Influencer marketing is an increasingly important part of the marketing mix in many industries, and the travel and hospitality industries are two that are making extensive use of influencers.

According to one study, 60% of travelers in the US turn to social media when deciding where to travel, and with that in mind, it’s not surprising that a growing number of travel and hospitality brands large and small are taking advantage of influencer marketing.

Of course, influencer marketing must be well-executed to be effective, and that’s especially true in the most competitive industries.

Here are five tips that can help marketers take full advantage of travel influencers.

1. Choose the right influencers

Marketers selling travel-related services need to ensure that the influencers they work with fit in with their actual clients and guests. Bringing beautiful people to a beautiful location makes for good photos and videos, but it doesn’t necessarily sell.

Marketers should look at the lifestyles and past travels of the influencers they’re considering working with. Are these aligned to the kinds of services offered, and will the influencers be seen as authentic by the target audience?

In addition, marketers are wise to make sure the individuals they’re considering working with are really travel influencers and not popular Instagrammers, YouTubers and bloggers who are simply looking for a free vacation. One hotel was so infuriated by so-called influencers asking it for free stays that it banned them altogether earlier this year.

2. Sell substance, not sizzle

Travel is fundamentally about experience and what makes for the sexiest photo or video isn’t necessarily what best sells an experience. For example, a tour operator would be wise to consider that photos of a pretty vista at the top of a mountain, while appealing, aren’t necessarily going to appeal to target customers more than, say, the tough trek up the mountain.

A lot of travel is about adventure and portraying the adventure with too much polish could be seen as inauthentic and thus diminish the attractiveness of what’s being offered. Where appropriate, marketers shouldn’t be afraid to highlight raw, unfiltered experiences because these are what many prospective travelers actually want to see.

lake-mountain-feet

3. Be careful about setting unrealistic expectations

For obvious reasons, marketers using travel influencers will want the content they post to be amazing and create interest and excitement in what they offer travelers. But there is often a fine line between representing what’s on offer realistically and conveying something that is not reflective of what the average traveler will experience.

For example, if a hotel puts a travel influencer up in a recently-renovated luxury suite that looks nothing like the other rooms in the property, the content the influencer posts will not accurately reflect what most guests are likely to experience. That’s a recipe for disappointment.

4. Respect local culture and nature

Social media has proven to be a powerful driver of tourism, but there’s a dark side to the rise of “travelgramming.” For instance, in some cases, local environments are being harmed by an influx of tourists.

With this in mind, when creating influencer marketing campaigns, it is incredibly important that marketers take care to respect local culture and nature. In fact, because younger consumers are especially concerned about social and environmental causes, and this is known to influence their purchasing decisions, marketers may find that promoting local culture and protecting the environments in which they operate can improve perception of their offerings.

5. Don’t disturb other clients and guests

It is important for travel-related business to ensure that the experience of their other clients or guests does not suffer when they have influencers on-site. For example, if a hotel’s efforts to please a popular influencer come at the expense of other guests, that is a problem.

Marketers should be especially cognizant of this when creating media for their campaigns. Care should be taken with photo and video shoots to ensure that other clients and guests are not unduly inconvenienced. After all, while those guests might not have significant social media followings, it doesn’t mean that their online reviews and social media postings can’t have an impact.

In fact, when it comes to which social media content has the greatest sway, surveys indicate that social media posts from friends and family carry far more weight that posts from influencers.

Learn more

Econsultancy offers social media and influencer marketing training.