The rise of social media has produced one of the hottest marketing trends in the hotel industry: the influencer boom. Both independent hotels and chains are taking advantage of the fact that they can generate six times more returns and gain huge exposure to their target markets.
The Modern Struggles of Hotel Marketing Managers
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have taken over. They are doing phenomenally well, but that comes with a hefty fee of up to 20% commission whilst direct bookings growth still remains a struggle. Likewise, ad block is on the rise and accommodation alternatives such as Airbnb are growing in popularity amongst millennials, who are now the largest group of consumers for hotel industry according to Marriott. As a result, savvy hotels are adapting to the way consumers want to engage with them. Influencer marketing addresses the changing dynamics of the booking journey in the mobile-addicted, Instagram-obsessed world we now live in.
This is where influencers come in. Influencers may be seen as a non-traditional means of advertising, and that’s exactly why there is a boom in advertising budgets being allocated to them across all industries. When used correctly, credible and professional travel influencers can be an extremely effective means of promoting your property, bringing thousands to your website and giving you the opportunity to build a community around your property. With methods like these, you can increase direct bookings by up to 18%.
Why an Influencer is Worth Your Time
In 2018, 698.7 million individuals are predicted to use Instagram. Even now, 97% of millennials share travel snaps on social media and 87% are inspired about a place to visit using social media. Most significantly, Instagram has changed from being a platform that people share experiences on to one that people use as inspiration when planning holidays. This has now become a key competitive advantage that smart hotels can use to capture the customers before they even get onto OTAs and get to know about their competitors.
48% of Instagram users recall using the app to help them pick a destination; travel accounts have exploded in popularity and many being able to reach thousands of potential customers that would be relevant for hotels given their target market. Alongside this, it’s also important that any influencer marketing is done in tandem with a fully realised social media strategy: this strategy will often function as the first touch point potential customers will come across once they are direct to the venue’s social media channels by the influencer.
Top Tips for Taking Advantage of the Influencer Boom
1. Avoid Fake Followers At All Costs
Picking the right influencer for you is one of the most important steps of this marketing strategy. Don’t be blinded by the number of followers someone has. Instead pay more attention to what is being posted (quality, tone, aesthetic, general theme) and how engaged their following is. It’s always best to look a little deeper. What are people commenting? Are there clearly many highly loyal followers asking for tips or simply lots of bots placing spam comments on their photos?
When exposed for buying followers, an influencer damages their own brand and you end up not reaching the audiences you want. This can negatively impact both your own reputation and that of your chosen influencer.
A simple way to scout out fake followers is by checking the ratio between followers and likes/comments, although this can be a limited method. A more reliable method would be to check their profile using Fake Follower Detection software such as ours.
2. Know Your Brand and Pick Someone Who Fits
Use influencers, no matter the platform, as an opportunity to market to highly targeted groups of potential customers. Someone with a smaller, but more active and targeted following is going to be more useful than someone with a large but irrelevant following. This is where the value of micro-influencers truly starts to show. This is lesson 101 in the basics of how to win at influencer marketing.
Being aware of your brand is also important. Influencer marketing only works if you engage someone who aligns with your values. Check out a potential influencer’s previous posts (especially written content on blog posts) to gauge a sense of who they are, what they stand for and how professional are they in their approach.
3. Be Authentic and Let Your Story Be Told
92% of consumers trust earned media above all alternative forms of advertising. People are more likely to listen to word-of-mouth recommendations than a static advert. Using influencers in the right way is an extremely effective method of doing this on a global scale.
When working with your influencer, make sure you show off all quirks and benefits that your hotel has to offer. They are there to tell your story and share their authentic experience of your venue. Don’t be afraid to voice these to the influencer, but also give them some flexibility to do what they do best. Creatively generate content that will spark interest from fans who follow their every movement.
4. Develop Your Own Social Media Strategy
The best part of the influencer boom is that it is affordable even for the smallest independent hotels and can help position them to compete with the larger chains over the long term. An influencer will guide people to your website but they will also direct traffic to your own social media pages. If a potential customer sees an influencer post and then follows you, you can advertise to them for free via your pages from then onwards. This helps you take advantage of recall marketing. This is the same reason for Coca Cola continuing to spend hundreds of millions of USDs annually on marketing still, just to remind your subconscious that you may want a Coke next time you’re thirsty.
However, you need your social media channels to be enticing and appealing. Spending some time coming up with a social media strategy is key and can offer valuable results. A great way of doing this is to offer exclusive offers. Take advantage of the 24-hour Instagram story feature to promote flash deals. Make sure you also encourage activity in the comments section, perhaps by ending posts with questions or asking for public opinion.
It is fundamental that your followers feel special and part of your online community. Creating a bond with customers is a great way of ensuring repeat visits and recommendations.
With 1 in 5 mobile minutes now spent on Instagram and Facebook anywhere in the world, it’s not surprising that this is an important strategy hotels are continually investing more in.
The Benefits in Numbers
It is widely known that influencer marketing can deliver an 11x higher return-on-investment (ROI) than traditional forms of digital marketing. The results of our earliest campaigns saw direct bookings increase by over 17% and ROI by 840% in just six months.
The benefits of this trend are clear. It is more affordable than a billboard advert, you can target a specific audience, and the result is authentic and appealing. You will also have the content to re-use and boost your Pay Per Click, Facebook Ads and email marketing campaigns if you negotiate the right permissions in the negotiation at the outset. This marketing trend is one of the most exciting things to come out of the rise of social media, and it is something that the savvy hotels the world over are using to stay ahead of the competition.