This past week I’ve been wearing dual hats as marketing expert as well as travel blogger and writer while at conference and speaking events back in New York state and Ontario, as part of the official industry launch of my new travel blog, www.CarryOnQueen.com.
TBEX (North America’s Travel Blogger Expo) in Finger Lakes, NY was my first full on emersion into the world of professional writers and producers of content within the travel industry. It was fascinating to view influencer marketing through the lens of content producers, and meet industry leaders.
Influencer marketing is still pretty leading edge, and it’s safe to say that early adopter travel and tourism destinations have in many cases embraced the model ahead of the curve. Some in the industry still don’t know it exists, or have dismissed it as “for millennial audiences only” – which is a dangerous assumption to make.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is based on the core principal that we buy from those that we know, like and trust – or we allow those that we know, like and trust to influence what we purchase.
Influencers often deliver insider information, and they do it through a 1:1 relationship with thousands that they have nurtured over time on their various media channels, in their niche audience area through consistently producing content of interest like photos, travel tips, blog posts, videos and podcasts on social media platforms and their website. The content is generally entertaining, educational or inspirational.
It’s like tapping into word of mouth at scale to a target audience. And they have earned their audience over time as followers and subscribers by being consistent and having a personality of authenticity to their audience online.
Influencer marketing has existed informally since social media started. What has changed in recent years is formalizing the relationship, as brands have figured out the power that exists with this approach, and influencers realizing they have value to offer that’s worth a price far more then some free merchandise. There’s also the issue of transparency so content viewers know what’s going on.
How does it work?
Influencers can range from celebrity status with huge broadcast reach of millions, to micro influencers, those with 20,000 – 100,000 followers on combined platforms, with a leader who is actively engaged in a niche audience. Those are the broadcast audiences that hold the most appeal to destination marketers.
In many cases influencers are being paid to post, share photos, produce videos, tell stories or write blog posts featuring their take on a particular experience. The content is their own authentic voice, based on a genuine experience. Payments can range from $500-1,000 for a single post up to package campaigns of $5,000 – $25,000 for multiple impressions with varied content. A rough industry estimate I heard is to pay $1,000 per 100,000 followers for a single broadcast action. Tourism organizations are increasingly hosting influencers not unlike traditional press trips where sponsors hope to earn a written article in a magazine or newspaper or broadcast coverage on TV. Those press trips still happen of course, and the published content often has massive reach if the writer or producer can get it out into the market, but with influencers, the broadcast channel is guaranteed and measurable, because the influencer actually owns the access to it. Plus by nature of it being a niche audience with a personal connection, the reach is often laser targeted, and delivered like advice from a friend.
That’s powerful stuff.
How this is changing travel marketing
It’s not hard to see why this is revolutionizing travel advertising. Want to target people interested in driving I-95 down the east coast of the US? Want to target overweight active people looking for travel options? Want to reach baby boomer men looking for a scotch tasting tour? Want to target under 30s recently married couples exploring the world? There are influencers for all of these markets and many, many more.
Travel is a large economic driver and a broadly purchased item. Once a customer is earned, there is huge lifetime value (LTV) if the company nurtures a follow up campaign for future travel excursions, so the profit from one conversion is potentially large and long lasting. As an industry that has largely relied on traditional methods of advertising in magazines, newspapers, TV and expensive print brochures, it’s easy to see how this shift to digital is revolutionizing the way they reach their target audience.
How you could apply this to other industries
This holds huge potential in other industries beyond travel. And progressive businesses are already playing in the space. Could alumni with substantial influence in their industry be hired for University program campaigns? This could take things far beyond the traditional recommendation quote or video testimonial. How about athletes for products or brands? I’m thinking here of micro influencers in niches, rather then celebrity endorsers. Or even someone as off the general population radar as a quilter or a cheesecake chef with a large niche following could work with a brand.
Of course all of this demands transparency and a certain degree of ethics on behalf of the influencer or it all could go horribly wrong. Nobody wants to sell their soul for something they don’t believe in, and consumers can see right through an obvious paid endorsement by someone who doesn’t really care about the brand.
Five ways to select a good influencer fit
1. Broadcast reach
Look at social media platform follower numbers, subscribers for blogs, podcasts or email lists.
2. Platforms and target audience
Is the influencer active on social media channels where your target audience and customers hang out? If they have 30,000 followers on Instagram but your target is mostly on Facebook, that is a consideration. Also consider how your target audience likes to consume content. Are they scanners? In depth readers? Prefer audio on the go? Are they consuming mostly on mobile? Or is there a good mix of laptop and desktop?
3. Style of content
What type of content does the influencer produce? Do they do a lot of video and minimal writing? Of are they more into sharing photos and stories? Are they a podcaster favouring audio content along with the written word?
It’s better to have an influencer who is actively engaged in discussion with members of their audience, then one who simply broadcasts content only. Often those with micro influencer numbers can actually have that type of engagement. Those with massive followings become less personable. Engaged discussion brings out personality, and increases the feeling of having an exchange with a friend.
5. Influencer creativity
Rather then taking the “rack card” rate sheet approach of getting a “post for a price” creative campaigns often come out of a discussion between the client and the influencer with a proposal of combining numerous actions, sometimes along with traditional media outreach, to get synergy. Earned media through a publicist or event marketing could be combined, as well as having the influencer write or produce native content that resides on the tourism company site as well.
What do you think about the use of influencers in marketing? Have you had any experience hiring an influencer? Or if you are one, what type of work have you done in this area? Leave a comment below!
Since my CarryOnQueen.com brand is still in its infancy, I’d be thrilled if you would check it out, or send some love with a like, follow or share to my social platforms. And if you are a published writer, or know someone who is, with a travel story to share that you think would be a good audience fit, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org I am actively collecting well written content to profile while helping grow an audience for the author. Check out this guest post for a sample of how work is profiled. http://carryonqueen.com/tuscan-villa-vacation/ Here are the links if you want to check it out:
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