It’s 2018; social media and online blog content are essential parts of a fully-integrated PR strategy. Due to this, influencer relations are now a valuable part of many luxury hotels’ and destinations’ PR toolkits, enabling them to tangibly connect with their target consumers on a far more personal level than ever before.
At Lemongrass, we are travel-blogger advocates. This is why you will often find us researching the very best travel blog opportunities, meeting with the crème de la crème of influencers, creating opportunities to fulfil individual clients’ goals and staying up-to-date on all the latest news and trends in the blogger-sphere.
We have a great understanding of this ever-changing environment and many close relationships with social media influencers. It is thanks to this that we have set up successful collaborations and enabled pages of tailored content for our clients — with enormous positive impact on their business goals.
But, sometimes we just say no. In fact, we often say no. Even before our client has heard the very first whisper from us of a potential blogger opportunity, we have already been busily working behind the scenes to assess whether or not to even make the suggestion to them. That’s what we are here for, after all.
We also keep an up-to-date database of our preferred influencers segmented by niche and interest to help us be laser-targeted when putting them forward for collaborations. These are bloggers with quality content and networks and, if we’ve worked with them before, ones we know to be reliable. Only about 10% of the bloggers emailing us on a daily basis make it into this list which shows just how important it is to review each influencer on a case by case basis.
In this post, I’m going to share three things we look for when reviewing every single opportunity regardless of if they’re from someone on our database already, or an influencer we’ve not had on our radar before. These three things raise the red flag for us and guide our decision in whether to progress an opportunity.
Three red flags when assessing influencer collaborations:
1. Your brand values do not align
This is far more important than the number of followers an influencer has, or the number of likes they get. When you choose a blogger to work with, it is critical that you consider their brand values carefully — after all, they will be acting as a spokesperson for your brand. There are two parts to this: their following and their message.
Just as a good PR understands the brands they represent, their key messages and target audiences, a credible blogger chooses only to collaborate with brands who offer experiences that will get their audience excited. They know their audience inside out: what makes them tick, what their interests are and what they want to see. Their content is tailored so that they communicate in a relatable, familiar and consistent way, developed with this in-depth understanding of who they are writing for.
Of course, this is one of the greatest benefits of collaborating with an influencer — being able to reach a very specific audience on a personal level with content tailored for them, AND from a source that they trust!
You wouldn’t pay to advertise in a publication that you don’t agree with, so why would you collaborate with a blogger that’s not the right fit?
Ultimately, if you don’t get excited looking at the influencer’s content, and if you don’t feel that your brand is a natural fit in their feed, then odds are that it’s not going to be the most fruitful opportunity for you.
2. Their followers aren’t relevant (or genuine)
If a blogger’s following seems too good to be true, there’s a good chance that it is. For example, the number of followers could be inaccurate or deceptive. If the number is correct, the following may be fantastic! But that still doesn’t guarantee the followers are relevant to your brand.
So, hold back your excitement just long enough to do your research.
Firstly, the followers may actually be paid for — a huge red flag! Spend some time digging a little deeper and finding out their true value.
At Lemongrass we use a number of analysis tools to research how steady the growth of their following is (for example, is there a sudden spike of 10,000+ followers gained in one day, and an average of -4 most other days? This is not healthy and suggests a bought following).
For a blog, it’s worth looking into the number of social shares their posts tend to get, to see how well their content resonates with their audience. We use a variety of paid-for tools, but you can also use freemium tools like BuzzSumo.com (limited free use, with small subscription costs beyond that). Just paste the URL of a recent post and it will show you how many shares that article received. Easy (and well worth the 6.02 seconds it takes to check)!
Without these tools your best bet in ascertaining the value of an influencer’s following is looking at the engagement level of their followers.
For example, if an account has 80K followers, but posts are not receiving much (or any) quality engagement (especially looking at engagements beyond likes into the realm of shares and comments), then this is another red flag.
If their followers are engaged, then I would also recommend making sure that those that are engaged are relevant. When we do this, we take a snapshot of followers and have a look into their accounts too. This helps us to make sure that, firstly, they are not marketing accounts and, secondly, they would be a good potential audience for your luxury resort.
Things to think about:
- Are their followers too good to be true (i.e. likely paid for)?
- Are their followers engaged in their content,commenting regularly on posts or sharing articles on social media?
- Are their engaged followers relevant to your demographic?
3. They’re difficult to deal with
Your first impression of a social influencer really counts. If they’re difficult at the beginning, it’s unlikely that the relationship will dramatically improve.
Think about how they reached out to you in the first place; was it a personalised approach or did it seem generic?
Getting to know you through engaging on your social media platforms, followed by a well-written email with their media kit, or a confident phone-call is a great way for them to start the relationship.
You want to work with influencers who truly want to work with your brand too. Ultimately, you need them to have done their research on your property or destination and they should be able to easily communicate why they’re a good fit for you, and how you’re a good fit for them and, most importantly, their audience. If this is not apparent, it could indicate that they have sent out hundreds of emails to non-specific properties and are just looking for a free trip.
