Working as an influencer in the hospitality and destination industries might be the quintessential job for a social media enthusiast. Travel, pretty pictures, the facade of the aspirational yet unattainable life, streaming on Instagram stories and Instagram's new TV app, IGTV, are social gold.
In 2018 there were more than 1 billion active monthly users on Instagram alone, according to research site statistica, increasing the appeal for hospitality and destination brands to develop fruitful influencer relationships. Stepping into 2019, the question is not whether there is value in working with influencers to build brand, but what does an effective relationship look like.
In our team's experience, there are three primary components that lay the groundwork for success:
• Aligning audiences
• Nurturing relationships
• Creating relevant content
The appeal of bloggers to brands is that they can provide access to a sought-after demographic. Through their followers, already highly engaged, influencers can connect brands to their desired audiences in an authentic way. But it's not a one-way street. Brand also must provide a value to influencers or the relationship will likely be short-lived. That might be expressed by connecting influencers to the brand's audience or offering paid promotional opportunities.
Understanding what each influencer cares about in respect to their audiences is just the first step. While macro brand messaging yields consistency, the individual realtionship built on a brand's behalf create an essential and trusted emotional connection. An environment of collaboration helps strengthen those connections and establish relationships that live beyond a particular campaign or event and forge long-term partnerships.
When our team launched the first Westin Hotel in the Milwaukee market through paid, earned and owned media, an important tactic was engaging local and national social media influencers to interact with the brand through exclusive programs and experiences. An influencer must experience the brand in order to authentically communicate it to their audiences. Developing relationships with key lifestyle, food and travel bloggers led to a wealth of social media coverage that helped build excitement for the new hotel when these authoritative yet relatable sources shared their experiences with their audiences.
Strong content is an important element of any successful media strategy — social or otherwise. Providing social media influencers with targeted blogs or stunning visuals is one method of ensuring quality content. Working with influencers to curate relevant topics and experiences the they transform into content is another. In the case of the Westin opening, our team arranged brand experiences that included dog-friendly stays, the Westin's signature Heavenly Bed, custom local running routes developed by the hotel's running concierge and reservations at the hotel's swank Italian steakhouse, touting upscale fare and bespoke bourbon cocktails — all of which generated high-quality content.
Results happen when influencers align with the brand, the platform and the strategy to produce an outcome with an ROI. With social media around the globe expected to reach 2.7 billion users in 2019, travel and hospitality brands shouldn't overlook this golden opportunity.