Should Travel Brands Consider Working with Online Influencers?

Brittney | December 1, 2016

In just one minute on the internet, there are approximately 3.3 million posts on Facebook, 55,555 photos shared on Instagram and 422,340 tweets on Twitter, according to Smart Insights. Travel is one of the most discussed topics of interest across every type of social media channel, with #travel being connected to 138,867,374 photos on Instagram alone and growing each day. That’s a lot of content for social media users to absorb, and it’s making it more challenging for tour operators and destinations to cut through the noise.

Social media is a tour operator or destination’s opportunity to tell a story (not sell a story) and connect potential travellers with genuine experiences and real people. According to a recent study by Adweek, 66% of travellers do their research mainly online, and 76% say online reviews from fellow travellers give them insider knowledge that would not be available elsewhere. Travellers in the dreaming phase look to social more than any other medium before booking a trip for inspiration, advice and reviews. Catching the interest of a potential traveller before the planning phase, and especially the booking phase is key. That’s a lot of value being put on online content and the conversations that surround it.

Travel Influencer The Blonde Abroad

(Kiersten from The Blonde Abroad)

With a growing need to make digital marketing content stand out and connect with consumers on a personal level, some travel brands have turned to online influencers for the answer. With 92% of consumers worldwide admitting that they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising, it’s time to embrace this new marketing trend if you haven’t already.

What is a social media or online influencer? According to Skift, an influencer is someone who has the ability to cause effect or change behaviour. Influencers put time and energy into creating content surrounding the intimate details of their own lives, and topics that are a natural fit. A successful influencer has been able to build an engaged and dedicated audience off of trust, which is what makes them a go-to source for consumers and travellers in their decision making.

Travel brands can work with online influencers in a number of ways: social media channel takeovers, branded content creation, ongoing ambassadorship, sponsored posts and event attendance – the list is endless. By partnering with the right influencers, a tour operator or destination can connect with a niche or new audience more effectively and efficiently than relying on traditional marketing methods alone.

Influencer marketing is also ideal for tour operators or destinations that don’t have the large advertising dollars that some of their competitors might have. Many influencers even have a higher reach than most traditional media outlets do, and allotting a piece of the marketing budget towards original content creation that will be shared across their channels may have a higher impact than an ad buy in a newspaper or magazine.

Travel Influencer Jetset Justine

(Justine from Jetset Justine)

Are you thinking about partnering with an online influencer? Here are five tips to keep in mind to increase your chances of a successful influencer campaign:

1) Do your Research

Just like approaching a traditional media outlet or journalist, tour operators, hotels, and destinations need to do their research before approaching an online influencer to make sure the partnership is a fit and will yield positive results for both parties.

Ex: Just because they are a travel blogger, doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right fit for your travel brand or destination.

  • Who is your target audience? Where is your audience in the digital space? (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube)
  • What is the influencer’s follower to engagement ratio?
  • Does the influencer have high engagement and authority in the appropriate channel, topic and location you are hoping to target?
  • What is the quality of the content being produced, is it original and creative? Ask for samples of previous brand partnerships and the results.
  • Does the influencer’s voice fit your brand naturally? Will your message resonate with their audience, and fit into their content?

(Nadine from Hey Nadine)

2) Communicate Goals & Deliverables

Once deciding on an influencer (or influencers!), it is up to the tour operator or destination to clearly communicate the goals and deliverables of the partnership, and establish them ahead of time. Specify how many posts, brand mentions or pieces of content are expected and give a clear timeline for each.

  • Do you want to promote a certain product, destination or experience?
  • Are you hoping to grow overall brand awareness, and reach a new audience?
  • Is it to increase your brand’s social media following and engagement?
  • Is it to create more content for your marketing channels?
  • Is it to generate leads and inquiries?

3) Allow Creative Freedom 

Brands need to put trust in the influencers they work with and allow them creative freedom in the way they communicate the story. In order for the content to be a natural fit and connect with the influencer’s audience, it can’t appear controlled or restricted. Their community will be able to tell right away, and it could potentially damage the brand’s and the influencer’s reputation.

Be clear with brand values, key messages and the overall understanding of your product or destination before getting started. Educate the influencer with the knowledge they will need to create successful content – but in their own voice and style – that’s why you hired them in the first place! (Chart via Skift)

4) Measure Results

The biggest question mark surrounding influencer marketing is its ROI. Have a system set up beforehand to measure the success of your partnership, and ask for detailed reports from the influencer whenever possible.

  • Create a campaign or brand hashtag to track engagement, shares, and conversations surrounding the content
    Track overall reach, reactions, shares, comments, and brand mentions from the content being created by the influencer
  • Track conversions through links (bookings, sales, inquiries, newsletter sign-ups etc.) and website traffic coming directly from the influencer’s content (analytics are your friend!)

Travel Influencer Curiosity Travels

(Jessica from Curiosity Travels)

5) Listen to Feedback

At the end of the partnership listen to feedback from the influencer and most importantly, their audience. This will not only help with future campaigns, but will give a better understanding of the target audience’s interests and needs.

  • What types of content resonated best with the influencer’s audience? Why?
  • What type of content did not perform well? Why?
  • Which types of influencers worked best with your brand? Why?

Want to learn more about online influencers in travel and how they can fit into your tour operator or destination’s digital marketing mix? Find out more here.