Leveraging Influencer Marketing to Drive Success in Your Travel Business
Written By Cris De Souza, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Nexion LLC
Eighty two percent of customers prefer recommendations from trusted people versus other forms of advertising. Traditional word-of-mouth marketing is certainly tried and true – influencer marketing, the new buzz in the travel industry, takes word of mouth to a whole new level. Leveraging influencers in your travel agency business and social media strategy is an easy and highly lucrative way to set yourself apart from the competition and drive new business to your door step.
We all know that customer demand drives business. We also know that customers’ values, preferences and expectations are not universal or fixed; clients expect a personalized, authentic experience tailored to them specifically. This is never truer than in the travel industry.
We also know that travel conjures up many emotions, from stress and anxiety to wonder and excitement. The best marketing campaigns in the travel space play on all of these themes. Influencer marketing brings the emotions and authenticity to the forefront through influencers who offer insights that make travel rewarding.
The ins and outs of influencer marketing
Word-of-mouth recommendations – as well as criticisms – are prevalent on social media and can certainly make or break a small business. Your travel agency is no exception, so you definitely want to focus on gaining as many positive reviews and comments as possible. One of the easiest ways to do this is through influencer marketing. Influencers are people who are active on social media and blogs. They are also brand advocates and niche promoters, and they drive awareness and action to you and your business in the form of leads and customers.
Here’s an example: You don’t usually trust a person at a party who comes up to you and boasts about all the great things he’s done and why you should be friends. You do, however, believe a mutual friend who vouches for that person. An influencer is the mutual friend connecting your brand with your target clients.
According to Nielsen, 92% of social media users trust brand advocates, or citizen influencers, while only 18% trust celebrities, or VIP influencers. Citizen influencers are typically satisfied customers who simply wish to help out family and friends. They are genuinely passionate about the brand, as they have had a positive personal experience with it. They typically do not expect any form of compensation for sharing their experiences; they’re simply motivated by the desire to make recommendations to those they know. Most importantly, relationships with these influencers result in long-term benefits for brands.
Simply defined, influencer marketing develops relationships with internal and industry experts with active networks to co-create social media content that helps drive measurable business goals. Influence is the ability to affect action.
Why do I need influencer marketing in my travel business marketing strategy?
Because consumers trust recommendations from other consumers, when you align with influencers, you’re bringing their audience – and their audience’s network – straight to you and your business. This audience loyalty drives traffic to your agency website, increases your social media exposure and sells your travel expertise and services through their recommendation, story or images about their travel experience.
In fact, influencer marketing is becoming one of the most effective ways to attract new customers. Gone are the days of advertising in the Yellow Pages. Today’s consumers want to research a brand on their own and hear about it from someone they trust.
What’s more, there usually is no cost to using influencers in your marketing strategy, except for the time devoted to nurturing these relationships. Influencers generate content about your brand – your travel agency business – by inserting themselves into conversations and making recommendations through social media channels.
Where can I find ideal influencers and what should they post?
A true influencer is passionate about your services and the experiences you helped create as their travel professional. This passion spreads to those who read their words and see their travel photos or videos, which results in leads for your travel business. Therefore, your goal is to get as much content from happy customers through your social channels as possible!
So, how do you do this, you ask?
One way is to research bloggers, Youtubers, Instagramers, etc., on social media who match your niche or specialty. If you specialize in outdoor or adventure travel, for example, look for bloggers or individuals who are posting about such activities as cycling, hiking or river rafting vacations or experiences, and therefore serve the right target market. Or, a travel professional who offers community-based or wellness experiences should look for an influencer who shares the same values and beliefs.
Even if you sell general travel, you can implement influencer marketing into your social media strategy. Remember, tourism and travel is a service-based industry and is all about the intangible experience (versus product sold). Experiences are best spread – and sold – through recommendations. Watching a video about your influencer’s trip through the Galapagos, for example, communicates the experience in the most authentic way for today’s consumers. Content in the form of blogs, posts, images and/or video stays online, can be re-shared and thus generate additional customers just from the people it reaches.
Approaching influencers who have never heard of your business can take some time and effort into winning them over. Of course, once you do, the benefits you’ll reap will be instrumental. An additional approach is to find influencers by looking among your fans for people who are already interested in your business. Promoting your business through influencer fans takes less effort in convincing them to work with you, and your partnership can be more authentic, because they already know and trust you.
Authenticity is key to influencer marketing success. Consumers crave authenticity. They don’t want to be marketed to – they want real relationships. Therefore, to see success, your travel business and brand must be real. Embrace those genuine relationships, and bring the human aspect back to marketing. Remember, social content influences travelers’ destinations more than any other type of advertising, says Adweek. Therefore, travel businesses need to shift their marketing focus to be competitive in today’s arena. Maximize your social content strategy through the impact your influencer’s photos and travel stories have – it’ll go a long way in your lead generation efforts.
To see valuable examples of how Influencer Marketing works within the travel industry, along with exclusive tools and resources to power your social media and influencer marketing strategy, be sure to watch Nexion’s 5 Secrets of Influencer Marketing to Leverage and Drive Success in Your Travel Business. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F30GAetv8iA
Cris De Souza is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Nexion®, a fully licensed, bonded and accredited host agency with operations in both the United States and Canada. In her role, Cris leads Nexion’s Sales, Marketing, Communications and Business Development & Education teams. Cris’ biggest passion is partnering with travel professionals to help them grow their business and enable their success and happiness in business and in life.
Cris joined the Nexion leadership team in 2015 and has been a part of the travel industry for 18 years, including a 13-year career with the Royal Caribbean family of brands in a variety of revenue, sales, marketing and education roles, with increasing responsibility and scope. Throughout her career, she has proven success building and managing strategic partnerships and teams, developing innovative travel agent training and education programs, creating effective travel agent marketing and sales strategies, and exceeding sales goals and objectives.
Cris is also advocate of sustainable tourism, voluntourism and cultural heritage preservation and recently earned a Master of Arts in Sustainability and Environmental Management from Harvard University. Her most important role in life is being the proud mom of her two amazing sons, Thomas and Antonio.