The latest trend in digital marketing is to involve social influencers in destination marketing campaigns to drive sales. Influencers refer to individuals with the ability to influence customers’ purchase decision, such as celebrities or online personalities. According to a recent study by Nielsen, personal recommendations are considered the most effective form of advertising, which is built upon value rather than company bias. In general, people trust their family and friends’ recommendations more than company’s advertisements.
Why Social Influencers Marketing Is Trending
According to a joint study by Twitter and Annalect, 49% of people rely on influencers’ recommendations on Twitter, following closely behind friends’ recommendations (56%), which came out on top. Furthermore, the study also finds that 40% of people have purchased an item online after they saw the item being used by an influencer on Instagram or YouTube. Hence when it comes to product recommendations, people find that social media influencers are nearly as trustworthy as friends. In relation to the case, people will be more likely to buy products that are recommended by social media influencers, as they find it easier to relate to these digital stars rather than famous celebrities. Moreover, social media influencers are perceived as “friends”. According to a recent study by Defy Media, teens and young adults between the ages 13 and 24 described YouTubers as “just like me, understands me, someone I trust has the best advice, genuine, someone I feel close to”.
Social Influencers in Destination Marketing
For the tourism industry—like other businesses—social media is utilized for the purpose of marketing, drive engagement, brand exposure and ultimately increase sales. At times, companies and influencers might have a similar target market. In this case, tour agencies can reach out to influencers with the same target audience.
Relevant social media influencers, such as travel bloggers, share the story of their journeys on the internet. Travel bloggers gained feedback from their readers, who admire their work, and some who are inspired will book a similar trip for similar experiences. Hence travel bloggers influence consumers’ purchase decisions.
Reaching Out To Influencers
Working together with travel bloggers is a good way to gain exposure and drive sales, however, it is important to keep a few things in mind before jumping on the travel blogger wagon. According to skift.com, there are a number of things to consider such as, building a genuine relationship prior to working together, examine the influencers’ audience and ensuring the brand is associated with the right influencers. Although it may take time, building a genuine relationship before proposing collaboration will enhance the result—high-quality content from the social influencers—and ultimately, improves the brand’s image and drive sales. While millions of followers sound appealing, tour agencies must also examine these followers to ensure that they are the correct audience to promote to, tour agencies shouldn’t promote to an audience that does not have relevant interest as it will not help in achieving business goals. Last but not least, it is also important to ensure that the influencers’ values are in accordance with the company’s, as they will be representing the company, a positive image and reputation must be maintained.
Working with Social Influencers
Tour agencies, hotels, and destinations can post quality content on their social media channels in order to develop brand identity, introduce brand values and drive engagement. Additionally, a high-quality content will also give influencers a better idea of what the company is doing and what their values and mission statement are.
According to a survey by Chase Card Services, 44% millennial travelers searched for opinions on social media while doing research about a planned trip. Potential social influencers in destination marketing could come across the company’s content and there is a possibility of them reaching out first.
Hotels and destinations can meet millennial travelers’ needs by providing quality services, for instance, going entirely digital—providing a way for them to check in and check out online, as well as providing fast and free Wi-Fi in order for them to stay online and post on social media. These features are, in fact, what the millennial travelers are looking for. According to a survey by Skidmore Studio, 90% of millennials are attracted to the idea of checking in and out of a hotel digitally. Moreover, according to adweek.com, hotels are developing new millennial traveler-focused strategy, for instance, providing fast and free Wi-Fi and having new, appealing interior design. Survey by Chase Card Services also finds that 97% of millennial travelers post on social networking sites while traveling and 73% of millennial travelers post on social networking sites at least once a day. By providing the necessities, it will create an all-around pleasant experience for influencers, which will more likely result in better content, as well as emphasizing the features being promoted, in this case, amenities. According to TripBarometer 2015, amenities that are most significant in affecting guests’ decision when booking an accommodation, are, free Wi-Fi in room, free breakfast, free shuttle bus and staff who speak the traveler’s language. Hence, social influencers can promote a destination’s services and facilities that will appeal to the target audience.
Working together with social media influencers is a good way to drive engagement and sales, however, it is important to choose the influencers carefully, as some of them might have values that do not match that of your company’s. For a better, genuine content, a good relationship with influencers is essential, in order to avoid creating a negative impression around the content, such as, ‘the influencers are only doing this for the money, hence they do not put in an adequate amount of effort into their content’.
During their trip, social media influencers should focus on promoting a destination’s highlights, from local attractions, culinary experience to accommodations. Tour agencies and destinations can enhance their experience by providing them necessities to stay online and post content as it is happening. Therefore, their followers will be able to see real-time updates and have a sense of experiencing the trip with the influencers that they admire. From a marketer’s point of view, it is more likely to affect their decision to book a trip as the recommendations come from the influencers they follow on social media, and these influencers are not simply online celebrities, rather, they are individuals considered as friends. Hence their recommendations are perceived as personal recommendations from friends.