Influencer Marketing Is More Than #Ad

While the hashtag shows users that a post is a paid endorsement, marketing success takes more than getting a person (or pet) with a few thousand followers to come to your location and snap some photos.

Influencer marketing has rapidly become a legitimate marketing strategy and a real opportunity for hospitality marketers. But as a still developing strategy, many marketers don’t have reliable “best practices” or know the lay of the digital land.

In this piece, we’ll show you both why you need to use influencer marketing, as well as how to do so effectively. You’ll learn how to turn the latest marketing trend into tangible engagement and conversions.

The Power Of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has taken digital by storm, and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) reported in 2018 that 75% of advertisers use this strategy already. Of those advertisers, 43% intended to increase budget in the following year.

Instagram showcases hospitality content
Instagram is the most popular hub of influencer marketing, as the visual platform displays content exceptionally well for 800+ million monthly active users. It’s been the top choice by influencers, with at least 74% calling it their #1 platform since 2016. Instagram beautifully showcases hospitality content, with aspirational travel images inspiring genuine interest in new locations, foods, and experiences.

Brian Kelly, or The Points Guy, is one of the most prominent current travel influencers, with almost 200k followers on Instagram.

Hospitality marketers should leverage the content around their locations in addition to their own amenities. Showing the feel of the destination is important no matter if you’re a luxury hotel, adventure tour company, efficient car rental provider, or budget airline carrier.

Spirit Airlines shows their planes, inside and out, but they emphasize the carefree destination (instead of cramped leg room).

Social media saturation has forced marketers to experiment with new ways to create authentic content at a rapid pace. Enter: influencer marketing.

Why You Should Be Using Influencer Campaigns

Speak Directly To Your Audience

Influencers have an “in” with your target demographic, and can say and show things that you can’t. Personal posts take followers behind the curtain to help them better envision themselves at your location.

Influencers have an “in” with your target demographic
Selecting the right influencer partner (more on that later) also gives you the opportunity to speak to a very specific audience. If you really want to reach plant-based healthy living fans, you can find someone who specializes in that area. When you see engagement on a post like the example from earthyandy below, you know that it’s coming from your target audience.

Create Quality Content More Quickly

You know you need quality content. But it can be difficult to produce compelling, audience-specific posts for each channel. Having extra resources to create these pieces enables you to maintain high standards while producing on a consistent basis. Influencers can create content specifically for you to use on certain platforms or sections of your website. Their services can replace professional photography in some cases and provide significant savings.

Influencers also infuse every post with their unique perspective, and their brand voice that will add variety to your content. They may hit upon topics that you wouldn’t consider huge selling points but make an experience more personal. Small details transform a post into a vivid aspiration.

Earn Credibility And Trust Through Authentic Content

One study has shown that consumers trust influencers twice as much as they do their friends and family. Influencers even outrank celebrities, with 92% of consumers trusting influencers more than traditional celebrity endorsements or advertisements.

Followers love and trust their favorite influencers
This level of trust gives influencer marketing true business impact. Followers love and trust their favorite influencers, and while that isn’t enough to guarantee a purchase, it does give smart brands a distinct advantage.

The caveat here is that to achieve the most impact you must invest in genuine partnerships. We’ll show you how to do that so both parties win.

Gain Exposure To New Audiences

You can use influencer content to speak to new audiences in two ways. First, you can further nurture users that are already similar to your main converters. Determine who your different personas follow and work with these partners. Investing in these influencers will connect you to potential customers who are primed for you.

Second, you can use this as an opportunity to connect with groups who aren’t yet your main users, but have potential to become so. Leverage the influencer’s trust and relationship with followers to introduce your brand. Healthy moms and die-hard surfers may both love the same Bali Resort, but connecting with each audience requires distinct partnerships.

Drive Conversions Across The Funnel

We love to focus on engagement metrics when discussing content, but conversions are still important. Fortunately, this strategy can generate both.

Abstract benefits like trust and brand affinity become tangible results. Consumers cited social media as the digital channel most used for purchase inspiration. To improve your digital results, you must take an innovative approach to social. Using strategic partnerships increases your visibility and increases your top-funnel prospects.

Every $1 spent generates $2.26 in earned media value
But results aren’t limited to the top and the middle funnel. Every $1 spent on influencer marketing generates $2.26 in earned media value. It takes paid social’s already targeted ability to reach consumers and dials it up a notch, while adding a level of confidence in your brand.

