Ask almost any business owner, and they will tell you that word of mouth is their best source of customers. And the tourism industry is no exception! People love telling stories about what they do and see on their travels. On top of this, most people trust their family and friends for recommendations on what to do during their trip.
And while you could argue that every person has influence in this sense, some people have more influence than others. There are people out there that purposefully spend their time and energy cultivating influence and clout in online communities.
Before the internet, the average person’s influence didn’t reach much further than their immediate everyday connections. But today, one person can get a recommendation out to millions with the click of a button! And while influencer marketing isn’t foolproof, it’s a pretty lucrative opportunity to tap into if you can get it right.
Do you have travelers coming to you wanting to exchange a tour or activity for exposure? Here are some best practices to keep in mind if you plan on working with influencers in the travel space.
This may seem obvious, but most people get burned by influencers because they don’t do their due diligence or ask the right questions. This is, after all, a business transaction. Here are some important things to know before you work with an influencer to promote your tour:
1. What is your reach and how did you grow your account? Keep in mind that it’s easy for people to buy followers, and that’s not going to move the needle for you. You’re better off working with someone who is truly influential with an authentic account of 5k followers than you are working with someone who purchased 1 million fake followers.
2. What are your engagement rates? Just because someone has several hundred thousand followers, doesn’t mean they’re actually listening or paying attention. Take a look at their comments section – do the comments seem genuine? Are they actually getting comments or is it mostly just likes?
3. What are your values and expectations? This is an important question – take a look at their account. Are they posting about things that are important to you? Is the quality of their content high, or is it mostly selfies in poorly lit bathrooms? What they post about is what they care about, so make sure you enjoy their content or else it’s very likely you’re going to be unhappy with what they post to promote your tour.
4. What do I get to use from your experience? Make sure both parties are clear on what content is included for your use. If someone is coming to you wanting this exchange, you can make it clear that you want full use of the media they take. And you can even request a certain number of images/videos. Also, be clear on where they are going to write reviews – is it just social media or do you want them to post reviews on Tripadvisor and Google?
Instead of waiting for people to come to you, one of the best proactive growth initiatives you can do is create your own influencer program. This is where you are the one reaching out, inviting people of influence to your tour & activity.
Are there people you follow on social media that you admire? Are there people in your community that you know have serious influence? Building relationships with these types of people can be incredibly beneficial for your tourism business. A personal invitation goes a long way for generating good will.
This puts you a bit more in the driver seat and allows you to determine your goals of the program. There are also a lot of tools out there you can use to find influencers who are a good fit.
And don’t forget – your past guests and customers are influential too. Some may be more influential than you even realize! Creating a program that encourages them to share their stories and tell their friends is one of the best things you could do for your business.
Employees are often the most overlooked influencers in any business. What do your team members do when they go home? Are they part of clubs, places of worship, or other types of communities? WE often don’t think about what our employees do when they go home, but oftentimes they are talking to others about what they do. Every conversation they have about their work is planting seeds of awareness for your tour & activity.
Are the stories they’re telling positive? Do you reward your employees for being good advocates for your experience? Reward doesn’t always have to be monetary. There are so many ways to reward your employees for bringing in new customers. For example, more time off, or services that improve work/life balance.
Start asking yourself: how can we make it easier for our team to be influencers and advocates for our tour/activity? Even better, have a team brainstorm and see what creative ideas come up. You never know what sort of ideas can come up when you encourage creativity!