Looking for a return on social influencer stays

When the social influencer craze hit our industry, I felt like one of few cynics that didn’t trust that hosting an influencer would result in measureable return for a hotel or resort. Arguments for increased brand awareness due to an influencer’s high volume of followers wasn’t enough to satisfy my skepticism. While I understood the importance of incorporating a social media element into a hotel’s public relations strategy, I wasn’t sold on the idea that hosting an influencer with millions of followers would result in bookings or revenue.

Flickr / Blogtrepreneur
Flickr / Blogtrepreneur

As a tenured hotelier, I recognize that the return on PR and marketing efforts can’t always be monetized. As public relations leader Melanie Brandman recently wrote in her blog The Now, “Success isn’t measured in black and white when influencers can contribute to many outcomes: drive to bookings, engagement, exposure and awareness.”

While it’s true that likes, comments and re-posts are all tangible metrics, Meg Nolan, founder of Friend of a Friend Consulting, has key tactical advice for how to drive revenue as a result of a hosted influencer stay – “I would have the influencer be specific in their tags so that resulting activity is more measurable, i.e., ‘Come here for holidays, order this dish, this chaise at the pool is the best to grab for the day…’ and then you can see the direct impact of their posts on the hotel.”

When engaging with an influencer, a key factor to take into account is not how many followers the influencer has but who those followers are. As with any marketing or PR initiative, the goal should be to reach and speak to your key demographic – the audience who fits your guest profile. If an influencer has 1 million followers, but the majority of them are outside the age range or geographical location of your typical guest, how effective will that influencer’s posts be at attracting business to your hotel? Not very.

Thankfully, social channels are catching on to the need for better analytics and demographical information. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram can now provide follower stats such as age, gender, location and even average income. Now that this information is available, we’ve put the following SOP in place for vetting and approving hosted media and influencer stays:

–       Ensure that any influencer we host provides detailed demographic information that aligns with our guests’

  • The influencer must provide:
    • Gender (% of followers)
    • Age range (% of followers)
    • Top locations – cities and countries (% of followers)

–       Require influencers to provide results from previous brand partnerships

–       Ensure that each influencer’s coverage directly supports our specific, defined business goals

–       Demand that influencers encourage a specific call to action in their coverage (e.g. sign up for emails, follow and like, visit the website)

–       Create booking codes for influencers to promote in their coverage so we can track associated revenue

Going forward, we will ensure that anyone we host a) provides this information as well as results from previous brand partnerships and b) that the demographics of their followers align with our guests’. If an influencer’s coverage will not help us achieve our properties’ specific business goals, they will not be considered. With this vetting method in place, I feel much more confident that we will see a return on influencer stays and partnerships moving forward.