Nowadays influencer marketing is a medium hard to ignore, with a recent report finding 86% of marketers in 2017 have used social media influencers in some way, and 92% admitting they found it effective. However what happens when this relationship goes wrong?
Many luxury and independent hotels admit to being inundated with requests from wannabe social media influencers requesting free stays for a couple of posts online. Arguably the most notable experience of the failure in this relationship is that of an Irish hotelier, Paul Stenson issued a ban on bloggers following a row that erupted when he lambasted a YouTuber Elle Darby who tried to obtain a free stay in return for recommending his hotel.
To understand the view of an influencer wishing to initiate a working relationship with a hospitality company, Hotel Owner spoke with a successful micro-influencer to hear about her side of the fence and get our hands on some tips to pass on.
“The blogging/influencer industry is constantly changing so hotels have to ensure that they keep up to date”, says Elvira Abasova, a fashion and beauty blogger with around 500,000 followers on instagram. “Many bloggers now require payment as well as a complimentary stay in return for their time and content, so hotels now need to consider this when sorting press/advertising budgets.”
Back in 2015 the first hotel Abasova and her husband partnered with was a “lovely family-owned five-star” near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. She remarks how, back then, this kind of partnership with social media was “brand new”.
She agreed to four nights in exchange for a blogpost and a couple of Instagram pictures. Instagram was “not a big deal” [in the hotel industry] then and so coverage on it was not something that weighed a lot in the negotiations. A blogpost however was the “perfect option to tell our stay’s story”. And as far as she remembers the experience was “a really good one”, even scheduling a meeting with the hotel PR team to give him some promotional advice after her stay.
Much has changed since then with Instagram now playing a much bigger part in negotiations. For hoteliers wishing to draw the attention of said influencers, Abasova explains she first checks out the hotel’s Instagram feed, its geo-location pictures and pictures the hotel is tagged in – in order to find out if the hotel has “instagram-worthy spots”. She also checks its previous partnerships with influencers and what sort of followers they have before evaluating whether the location is practical before finally searching for the PR contact.
Abasova highlights the biggest and most often-made mistake from hoteliers is checking the number of followers an influencer has over the quality of their work. She points to the fact that some “insta-people” have a huge follower base but post low resolution, iphone-quality pictures or, for example, have makeup-focused or music content. Will the hotel genuinely fit in this feed? If the answer is no then she argues hotels would be better off looking for influencers with fewer followers – micro-influencers – and a more local community. “Micro influencers often have a more conceptual approach and can produce wonderful content and are more open-minded when it comes to the number of due publications,” she says.
The second mistake is thinking less is more; when collaborating with an influencer “less is just less,” she adds. The less effort you make the less return you shall have. The follower base only sees what the influencer posts, everything that is not posted is just a “missed opportunity” to catch the attention of an eventual client.
In her opinion, only around half of hotels fully understand the concept of social media influencers and how to properly deal with them. Most of the hotels she has stayed in already had some experience with influencers, some even had programs drafted and photoshoot location suggestions ready, while a select few were still new to the concept. Generally in this situation Abasova says negotiations take more time, as the exact function of the influencer has to be defined.
But are hotels getting better when working with influencers as time goes on? “For sure they are”, says Abasova. “Once you learn the impact a good picture can have on social media you seldom turn back do you?”
She points to a time when a hotel she had partnered with went well out of its way to provide an “instagrammable experience”. While celebrating her son’s four month birthday by staying in a five-star hotel by the Rhone river in Geneva the hotel team made an “incredible job” going the extra mile equipping the room with all the baby necessities. Also when they arrived back to their suite after dinner they discovered that the room was entirely covered with blue balloons, and at the end of each balloon were pictures of their son. “As you can imagine that was a most instagrammable moment, we posted these pictures on top of the agreed publication amount. I think that’s the strength of a good influencer strategy – creating stories that are too good, too photogenic not to be shared instead of settling for the strict minimum”.
Overall Abasova believes there are two key rules for hotels to follow. Firstly hotels must make sure all the terms of the agreement with an influencer should be precise including how many feed posts? Will there be a InstaStory coverage – if yes, will it be put in highlights and for how long? Is an Instagram takeover (when the influencer posts Stories/Posts directly on the hotel’s account during the stay) an option? Is breakfast included? Can the hotel use the pictures for their social media and/or newsletters? Can the influencer tag some key travel/hotel accounts on the pictures for a repost? And most importantly the hotel must ask that the pictures posted for the collaboration only contain hotel tags and no other brand tags.
“I’ve often seen influencers combine their hotel posts with other deals/partnerships they have, and as you can imagine this is counterproductive,” Abasova points out.
Secondly and most importantly, the hotel team must think strategically – an influencer is a content creator, but they can’t create out of nowhere. The room you chose to give must be luminous as the best hotel pictures are taken in natural light. Upgrade them to a better room if you have the opportunity.
“Believe me, a good room can work wonders. We were once checked in into a very dark room, with a four-poster bed with the curtains broken – on our side it only meant one thing: no pictures in the room, we ended up taking pictures in the lobby only. It is all about the image you want to give of your hotel, what do you want your potential customers to see?
“In the society we live in a good Instagram picture is worth a thousand words, so prepare a bottle of champagne and a cup of fruits, place a handwritten welcome note on the table, put some rose petals on the bed if the influencers are a couple, offer room service breakfast and remember – every detail spared is a missed opportunity for social media reach.”