Marketing to a disengaged audience is about as effective as talking to a stranger on the bus while their earbuds are in. Both approaches are clumsy, ineffective, and susceptible to interruption; your target audience may scroll their thumb past your post just as surely as that bus will lurch around a corner, causing you to forever lose the already tenuous attention of said stranger.
Solutions? Though physically removing that stranger’s ear bud is probably a grave faux pas, one marketing equivalent is straightforward, relatively low budget, and will spare you any of the ensuing discomfort.
Enter micro-influencers. Micro-influencers are bloggers and social media users just like you and me who have cultivated small but mighty followings within a niche market. Through hard work and consistency on their parts, micro-influencers have built a following of anywhere from 500 to 30,000 followers who look to their trusted Instagrammer or blogger for honest product and brand recommendations.
Because of that heightened consumer trust, brands should take the opportunity to establish mutually beneficial partnerships with as many relevant micro-influencers as they can. Brands can partner with micro-influencers to endorse their products or repost branded content in exchange for goods or payment (if you’ve ever seen an Instagram post with #ad included somewhere in the caption, then you’ve seen brand-sponsored content), but more often than not, leaving the micro-influencer to their own expertise in creating original and honest content is a brands best bet. For some micro-influencers, the increased exposure they’ll receive from your brand accounts as they build their followings is payment enough. Building mutually beneficial relationships with brand partners who don’t require a monetary reward is an effective way to create a micro-influencer campaign for budgets of all sizes.
Though we’ve seen this approach to marketing as successful (and wildly popular) for products like retail, hair gummies, and weight loss supplements, can it function within the hospitality industry? At Screen Pilot, we say absolutely. Here are a few ways we’ve done it:
1. You bring the content, they’ll bring the followers.
A relationship with a micro-influencer can be as simple as cross posting either your content or theirs. Here at SP headquarters for a client who’s organic social media we manage, we posted a micro-influencer’s photo of an area attraction to that client’s Instagram profile. We also gave the micro-influencer credit for the photo by tagging them in the caption. That influencer then reposted that caption via their own channels with an accompanying message of thanks to the hotel, which directed their highly engaged followers right back to that hotel’s Instagram profile.
The results? We saw a 58% month over month increase in followers of the brand’s Instagram page, and an engagement rate of 130% on the post immediately following this influencer exchange, compared to a .08% engagement rate on the post immediately prior.
2. All tags point back to you.
A second approach to partnering with micro-influencers is to commission content. Invite them to an exclusive event at the hotel, treat them to dinner or a cocktail from the on-site restaurant and bar, then encourage them to snap away. You’ll receive some high quality, social media friendly photos, not to mention the subsequent social media posts from the influencers in attendance. The same organic social media client from the previous example invited a group of local micro-influencers to their hotel’s grand opening. Those micro-influencers posted a plethora of property photos, but also directed their followers back to that hotel’s profile.
Following this influx of content and users, that hotel’s Instagram profile saw a 456% increase in impressions, a 300% increase in reach, 195 additional profile views, 15 additional link clicks (which directed back to the hotel’s home page), and–pulling out the big guns–a 111% increase in followers and a 272% increase in total engagements.
3. Keep your fingers on your digital pulse.
Make it a priority to get the jump on good content–not the other way around. Keeping an ear to the ground surrounding your social media profiles is a critical way for your social team or social agency rep to detect when you have micro-influencers in your midst–and create a partnership as soon as those opportunities arise.
Since micro-influencers do exist in the world outside of their social profiles, it’s possible that they’ll pop-up at your hotel independent of a partnership curated by you or your social agency. While monitoring relevant hashtags and geotags for another one of our organic social media clients, we discovered a micro-influencer already staying at that resort, one that had even shared with her followers some incredible photos of accommodations and amenities. Though that micro-influencer checked out as soon as she appeared on our radar, had we found her sooner we could’ve capitalized on her personal choice to visit. The resort might have provided her with a customized gift (flowers, room service, etc.) or even upgraded her to a suite to maximize exposure for that resort’s best features. Never forget to always be social with your guests by commenting on their tagged photos, posts with branded tags or hashtags, etc – no matter the size of their following!
Though you may strike it lucky while perusing hashtags and geotags relevant to your hotel, identifying influencers already in your network can be tedious. Instead, utilize platform management tools like Sprout Social, which has a built-in capability to support your influencer discovery efforts. Through their Instagram reporting tool, Sprout Social will aggregate the top influencers who have engaged with your account during a time period of your choosing.
This metric will reflect not only influencers from whom you’ve commissioned content, but it will also provide the Instagram account names for influencers who have recently liked or commented on your posts. Keeping an eye on this tool can aid your search as Sprout Social will do the heavy lifting for you, leaving you free to assess how best your brand can partner with an influencer on that list.
The possibilities are endless when building relationships with micro-influencers, but that does require identifying those micro-influencers first. Ideally, you or your social agency will discover them as soon as they walk through your physical (or digital) door. Though micro-influencers are no substitute for true brand-voice content, they can help expose you to new audiences and put eyes on material that would otherwise be lost in the social media cyclone. Chances are you’re already securing other paid social media placements, so why not set aside funds for a micro-influencer campaign?
Your micro-influencer can do the tricky work of removing the earbud of that stranger on the bus, freeing you to make an introduction. Once you’re speaking directly (maybe even with some eye contact), the possibilities are endless. Your brand deserves that kind of attention.
Have more than a little budget to set aside? Even better. Influencer campaigns are easily scalable and can even drive revenue on behalf of your hotel. Be sure your digital agency is continually pursuing the right partners for your brand, and negotiating on your behalf to secure high quality content and SEO optimization that aligns with your marketing objectives.