A Measured Approach to Influencer Marketing for Hospitality Brands
There is one fact no hospitality brand can afford to ignore: consumers have totally changed the way they book travel, turning to social media to discover and ultimately purchase their next holiday. Hospitality brands must embrace this new reality or face becoming irrelevant to travelers.
Concretely, for Meliá Hotels International (MHI), social media has become a significant source of traffic for our business. We track the direct impact of bookings coming from social channels into our transactional site. Over the last three years, visits to our site from social media grew from 9% in 2017 to 12% worldwide in 2018, while in Europe that figure increased to 16%. In 2019, we are on track to surpass 23% of our last click traffic coming from social channels.
Our guests are increasingly discovering our properties via social media networks, and we needed to develop ways to reach them outside of our owned channels and typical online marketing actions. As a core pillar of our social strategy, we chose to focus on influencer marketing because influencers can reach and engage with trusted communities, which in turn helps MHI brands expand our audience. Of course, social and influencer marketing specifically, have been notoriously difficult to measure, but certainly not impossible.
At MHI, we’ve developed best practices and implemented technology to enable us to understand the role of social influence across the customer journey. To support our efforts, we implemented Traackr, an influencer marketing platform, which provides the insights and workflow tools required for data-driven influencer identification and relationship building, and feeds analytics into our dashboards.
Insight-Driven Influencer Identification
Much of our success in influencer marketing comes from the changes we’ve made in influencer selection and relationship management. Prior to implementing Traackr and establishing our playbook, we were inundated with influencer requests on a daily basis, but lacked a system to centralize these requests and evaluate each potential partner with data. As a result, we were not taking advantage of the sizeable opportunity in front of us.
Today, we evaluate influencers based on brand, audience and content fit. For each of these areas, we have specific criteria we look for including: audience demographics, audience interests and historic content performance. By concentrating our efforts on strategically identified influencers over the last two and a half years, we have been able to generate more visibility and engagement among our target audiences.
Developing Powerful Relationships with Influencers
Our social media strategy incorporates both brand content and third party content where influencer marketing content and user generated content (UGC) are key. In terms of investment, we do not compensate influencers for staying at our hotels, instead we host them and provide fantastic experiences.
The key to our success is finding relevant influencers who share the same values as the brands we want them to collaborate with creating a seamless connection between the influencers, our brands and hotels and the experience. We work with influencers, content creators and culturalist to produce amazing digital content that is natural and represents the experience that any of our customers can expect to have at our properties.
Leading with Measurement
To measure all of this, we have developed reporting dashboards at the hotel and brand level. We are constantly working towards connecting the dots between brand awareness and digital reputation to repeat bookings via our loyalty scheme Meliá Rewards. We always keep our eye on the ultimate business goals (bookings, reservations at our spas and restaurants) and measure leading indicators including activated influencers, impressions, mentions and engagements.
We also look closely at the engagement rate of our partners, to ensure influencer generated content is resonating with audiences. When we’re working with our business partners across the company, we are transparent about why we’ve selected influencers and what benefits we expect to see, including brand and hotel awareness, increased traffic to our booking website, restaurants, etc.
Influencer marketing is really in its infancy, and I expect it to become more widespread and sophisticated in the next few years. The travel industry in particular will continue to see massive shifts as younger generations push us to find more engaging ways to reach them. From our perspective at MHI, we will continue to refine the definition of an influencer and expand our programs to ensure we remain relevant to tomorrow’s traveler.