Opinion

Influencer marketing in the travel sector: Booming ROI or bubble fit to burst?

Ahead of his panel discussion at Mumbrella Asia's upcoming Travel Marketing Summit on April 16 in Singapore, Visual Amplifiers' Aaron Brooks takes a deep dive into the booming influencer marketing industry and looks at what now lies ahead

I get it, the rapid rise of influencer marketing makes some people anxious.

Singaporean influencer Andrea Chong modelling for Mango

Influencer marketing growth on Instagram is predicted to be $1.7 billion industry this year (up from $700 million in 2016 and $1.2 billion in 2017) and is projected to grow to a $2.3 billion industry by 2019.

The development of this new advertising channel makes some people hope that it’s just a bubble that’s bound to burst because it challenges the current status quo.

Of course, resistance to fast-paced change is nothing new.

I’ll bet people thought TV would never catch on and that radio was enough. Or that the telephone was a fad that would never replace the telegram.

The medium has seen a very healthy start to 2018 with 90 per cent of marketers expecting to launch influencer campaigns this year.

The main question from brands now is no longer whether it works. The focus has shifted to marketers working out what the most effective ways of leveraging the channel are.

One thing that will never change is that people are voyeuristic by nature. We live vicariously through others and are attracted to technology that enables this.

Actors on television turned into reality TV, which turned to social media and eventually became influencers. You can trace the ancestry.

The rise of influencer marketing is a natural evolution of any content channel. Engaging content has always attracted advertising. This is just its latest iteration. 

Perhaps it would be a bubble fit to burst if influencer marketing was solely about reach. Reach is cheap and focusing all marketing efforts on this alone is a race to the bottom. Even engagement (likes and comments) are easily gained when you’ve hired the right talent.

So far, reach and engagement have been the main indicators of influencer marketing success.

The way for marketers to report back ROI. This is the advertising equivalent of looking through a key hole when you could just open the door.

Or being shown a fragment of a Picasso piece when you could see the whole thing. We see the next phase of influencer marketing’s evolution in a measure of quality content and efficient process – facilitated by technology. This is what is going to help make it scalable and give brands the greatest returns.

But already, in the space of just a couple of years, influencer marketing has developed into a sophisticated marketing channel in its own right that marketers aren’t just trying out because it’s trendy but putting aside considerable budget for 2018 as an integral part of their marketing mix.

We consistently see Influencer produced content out-performing brand produced content. The insatiable demand for new, relatable content by consumers will see brands thinking more like influencers in how they tell stories and gain a loyal following.

We’ve already seen Facebook and Instagram legitimise Influencers and Content Creators in the features they have introduced to help these leading creatives on their channels. The Paid Partnership feature, shoppable posts and the ability to include a link in Instagram stories to name a few.

There’s no sign of the Instagram growth failing either, now at 800 million people with 53 per cent of users following brands. So, no, the booming ROI we see with influencer marketing is not a bubble about to burst.

It won’t remain static either – nothing does anymore – and change is doubtlessly on the horizon. We will see it evolve and the technology will become more sophisticated to facilitate it. 

Aaron Brooks is the co-founder of the influencer agency Visual Amplifiers – he will be speaking at Mumbrella Asia’s inaugural Travel Marketing Summit in Singapore on April 16

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