With 76 percent of travellers posting vacation photos to social networks, and 50 percent of people confirming that travel content on their social feeds influenced their travel plans, it’s clear that social media has had an impact on the travel path to purchase.
If we know this to be true, then the obvious conclusion is that travel marketers must not look just to Bloggers and YouTuber’s with followers in the thousands to help build reach and engagement with “influencer marketing campaigns”, but also look to the army of influencers who don’t all have followers in the thousands, but are already sharing their brand stories today.
Search for destination specific Hashtags on Instagram and see for yourself. 144, 579 tagged and posted images in Instagram for #Cannonbeach – a popular tourist destination near Portland Oregon.
Travel as a category has the most potential to leverage specific content being tagged with Hashtags, and shared across social media channels – with or without the official prompting from a DMO or tourism operator.
In preparing for a discussion I will lead at the upcoming DigMe16 Summit in Philadelphia, on “The State of Influencer Marketing,” I reached out to some of my travel industry colleagues to discuss how influencer marketing has evolved, and what makes a campaign a success for them. I have learned that even since 2015, “influencer marketing” has shifted to become more expensive, and harder to track return on investment – even with a big win in engaging with a well known Instagrammer or Blogger.
Engaging a high profile Instagrammer, who will also contribute a travel blog, some extra video and Snapchat content to a highly targeted audience is certainly providing valuable content and lift for destination marketers, but this type of influencer is becoming more difficult to get to, and more expensive to secure, even over the same time last year.
Influencer marketing can be extremely effective, but the compensation expectations of influencers means travel marketers are going to have to get more creative if they want results.
What I can conclude is that it is becoming harder for brands with small to medium sized budgets to achieve impactful campaign reach through traditional influencer marketing programs that worked in the past. It is also a slippery slope when engaging “transactionally” with influencers as social media is a medium that demands transparency and authenticity, both to consumers – and to advertisers.
The state of Florida recently announced that they would be reviewing marketing spending because of unclear ROI, and a lack of transparency in engaging high profile personalities to visit or endorse the state. (Source: Skift)
So what does next generation influencer marketing look like?
Few travel brands are leveraging the power of social stories that are being created day in and day out by brand ambassadors that already on mass follow, engage and share content on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and many other social channels.
Perhaps the user-generated content shared by existing and future brand influencers, those who may not have millions of followers, but who’s content tells a good story, is relevant and trusted, and is generally shared with positive sentiment is the silver bullet in Next Gen influencer marketing?
Consider that in mass, these stories become part of a larger story that a brand can tell leveraging their army of influencers – instead of focussing on one or two heavy hitters. When content is good – it is re-shared no matter how large the original follower base is. Here lies the next generation of influencers. Your social media army.
The opportunity that travel marketers should be looking at next is how to showcase powerful stories shared by brand champions, how to reward and engage creatively with every day Instagrammers and Snapchatter’s – and how encourage more sharing of content using Hashtags that are already organically being used.
Travel marketers that will win with the next generation of Influencers are already planning strategies to creatively engage and reward their social media army’s – in addition to securing quick wins with super star social personalities of the moment.