Mythbusters: Working with Influencers

Influencers are one of two things: loved or misunderstood. If you’re anything like us, you’ve collaborated with and grown to absolutely love them as partners. On the other hand, you might still be skeptical of their actual influence and wondering how to work with influencers.

Over the years, the rise of the influencer has paved a way for many who simply have a phone and want a free vacation. As it’s grown into a multi-billion dollar industry worth a whopping $13.8 billion this year, it’s become harder to distinguish those who are seriously looking for meaningful collaborations from those who are simply looking to rack up the perks. That coupled with the constantly evolving landscape has led to a series of misconceptions about influencer marketing. Not to mention a slew of myths that have cast a shadow of doubt over the booming industry. We’ve done the work and seen the results, so we’re here to help travel brands navigate the waters.

Myth #1: Influencers are just looking for free vacations 

The biggest misconception of all is that influencers are looking for a free pass to paradise. Influencers take their jobs as content creators and storytellers seriously. They know they have a duty to their followers — and their partners — and they want to do it well. As a brand, if you’re tapping into the audience they’ve worked so hard to build and nurture, you’re expected to at the very least offset the cost of experiencing the same product you’re asking them to promote. At times, it may be in the form of a comped stay plus a fee that’s worth every penny. And the better the experience or the room view they get, the better the content.

Myth #2: Influencers with a small following aren’t impactful 

It’s not uncommon to overlook influencers with smaller followings when in fact they too can provide a big impact on your brand based on the campaign. We can’t deny the power of macro-influencers with grandiose following numbers like 1.5 million and 500K, but micro-influencers (under 100K followers) and nano influencers (under 10K followers) also carry a significant influence. Depending on a travel brand’s objective and performance marker, an influencer with a smaller following might be more fitting. For instance, if you’re looking to hyper-target and appeal to a niche audience when promoting a new wellness package or F&B amenity, partnering with a micro or nano influencer might be the way to go despite the smaller following.

Myth #3: Influencer marketing can’t be measured

As an industry, we face a hurdle that’s somewhat unique to travel: we don’t necessarily qualify as an impulse buy. Vacations require more dollars and more planning, so an immediate return on investment might seem hard to measure at first glance. However, social media platforms and tools have since evolved and us marketers have identified strong KPIs and markers of performance. Engagement (comments, likes, shares) and awareness (reach and impressions) remain strong indicators of performance, but there’s an increasing focus on click-through rates and conversions with 38.5% of brands believing these to be the most important measures of influencer success. UTM or trackable URL links — posted within an influencer’s blog post or link in bio — can measure referral traffic and conversions. A promo or discount code is another proven method of measuring direct sales. And while the host and post model still works, we’ve stretched our creativity, designed and tested structured campaigns that allow for measurable growth, and maximized investment. Long-term ambassadorship or affiliate programs, fan sweepstakes, and even social media takeovers are all effective and tangible ways of keeping followers engaged and tapped in beyond a standalone post.

Myth #4: Influencers will post what you hire them to post 

There’s a fine line between creative direction and creative freedom when it comes to influencer marketing. Where brands can go wrong is assuming influencers will post what they want them to, word for word. Communicating campaign objectives and guiding them in their experience and content creation is a huge step in our process, but the value in these collaborations is the authenticity factor. At the end of the day, the content can’t look forced or sound scripted. Today’s consumers can tell the difference between an ad, a genuine recommendation, or an ad disguised as a “genuine recommendation.” Use influencers for their strengths. Support them with creative direction and expectations, but trust their abilities.

Myth #5: Influencers don’t reach the right audience 

The perception that social media only resonates with younger audiences has been floating around for some time. As a result, older demographics have been counted out of social media and influencer strategies. During the pandemic, the number of retirees and Boomers online and on social media has grown. In fact, 84% of Boomers report that social media is likely to improve their lives so the stats tell us they are a viable audience when it comes to influencer marketing. Meeting older audiences on platforms where they consume the most content, like Facebook or YouTube, is only the first step for travel brands. The real key lies in understanding what type of content they like to consume, and partnering with influencers who can craft customized content that resonates with these older audiences. Boomers are drawn to written content and video, with 27% regularly watching videos on Facebook and nearly 70% watching YouTube videos. And as they’re looking for products, services, and experiences to enhance their quality of life, campaigns that are vibrant, youthful, and give them a sense of freedom will appeal to them the most.

Not sure if you’re ready to dive in? We can help with that. Check out our #ACTastemaker program for a glimpse of our carefully vetted portfolio of influencers and content creators that are primed for collaboration. Then let’s talk.

By Dana Baasiri

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