Influencer Marketing is a big trend today — and for good reason: When it’s done well, an influencer can help a travel, tourism or hospitality brand to reach exponentially more members of their target audience in a truly meaningful and persuasive way.
What’s an influencer? In simplest terms, it’s someone who has influence. In terms of digital marketing, it’s someone with the ability to motivate and persuade their (usually social media) fans and followers — to think, to act, to do and (most important to business owners) to buy.
When a social media influencer talks, her audience listens. The brand power these individuals and businesses wield – with followings in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands into the millions – is indisputable.
For travel, tourism and hospitality brand managers, tapping into the power of an influencer is like winning the marketing game, especially because – for businesses in this industry – it’s all about storytelling. And if the story of your place, hotel, resort, city, country, experience, or adventure comes from a well-followed, trusted influencer it carries even more weight.
At first, connecting with one may seem like an overwhelming task but, with a few proven strategies, it may not be as hard as you think.
So how, as a small travel and tourism business fish in the expansive social media sea, do you possibly tap into this influence to help set your brand in front of their masses? By developing and nurturing relationships with them. The concept is simple but the execution will take time, diligence, and commitment, not to mention a little creativity.
In essence, influencer marketing for travel and tourism brands equates to a mutual back-scratching. And it’s up to you to persuade potential partners that your “scratch” is worthwhile!
There’s no marketing like word-of-mouth marketing
According to a McKinsey Study, word-of-mouth marketing generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising. Additionally, these customers have a 37% higher retention rate.
Influencer marketing, the partnership between a business and a widely followed individual, personality or brand in a related industry, market, or niche, offers the opportunity for exposure to a broad, new audience.
Influencers leverage their positioning to promote your product or service by sharing your brand’s blog and social media posts, even possibly featuring your business in their own social media activity.
Trust vs. fame? No contest!
Influencer marketing is not to be confused with celebrity endorsements. It’s more than merely associating a favourite celebrity with a brand.
Instead, it leverages the trusted knowledge and experiences the influencer brings – about the niche as well as about the product or service they’re helping to promote.
An influencer is a reliable and trusted figure within a niche community which maintains a loyal following of at least 2000 people while being prolific on social media. A recent Google study uncovered that 70% of teens trust influencers more than traditional celebrities, and 49% of consumers depend on Influencer recommendations.
Tapping into this invaluable, trusted word-of-mouth buzz is the foundational principle of any influencer marketing effort.
Develop an influencer marketing strategy
When getting started, as with your broader digital marketing strategy, it’s essential to identify and define campaign goals. Who’s your audience? What are their interests? Is the audience regional or global? Be as specific as possible. What response to your content are you looking to elicit in your audience? Brand awareness? Engagement? Leads?
Upon defining your audience and goals, develop a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) Scorecard. This document (chart, spreadsheet, or similar) will track the activity of the campaign: if it is going well and where it needs to be adjusted or revised.
Identify and verify the influencers in your space
To help find appropriate influencers, search social media channels (Instagram, Twitter, etc.) for terms and hashtags related to your brand or to your niche.
Or use one of the wide variety of tools available today to help you identify the most appropriate influencers in your niche. These can help determine who those relevant people leading conversations may be, who is helping to shape opinions and who has the most expansive reach across networks. A couple of good ones:
- Buzzsumo, one of the most popular tools used by many brands to track social data and online content, allows brands and businesses to find, analyze, track and connect with the right influencers for them.
- SocialMention is free to access and users can search and retrieve data for just about anything regarding social influence, including social media and blogs.
- Tapfluence is an “influencer marketplace”, somewhere to help brands like yours “discover the perfect influencers ([they] have over 50,000+ opt-in influencers). Opt-in means it’s a qualified collection of influencers who are actively seeking partnership opportunities. They join Tapfluence for free and then (it’s a “freemium” model) can pay for higher visibility.
Manage Influencer Marketing Campaigns:
- Traackr “provides one system-of-record for influencer discovery, management and analytics to scale the impact of influencer relationships across your organization”. This management tool allows you to manage all your relationships with influencers in one place, and track the success if each partnership endeavor.
- Upfluence helps businesses “select influencers and manage/analyze influencer campaign performance at scale”. Upfluence also offers a human account manager component where a real person will help you to establish and manage your influencer marketing campaign.
There are countless other good tools for both finding influencers and managing the campaigns you run with them as partners. G2 Crowd provides a comprehensive list here.
