Is a Social Media Influencer a Friend, Competitor, or Business Partner?

By Mary Gendron Senior Vice President / Managing Director, Eric Mower & Associates | February 11, 2018

There is a new and untapped market for group stays. It is called social influencer travel. Yes, the social media influencer whose connections started virtually is now taking those relationships off social media platforms into the real world – the world of travel. They are planning group excursions related to their subject matter expertise and they are creating experiences that appeal to their constituents, particularly Millennials.

This market has naturally evolved from the early days of social media engagement where individuals, ranging from celebrities to everyday people, began experimenting with the new platforms and succeeded in becoming magnets for friends, fans and followers. Their voices, points of view, whereabouts, images and opinions attracted the like-minded who shared posts with other like-minded connections. Their numbers and Klout scores grew, and they became acknowledged by others, and recognized themselves, as influencers.

The early days of social media were met with trepidation by many in the hotel industry who, based on content posted by others, recognized that the ability to control their brand – whether flagged or independent – could be slipping through their fingers.

Early influencers could appear to be friends to hotels – posting positive reviews enhanced with Emoji love. If the experience was less than perfect – or, worse, a perfect disaster – negativity could go viral, causing damage to the brand and setting up an adversarial relationship -- influencer as foe.

Today, reported hotel experiences still run the gamut in social media, but, fortunately, best practices have been put into place. Typically, a critical review or comment can be quickly taken off line for mediation and resolution. The niggling negativity needn't go viral when a hotel "misses" in satisfying a guest.

Travel Influencers Take Off

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.