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MASTERCLASS: The peaks and pitfalls of paying influencers to promote your hotel

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The rise of influencers over the past few years has had a huge impact on the hospitality sector and the way industry businesses strategise when it comes to social media. Here Custard Communications explains the pitfalls and peaks to paying an influencer to promote your property and how to get the most from your investment.

If you work in the hospitality industry, it is highly likely you will have come across the many bloggers, vloggers and social media travel influencers asking for free accommodation, meals or money in return for coverage, mentions or tags for your product or service on their social channels.   

With so many different influencers vying for attention, it can be difficult to choose who to work with. When is it worth offering something for free? When should you pay a fee? What should you expect in return and how can you maximise the relationship?  

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Custard Communications has pulled together a guide for what to look out for and the questions to ask to ensure you get the most out of any influencers you choose to work with.  

What is an influencer?   

“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic.” – Seth Godin  

An influencer, in basic terms, is someone who has the power to affect purchasing decisions of others due to their knowledge, authority and position and has a following in a distinct niche with whom they actively engage. A travel influencer, therefore, provides a real-life experience of your hotel or restaurant through user-generated content on social media. They engage with their audience on a personal level, building relationships with their followers – and your potential guests.  

Choosing the right influencer for your brand is not just about finding someone with a big audience and offering them free stuff to say nice things about you. Influencers are people who have spent time and effort building their own brand and cultivating their audience, and the key is to find the right influencer so you can leverage their reach to a like-minded audience.   

According to McKinsey, one in four consumers now use social media for purchasing decisions, and savvy travellers are more likely to trust peer recommendations than traditional ads or commercials when making travel decisions. Consumers are looking for authentic advice, and with digital users increasingly using ad-blockers, many direct marketing messages are not getting through.  

 Top Tips for finding the right social influencer:  

Relevance:  

The first thing to establish is relevance to your brand and demographic so that you engage with your target audience. Their followers are your potential customers, and it is important that they have similar tastes and expectations to your typical guest.  

How aligned are they with your messaging? What kind of consumer are they? Are their followers people who will visit your hotel? It is worth reading through past blog posts, watch vlogs and social media conversations to ensure their language, political and social views align with your brand and guest profile. Check grammar, spelling and accuracy, too.   

Engagement & Frequency:  

Once you have established relevance, consider the level of engagement and how often the influencer posts. How interactive is the audience with the content? Do they respond, comment and share? If they are running competitions, how many entries do they normally get? How meaningful are the relationships – and have they got regulars frequently commenting on their posts?  

Establishing engagements gives you an insight into how invested the audience is and how influential the content can end up being. Looking at frequency is important – how often have they posted in the last couple of weeks and months? Is the content timely and relevant? There is a direct correlation between how often someone posts and the rate of return, and influencers who post less frequently tend to have a high rate of follower turnover, fewer return visitors and less loyalty.  

Reach:  

When approached by an influencer, a valid consideration is the reach they have. You can look at the number of followers an influencer has on social media, as well as unique visitors to their site. However, traffic and followers are only meaningful if it is reaching your brand’s target audience.  

For example, for a hotel, a nano travel influencer (someone with between 1,000-10,000 followers) would be more influential than a tech or fashion influencer with 100,000 unique monthly visitors. Engagement is far more important than reach on this occasion and nano-influencers often have the greatest engagement rate and strong, authentic relationships with their followers.  

Social platforms are also a consideration. Have a look at the type of channels the influencer uses and the audience on these channels. For a hotel, Instagram is probably the most visually appealing to showcase the hotel’s facilities and appeal. As one of the fastest-growing media platforms, it now also offers stories and reels for more interactive footage and video content, and is an extremely powerful tool, offering an insight into the real hotel experience. Check out Custard’s guide to Instagram for more information. Facebook,  Tik Tok, YouTube and LinkedIn also offer aesthetic content options, whilst a channel such as Twitter would provide less immediate impact.  

Return on Investment: 

Part of deciding whether to work with an influencer is establishing how much it is going to cost you and what you get in return. Some influencers work on a contra deal – they will offer certain exposure in return for free accommodation or meals, whilst others will expect payment as well. In return, they can offer a certain number of social posts, user data, follows/tags, competitions, reader offers etc. 

Having established relevance, engagement and reach, if an influencer approaches you to work with them, focus on the following:  

  • How professional is their approach? Their professionalism reflects how serious they are. An influencer should provide you with statistics, metrics, rate of return and expectations, as well as a clear cost for what they are proposing.  
  • Set clear objectives for what you want out of the relationship. What else can you include – remember, you can negotiate. Tell them what you want in return and come up with a package that works for you. If your aim is to increase your Instagram followers, make sure you include this as an objective. If you want to increase your mailing database, a competition or reader offer is more appropriate.  

The rules:

Although it may seem straight forward to invite influencers to visit your property and share their experiences on their social media feeds, there is a strict set of rules set by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) that must be abided by.

It is worth paying particular attention to the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (the CAP Code) and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). These regulations are enforced by the ASA and provide clear instructions and rules on what is considered an advertisement and how brands and influencers need to disclose the information to their audiences.

One clear example for hotels would be if you have invited an influencer to stay for free at your property, this is considered payment to the influencer and therefore they need to disclose ‘Ad’ or similar labels on any content shared, even if money did not change hands.

For more information on the regulations surrounding influencer marketing, read the ASA’s guidance.

Working with influencers can sometimes seem like a minefield. However, if you do your research and focus on working with relevant, authentic and engaging influencers who are willing to work with you to offer a package that reaches clear objectives, you are investing in creating awareness and a sense of community that other marketing channels cannot reach. And that is priceless.  

About the author

The Custard team has a wealth of experience in choosing and establishing worthwhile relationships with influencers, creating compelling content and stories for clients. If you would like more assistance with developing your influencer marketing strategy, please contact the team today.  

www.custardcommunications.com

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Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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