Bigger isn’t always better
As you’re perusing influencers’ accounts, don’t discount those with smaller followings – they’re an excellent target for small business! Accounts with follower counts as low as 1,000, micro-influencers, can give you access to an audience that is actually more likely to notice and engage with your content, not merely swipe past.
For small business or new social accounts, it’s particularly helpful to target up-and-coming influencers looking for opportunities to discover the next new product or service.
It’s important to verify that your influencers have developed real followings and legitimate engagement – followers obtained organically, not purchased en masse.
Scroll through their list of followers to ensure that they are all proper accounts – actively posting real content with followers actively engaged.
Quantity may be tempting. Quality is key.
Be sure to thoroughly review the quality of influencer’s content as well as the engagement with their posts to help determine the potential they have in boosting your brand.
While we would all love the big celebrity or personality endorsement for our business, in actuality, your customers will be influenced most by a trusted and familiar audience. It will be the people ‘like them’, the shared network of friends and followers and people who share a similar demographic that will most effectively impact their decision-making.
Stay connected with this circle, and you’ll be better attuned to their likes, dislikes, interests, and inclinations. The more specific and deep the insights you have of this community, the better able you’ll be to provide the content that connects with and engages them.
Prioritizing quality over quantity allows you to take advantage of more opportunities to engage and interact with your followers. This serves to set you apart as a reliable and trusted resource, whose content is consistently like-, follow-, and share-worthy.
The courtship: outreach with impact
Regardless of the following size of your chosen influencers, to enlist the best you need to bring your A-game. Consider this the interview phase, for you and your business as well as theirs.
Influencers are passionate about what they do, know, make, provide. Any influencer worth their salt will use this as an opportunity to get to know you, your values as a brand and whether or not they align with their own. Be prepared for tough questions!
A potential partner will also want to see your commitment to their brand. Get to know your desired influencers interests thoroughly and engage with them as often as you can. Follow, like, subscribe to an influencer’s content, and share it with your audience and community.
Don’t be shy! Establish a rapport with your target influencer: link to their content, comment on and share their posts. Build a relationship with them, demonstrating your knowledge and understanding of what’s important to him or her. Tailor your approach to the influencer’s interests or niche, ensuring that your brand is relevant to them.
Likewise, this will encourage the influencer to acknowledge your content – which should be interesting, engaging, and pertinent, not to mention, top notch!
First contact, first impression – make it count!
Ready to reach out? After courting different influencers, you will have identified those with the highest potential of reaching your target market.
As you craft your correspondence, keep it personal. While creating an email template to save time is fine, be sure that the opening paragraph of each email is specifically tailored to the recipient. Make it exciting and eye-catching, avoiding the generic – you want to get noticed amongst the flood of requests they are surely receiving.
What are you asking of your influencers? Collaborating on content; agreements to mention, like, share; relevant quotes; or, reviews of your product or service; these are all possible avenues to leverage a partner’s positioning, while you sponsor – or pay for – their contributions.
Make sure your pitch is precise with details outlined clearly. What is your business offering the influencer? How will it add value to their social channels? How will the influencer be compensated? Will they be paid, and how – money, free product or service, exclusive content?
There may be some influencers who are happy to partner just for the content, but don’t count on it – it’s rare and likely to be limited to influencers with significantly smaller audiences.
Outline your proposal thoroughly and convey your excitement about the possibilities. And make it a terrific offer – one they’d be hard-pressed to refuse!
Keep the conversation going
- Make sure you become – and continue to be – part of the conversation.
- Voice your opinions! If there’s one way to encourage engagement it’s to offer your unique perspective – it’ll help people remember you. Share interesting industry or niche news, your thoughts about it, what you think it may mean to the future of your niche or sector.
- Be courteous and respectful, but let your personality and point of view shine through.
- Create and share quality content that provides value to your audience – simple, visual, and actionable. Foster engagement with your content beyond simply the sharing of it.
- And, never be afraid to mention competitors: compliment them, congratulate them, comfort them, include them – generosity that is sure to pay dividends in enhanced engagement, expanded reach and, ideally, influencer interest.
Ready to give influencer marketing a try to build your brand or business online?
It can be tempting to dive in with both feet (and all your marketing resources) but it can be just as easy to spend a lot of time and money in the beginning without many rewards. Connect with a digital marketing agency who can help you to craft a strategic digital marketing plan to ensure your influencer marketing campaign (and overall social media marketing campaign) stays on track. Stir can help. Reach out to our expert digital marketing team to learn more today.