Real Influencer Marketing Strategy for Hotels

This year started with a reminder that influencer marketing doesn’t always go according to plan. The public feud between vlogger Elle Darby and the Dublin based White Moose Café and Charleville Lodge Hotel prompted us to write a blog which asked “is influencer marketing really worth it for hotels?” We came to the conclusion that yes, it is, but not without a strategy. Here’s where we tell you about how to create the best influencer marketing strategy for hotels.

In this blog, we’re breaking down a few key steps in building an influencer marketing strategy for hotels, and sharing some insights and lessons that we’ve learned working with agencies, clients, and influencers across a number of situations. While many of the insights will apply to influencer marketing across any industry, we’re focusing on hotels in particular.

At the end of this blog, you’ll also find a downloadable influencer marketing strategy checklist. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to influencer marketing, the checklist contains a few prompts that might be helpful in the process of creating your own strategy. You may also find these articles on destination marketing with video and video marketing tips useful.

Real Influencer Marketing Strategies for Hotels

Starting From Scratch

When most clients bring us on, their influencer marketing strategy can best be described as “ad-hoc”. This isn’t at all a criticism, simply a description, and it’s a situation that a lot of hotels find themselves.

Requests are coming in, however there is no established process for responding, no consistent criteria for identifying, accepting or denying an influencer, and no metrics for measuring success. Influencers are accepted or rejected on the fly, arrangements and expectations aren’t put to paper, and often the relevant people in an organization aren’t notified about the influencer’s stay.

For every client that we’ve worked with, the solution has been to break down the influencer process into small, repeatable processes, and to identify the right people in an organization to help create and implement those processes. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to influencer marketing strategy, however we have found there are a few key stages that we have repeated in the process of creating a strategy across all of our clients.

Define the Ideal Influencer

If you already have a clearly defined brand and target guest, this part is relatively simple. The ideal influencer will be somebody that fits with your brand, and whose audience consists of the kind of guests you want to attract. We recommend creating a few distinct influencer profiles that reflect different purposes. For example, an influencer with a relatively small but highly engaged following that aligns perfectly with your brand might promote sales, while an influencer with a much larger following would help promote brand awareness.

You will still be assessing each individual influencer on the basis of their request, and not every influencer you work with will fit seamlessly into the ideal influencer marketing strategy profiles you’ve defined. However these profiles will help you assess the requests you receive as well as highlight the influencers that are worth reaching out to.

Collect Relevant Data

The first thing we do with our clients is set up a way to track influencer requests. This is usually in a simple spreadsheet to collect data on who influencers are, what they are asking for, and to determine the information we need from the influencer, as well as the people within the organization who need to be involved in which stage of the request.

Once we have some basic information, we work to funnel all requests through a central system.

Receiving Requests

Having a process for incoming requests ensures that each request is received and handled in the same way. Consistency is one of the most important things a brand can do to build trust, and everything counts.

With our clients, we have found that the best way to approach this is to create a simple online form that all influencers are referred to. The form asks a few standard questions about the size and demographics of the influencer’s following, and why they think they are a good fit for the brand.

This form serves a few purposes.

  • First, it helps us weed out the influencers that weren’t willing to fill in a few pieces of information in order to be considered, which saves the client a lot of time.
  • Second, it means that all of the requests are going to the same place, and can be handled consistently.
  • Third, it ensures that each influencer that reaches out has a positive, professional, and consistent interaction with the brand.
  • Fourth, it ensures we’re receiving the right information from the influencer, and makes it easier to track the entire process.

Assessing Influencer Requests

We have found that it is best to establish a weekly time to go through and assess each influencer request as a team. If the relevant people in your organization already meet on a Tuesday afternoon, add influencers to the agenda for that weekly meeting. This is simple and helps get everyone on board and aligned.

In the process of assessing each request, discuss whether or not the influencer helps you reach your target audience, what their ask is, what they’re agreeing to do, and what the cost is to the hotel. If you can get some value and the cost is limited, it’s definitely worth considering. This always takes a little longer at the beginning, but is very fast once criteria are established.

Responding to the Influencer

Establishing how to respond to an influencer ensures that communication is clear and timely from the start of the relationship.

We recommend creating an automatic email that is sent to an influencer once they fill in the online form, which thanks them for their time and lets them know when we’ll be in touch again. If we’re assessing requests on a Tuesday afternoon, then we’ll set aside a time every Thursday to get in touch with the influencers, and in the automatic email we’ll let the influencer know they can expect to hear from us on Thursday. Establishing clear response times not only ensures that requests are processed in a timely way and don’t languish in inboxes, but it also lets the influencer know that we respect them and their time, and that we understand working with an influencer is a two-way transaction.

If we decide to say “yes” to an influencers request, we send a simple, friendly, agreement form that formalizes the relationship and defines the expectations.

If we say “no”, we make sure to communicate in a way that is friendly and open to the possibility of working together in the future. We also make sure that the brand we’re working with follows the influencer on social media, which indicates that we’re serious about future possibilities.

Reaching Out to Influencers

There’s no need to wait for influencers to make the first move. Set up a process for identifying and getting in touch with influencers that particularly align with your brand. Depending on how aggressive your influencer marketing strategy is, the person that manages the hotel’s social media might identify a few possibilities every week, or they might just keep an eye out.

Set Expectations

Working with a social media influencer is a fairly unique business relationship, but it is a business relationship, and that relationship comes with expectations on both sides.

With each influencer we work with, we establish, in writing, the minimum expectations we have of them and the minimum they should expect from us. For most of the influencers we work with, these agreements are fairly standard. If we develop a longer term relationship, the expectations on both sides become greater and more clearly defined.

Give the Influencer Some Information

If you work in hospitality, the job is to make things easy for people. This is no different. We always create some collateral to give to each influencer that lets them know a bit of background on the brand, the kind of images that would be meaningful to the client, the brand hashtags, and a few key things we think that they – and their followers – might enjoy. We are never prescriptive, because we want influencers’ posts to sound genuine and in line with their brand. However, we also found that if we want to get a message out, the best way to do it was to tell the influencer that message.

Let Your Staff Know

Make sure you have a system for letting the property know when an influencer will be staying. Like any guest experience, the reception should be seamless and the guest greeted by a well prepared staff.

Check it All With Legal

It’s worth mentioning that we have our clients’ legal departments check over all forms, contracts, and collateral before we used anything.

In America, the FTC has outlined guides for endorsements, and has already proven that it’s not afraid to issue warnings. A lot of other countries will have similar guidelines.

Implement Metrics to Measure Success

Establish metrics for recording and measuring the success of each influencer’s stay. We track any uptick in reach, engagement, and follower numbers that results from an influencer’s posts. Tracking the results of each influencer helps us to understand the types of influencers that worked best for our client, refine our influencer marketing strategy for hotels, and gauge the success of influencer marketing compared to our other marketing efforts.

Takeaways

The broad takeaway we want to emphasise is that it is important to put in place policies, procedures, forms, and contracts in order to create an influencer marketing strategy that is considered, consistent, and that presents your brand well.

Below we’ve included a simple  checklist you can use to help in the process of creating and implementing your own strategy. Keep in mind, the checklist is just designed to offer prompts – it’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy!

Good luck!

Download the Checklist

We made a simple free checklist for you to help implement your influencer marketing strategy for hotels. Click on the icon to download the PDF.