feeling, credible, and relevant strategies targeting their niche and their message. Influencers in travel, for instance, can deliver content that provides instantaneous relevance and high credibility for a target group. In addition, influencers are masters of the platforms they influence, at least theoretically. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), influencers can help springboard a marketing campaign:
“From their own blogs or social media accounts to paid amplification on
their posts on social, their content will resonate and provide greater scale.”
Since I mentioned the IAB, a report from them not too long ago talked about how marketers cannot really resonate simply by “borrowing interest” from influencers. The gist of the report is best expressed by an advertising professor from USC name Rick Bursky, who is quoted as having said:
“Influencers are just the new version of [celebrity] spokespeople. I’ve never gotten any great results out of influencers.”
What the famous advertising guru is says is that influencer posts are really just interactive ads. They’re good for visibility, but unless the interest they generate is more dynamic, using influencers is actually detrimental for a brand. Google bears this out because influencer marketing saturation has begun to be detrimental. Everybody wants to be (or thinks they are) a social media influencer.
There’s some evidence that groups like Millennials actually click on ads more frequently than sponsored posts or influencer social shares. How’s that for a surprise? Please remember also, good influencer marketing is about more than a pretty face and some follower numbers. I’ll not delve into selecting criteria here, but the influencer really has to match your brand and your goals.
The long and short of influencer marketing is that your message has to stand out in a travel and tourism world of tremendous noise. A huge success in any advertising or marketing scheme is governed by creativity and effort. Even if you have that influencer sign your hotel’s influencer marketing contract to iron out deliverables, you cannot guarantee any degree of success. What governs your conversions will always and forever be the “6-p” principle of “perfect preparation precludes piss poor performance.”
Have goals and a plan in place. Do your research not only on the influencer(s) you intend to employ but on how your message (goal) will resonate with their core audience. Find an influencer with some creativity and drive. And most importantly, be part of the process. The last suggestion is for those hotel directors or marketers who want to simply give away a free room and let it all ride. This is not how successful campaigns work. If you don’t have the time and resources to work the campaign properly, just buy more Google ads and forget it.
Are travel influencers more visible and important now? Obviously. Will their followers fill your hotel or resort to capacity overnight? Absolutely not. My last bit of advice is to get your expectations in order across the whole marketing spectrum. The pandemic has changed travel and tourism forever. New ideas, new creativity, and good old fashioned logic will dictate success or failure from now on. Ironically, tradition and old fashioned values will too – since hosting guests is what we are all back to. Think about this when you choose a brand emissary. Whose influence do you really want to borrow?