The term “influencers” has been thrown around a lot – this year especially. “Influencers” are users on social media who have established both credibility and popularity within a certain industry.

This popularity gives them organic access to a large audience, whilst their authority lets persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach. In particular, influencers come largely from platforms like YouTube & Instagram, social media platforms particularly popular with millennials. This gives marketers booming opportunities to advertise to these millennials by means of influencers – they are a great way to advertise in a way that seems like organic endorsement. Influencers will also direct traffic to a company’s own social media pages. This all works because you can then benefit from building a trusting relationship with your consumers. When larger brands struggle to build a solid relationship with their consumers, an influencer can easily build it with their audience, and in turn pass this trusting audience on to you.

Many influencers offer this authority and popularity in exchange for payment or most commonly for hotels, a free stay. The inherent appeal of being paid to maintain a glamorous social profile has naturally increased people's interest in becoming a successful, well-established influencer. Unfortunately for hotels in particular, “wannabe influencers” are becoming an increasingly common occurrence – requesting free stays in exchange for their services. But how do hotels evaluate these influencers, and what separates a ‘wannabe’ from a profitable marketing partnership?

Why do millennials follow so many influencers?

The yearning to follow someone on social media is sparked by a common hobby or interest - if a person likes books, they will probably follow someone who posts about books and can give them recommendations. This ties in with Cialdini’s principle of Liking - the assumption that people like to do business with people they like.

Once a person clicks on the follow button they start developing a relationship with that particular influencer. These influencers are smart, and post as much content as possible to catch their followers’ attention. The followers get to follow the person’s day-to-day life, slotted in amongst posts and updates from their own friends and family. This makes them feel as if they know the influencer. Naturally, if people feel connected to an influencer, they are more likely to listen to their recommendations on products or services that they should purchase.

Who is using “Influencer Marketing”?

In 2017, the term “influencer marketing” increased by 325% in Google searches - making it the year’s fastest-growing online acquisition method. Companies found that Instagram was the hottest spot, with Forbes naming it “The Top Social Platform For Engagement”. Brands collaborated with influencers on sponsored posts a total of 12.9 million times. This has become a popular method of marketing, with more and more companies starting to use influencers every day. It is estimated that in 2018, companies will collaborate with influencers a total of 24.2 million times. Hotels are no different, and are now using influencers to promote their facilities and destinations. Several tech-savvy hotel chains have been making use of influencer marketing strategies since 2014. Starwood Resorts is known for using influencer marketing to boost their Instagram follower count and their direct bookings. In 2016 Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced that it was using Instagram Fashion influencers to drive bookings for its newest chain, Tribute Portfolio Hotels in Paris.

Why are hotels sick of “wannabe” Instagram influencers?

It’s no secret that luxury brands and hotels will often collaborate with influencers with large followings to promote their products/services to their millions of followers. However, in the age of influencers with luxurious lifestyles and breath-taking pictures in remote locations, it is no surprise that everyone with an Instagram account wants to become an influencer. The difference is that the vast majority of people don’t have the number of followers & engagement required to gain the status of an “influencer”. A person is classified by large brands as an influencer when they have more than 100,000 followers. In 2018, brands with more niche products have also started to make use of “micro-influencers” - these are people with 2,000 to 100,000 followers.

This year in particular has seen hotels are especially feeling that wannabe influencers are pushing their luck, with some hotels in the Maldives receiving at least 10-20 requests daily from self-proclaimed “influencers”. These are people with fewer than 2,000 followers on Instagram, trying to get a 10 day, all inclusive, free stay in the Maldives. These hotels state that only 10% of the requests they receive are worthwhile, giving the real bloggers and influencers a bad reputation. Most hotels have started introducing strict procedures to evaluate influencers. They, look into profile engagement and follower count, and filter out influencers who have simply bought ‘bots’. Bots are typically fraudulent profiles, created en masse for the purpose of following accounts for money. Studies shows that in the last 6 months 12% of influencers have purchased followers.

Many hotels now keep a database of trusted influencers who they’ve partnered with before and can rely on when launching new campaigns, but the hassle comes from managing the entire collaboration process, unless you use the appropriate tool. When selecting new influencers for your hotel, take a close look at their follower count, engagement rate and aesthetic to make sure if it fits with your company brand.

Here are some other aspects you should check before working with an influencer:

  • Check out what brands this person has worked with previously. It is not uncommon to ask the companies they have worked with what their experience was with this influencer.
  • Look at how aligned the influencer’s content is with your hotel’s own values.
  • Do their followers comment, share or respond to questions?
  • Resist the urge to look at unique visitors and instead look at the daily traffic this account has
  • Authenticity - influencers who have a smaller ratio of sponsored content tend to be more trusted, and appear more authentic to their followers. They tend to create more engaging and compelling stories that get more shares and comments than accounts with a constant stream of deals and product reviews.

Collaborating with an influencer does not have to be an additional expense, and in many cases will generate huge brand awareness and an average 6x ROI. Many influencers have their own high-quality photography equipment, saving you from hiring a professional photographer or videographer. Some travel influencers also offer extra services, like checking the hotels Instagram account, and giving them tips to improve their brand’s in-house social media accounts.

The easy and reliable way to hire Influencers

Looking through hundreds of Influencer applications and accounts to find the perfect influencer is too time-consuming for most hotels. Many of them now partner with easier and more reliable systems, such as the experts at SWAYY. SWAYY’s tool helps hotels manage every step of the influencer engagement process giving hotels full control to find, evaluate, book in and review influencers. The streamlined process ultimately saves up to 78% of the time required to run collaborations manually. This expertise and ownership of the entire process takes the uncertainty out of working with influencers and provides more transparency.

Unlock SWAYY through the Hotelchamp platform and start benefiting from Influencer marketing today!

In the end, it’s all down to what your hotel is interested in promoting. However, there’s no denying that proper influencer marketing has helped promote a lot of hotels to audiences they may never have reached otherwise.

Aug 17, 2018
Written by
Hotelchamp Team