Without any doubt, the current most talked-about example of influencer marketing in action is last year’s doomed Fyre Festival.
The Netflix documentary Fyre:The Greatest Party That Never Happened tells the full story, which begins with an exclusive collection of world-famous influencers hyping the festival to secure vast levels of investment.
As effective a strategy as this turned out to be, the person who really influenced the public view of Fyre was one Twitter user with fewer than 500 followers. He posted a now-infamous image (of a limp cheese sandwich) that trended within seconds, eventually bringing the entire event to its knees.
Although Fyre is a cautionary tale of sorts, it also clearly demonstrates how a new, tech-savvy generation can be reached through influencer marketing.
What is influencer marketing?
A blend of traditional and modern marketing tools, influencer marketing takes the basic concept of celebrity endorsement, and places it into a content-driven marketing campaign led by people with an established audience.
Influencer marketing is based on “word of mouth” advertising, which is often reliably cited as the most effective.
We’re far more likely to trust personal recommendations than a TV commercial or a glossy ad in a magazine. Recommendations speak to us, and if they’re made by somebody we trust, we’re far more likely to act on them.
For independent hotels, this insight opens up huge potential.
Instead of blowing your budget in exchange for a single post from the latest Instagram celebrity, independent hoteliers can harness the power of micro-influencers – those who have a smaller, yet more personally engaged, audience.
You will be able to focus on people who really believe in your brand, who use it, and who can influence your target audience in the most authentic manner.
The rise of the social media influencer
Data from the management consultancy McKinsey shows that one in four consumers use social media for purchasing decisions. To stay relevant in a fast-moving, highly competitive industry, this is information that independent hoteliers ignore at their peril.
In fact, Marriott Hotels’ Vice President of Global Creative and Content Marketing has this to say: “Influencer marketing is here to stay, and it should play a central role in your strategy to win the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers”.
(Marriott recently ran a hugely successful influencer marketing campaign, in which they conducted full Snapchat takeovers with four key influencers – all of whom created video journals of key locations to promote the chain’s Reward programme).
Over time, social media influencers have risen to a prized position of authority, credibility and trust, all of which can play a huge part in a hotel’s digital marketing strategy for growing awareness, loyalty, events and direct bookings. Particularly in an age when savvy online users are trained to block formal advertisements as often as possible.
How independent hotels can leverage influencer marketing
Big data firm Kalibri Labs have established that a stay sold directly through a hotel is worth at least 9% more in profit than a stay booked through an online agency. This is a statistic that’s worth remembering when it comes to developing your hotel’s marketing strategy.
Millennials and Generation Z tend to discover venues through social media influencers, who will in turn steer them to the hotel’s own page, with direct website links (in fact, people have been shown to spend a staggering one in five minutes on their mobile phone browsing through Facebook or Instagram).
Meanwhile, a new generation of travel influencers are springing up; prolific reviewers who are skilled at painting an authentic and relatable picture of a hotel through blog posts, Instagram photos and non-intrusive, user-generated content, all presented in the style of a typical guest.
The luxury travel market has been getting in on the influencing act in a big way, too. Where at one time luxury brands would have been reticent about engaging with mass audiences, many high net worth consumers are very active on social media, and are ready to engage.
Travel influencers can therefore connect with your potential guests on a more personal and relaxed level, building vital trust in the process.
Planning your hotel influencer marketing strategy
For your influencer marketing campaign to be effective, you will need to understand your target guest. For example, how old are they, how much do they earn, and what do they do?
Build an ideal guest profile that you can then use to select the right influencers for your hotel.
Then, do your research. Your ideal influencer could be a travel photographer on Instagram, a hotel-oriented blogger or vlogger, or they might just be a renowned industry Tweeter. Let’s not forget luxury travel advisors can also play an important role in micro-influencing, as they are exclusively focused on travel and dining experiences that offer the style, sophistication and personalisation that high-end travellers look for.
Whichever influencer you choose to work with, they should be easily recognised by both their unique approach, and the engagement of their followers.
As we’ve mentioned, it can be very effective to work with micro-influencers, who have built strong relationships with their followers, than breaking your budget on the likes of celebrity macro influencers.
However, don’t just leave it there and hope for the best. You will need to communicate with your influencers on a regular basis, ensuring they know all about your venue, along with any latest deals or special offers. You could even share exclusive promotional booking codes with them, to pass on to their followers.
In return, your influencers should be able to provide vital information about your ideal guests’ motivations, habits and expectations of service. Use this information wisely, to strengthen your brand, improve your overall guest experience, and even help you plan for future expansion.
Some influencer marketing ‘don’ts’
Succeeding in the hectic, often fickle world of social media isn’t an easy task. It takes time, care and patience to cultivate an engaged audience, which means your chosen influencers aren’t likely to be happy with simply being paid to say nice things about your hotel. For the best results, you will need to develop a strong relationship with them yourself.
Right from the outset, find out the best ways to communicate with your chosen influencers, and how often they’d like to keep in touch. You could begin by becoming one of their loyal followers!
Try to remember that influencer marketing isn’t a ‘quick fix’ with immediate financial reward. Instead, it’s all about establishing your hotel’s unique authority and credibility over time, during which you will find a lasting way into the hearts and minds of happy and engaged guests.
@luxurylondonguy was founded from twenty years of global experience in the luxury hospitality industry. To find out more about the consultancy and representation services we provide, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
In the meantime, why not follow us for regular industry insights and information?