Influencer Fraud: Recognizing Key Red Flags

By Gio Palatucci Director of Social Media Services, Sparkloft Media | February 10, 2019

Vacation planning was once a meticulous process of flipping through Lonely Planet and Rick Steves books, or sitting down with a travel agent to finalize regimented tours. Today's social-focused guests learn more about potential vacation prospects with a swipe of their finger, whether searching for unique tourism locations, food options or beautiful hotel lobbies. Some even go as far to find the perfect Instagram-worthy vacation photo opportunities. 

Social media has thinned the line between elite travel businesses and consumers of all travel means and ambitions. In 2017, 87 percent of millennials said they looked at some form of social media for travel inspiration; two-thirds visited a destination after seeing it on Instagram. The rise of social media has fundamentally changed hospitality. It's important to not just embrace the continued influence of social media, but to also keep up with the demanding fingers of potential guests scrolling through their feed, looking for their next travel-inspiring post. Today, simply posting a photo here and there is not going to pass as a social media campaign for any hospitality brand. 

Millennial travelers in particular, seek out content from users they feel they can trust, whether it is a peer or celebrity. Yes, developing strong video and photo content, and understanding your targeted audiences through appropriate social media analytics will certainly help raise awareness, but one of the most influential ways to deliver the message of your hotel's amenities and overall offering is to develop a comprehensive, inviting and well-thought "influencer" program to tell your brand's story from a third-party, or "outsider" view. 

If you have read any social media tactics article or participated in an influencer marketing conference recently, a key term you will certainly come across is "authenticity." It is what marketers love and value about influencers-the genuine conversation and engagement they generate from their captivated and impressionable followers. A social post from a trusted account can feel more authentic than a review in a magazine, and is more substantial than word of mouth. 

The formula of a social media influencer is something the hospitality industry is all too familiar with - a social media personality, with perfectly posed Instagram photos will seamlessly highlight their favorite location, event, or place to party/relax, while maintaining a certain authenticity and reaching the perfect audiences. 

You may now be thinking to yourself, "Haven't there been incidents where fake or poorly chosen influencers resulted in negative headlines for our industry?" Yes, a less-than-comprehensively managed influencer marketing campaign can bring to light a range of unfortunate results, from rogue content to social media attacks and damaging PR meltdowns. 

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.