Bloggers vs Blaggers – where’s the value for you?
Today, the power of digital influencers is undeniable, and many businesses have seen monumental success based on the right person being photographed in a particular venue, or with a particular product.
Celebrity endorsements are of course nothing new to the marketing world. For decades we’ve seen famous faces helping to sell everything from sports shoes, perfumes, cars and even endorsing soda drinks (that deep down we know they don’t really drink). The twist for recent years has been the rise of digital influencers, bloggers and video bloggers (vloggers), who are not famous in the traditional terms, as they’re not sports stars or singers but instead are well known for living their life online for all their adoring fans to enjoy. We know that word of mouth marketing beats everything else hands down because as consumers, we tend to trust someone we know and like far more than a flashy tv advert or glossy magazine ad. Today we see the rising powerhouse as a crossover between the two, getting (digital) word of mouth recommendations from the online influencers who we feel like we know, like and trust.
The subject of digital influencers in hospitality has become a hot topic so far this year due to the controversy that’s been dubbed #BloggerGate. Vlogger Elle Darby made headlines after approaching a Dublin hotel to request a free stay in exchange for a shout-out on her social media channels. The owner of The White Moose Café didn’t take the request well and responded via Facebook with a scathing retort and the story went around the world, raising the whole question of what influencers can reasonably request in exchange for ‘exposure’. The situation appeared to divide the nation, with many angered at the very suggestion a blogger could propose such a request, whilst thousand’s of other’s feeling she has been dragged out for nothing short of a fair and proper business proposal. The truth is that today the power of digital influencers is undeniable, and many businesses have seen monumental success based on the right person being photographed in a particular venue, or with a particular product. Having the eyeballs of thousands of influencees is powerful and can be life-changing for any sized business. As someone who’s worked with influencers for nearly a decade, I’ve of course received a few ‘cheeky’ requests in my time, but the onus really is on the business or venues to check each influencer individually to gauge their genuine following and brand fit. We need to ask if the opportunity is from a well-connected blogger or simply a blagger? All is sometimes not what it seems with fake numbers of followers or inflated ideas of true brand impact. If you are in the camp of wanting to work with an influencer and attract their audience as part of your marketing strategy, how do you do it to guarantee a return on investment and protect the authenticity of your brand in the long run?
Becoming the talk of the town
Working with influencers can have a huge impact on top-line sales because consumers are favouring content that feels more authentic and less ‘forced’. The message feels like a recommendation from a friend rather than a marketing campaign. Both brands and creators can optimise this to supercharge their influencer marketing tactics. Instead of creating content for the sole reason of advertising, both sides can work together to create fun, unique content that doesn’t fall through the cracks of a quality-first social algorithm like Facebook or Instagram. Collaborating on a product or event that gets everyone involved excited can be a great way to go.
Understand your audience
This is key when looking to work with an influencer as it is not a one size fits all solution. What audience do you want to attract and why will they love what it is you have on offer? Identify the right influencers based on their location, their following, their passions and the other brands they have worked with. Collaboration should always feel authentic and not be forced or fake. Try to find someone who resonates with your brand, and who shares the same core values as your business and who your existing audience will connect with as well.
Both you and the influencer should work together and create a strategy that suits both parties. From the business’s point of view, you can explain your aim for the campaign, and the creator can build a deeper connection with their audience, increasing the campaigns’ success. Influencers know their audience better than anyone and should have a good grasp of the sort of content that they respond best to. For this reason, try not to be too prescribed in your approach. Be open to ideas, and involve the influencer as early on in the creative process as possible. Allow the relationship to be a two-way partnership, and the influencer will respect you more for that, as well as the campaign being more successful and impactful.
Create a plan
Be specific about the amount of creative content they will provide. Is it one vlog? Three Instagram Stories? A blog post? How much promotion will they put behind the creative? Get a good understanding of their past successes, too. What was the promotional budget around previous campaigns? Understand the tangible results you should expect. For a collaboration to work well, all parties need to have a clear understanding of what support or resources are required to make a successful campaign. Be clear on what the markers of success look like for your venue. From ticket sales, reservations, walk-ins, online engagement or sales of a particular cocktail or dessert, whatever it is, engineer it into the campaign and be prepared to measure the results.
The biggest frustration I see when collaboration’s have not gone well is there was a lack of metrics to prove or disprove the success of a campaign. In the past, influencer marketing has been treated as a fad that brands used to promote their business with no way to track its’ success. Be clear about what your influencer collaboration needs to achieve for your business. If it’s sales, be sure that you are able to track those sales, and if it’s an alternative call to action you need to be able to distinguish the impact an individual influencer is having, from other marketing activity.
Working with an online influencer can when planned and executed well, transform the successes of a new or existing venue. Regarding #BloggerGate, even though the request for a free stay was far from welcomed (the owner has now gone on to put a blanket ban on all bloggers from his establishment) Darby’s response video has now been viewed 2.6 million times, while The White Moose Café’s Facebook post equally has had hundreds of thousands of reactions, comments and shares. Both parties have made headlines internationally, showing that even when partnerships don’t go to plan, a social media storm can make all involved famous, proving there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Joy Zarine is a marketing and hospitality consultant from London, UK. For over ten years Joy
has developed hospitality businesses to stand out, scale-up and be remembered for all the right
reasons. With a focus on guest experience and marketing, both online and in-person she has
launched and developed multiple award-winning brands across the country.
Joy is also the author of the best selling book ‘The Five Star Formula. Create Incredible Guest
Experiences That Lead To Five Star Reviews And An Award-Winning Hospitality Business’.