Comment: If you work with an influencer, choose wisely

Digital Drums’ Steve Dunne urges travel firms to be cautious about attractive marketing offers

Influence. It is one of the most common words used in travel and tourism marketing today.

The dictionary defines influence as “the capacity to have an effect on a character, development or the behaviour of someone”.

Of course, some of the biggest influencers in the market are travel agents themselves. Agents can become a trusted source for consumers and truly influence their choice or spending behaviour.

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But to utilise a travel agent’s influence, another type of influencer is often needed: one who plants the seed of an idea, ignites the desire for an experience or makes a destination fashionable.

With so many media channels available to the travel consumer, and in some quarters a declining lack of trust in mainstream media and traditional opinion formers, it has been the rise of the so-called influencer that has captured the attention of the travel sector in its marketing of holidays and destinations.

Holidays are a commodity that usually require the consumer to have a reference point or recommendation on which to base choice, decisions and expenditure. They’re generally a big commitment for consumers, in financial terms or even time, and it is rarely something bought on the spur of the moment.

When consumers buy a travel experience it’s not unusual for them to do research, seek a recommendation or ask for advice, and they seek that from someone they trust. If that someone is similar to them, or who they would want to be like, they can be influenced into selecting or purchasing a product.

Real deal?

However, the challenge that faces the travel brand or destination when it comes to working with influencers is an age-old issue in any fast-moving, complex field – how do you know who is an effective influencer of your target audience as opposed to who just claims to be?

The travel sector is an attractive field for influencers. After all, who isn’t up for a bit of free travel and hospitality in exchange for a few Instagram posts or TikTok videos?

Influencers wanting to work with travel brands will often point to metrics, such as the number of followers they have, as proof of the ‘influencing’ leverage they can bring. However, many social media users have a sizable number of followers who are bots, imposter accounts or accounts no longer used. Some estimates claim that 20% or more of one’s followers on social media may not be active or genuine accounts.

The three Rs

So, if you’re approached by someone claiming to be an influencer and wanting to work with your brand or destination, what should you look at?

The first thing to consider is what marketers call the three Rs of influence. They are relevance, reach and resonance.

Relevance is where the influencer shares content relevant to the travel sector, and for that they need to have an audience that aligns with your target market. Reach is the number of people you could potentially reach through the influencer’s follower base. And when considering resonance, we are looking at the potential level of engagement the influencer can create with an audience relevant to your brand or destination. And here, bigger – as in number of followers – isn’t always better.

Of course, knowing who you’re trying to influence is a key point, so it’s worth looking at the engagement and trust levels the influencer has with the audience you are targeting. Is their content getting shared by their followers? It should be.

Finally, it’s worth looking not just at one of the influencer’s channels but the whole range of channels they have – do they have a consistent look, feel, tone and values for their content across the board? They should do.

Influencers are already a key component in travel marketing – if you make sure you get the right ones for your brand or destination, you will watch your sales rise.

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