Unless you are under a rock you know that the hot trend in hotel marketing is influencers. You want – you need – to incorporate an influencer strategy in your 2018 plan.
That’s the question. And you don’t want to stupidly fling money at purported influencers who do nothing for your hotel.
Here’s our program for building an influencer outreach program that gets results. The steps are easy. Just start taking them.
First: resolve to bring one influencer monthly on property. Each and every month. Without fail. In low season and high. Commit to do this for all of 2018.
Two: Start prowling for appropriate influencers right now. Do that by knowing your property, knowing your brand, and knowing your consumers. Kim Kardashian may be widely viewed as the planet’s most influential influencer but is she right for your brand?
Could you afford her six figure per post fee – according to reports – even if she aligned with your audience?
Enter the 2018 trend: micro-influencers. These are passionate posters – usually to Instagram, sometimes to Facebook, possibly to both and occasionally Snapchat and Pinterest are in the mix. They have substantial followings but rarely jaw-droppingly huge. But the belief is that their followers often act on their recommendations.
Think back to the original Zagat rating – subscription based, unknown to many but the subscribers loved that because it meant that the recommended restaurants often counted as finds that nonetheless could be eaten at without enduring long lines. That was a kind of micro-influencer and everybody in the restaurant business knew a solid Zagat review booked tables.
Know this about 2018 micro-influencers: the smart ones want cash. They are not in this for a free room and a meal. That may be part of what they get. But it’s not the goal. They are doing their work to make a living – quite a few claim six figure incomes, mainly in fashion and health/fitness, but watch for more travel related influencers to cash in.
My advice: pull some money out of advertising budgets and create a small pot for influencers. Have you gotten any tangible results from that fractional ad you always buy in a small circulation regional magazine? Move the money into the influencer kitty.
Where to find influencers? This is the fun part. Say yours is a spa in southern Arizona. Hunt for influencers in Google this way: Spa influencers Arizona.
What you come up with is this: an Arizona Republic list of top Arizonans on Instagram; a list of spa influencers; here’s a list of Phoenix bloggers; here’s another Arizona Republic take on influencers; here are fitness influencers.
You can also ask the Arizona Office of Tourism for its intel on influencers.
Get the message? Finding influencers is simple. Come up with your own key words, then ask Google. It will provide plenty of possible influencers. This is easy.
Sorting through them is harder.
Focus on the ones that you believe resonate with your audience in terms of tone, content, point of view.
Then ask a few about their availability for a visit.
When interest is expressed, get very clear about what your expectations from the visit will be. For instance: one post daily on Instagram, one on Facebook, perhaps posts on Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter.
You want more? More specific? Ask for it. This is a negotiation and the clearer you are about your expectations the likelier you are to get what you want. That makes this very different from hosting a media visit. Use the difference to your advantage.
At what price? Rates I am hearing for non-celebrity influencers rarely cross into four figures, especially not when the offer includes a bundled spa visit (with treatments and meals) or a resort stay (with activities and meals). Round it up and make it $1000 for accounting purposes. That does not break the bank.
Understand: it is your job to set expectations for the influencers. It is also your job to set your expectations for outcomes. What are you hoping to gain from the influencer visits? How will you judge the program a success?
Remember: this is essentially a low budget advertising campaign. Keep expectations realistic.
And do monitor influencers to insure they properly flag posts as sponsored.
This sounds like a lot of work? Indeed. Unless social media are your thing, look for a consultant or possibly an agency that will sift the influencers for you, follow up on outcomes, and measure the successes and failures. That’s a big time saver and may also help produce stronger results.
Either way, however, DIY or bringing in expert assistance, make 2018 your year of the influencer. That puts you squarely on today’s train to marketing success.
Babs Harrison + Partners