Opinion

There is so much more to a travel influencer’s success than just sales and bookings

Ahead of her panel discussion at Mumbrella Asia's upcoming Travel Marketing Summit on April 16 in Singapore, travel influencer and digital marketer Mar Pages argues brands need to take a less constricted approach to determining their social successes

Influencers are increasingly a critical part of brand-building and marketing efforts.

Although still relatively new, the explosion of influencer content has rightly got marketers excited. However, the more brands set their sights on influencers, the more they overlook how to really measure their success. 

Thanks to the tracking tools available, brands are now able to apply performance-based advertising measures to all digital channels, even to influencers. This quantitative measure is perfectly fine on the surface, but in reality this approach is far too narrow.

The value of a properly managed influencer marketing campaign goes far beyond directly attributable sales and marketers need to recognise that.

Determining an influencer’s success

Before influencer marketing took flight, brands used a combination of traditional marketing channels (print, television and public relations) plus online search and display advertising, in order to reach their goals.

These goals were not merely geared towards sales, but also towards creating awareness and building positive earned media value. All key elements of any comprehensive marketing campaign. As an influencer and marketing consultant in the field, I am able to see the impact campaigns generate for brands and an in-depth understanding of the challenges for both parties.

For example, when one of my clients, a new hotel booking site, recently launched an influencer marketing campaign, they assigned the same sign-up and booking values as they were using for online advertising through Google AdWords.

Essentially, the brand calculated the cost of acquisition of every new customer via AdWords and assigned each influencer a target number of sign-ups, and bookings, accordingly. That is, if each new booking cost $50 of AdWords spend and an influencer was paid $500 for the campaign, they expected 10 bookings from that influencer. They set their time frame at 60 days after publication and measured the success as such. While this is a fairly straightforward measure of value, the calculation is far too limiting.

By accounting only for the bookings, brands reduce the influencer marketing campaign to the same financial goals as a performance campaign and neglect to account for all the additional value a campaign generates and which a cost per click campaign would not provide. Furthermore, a timeframe of just 60 days is too short, especially in the case of SEO-optimised blog posts on high authority sites – which will continue to bring new readers every month.

Instead, the value of an influencer campaign in travel should be calculated as a sum of the following elements:

Positive PR value

Brands who engage influencers for campaigns do so as today’s alternative to running press releases or inviting journalists to write about them – although both are often run in parallel.

A professional influencer, like a journalist, will ensure that their article is objective and reviews and an honest reflection on the brand, highlighting the pros and the cons. If the brand chooses influencers who align with their values, the result is almost certainly positive.  

An influencer review, unlike a TV or print ad, will remain online for as long as the influencer is in business – provided that was part of the terms of the engagement – and will be a positive reinforcement to anyone searching for the brand online.

As opposed to a neutral press release, a review from a thought leader can transform a brand’s otherwise impersonal advertising into a personalised and authentic endorsement. As for any PR campaign, the value is not only in the awareness and reach generated, but also on the positive effect of being seen among respected and credible peers.

Earned influencer marketing

The world of bloggers and influencers is global but tightly organised by niche. We all know each other and we are all part of a number of Facebook groups and forums where findings are shared and recommendations given.

If a brand is a true fit for the influencer and the selection process was done correctly, a paid campaign can turn into earned marketing as the influencer continues to use and recommend the brand’s product after the campaign is over.

This earned influencer marketing cannot be measured by the brand and will probably go unnoticed. But it should be noticed. Such positive collaboration from influencers to their peers has the potential for an incredible domino effect. Your influencer’s own followers are not the only ones in the picture frame. 

Awareness and impressions

A quantitative measure of success focused on the end sales result neglects to assign value to the most obvious benefit of any marketing effort: Brand awareness. This is particularly important in travel and for a new start-up for two reasons.

First, a hotel booking is a long purchase process. The customer first needs to have a holiday opportunity, find a travel companion, fix dates, book leave, decide on a destination and finally choose the booking site, most likely based on price and convenience, but also habit.

Unlike other industries like fashion or make-up, where purchases are of a more impulsive nature, travel has a long purchase funnel.

It is unlikely that just by being recommended a new hotel booking site with the best prices, one will book travel straightaway. The consumer need to be convinced to try it out and, indeed, find better rates for their dates and destination. If a 60-day period is used, many bookings will fall outside of that period. Moreover, when the customer is ready to book, they may simply remember or look for the booking site and then simply type the URL on the search bar, instead of clicking on the blogger’s link.

Second, the rule of seven suggests that consumers need to hear a brand’s message six times before taking action and buying. For a start-up with limited awareness, making itself known should be the primary objective and measure of impact. With influencers, this can be done more easily because the marketing mix can include an article and social media posts.

Lifetime of a blog post

A savvy travel blogger engaged in an influencer campaign will try to write an SEO-optimised sponsored post that can not only fulfil the requirements of the campaign but also generate long term readership for them. To do so, they will target certain keywords and try to rank high on Google’s results when a search in made. This is a value created for the brand which is often overlooked.

An SEO-optimised post will be a source of lifetime traffic for the brand. Izea published the results of a study which showed that an average blog post attracts 72 per cent of its lifetime traffic within the first month after publication and 90 per cent after 10 months.

By limiting the impact calculation to 60 days, my client omitted a large percentage of the lifetime traffic and bookings generated by the article.

Beyond a sale

The impact of influencer marketing campaigns in the travel industry should be calculated as a sum of several elements tracked during a longer period of time.

Short-term bookings are a significant part of the value generated, but there are other direct and indirect elements that should be added when measuring the return on investment of an influencer marketing campaign, and which will probably outweigh the immediate sales value.

Mar Pages is a travel influencer, digital marketer and the founder of Once in a Lifetime Journey. She will be speaking at Mumbrella Asia’s inaugural Travel Marketing Summit in Singapore on April 16 

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