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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Coming up in June 2018...

Sales & Marketing: Opinions Matter

Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors manage a complex mix of strategies to attract and convert customers into guests. Part of their expertise includes an awareness of customer behavior during the reservation process, so they can make sure their hotel is favorably positioned. One such trend is the growing popularity of travel review sites. According to one recent survey, 61% of prospective customers consult online reviews in order to validate information about the hotel before making a purchasing decision. Another survey found that the average hotel customer reads between 6-12 reviews across 4-10 properties before making a final decision on where to stay. Similarly, other studies have shown that consumer reviews are a more trusted source of information for prospective customers than other kinds of marketing messaging. In fact, reviews are often considered to be as influential as price regarding whether a customer decides to complete a purchase or not. Plus, travel sites with the most reviews - including recent reviews from satisfied customers and thoughtful responses from staff - were also found to be the most appealing. So having positive reviews on a travel website is essential and can help to increase a hotel's conversion rates dramatically. Of course, there are all kinds of additional marketing strategies for sales and marketing directors to consider - the importance of video and the emergence of live streaming; the implementation of voice search; the proliferation of travel bots; and the development of Instagram as an e-commerce platform. 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.