Written by Lemongrass Marketing on 4th Apr 2019
“We need social influencers”.
This is something that we’re constantly told by clients.
Gone are the days where journalists rule the roost and are the primary source of brand awareness or means of maintaining your reputation. With the rise of social media and decentralisation of information into the public domain – customers are no longer limited to believe what they see on TV, or read in the papers. Public reviews and endorsements through highly regarded bloggers and social media personalities play an increasingly important role in a successful communications strategy for a luxury destination.
The wave of brand collaboration with bloggers, digital influencers and creatives rose from around 2013 and has rapidly become an effective way of gaining quality exposure for brands. Whilst traditional PR is still incredibly strong and highly valued, the blogger and social sectors are constantly on the rise. It’s more personal; consumers (and even high profile travel journalists, product managers and tour operators) trust bloggers for personal recommendations, advice, tips and first-hand knowledge.
Carefully considered collaboration with social influencers in your niche can result in massive boosts in exposure for your brand.
But proceed with caution.
There are just as many reasons why you might decide not to work with a social influencer or why they might not be a good fit for your hotel or destination.
Just because an Instagrammer has a high follower count, or blogger tells you they have 1000s of monthly visits to their website, doesn’t mean that you’ll get ROI from a collaboration that likely involves high levels of resource—not only in the form of press trips and payment in kind—but in time as well.
Here are some essential steps you can take to help you assess whether a social influencer is worth collaborating with:
Do Your Research:
This seems like a basic tip, but it is absolutely essential. Yes, research takes time, but time is needed to make sound business decisions that will hopefully have a long-lasting, positive impact on your brand. Following bloggers on your personal or brand social media accounts is a fantastic way to gain insight into their personality, their tone of voice, their audience base and interaction.
If someone claims to love luxury travel but when they post an image of a fantastic hotel shot, their followers ask ‘Can I get a room for £99?’ then their followers, and hence this particular influencer are probably not the right target audience for your brand.
Social Blade a fantastic free tool that allows you to gain real insight into a blogger’s user summary, future projections and detailed statistics across Twitter, YouTube, Twitch and Instagram. From progress charts through to monthly statistics and social media platform milestones, it’s a goldmine of vital information.
There is no harm in asking this upfront and is a great way to break the ice as it shows that you are interested in the blogger. This should contain all the key facts and stats you need to analyse them and match them to your brand. From unique monthly visitors to social following numbers, Google Analytics and more, this should have everything you need for initial assessment. After their blog, this is the one document that bloggers create to show you that they can deliver the goods.
If they’re bragging about high traffic, but are unwilling to divulge specific data (or better still screenshots!) from their Google Analytics accounts, this is a sign that maybe those numbers either aren’t entirely true or are weighted towards irrelevant content on their site to where you would fit.
We get countless emails from bloggers on a daily basis hoping to bag a free trip to our clients’ hotels or destinations and it’s amazing just how many of these emails are not personalised, or not professional in the slightest.
(Tip for bloggers if you’re reading this: Please don’t address us in your first email with “Hey babe” or “hey hun” (yes, it happens). Be professional with your interaction with us and our clients.)
If an influencer is addressing either us or our clients in an unprofessional way is casts immediate doubt on their ability to act professionally on a trip, and also on the quality of their followers.
Although it is vitally important to carry out in-depth research for the right blogger, it can sometimes be hard to dedicate the time to do this. Using trusted blogger databases are a great way of selecting the right blogger for your brand among a reliable list – Vuelio is a great example, and tracking relevant industry blogger awards are a great source of inspiration.
Luxury travel is about experiencing the best the destination has to offer, at the highest standard of quality. The content that is delivered has to intertwine with that notion supported by flawless, vibrant visuals that compliment the writing. Is the blogger’s video content skilled enough? The one thing an influencer has to do for your brand is to speak for it in the best possible way; a portfolio of photography or footage would be a great way to visualise what can’t be delivered in the coverage.
A good social influencer will engage with their followers – be it replying to comments on an Instagram shot, responding to a tweet, or liking a pin. There’s a natural relationship between engagement and following: the more you engage, the more loyal and engaged followers you’re likely to gain as a result.
Follower count alone is not a good way to justify the quality of an influencer; engaging with followers displays character and offers insight into the influencer’s personality – this will naturally mean that followers of the influencer will almost instantly relate to them, and in turn provide that sense of trust quite quickly.
Is it possible to track social engagement? It certainly is.
