It seems that travel brands that use influencer marketing have their work cut out for them; not only are Canadians across all demographics interested in travel, but they also actively seek out information about their trip, spending over a month consuming content before making a purchase. They read reviews, compare packages and carefully gather information before finally checking out. Influencer marketing, which mobilizes online personalities that consumers follow to promote a brand, creates enormous potential to reach travelers by serving up highly targeted content as they move through the purchase funnel. Influencer marketing has a legacy of success in other markets—but have travel marketers really nailed it yet? Many brands utilize the influencers’ reach with the content they produce, but they fall short on the most valuable resource influencers provide: engagement. At Gaggi Media, we feel that travel marketers can optimize their influencer strategies by leaving behind these three common mistakes that are limiting their potential.
- Stuck in the TripAdvisor model
Many brands are stuck in the consumer review-based model and haven’t built upon it. Although brands are using influencers, at the heart of the campaign is creating highly visible positive reviews. Hotel chains or airlines pay for the influencer to experience their service and to write an ‘objective’ review of it. Marketers who stay in the review model with their influencer strategies miss enormous opportunities that influencer marketing can offer. Influencers have the potential to create dynamic, engaging experiences for viewers and can forge relationships with the brand. Marketers can build upon their media strategy and craft a strategy around influencers, as opposed to using the influencer inside the current model. Without engagement, marketers may as well put a box ad on the influencer’s blog page at a fraction of the cost.
- Influencer flings, Not Relationships
Some of the best examples of effective influencer marketing lie within the fashion and beauty sphere, where brands embrace the impact of bloggers on consumer trends. Marketers have even begun hiring influencers to leverage their online exposure. Susie Lau (Style Bubble) works with H&M, Urban Outfitters and Gap. UK beauty vlogger, Zoella has used her influencer status for good as an ambassador for the mental health organization Mind.
While influencer marketing is most effective as a long-term strategy, many travel marketers are only using influencers for short-term gains. There are no (or very few) brand ambassadors in travel marketing like those in beauty. Many brands utilize the influencers’ reach by creating advertorials and paying them to post pictures or content, but they fall short on utilizing influencers for engagement. Over time, paid posts erode influencers’ credibility because consumers can distinguish between paid and authentic content. Taking the time to build relationships with influencers and leveraging influencers’ relationships with their viewers is costly and time consuming, but it produces more authentic content which pays dividends in the long run.
- Thinking of Influencers as a Hard Sell
Some brands in the travel industry are focusing their efforts on making it easier to book their services. Brands are partnering with influencers to share posts that, when clicked, will send the user a link to book their service. Instagram, a stronghold for travel influencers, does not allow clickable links within photo captions which inhibits easy access to a brand’s site from the platform, making this strategy an innovative way to optimize the mobile app. However, while breaking down barriers that stand between the shopper and the check-out cart is undoubtedly important, it’s not the reason consumers seek influencer content. This isn’t about trying to shoehorn people into a cookie-cutter vacation, but rather trying to optimize the consumers’ experiences. Brands who focus on ease of purchase are utilizing their reach, but not their influence.
Reaching the Digital Traveler
Today’s traveler is a hyper-informed, digital media omnivore and marketers need to build strategies to respond to what consumers are using digital media for while they travel through the purchase funnel. Canadians typically travel outside the country for leisure more than twice the rate per capita as Americans (Global Tourism Watch)—but they are not impulsive shoppers. A study by Expedia revealed that travelers worldwide view an average of 38 websites in the 45 days leading up to their purchase (Expedia.ca: A Traveler’s Path To Purchase). How they finally come to hit that ‘buy’ button depends heavily on the content they find online. Travelers use PC and mobile devices interchangeably while they read reviews, compare packages and book tours. Switching devices could limit the effectiveness of digital ad content—but not if the advertising is inside the content they are viewing. Capturing a consumer’s attention with tailored content in a format that is relevant across devices is imperative to reaching travelers.
Influencer marketing has many undeniable benefits: it responds to the online behavior of travelers; it can be used in just about any social network, some of which are device-specific, while others are relevant across platforms; and it serves up highly targeted, unskippable content to an audience that is already seeking information. But that doesn’t mean influencers are a silver bullet—an influencer marketing campaign requires a well-planned strategy to reap maximum rewards. Marketers can maximize the potential of their campaign by utilizing their media agency during its ideation to power it into more than just a tactic, but a long-term brand strategy.