3 Questions Luxury Hoteliers Should Ask Walk-In Travel Influencers
Walk-in travel influencers should probably stop thinking of their unsolicited offers to stay for free at luxury hotels as gifts to those travel marketers. Some luxury hoteliers have even stopped vetting those influencer requests as a result. But that may be a mistake, because walk-in social media travel influencers may provide travel marketers with some value. Here are three questions to ask to determine if the offer is worthwhile.
Good influencer campaigns have yielded travel marketers as much as 14% increases in tourism. Bad ones leave luxury hoteliers out all of the money it takes to fete influencers.
“I know a major brand that opened up and flew in a plane full of influencers,” says Jack Bedwani, who runs The Projects, a brand consulting agency that works with several top hospitality brands. “Three-quarters of them didn't even post. It was a major fail from their team.”
Bedwani’s quote comes from the article “Instagram’s Wannabe-Stars Are Driving Luxury Hotels Crazy,” published on June 13 by The Atlantic.
Article author Taylor Lorenz also cites an Irish hotelier’s policy of banning influencers after an unsolicited request made them angry enough to reply to her, asking who was going to pay employees for her free stay.
“The answer is ‘no,’ ” wrote hotel owner and manager Paul Stenson, posting a copy of his reply to Elle Darby on Facebook. Afterward, The White Moose Café and Charleville Lodge in Dublin banned social media influencers.
But a post published by Michael Silverman on June 15 in Gartner L2’s Daily Insights shows a blanket policy may be shortsighted.
Silverman points out:
“Gartner L2’s report on influencers finds that 82% of luxury hotel brands work with influencers, above the 70% average for other sectors covered by Gartner L2 research.”
Dear Influencer: Do You Fit Our Brand?
Sure, luxury brands have go-to lists of celebrities who they believe fit their brands, but walk-in travel influencers who reach out on their own may also appeal to the core audience. Just because they slide into the brand’s DMs doesn’t mean that they’re useless.
“While luxury hotels scoff at influencers with too few followers, they shouldn’t ignore those who fit the brand. Gartner L2’s report on measuring influencer impact finds that influencers with fewer than [25,000] followers lift brand engagement rates by 13% on posts [in] which they’re featured, higher than all larger influencer categories aside from celebrities. Of course, it’s much cheaper to send a beauty influencer a free lip kit than a free trip to Paris.”
Target Marketing reported in May that:
“Officials in New Zealand’s Lake Wanaka partnered with social media influencers who created that 14% customer lift after the visitors praised the region on Instagram.”
Part of the appeal of allowing Instagram influencers, for instance, is more than 40% of Millennials consider “Instagrammability” when deciding where to travel, so seeing the images from the influencers may help them decide on the experiences they want to have, Target Marketing reports.
The Atlantic article quotes Joe Miragliotta, a men's lifestyle and travel blogger who says he’s stayed in hundreds of hotels as an influencer, about what walk-in travel influencers may want to pitch to brands:
Miragliotta said having a clear pitch and meaningful deliverables can make all the difference to a hotel brand manager. “Having a one-sheet is really nice,” he said. “Have your demographics on lockdown. Have an elevator pitch. Know your audience … If you don't know your audience, brands don't know you. You could have 100 million followers, but they won't know who you're marketing to.”
Dear Influencer: Our Brand Didn’t Reach Out to You. What Can You Offer Us?
Some of the cold-query influencers tout their abilities to be quick-hit marketers for hotel brands, with Instagrammer Lisa Linh — who has nearly 100,000 followers of her trips — saying she replaces professional photographers and videographers during her stays. The Atlantic article further states:
“Other influencers have gotten even more creative with the services they offer. Zach Benson, who owns a network of travel Instagram accounts and who says he has gotten more than 200 nights for free over the past year and a half, touts his background in digital marketing when he approaches hotels. Along with the traditional Instagram posts and Stories, Benson offers to work with a hotel's digital marketing arm to improve the brand's in-house social media accounts.”
While Benson does promote brands on his own while staying at the resorts, he also trains the hotel staffers.
“During his travels, Benson hosts boot camps for hotel social media teams, where he trains employees on things like Facebook ads and Instagram promotion.”
Dear Influencer: What Social Promotion Can Our Brand Offer You?
It may surprise travel marketers, but their brands may not provide influencers with the tools they need to do their jobs. The Atlantic says influencers have complained that some luxury hotels lack a clear set of hashtags and social media handles for them to use and, in the most frustrating cases, the travel marketers have lousy WiFi.
And Gartner states that the luxury brands don’t even take advantage of the obvious promotional opportunities when they’re hosting influencers:
“Only 4% of luxury hotel brand posts mention influencers, below the 10% average for other sectors covered by Gartner L2 research.”
Silverman says the influencers’ visits are about more than a free stay:
“As some hotels complain about influencers, others are embracing them. Nearly a third of luxury hotel brands feature influencers in their Instagram Stories, according to research from Gartner L2’s most recent Digital IQ Index: Luxury Hotels. The Standard’s current discount promotion features posts with sunbathing selfie-takers, highlighting the fact that influencers potentially offer brands as much as brands offer influencers.”
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.
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