Here are a few basic, initial examples of what to look for when you are monitoring social interaction:
These are straightforward metrics you can use to analyse how well an influencer’s posts are doing. A post that has been “liked” or “shared” is naturally more likely to gain a higher reach, as consumers have organically exposed the content to their circle of followers, who in turn are likely to share the same interest.
Ideally, the influencer will have a higher number of followers than the number of people they are following. If possible, look for influencers with a ratio of 3:1 – where there are at least three times the number of people who follow their account, than they’re following.
Tracking an influencer’s audience numbers over a few weeks is a great metric to use, as it can determine that their content is still relevant and engaging to their audience.
There are also a number of tools that are designed to measure social engagement thoroughly: Hootsuite Insights is a great example, and Klear is a fantastic influencer search engine.
Before we recommend an influencer to one of our clients, we always perform the above research to make sure our clients don’t waste their time with unsuitable social influencers.
To save the influencer’s (and your) time, background research into previous collaborations are always a great way to grasp a sense of who they like to work with, what they like to write about and whether that will relate to you. Social influencers and bloggers receive a ton of pitches and introductory emails.
One thing to ask yourself when researching previous collaborations is: “Have travel and luxury brands that I admire worked with this blogger in the past?” – this is a great indication to determine whether the influencer is suitable for your brand. They don’t have to be travel brands, but brands whose followers like to spend (and have the money to spend) on luxury goods and experiences.
It’s also worth asking for testimonials from brands that the influencer has worked with in the past. This should be in their media pack and helps you qualify the results that you’re likely to achieve through collaboration, from similar brands who have already been there.
This can seem like a tough one. Clients will sometimes say to us: “Bloggers aren’t professional journalists so they shouldn’t expect to be paid for their coverage following an all-expenses, paid for press-trip, right?”
The social influencer world is, in its own entity, a creative industry. It’s writing to the highest of standards, it’s live tweeting, it’s capturing live coverage on Instagram, shooting videos and then spending hours editing those videos for key content.
Bloggers aren’t just bloggers; they are writers, photographers, videographers, and social experts.
With the digital possibilities on top of writing a creative article to entice, relate and engage with their readers, requesting to be paid for their time and efforts is a common ask – and with multi-use content that has the potential to add huge amounts of value to your brand, a reasonable one.
Following the recent ‘Botgate’ saga (explained here), it can seem tricky to determine who uses online bots to take the work out of creating organic, natural engagement. The best advice here is, do the research and “go with your gut”, so to speak.
Work with an influencer who you feel can truly understand and deliver the right message with the right tone, to the right audience.
Engagement speaks volumes, it provides value and authenticity. An influencer with 6K followers is just as significant as an influencer with 60K followers, if their content is high-quality, and especially if they capture the attention of followers with a niche focus that fits with an aspect of your hotel: if you have an organic garden attached to your hotel which you use in your hotel kitchen, then explore travel bloggers with a focus on organic produce, healthy living, or cooking. This angle will expose your hotel to a highly targeted foodie traveller audience, which may be more beneficial than having your hotel promoted to 60K general luxury travellers.
A great influencer will go to creative lengths to gain a higher following – from giveaways and using trending hashtags to high engagement with their audience. There are many influencers out there who work incredibly hard to gain a loyal following and would work hard for your brand to make sure you are getting the value you need to fulfil your objective.
There are a number of ways this can be done: You can provide the influencer with a unique URL tag for them to use when linking to your site so you can track the traffic generated from their blog post or content, you could use bespoke hashtags on social media for campaigns (your SEO team or we can help advise how to do this if you need).
The important thing is to ensure you’ve pre-determined the KPIs you’re looking for. Are you after brand awareness? Then look at the engagement their original content gets, from unique views to likes, comments and shares.
If you’re after traffic, then Google Analytics will help provide you with insight into the correlation between the campaign deliverables and an increase in website visits.
These are just a couple of examples that will give you the thorough analysis needed to measure how well a collaboration works for your brand, and will also, in turn, ensure that you make even better decisions in the future.
You’ll also need a contract to make sure social influencers deliver what they promised. In order to ensure that our clients receive what was originally agreed with the influencer, we draft up contracts with them which detail exactly the number of posts/topics, video/photography content, specific links/branded hashtags to use and what content they’ll provide which our clients will share rights to. This is standard practice now, and influencers should be used to the protocol of signing these agreements. If they have any concerns over signing the contract, then it’s a sign that maybe they’re not the right fit.
We’re Lemongrass Marketing – we help travel brands grow by delivering PR and content strategies based on digital audience insights. Let’s talk about your next PR, Digital PR and content campaign. Message Mirjam@lemongrassmarketing.com or call +44 (0)1865 237 990.