We work with a number of tourism operators who regularly receive requests from ‘social media influencers’ requesting free or discounted accommodation or services. Because mileage can definitely vary, we have put together our guide for how to respond to these requests.
Doing our research, we were impressed with what YHA had to say on their site. https://www.yha.co.nz/about/work-with-us/influencer-guidelines
We agree with everything they have mentioned, and want to expand on a few things plus add some of our own recommendations.
1) Consider setting some parameters in advance
It's going to help you a lot if you have a standardised approach. For example, if you are an accommodation business being approached for free nights, you might want to specify you only do this at certain times of year and certain days of the week – ie the quiet times! So that might be the winter months (depending on where you are located) and mid-week for example. Be specific about this, after all they are looking for a favour from you, so it needs to work for your business.
2) Check their approach
Keep in mind that the value you might receive as a business will depend on how effectively the influencer communicates about your property, what channels they use and if they provide any content or links that have lasting value.
So for example, if they put a bunch of stories about you in their Facebook or Instagram stories, or on Snapchat – these are temporary, will disappear in 24 hours unless managed properly and in reality are really of limited benefit.
3) Ensure they include your @handle when they post
In order to make the most of them posting to their Stories, make sure they include your Instagram handle in each of those posts. NZ influencer Simone Anderson is very good and consistent about doing this for the businesses she shares on her accounts, as an example.
If the influencer doesn’t do this in the Story, then there is no way you can share that content across into your own Story or save it in your Highlights for future benefits. If however, they do use your Instagram handle, that makes it easy for you to re-share it, tag them back if you like, and save them to your Highlights.
Also ensure that if they are posting to their own pages on Facebook for example, that the post is public and that they tag in your business page so you can re-share it easily on your own account.
4) Rights to use images and video
Ensure you mention that you would like the opportunity to re-use or repost any content they create about their experience with your business. So if they post to their public social channels pics of themselves enjoying your accommodation, products or services, you should be able to use these images without any cost to you, across your own channels and website as you wish.
5) Regularly review and assess value
You might decide for example, to say yes to influencers who want to stay with you during a three month period in your year. At the end of that period, assess what you think the benefit has been to your business and work through the pros and cons. Basically you are aiming to work out if they delivered value.
6) Look for any added value opportunities
Is the influencer offering you any specific marketing opportunities or collabs? This is a very common thing that many of the bigger influencers will do – i.e. a giveaway that is effectively sponsored by your business and perhaps some other businesses, that they promote to their followers (and you to yours).
Entry is normally by way of people following all pages involved and tagging their friends in the comments of the post. Each tagged comment is another entry. This can be an effective way to gain more followers for your channels and raise awareness of your brand or business.
If this can be done in conjunction with the influencer visiting your business to stay, or consuming your product and talking about it on their channels, it will have more impact and be more likely to result in their followers engaging with your business too.
A social media "take over" with an influencer can also work well. They temporarily take over your account for the day (this works well on Instagram) and post regularly to your Stories and to your feed/page during that day.
Normally they will promote the takeover to their own followers in the day or two beforehand so people know to go and find them in your account. They might also do an IG live video while they are taking over your account, or perhaps an IGTV video that is posted to your feed.
7) Check out their followers to see if they are a good fit
Being aware of the kind of content this influencer normally posts and their follower demographic can also be worth the time to review.
The other thing to look for is the level of engagement they get on their posts and whether the comments look like they are from actual people or from bots (many people use bots to increase their follower numbers – they set them up to make a standard comment across all accounts, so these can be easy to spot).
8) Ensure you engage with them to maximise value
If you have agreed to provide free or discounted accommodation or services, don’t just say yes and forget about it.
Make sure the dates they are staying are highlighted in your calendar and make a point of engaging with them personally when they arrive.
Do your best to ensure they get the most out of the experience, including pointing out anything that might be particularly photogenic or Instagrammable.
And of course, get pics of yourself or members of your team engaging with them too. When you post your own images that include them, always make sure you tag them, so they can re-share as well.
9) Will this work for you?
If your business isn’t very active on social media, then you will get less benefit from this exchange of services. You might be better off only saying yes to travel bloggers with good traffic to their sites who will give you a nice backlink to your website for example.
10) Make a plan
If you really want it to work well, we recommend developing a specific strategy for engaging with influencers that would include not only your response to those who approach you, but would also include you (or your agency) identifying bloggers and influencers that you would like to reach out to.
Having a combination of both means you can shape something that is of maximum benefit to your business. You might even find you can build a relationship with a few influencers that can be ongoing and of mutual benefit.
For more advice about developing your influencer marketing plan, get in touch with our digital strategists and we can help you put an effective strategy together.
If you are considering pro-actively approaching influencers who have strong followings in your target audiences, we highly recommend reading this article from Sproutsocial which takes you through the process of identifying if the accounts you are considering are in fake or genuine.