Ready to use influencer marketing to drive conversions and boost engagement?

How To Use Influencers Effectively

Once you’re ready to begin, or improve, your influencer marketing strategy, you’ll need to be strategic about every partnership. The positivity and brand affinity that are so important in influencer marketing must be developed through genuine relationships and require a good fit.

While marketers are only beginning to determine best practices, we’ll give you a head start that will show the way for you to find success.

Determine Which Audience You Want To Target

It’s probably already become apparent, but selecting the right audience is key to finding success with this strategy.

Selecting the right audience is key to finding success
Remember that one influencer doesn’t need to appeal to all of your personas. Ideally each influencer develops campaigns tailored to a niche audience that will be highly engaged with the content.

Every influencer should provide an audience overview with engagement metrics and past results. This information should give you enough confidence in your selection.

Prioritize Fewer, Higher Quality Partnerships

While you’ll want to work with an influencer with a target audience in mind, you can partner with different ones for different campaigns. For hospitality, seasonality may affect which audience you target at a particular time, as well as which partner you select.

Select Which Level Of Influencer To Use

To help find this fit for audience and influencer, look the follower count. We break down influencer levels into three categories:
Micro - under 10k
Macro - 10k-1m
Mega - 1m+
While examples of mega-influencers might come to mind first, they are only rarely the best fit for most brands. Mega-influencers require huge budgets, and their diverse following makes it difficult to pinpoint demographic information. Consumers see their endorsements as less personal, and engagement metrics often suffer.

Micro-influencers will produce the highest engagement metrics
On the opposite end, micro-influencers will generally produce the highest engagement metrics. Their followings are smaller but more invested. These influencers will have fewer partners as well, so they are less likely to have worn out their influencer impact.

Somewhere in between are macro-influencers. This group has a wide range of followers, but all will be big enough to have previous experience as an influencer while still being affordable partners.

Set Expectations

One of the biggest challenges for any innovative strategy is understanding what you’re getting into and how to measure success. Make sure you have clear expectations and a signed contract with deliverables before starting work.

We always address these topics in an SOA:
Length of partnership
Number of photos and posts to be delivered
Topics, themes, or requirements for posts, such as tagging brand accounts
Who will own rights to all content
Compensation terms
Without this in place, you’ll be walking into unknown territory with little leverage to see a return on your investment.

Be Prepared

While a lot of the responsibility will be on your selected influencer, you will need to prepared as well. If an influencer will be staying with you or using your services, make sure you are set to enable success.

Some things to consider:
Do you have reliable wifi setup and do they have the password?
Will you need to create a landing page for the campaign?
Have you provided all links they should use?
Is there a point of contact on your team who is available to assist the campaign?
Do you have an internal approval process for all content?
These are simple items, but can significantly impact your campaign.

Let Them Add Their Voice

Once you have the logistics down, it’s time to actually see some content!

Let your partner add their own perspective and flair
While you should have the ability to approve posts or select images, try to minimize creative critique. Yes, you need to make sure all posts are accurate and keep items on your own channels on brand. But let your partner add their own perspective and flair as much as possible.

This unique take is what appeals to users and generates relatability. If the post doesn’t feel authentic, you’re more likely to get skeptical reactions from followers and less engagement across the board.

Track Success

After your partner has created beautiful, engaging content you might feel like your campaign is complete. But you’re not quite done! Compare campaign results to your own content and other influencer campaigns.

There are various ways to measure and report on your influencer campaigns. Depending on what your goals are with any given initiative, you may want to monitor:
Post reach, impressions
New site users
Post likes, comments
Page views, sessions
Content shares
Clicks via UTM
Promo code redemptions
Assisted/direct conversions
If repurposing influencer content on your own channels in a paid or organic capacity, measure the performance of this content in relation to your owned content to understand how influencer content resonates with new and existing audiences.

Key Takeaways

Be genuine. Influencer marketing only works if you develop authentic campaigns with real partners.
Create quality content. See how a unique influencer perspective can help you do so.
Develop targeted campaigns. Focus on influencers with engaged, niche audiences.
Be picky. Make sure you’re aligned on expectations before starting work with any influencer.
Choose value over follower count. Smaller micro-influencers are the best bet for most brands to get the highest value per influencer.

Work with industry experts who know how to turn innovative influencer marketing strategies into real results.

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