Partnerships with travel and lifestyle Instagram influencers can help hotels reach new audiences that traditional advertising and PR may not, and now that users can book hotel rooms through the Instagram app, skilled influencers are more valuable than ever for the hospitality and travel industry.

Having worked with influencers on a daily basis for quite a few years, we’ve learned a lot and want to share our top tips on how hotels can maximize these partnerships.

1. Find the Right Influencers When considering an influencer, ask for a media kit with a demographic breakdown of followers to make sure he/she is a good fit for the property. Make sure the aesthetic and branding of the influencer’s feed fits the hotel. For instance, if the hotel is contemporary and hip, then choose an influencer who has a stylish feed and has worked with similarly designed hotels. Ask what other brands they have worked with in the past and see if they can share details on how previous partnerships played out. An influencer who has a high level of engagement on posts about a St. Regis, for example, would likely be able to do the same for a Waldorf Astoria or similar luxury brand.

2. Engagement Is Key While the number of an influencer’s followers is important, it matters less than the average level of engagement – how many likes or comments each post gets, what the comments say (are people asking about the hotel?), who their followers are (are they the target demographic?), and similar businesses and brands that they have worked with in the past. Ask potential influencers for a snapshot from the app that will show their level of engagement. There are even sites that will help: lists the top 1,000 Instagram accounts, and can also check for fake followers and to examine the account’s engagement. (That last part is important, since bots can artificially enhance an account’s appeal, but won’t do anything to help the sponsoring business.)

3. Don’t Waste Time At Chamberlin Public Relations, we receive at least 10 requests daily from influencers, both through email and Instagram direct message. That’s far too many people to vet in a normal work day, so in the interest of time, we look at an influencer’s first five posts. These should be able to paint a clear picture of what his or her niche is, and demonstrate the influencer’s level of engagement. If we feel he/she might be a good fit, we then reach out for more information.

4. Find a Common Ground When negotiating a partnership, discuss how many posts will go up, what kind they will be (permanent photos or temporary stories), and when they will go live (for safety reasons, some well-known influencers don’t want their followers to know where they are at every moment). While it’s important that the influencer has some creative leeway, it’s also important to discuss what will be showcased and how. For example, if the hotel has a new suite and is seeking to promote it for couples’ getaways, make sure the influencer is showcasing it as such. Be sure to provide the influencer with information on the new suite, as well as the hashtags you prefer. No one wants unpleasant surprises when the posts go live to thousands of followers, so everything should be agreed to in writing.

Asking the influencer to geotag and tag the hotel in their posts will allow the hotel to easily cross-promote by re-sharing the Instagram stories and photos. Make sure you have someone on behalf of the hotel, whether it be an outside agency or a designated person in-house, who is engaging with the influencer’s posts by liking and commenting. If the influencer has a blog, request to have the link of the hotel’s website to be included, so it drives traffic to the hotel’s website.

5. Listen to One Another The best business deals are win-win, so both the hotelier and the influencer should be on the same page before any money is exchanged or the hotel keys are handed over. An established influencer with a good reputation will likely know what kinds of posts have been effective in the past and how to create similar opportunities at the hotel that will fit the feed and keep the conversation going. Remember, the old rules of advertising may not apply when it comes to social media, and an experienced influencer is much more than just a mouthpiece.

It is important, of course, to be aware of when the relationship isn’t working out. If an influencer’s demands exceed the value of the promotion, it’s time to cut ties and move on.

6. Think Outside Four Walls Nowadays, it’s just as important to showcase what’s outside the hotel. Once on-site, the influencer should make a point of promoting the destination and emphasizing the local experiences that a traveler can’t find anywhere else. Even better, they should mention if the hotel’s concierge organized the experiences.

7. Follow the Rules As per FTC rules, any influencer accepting money or a service from a business must disclose the promotion in the post in order to maintain truth in advertising. Again, this disclosure should be approved by both parties in advance so that no one winds up in any trouble.

The relationship between an influencer and a hotelier needs to be beneficial to all parties if it is going to be effective. If both parties are on the same page, they can bring new demographics to a destination and get more heads in hotel beds.

If you’ve worked with an influencer, how have you measured the return on investment? We’d love to hear about your experiences navigating the social influencer landscape!