By Angharad Miller
Let’s set the scene. Up until the digital revolution, traditional marketing and word-of-mouth were the only real ways to grow consumer awareness at a notable scale.
With today’s consumers, however, traditional marketing through channels such as television and radio produces a disconnect between audience and the business.
What has changed? Obviously, the consumers of today can be found online.
One of the largest generation of consumers to date, millennials, now spend one in every five mobile minutes on Instagram or Facebook.
Digital word-of-mouth reaches millions more potential customers around the world more rapidly than ever before. This is where influencer marketing fits in.
A boom in activity on social media has led to the growth of influencer marketing within the travel industry. The impact that this is having even extends to influencing the purchasing habits of millennials’ friends, families and followers.
Peer-to-peer recommendations are far more trusted than traditional adverts on traditional channels that do not engage with but instead talk at consumers.
The booking journey has been changed by the way consumers are engaging with hotels and businesses.
Customers spend more than two-thirds of the booking process in the “dreaming” and “planning” phases, presenting a shift in when hotels need to be capturing the attention of potential customers.
This now has to happen early on in the booking journey, and this strategy can be used to avoid ending up in a pure price comparison exercise with their competitor set on online travel agencies.
Why? Simply put, once an influencer has directed their followers to a hotel’s social media pages or direct website, the hotel can win the customer, unlike a first impression given to a consumer when presented with dozens of options on an OTA search page.
The AIDA funnel
Securing a booking starts even before people know that they want to visit your property or area. In revenue language, these are the “awareness” and “interest” stage at the very top of the AIDA (awareness-interest-desire-action) booking funnel.
Influencer marketing fits perfectly into this AIDA funnel largely because of the psychology behind social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook, which rely heavily on beautiful imagery and visual representation. Images generate a more emotional response than text, and the human brain processes them 60,000 times faster than text.
We know that over 87% of millennials prefer to spend their money on new experiences rather than physical goods, so the opportunity has never been greater for hotels. Angharad Miller
Once potential customers start following your social media pages, having been directed there by an influencer, this can also start the “loyalty” journey long before they have even booked to visit.
Hotels can now also form the long-tail effect by sending targeted and personalized offers to these new followers via, for example, Instagram direct message.
This also addresses the big shift in consumer demand for more personalized experiences, right from the first touch point with a hotel.
Influencers can tap into the aspirational drives of their audience with particular ease. They directly engage customers and generate consumer desire and interest by encouraging followers to emulate the same experiences.
Because their followers are personally attached to who they are, the most successful influencers often appear to be living the lives consumers wish they were experiencing themselves.
Through social media, travel brands and hotels can offer millennials the opportunity to live their best life, much as their favorite influencers do.
We know that over 87% of millennials prefer to spend their money on new experiences rather than physical goods, so the opportunity has never been greater for hotels. However, they need to adapt and embrace this change.
Social media is, at its most basic level, a comparative way of sharing experiences.
If understood as such, it becomes clear why it is often such an important and even competitive aspect of people’s lives. Visual advertisement is easily and rapidly consumed without standing out as a blaring brand message.
If properly incorporated into an influencer’s social media, it shows consumers what they also could have when they travel.
This comparative element to social media is the major driver behind the customer’s desire to follow the influencer and the aspiration to have similar experiences.
By following influencers on social media, consumers demonstrates their interest in what they do.
The power of influencers on social media cannot be overlooked. Instagram, for example, has more than 800 million active monthly users, a figure which is increasing by 100 million every six months.
Although it may seem that influencer marketing is not trackable, there are in fact multiple ways to track both revenue and new website visitors using the right approach.
Influencer marketing is more of an awareness tool than a direct sales method like pay-per-click, however there are various methods of tracking influencer revenue either by using a token on the booking engine or by discount codes.
Knowing the core goal of your influencer marketing campaign is fundamental so you know what you want to track, how and by when.
New vs. old methods
It’s also important to note that there’s a noticeable misalignment between the rate of technology adoption amongst travel consumers and hospitality businesses, especially independent operators with fewer resources.
Educating general managers, owners and decision makers is key to addressing this.
Images generate a more emotional response than text, and the human brain processes them 60,000 times faster than text. Angharad Miller
There is naturally a bias for pre-existing channels that everyone else is already using.
Who doesn’t find comfort in using the same methods that they’ve tried and tested before? This type of behavior typically means slow integration of new technology rather than an early adopter attitude.
One of the key benefits of using influencer marketing is that the content generated can be used to boost engagement and authenticity of Facebook ads, email campaigns, social channels, etc., offering a more hybrid approach to integrate newer methods of marketing with traditional methods.
Influencer marketing can therefore offer a long-term, more authentic way of advertising that starts the relationship with potential customers before competitors.
Rather than viewing the revenue management strategy as a transaction between the consumer and the hotel, influencer marketing can help boost awareness, interest, loyalty and retention rates.