Are Influencers an Effective Tool for Marketing Travel?

Hilary Lewkowitz | August 28, 2017


Influencers have been a buzzword for marketing strategists in the travel industry for a number of years. We’ve all seen influencer posts - the inspiring landscapes, beautiful faces and of course a heavy dose of hashtags, likes and comments. When influencer marketing first hit the travel scene, this new strategy was initially implemented with little known about its true value. Now, we know more to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of influencers and refine this marketing strategy in a way that ensures the greatest return on investment (ROI).  


Influencer Successes: In theory it all sounds good

Theoretically, with so many people now using social media for inspiration, tips and more, influencers are the way to reach travelers. A closer look at two social platform giants by the numbers: Facebook active daily users recently surpassed 1.3 billion and Instagram reached 400 million active users per day. In addition to the massive reach influencers can have on social, they can also be a much more affordable option than traditional marketing. Case studies have shown that influencers also have the ability to create a peer network that builds a sense of trust from followers, therefore they are more likely to actually influence behaviors when it comes to travel advice and reviews. Additionally, travel influencers can focus on your target market and potentially have a greater marketing impact, whether that is in the sector of food, adventure, family or luxury travel.


Influencer Challenges: Proving value and ROI

Although the numbers look good, marketers are questioning the measurable impact of this attractive strategy. An influencer is defined as, “someone who affects or changes the way people behave”. So, how does a marketing plan ensure that an influencer is actually influencing? First off, a large following does not correlate with influencing an audience. Oftentimes, influencers with huge followings means they have fake followers and impressions that can actually have negative effects on a marketing campaign. The next challenge in influencer marketing is how to measure whether an influencer was able to affect change. A study conducted by GroupHigh found that marketers struggle to prove the value of influencers partially because of the complex set of metrics and tools needed to track ROI. The more metrics and tools, the more difficult it is to track and analyze results. It is also not the easiest task to pick an influencer that can best represent your brand. The influencer profession promises a dream job of globe trotting, photography and a paycheck. With this potential job description misinterpretation comes influencers who may be more focused on the travel and less on the profession. Although, it can be challenging to find and prove value in an influencer campaign, it can still be a great addition to a travel marketing campaign.


Best Strategies for Using Influencers

Micro-influencers can effectively reach your target audience - with content that is authentic & gains followers’ trust



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someone who affects or changes the way that people behave.


Here are a few ways to avoid influencer pitfalls and make the most of integrating this strategy into your marketing campaign:


Problem: does the influencer best represent my brand?  

Solution: Do your homework. First, establish that the influencer’s interests and posts are relevant to your marketing campaign. Also, make sure influencers are well-established and have a following that matches your target audience. You can do this by reviewing their posts for quality and consistency, checking for organic engagement and evaluating their followers’ demographics.


Problem: How can I find an influencer that will actually affect travelers’ behaviors?

Solution: Micro-influencers have a smaller following, but tend to be more engaged with followers and therefore more likely to influence consumer behaviors. Travelers seek authentic experiences and are more likely to engage online with influencers that are able to exemplify authenticity in their own travels.

Focus on travel segments that predominately use social media for pre-trip decision making. Destination Analysts just released a report that 68% of event and festival travelers used social media in the planning process, with Facebook, Youtube and Instagram as the top three platforms. However, affluent travelers spend less time on social and pay more attention on print materials when planning a trip.


Problem: How can I track and prove the ROI of my influencer?

Solution: Before you even think about hiring an influencer, make sure you have a strategy that sets your campaign up for success. A marketing campaign should have a clear set of objectives, goals and a set of measurements. Also, make sure your measurements are not so complex that it will be too time-consuming to effectively measure and analyze results.

If it fits your campaign, think about offering a discount code your influencer can use, which can then create a quantifiable measurement for sales success. In a recent Travel Weekly article, Quark Expeditions and influencers, the planet D, revealed their success in giving readers a 5% discount on trips to track website referrals and sales.


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