The times, they are a-changin’. Or well, should we say, have changed.
Long gone are the days of travel agents windows’ providing us with holiday inspiration and wanderlust. So too are photos of friends sipping cocktails in Seville or kayaking in the Norwegian fjords - now, it’s all about influencers. Travel influencers.
These influencers have bottled the authenticity we all so desire in travel; photos of gorgeous meadows framed by the Dolomites, relaxing above Santorini’s caldera, hiking high above Lake Wanaka in New Zealand. They project an idyllic travel lifestyle and, crucially, provide us with aspiration. In that sense, they’re [the influencers] now the industry’s trendsetters, dictating where’s hot and of course, where’s not.
Working with these influencers in an effective way has never been more important. It also requires a shift from the traditional marketing mindset of prescriptive content/narrative to a more open, collaborative way of working.
The first step is finding the right individual for you and your brand. This is best approached in a qualitative and quantitative way. That is, measuring reach/effectiveness in driving traffic and then tallying this up with the individual’s tone of voice and style, both of which have to go hand-in-hand.
Given the nature of social media there is, of course, no hard-and-fast way of doing this. At mr.h, we use a number of analytical tools to identify the best individuals with regards to reach/demographics/etc. That said, we also occasionally work back-to-front, where we’ll identity an individual with beautiful imagery/copy which are completely on-brand and then retrofit with the analytics.
When collaborating on a project with influencers there’s one golden rule: never compromise their audience. These individuals know what makes their community tick, so listen carefully and mould your content strategy around that. By being ‘brave’ and allowing this creative freedom, you’ll be capturing that desired authenticity that really inspires and captivates consumers.
Last year we ran the #SheepWithAView [SWAV] with our client Visit Norway. The idea was to open fresh, new eyes to the beauty of Norway whilst simultaneously re-inspiring past visitors and lapsed audiences. The focal point of the campaign was Instagram, which is undoubtedly the platform for travel/destination discovery.
Whilst we knew the content we’d shot would work its wonders, we also new that one of our objectives - the aforementioned ‘fresh eyes’ - required another significant driver, from outside the existing networks. Step up, influencers.
Using the above methods, we meticulously selected 10 influencers from across the globe, carefully assessing their style/messaging to ensure they’d be ‘on brand’, whilst almost analysing their actual effectiveness in content: recent post engagement (likes and comments), account growth, and any past examples of brand partnerships. Moreover - and this is the crucial part - we used Pulsar to look at audience overlaps. That is, where these influencers shared the same/similar followers. Rather than our 10 influencers sitting in silos, we knew that shared audiences would result in great campaign messaging frequency, ensuring content wouldn’t get lost in the feed.
We were flexible and fluid in messaging, allowing the influencer’s to create a tone and style that suited them within the campaign framework. This worked wonders. Within 2 months the @SheepWithAView account had nearly 15,000 followers, incredibly high engagement, and reach/impression numbers through the roof.
In this instance, the influencers weren’t the reason why consumers followed the SWAV account but instead, the driver. Their audiences trusted them: “if he/she is prepared to vouch for it, I’ll take a look”. Then, of course, the impetus was on us [the agency] to provide the fresh, engaging content that’d been promised.
Crucially though, its the influencers that first placed their trust in the campaign or, any campaign for that matter. If they believe, their audiences will believe. They’re consumers too, after all.
George Turner, wildlife photographer and digital marketing guru.