Influencer marketing is a buzzword in the travel marketing universe right now, but how do you get started with leveraging the popularity of the biggest influencers within your brand’s social network to amplify your brand message?
Understanding Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is the digital art of having powerful social media users market your brand for you by sharing their authentic perspective of it on their own popular social feeds. A study by McKinsey found that marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising (source).
We chatted with Guy Poreh, the CMO and head of customer success at HYPR — an influencer database and marketplace — to exchange ideas on the $8 billion market. He said that thanks to social media, word of mouth really only requires one mouth now: A trusted influencer with great power and reach gives advice that people will listen to and actively engage with. In fact, 92 percent of people would trust a recommendation from an individual, even if they don’t know them, over a brand (source).
IMO: In the in the era of social media, everyone is an influencer. Some just have a wider audience than others. #TourismAcademy
— Lauren Cleland (@wittyclevername) June 9, 2016
Identifying an Influencer in your brand’s social community
An influencer is a person who engages with their online social media community substantially through retweets, shares, comments, etc. The size and scope of a suitable influencer’s following depends on your destination and its niche. While someone with hundreds of thousands of followers could certainly expose your brand to their followers, if they are not a strong contextual fit, their post may not drive as many actionable leads or engagements as expected (source).
Influencer marketing is already being used by innovative brands in the travel industry, like Visit Fort Worth and Visit Fairfax. Many of them have seen enough success to repeat the tactic and continue to reach out to the influencers of their community.
It’s easier to execute an influencer marketing campaign than you may think. Here is an eight step guide on how to run your own campaign.
How to Develop an Influencer Marketing Plan for Your Brand
1 | Determine Your Goal and How You are Going to Track it
Decide what you are trying to achieve before you select an influencer with the right skill sets and interests to help you.
Are you trying to gather more social proof? Choose an influencer who posts a lot and posts often. If you are trying to increase your destination’s footfall, then choose an influencer who is open to giving a strong call to action to his/her followers to come and experience it for themselves.
For example, our client Visit Fort Worth ran an influencer marketing campaign with the goal of promoting the destination to an extended audience that they had not yet reached. In the campaign, they allowed one local influencer per week to “takeover” the Fort Worth Instagram account by providing one photo and caption per day.
The goal of the campaign was to leverage the influencers by promoting Fort Worth to their followers. This allowed the destination to get its story out there to as many new people as possible who were not connected to the Fort Worth social accounts before.
Fort Worth repurposed the content and published the takeover on their official blog, accompanied by 5 questions that the influencers answered about themselves.
2 | Establish Influencer Criteria
Decide ahead of time how you are going to select your influencers. Here are some criteria to consider:
- Number of followers
- Follower demographic
- Number of likes or comments
- Profile aesthetic or style
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has hosted influencer marketing events called #emptyROM, modelled after a similar one put on by the MET in New York. They invited ten lucky Instagrammers to enter the museum before it opened to the public and take pictures to share on their personal feeds. The museum then featured them in its official blog and print magazine.
The ROM searched for influencers with lots of followers who take beautiful and artistic photos for this campaign.
Alternatively, Visit Fort Worth identified a few individuals who consistently produced beautiful, unique photos of Fort Worth through CrowdRiff and reached out to them to offer a chance to be a part of the campaign.
Pro Tip: Sort your content by number of likes or comments to find the influencers in your network with CrowdRiff.
3 | Determine How You Will Reward Your Influencers
Influencer marketing lets you run a campaign with a unique, targeted audience that often costs a fraction of an ordinary paid social media campaign on Facebook or Twitter. Often, social media figures will be active online regardless of the reward involved because it’s what they love to do.
“There’s no money that changes hands; it’s just a cool experience and the photographers are usually pretty happy with letting us share their photography as long as we credit them.” – Ryan Dodge, ROM Digital Engagement Coordinator.
Fort Worth’s Interactive Producer Jake Sillavan agrees, noting that conducting such an event is worth the effort because, “You are making an advocate for your brand once influencers get excited that you’re featuring their work”.
4 | Reach Out and Get Commitment
After you have a shortlist of influencers you want to work with, reach out to them on the social network that they are most active on and establish contact. Then, privately, invite them to take part in your campaign.
The ROM first announced the concept of their campaign on social media and invited their followers to apply. Then they put together a simple Google Form asking for applicants’ Instagram, Twitter, website and a short 50 word explanation of why they wanted to participate so that they could vet them.
You can send out an application form for your campaign like the ROM or handpick users who interact with your destination on social frequently. Remember to keep it friendly and professional. Start small for your first test run then experiment with more participants once you get the hang of it.
5 | Benchmark Your Stats
Refer back to the goal you set at the beginning of this process and keep in mind what metrics you are trying to improve. Take note of your current stats — i.e. inquiries, social to web traffic, Instagram followers or likes — so that you can measure success after the campaign more easily.
6 | Execute the campaign
Keep your finger on the pulse and remain invested. Make sure your brand engages with all the posts that the influencer shares and also with people who interact back with them. This can be done by commenting, liking, sharing and following your influencers and the people in their network.
7 | Recap the campaign (optional)
This is a great way to stay involved with your influencers and their followers to keep your destination in customers’ minds after the campaign ends. A great example of this is the #emptyROM feature on the ROM’s blog. Even after the event ended, participants kept sending in their photos that continued to be published on the museum’s blog page to keep generating interest.
8 | Evaluate the campaign
Take a look at the before and after stats you recorded to see how they measure against your goal. What was the impact of the campaign? Make notes of what worked and what could use improvement. Don’t be afraid to try something different or a variation of the same campaign next time to make it even better — it will be unique each time with the selection of new participants, which is the beauty of influencer marketing!
When it comes to influencer marketing, we encourage you to be innovative – as artists of social media, influencers appreciate creativity and will be more likely to take part in your campaign if it is fresh, exciting and rewarding.
The opportunities to spread your destination’s story are truly endless with influencer marketing as long as you do it right.
#emptyROM’s Ryan encourages everyone to give it a try, concluding that, “Everything is a little scary when it’s new, but once you start doing it more often you get into a groove and you realize what works for you and your community, then it’s really awesome!”
Ready to find your brand’s influencers and get collaborating? We’d love to help! With CrowdRiff’s visual marketing platform, it is easier than ever to identify the right influencers, reach out to them, execute the campaign, collect the unique content and repurpose it across all of your marketing efforts.
Our experience with over 80 leading DMOs has given us rich insights we’d love to share with you. To learn more, let’s chat.