However, even if they do reach out with a personalised approach, remain wary if they start avoiding important questions once the conversation is underway. We hear alarm bells if a blogger who’s reached out hasn’t got a media pack with up-to-date analytics and statistics, or if they’re not open to giving us insights into their follower demographics.
If, for any reason, you are worried or in any doubt then do take a step back and make sure you are still happy with the progress of the conversation. Also feel free to ask around. There’s a good chance other travel brands will have heard of or worked with this blogger before and can give you some guidance, and we’re always on hand if you need advice too!
Remember that a blogger trip can take anything from two weeks to two months to arrange, so you are going to spend a lot of time in conversation with them through your PR team (not to mention the resources that you will spend on them once they are on property or at your destination!) If they’re unreliable, or aren’t instilling confidence in you, then perhaps they are not the right influencer for you.
Digging even deeper:
If on the surface they appear to have ticked all three boxes, you might be considering moving the opportunity forward. Before you agree to a collaboration though, we recommend you dig a little deeper by asking the following questions to make absolutely sure that this partnership will be a mutually fruitful experience for both the blogger and your brand.
Which other travel (and non-travel) brands have they represented?
It’s likely that you won’t be the first brand that an influencer has collaborated with. Take a look at the types of brands they’ve worked with in the past and the engagement that they received from these articles or posts.
If the influencer has truly understood their niche, they’ll want to be picky with the kind of brands they work with, and make sure that the content they’re sharing is consistent with what their audience engages with. For example, if your hotel has a specific focus on wellness, you’d expect the influencer to have worked with other wellness hotels, spas and perhaps organic food brands, but it would be a bit of a red flag if their most successful content and previous collaborations had been with all-inclusive, family resorts with a focus on lounging by the pool with a drink in hand.
Is their target audience defined and is it right for you?
Be wary if the audience they’re speaking to doesn’t seem to be defined. For example, an influencer comes to you saying they have a large family audience, but upon looking through their feed, you see that the most engaged followers are actually young professionals and couples without children, and recent content of theirs that has performed best are posts on a luxurious adult-only escape. This could signal that they haven’t understood or narrowed their demographic, and can mean that the end results for you would be less targeted.
Similarly, if the influencer does post about luxury travel, but common comments on posts include “Looks amazing! Can I get rooms for under £150?” or “I’d love this, but I could never afford staying somewhere like that” then you could deduce that while their audience aspires to go on luxury holidays, they clearly can’t afford to book one. If bookings and brand awareness amongst the right target audience is what you’re hoping to achieve through the collaboration, then you might want to rethink the value of working together.
What kind of language and tone of voice do they use when talking about hotels and experiences?
On Instagram or blogs, photography quite often does a lot of the talking. However, the language an influencer uses is just as important. Look at how they have written about a recent influencer trip — if you saw a caption on an Instagram post saying: “Just back from my trip to a medical spa: a week of being starved and prodded…” it’s worth thinking about whether you would you be happy if they wrote about your luxury hotel in a similar way.
You might also want to think about whether their tone of voice is appropriate for the experience they’ll be writing about. A blogger with an energetic and enthusiastic tone would be a great fit for an adventure holiday, whereas a blogger who typically writes with a passionate and evocative tone would be better suited to communicate a romantic experience for couples or honeymooners.
Do you like their use of imagery and is it appropriate for your brand too?
A picture can say a thousand words, and it’s crucial that the images communicate the right messages about your brand. Each influencer will have their own style of imagery they use for their blog and social channels. As long as you feel confident that this style can capture what’s special about the experience at your hotel or destination, then it doesn’t matter if that style varies from your own.
Sometimes, a benefit of having a blogger or social media influencer visit your property or destination is securing permission to use the photographs that they take whilst on site. This is when it’s crucial to be crystal clear about what you’re hoping to get out of the collaboration — if you definitely want to be able to share the images an influencer takes on your hotel’s social media channels, make sure that they are consistent with your house style so that they will fit seamlessly into your own social media feeds.
It’s your call:
Ultimately, don’t be afraid to say no to an influencer if any of our original three red flags or answers to the above questions cause alarm bells to ring. Or, maybe you just have a really bad gut feeling.
Your brand is worth protecting and there are plenty of other social media influencers who could do a perfect job in accelerating your brand message to your key target demographic.
And, even if you’re not quite ready to say no, if you are feeling any niggling doubts or would like further guidance, remember that we handle blogger relationships every single day and can give you an objective opinion as to whether we see the relationship as one that is likely to benefit your hotel or destination’s reputation (and secretly, we actually quite enjoy the detective work).
If you’ve been approached by an influencer and would like help assessing whether this collaboration could be of value to your travel brand, we’d be very happy to have a chat. Please email us at email@example.com.