How can travel brands get the most out of influencers?

How can travel brands get the most out of influencers?

Simon Condon, Deputy MD in MSL’s Consumer practice looked at the digital and media trends and insight extracted from World Travel Market at ExCeL, which saw 50,000 exhibitors and delegates plan and predict how we’ll be travelling tomorrow.

Few sectors have been as quick and enthusiastic to embrace influencer marketing as the travel industry. With this in mind, the revelation at this year’s WTM that many of those labelled influencers are not converting visibility of product into actual bookings, of course, prompts a robust debate.

An article that appeared on WTM’s blog that highlighted digital influencers were having little impact on the holiday choices of the British public quickly vanished after it was published — prompting people of Twitter to wonder if there had been a backlash from the online blogging community or perhaps the agencies peddling influencers challenged this perspective. Nonetheless — the stats speak for themselves. 

According to the show’s annual survey of more than a thousand British holidaymakers, 8 out of 10 said they never took into account influencers’ opinions.

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Only 3% of those polled said that digital influencers were a relied-upon source of recommendation when it came to actually choosing then booking how and where to holiday.

The survey’s results no doubt came as a shock to members of the digital community who are undeniably influential. But the debate continues as to whether the YouTubers and Instagrammers with tens of thousands of followers or even millions of eyeballs on them, actually go on to influence purchasing decisions when it comes to those all-important conversions — particularly the vloggers and ’grammers with younger audiences. In an era of transparency, consumers want to be able to trust what they’re being told — or else they’ll switch off, and possibly turn away forever.

The debate around the effectiveness of influencer marketing is not unique to the travel industry. The Australian government announced a ban on using digital influencers after it uncovered that hundreds of thousands of dollars had been spent on influencer projects, yet some of the influencers who were recruited to advocate healthy, active lifestyles were also promoting brands ranging from alcoholic drinks to weight loss pills.

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However, other organisations such as Visit California are much more confident in the effectiveness and impact of influencer marketing. The tourism board’s Digital Influencer Advisory Board was one of the first public bodies to set guidelines for tracking return on investment and developing long-term partnerships (source: SKIFT).

The reality remains that the use of influencers can make a big impact to a travel brand’s marketing communications but only where the necessary rigor and due diligence is applied  to ensure ROI and efficacy. It comes down to whether brands are 1. working with the right influencer in the first place and 2. If the content really engages with the target audience.

MSL has developed PRISM, a bespoke scoring methodology to select influencers for brands based on campaign objectives. The methodology is a full qualitative and quantitative analysis of influencers using online tools and a team of insightful humans to recommend which influencers brands will get results from. It is based on three metrics which we believe are integral to choosing spot on influencers; relevance, authenticity and authority.

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Total travel sales are expected to fall just short of US$2.5 trillion by the end of 2018 and for travel brands to influence purchasing decisions in 2019, they need to sound human, demonstrate expertise, and articulate how the experiences they offer are better than those of their competitors. And meaningful partnerships with the right influencers can help with this.

Contributors

Portraits_Circular_Simon_Condon

Simon Condon

Deputy Managing Director, Consumer

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