With the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) threatening to get tough on celebrities and influencers who fail to disclose commercial brand deals on their social channels, the spotlight remains locked on the shady side of the influencer game.
Of course, it’s here to stay, whether enforcement action comes next month or next year from the Government body or the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Influencers have tourism high on their list of favourite playgrounds.
A UK survey earlier this year from CampaignDeus revealed travel as the fastest growing sector for influencer marketing next to fitness – with a growth in the first half of the year of 4.4%. Another survey from Schofields suggested that over 40% of under 33s now see ‘Instagrammability’ as a key factor when considering a travel destination.
It’s easy for travel marketing to get itself in a froth over all sorts of stuff influencer related and as usual it stems from the question that keeps manic marketers up at night.
We are used to the world changing so incredibly fast and the techies, the geeks, the commentators, the investors, the speculators, the tools (the analytical breed!) are all fuelling the angst. ‘It’s moving on, it’s all changing, hang on tight,’ they say, like some revelatory moment is about to strike.
It’s ironic that many in the sector are asking what’s the next innovation in influencer marketing, when they haven’t even got a solid, consistent and long-term influencer strategy working effectively yet. So, hold on. Take a deep breath and just for a minute, give yourself a rest from the soothsayers, doom merchants and the vested interests.
The issues are indeed there – like the plague of fake and inflated followers and boosting bots - but as the discipline evolves, so too do the data and insight tools to help you identify and verify the validity and relevance (not just reach) of a given influencer. There’s dozens of options now. They will give you audience insights, demographics, reach and average engagement rates per post, the interests and imperatives of the followers, to let you judge how real and relevant someone is.
Tools aside, it’s nuts when you hear of brands being conned by an influencer – there’s little excuse for not doing your homework properly. These are not mere endorsements – they should be considered meaningful collaborations. And we should look at them as long term rather than a one-off series of posts.
The process of setting up and negotiating good influencer partnerships can take literally months, so why would you not get every bit of available information you can on the relevance of the influencer either directly or through their agent?
Ask them open and transparent questions about their engagement, their successes and failures, their beliefs, their likes and dislikes. Have they worked with similar brands in the past and how did their content perform? You can look at their page views, but don’t forget reads and time on the page and perhaps most importantly, audience sentiment; how are their fans reacting to their posts? For some influencers, you’ll notice comment sections filled with ‘oh, another sponsored post’ and for others, followers who are actively discussing their affinity – or new interest – in the brand in question.
Our teams are recommending a greater mix of influencers these days to clients, depending on the interests of the influencer and their followers. We are currently live with a travel booking site and are mixing lifestyle, family, foodies, drinkies, fashionistas to reflect the broad audience demographic we are trying to hit. There’s a lot to be said for introducing an influencer to an experience they have not had before.
It’s simple editorial nous. And is it wrong to expect a well-honed storytelling ability among influencers themselves or are they just about beauty and aspiration? It is a much-overused term these days, but in chasing authenticity, I want influencers who get it and know how to tell a story in a real-life way not just ‘instaglamming’ as part of their La La Land, overly manicured, manipulated and manufactured view of the world.
Look for the ones who get the story and how to tell it given your brand objectives and back story, your tonality – they are the ones to work with.
I am increasingly convinced that the world out there can live with longer form narrative and so mixing the social channels with your influencer can be an empowering thing to do as you break free from an extended caption on Instagram. Thank God for stories
There is a general point here also that we should be integrating our influencer work into the broader mix, so that we create a more holistic campaign aligning with events, PR, paid for and seasonal promotions.
Rules of engagement
Do your homework and do it properly – look beyond follower numbers to investigate engagement rates, past brand collaborations and fan reactions/sentiment when deciding which influencers to partner with.
Forget instant gratification – travel marketing in particular is about the long-game; it’s unlikely for a user to see an Instagram post and immediately book a holiday, but when the time comes to book a holiday, a user is far more likely to look back on an influencer’s feed to see where they’ve been recently.
Influencers don’t control their reach – as algorithms continue to impact post reach and make it difficult to predict how far a post will go, it is increasingly important to look at the engagement rates and fan reactions to determine success and relative ROI.
This article originally appeared in The Drum Network Travel Special. For more information on how to get involved, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan Twigg, global head of consumer, Way To Blue