The influencer marketing industry has grown from $1.7B in 2016 to a forecasted $16B by the end of 2022, and during the pandemic, influencers became more popular than ever. In fact, Morning Consult shares that sixty-three percent of people engage with influencer content more now than they did before the pandemic. And two in three consumers trust paid content from creators more than they do traditional advertising. It’s clear that utilizing creators isn’t just a great addition to the marketing mix for hotels – but a necessity.
These influencers—or creators and ‘key opinion leaders’—are savvy content producers who influence audiences that they have curated via their personal brands. There are plenty of celebrities in their ranks, but also photographers, videographers, journalists, stylists, and impassioned travel industry veterans who know great hotels when they experience them, and who love to exchange their content creation skills for hotel rooms.
In the hospitality sphere, the role of creators resembles that of traditional travel magazine editors: clever, creative globetrotters charged with discovering, experiencing, and recommending great places for their readers to stay and enjoy on the road.
Though creators have been around forever, the more recent “creator economy” that has lofted social media creators to the forefront of the hotel industry barely existed even just a few years ago. Now it has exploded, fueled by companies that are building technology, tools and platforms that enable people to showcase their personal talents and tastes, create great content, and use that content to influence the world. Result? There are now 75 million creators with audiences of 10,000 or more on Instagram alone.
It goes without saying that no one is going to stay at a hotel unless they know it exists. While more traditional marketing channels such as tourism boards, print and broadcast advertising do their jobs, none can boast the enthusiasm that the best creators draw from their audiences.
Though the explicit rules of creator marketing remain unwritten, they are firmly established in the hotel sphere. Quite simply, hotels offer creators complimentary overnight stays and all the amenities and services they can enjoy, and, assuming their experience is positive, creators return the favor with coverage for their dedicated audiences.
For hotels ready to take the plunge with online creators, the results can be rewarding. Creators are now not just a critical component of hotel marketing but are now viewed as an efficient revenue-generating distribution channel. This powerful community will only become more so as technology and data connectivity continue to improve. Online travel agencies like Booking and Expedia, which luxury-level hotels have long considered a ‘necessary evil,’ cannibalize existing demand whereas creators generate new demand. With that realization, it’s time to start shifting strategy.
So, how do you tap creators to help fill your hotel rooms, restaurants, bars, and spas?
The first step is to enter the creator marketing space with an open mind. When creators were initially used years ago, they got a bad rap. Hoteliers were overwhelmed by requests for free stays and had no idea how to separate signal from noise—who was going to be beneficial for a certain hotel and how could that be measured? There were no tools available to track the revenue that any influencer partnership brought in. Times have since changed: the proper datasets and technology now exist to track revenues and empower hotels to turn their empty rooms into marketing firepower that drives revenue.
The second step for the hotelier is to view the individual creator in a slightly different light. Typically, when a hotel brand selects creators to partner with, it bases its decision on how many followers the creators have and how in-line it perceives them to be with the brand’s vibe and aesthetic. While both should be part of the equation, those qualities alone don’t get into the meat of whether a creator can effectively drive revenue for a hotel. That comes from how well creators connect with their audiences, and how pre-disposed audiences are to spending money on great stays. The way to glean that is to look under the hood at audience demographics. You can do that by teaming with a technology company focused on finding creators that generate revenue. The good news is there are millions of creators who do – it’s just a matter of utilizing a platform that can identify them. As an example, the platform we created, Curacity, understands the need and demand for proving definitive ROI and we use proprietary data analytics and integrations of various hotel technology platforms to do just that.
Step three for hoteliers is to scale their creator marketing efforts as quickly as they can. Creators should not be viewed as one-off marketing resources, but rather as a key—and scalable—part of a marketing mix that can be a consistent source of revenue generation. That requires tapping into a technology platform that offers an efficient, frictionless marketplace for creators to score their beloved stays. Roughly 25% of luxury hotel rooms go unsold every year, amounting to a loss of around $25 billion of economic value for the sector annually—this can be used as powerful fodder to entice incredible creators and their moneyed audiences.
Finally, think of creators and their content as fuel for your hotel’s own social media feeds. When negotiating with a creator for a complimentary or discounted stay, be sure to address the right to use the content they capture while on property, including video and still imagery. Again, there are technology platforms available to figure all of this out beforehand, handle all administrative and legal components, and lay out deliverables clearly for both parties to consider. Creator marketing should be turnkey and scalable!
With the summer travel season just around the corner, now is the time to explore what creator marketing can do to fill your hotel and help generate buzz.