In the first of a series of monthly columns from the team at Anantara Al Jabal Akhdar Resort, Firas Rashid, director of sales and marketing looks at the rise of social influencers…
With social media now dominating our media consumption, influencer marketing has become one of the most effective ways for hotels to attract guests, opening up a new channel to connect directly and increase buzz.
In the past, we have turned to Hollywood and Bollywood actors, musicians and athletes to spread our message, however in recent years this has begun to change. “Influencers” – normal people who are trusted by a large audience – are increasingly overshadowing celebrities and traditional media to become powerful marketing tools due to their online fame and credibility.
Let’s go back a few years to recall how all of this started. Facebook was founded in 2004, followed by Instagram in 2010. They developed their platforms and apps based on consumer behaviours, providing guests with the ability to record their life experiences instantly and share with their followers. This has turned the traditional model on its head, limiting TV, print and radio and connecting audiences in real-time campaigns. Unlike a celebrity who has been in the public eye for many years, influencers are far more relatable and approachable, resulting in their followers tending to trust their recommendations.
The most effective platform for hotels is currently Instagram as it relies on visuals, providing the opportunity to showcase the best of a hotel product through photos and real live videos (Instagram stories). However, when working with influencers we do aim for an integrated approach, using multiple platforms to ensure maximum effectiveness for a campaign.
Firstly, it is important that we find the right influencers to engage with. They don’t necessarily need to have the highest amount of followers, however they do have to fit with our brand and drive engagement with people who are likely to stay with us. As you can imagine, we receive a huge amount of requests from people claiming that they are influencers, so it is vital that we have a strong PR and marketing team who can evaluate each one by researching their demographics and target markets in order to determine whether they are the right fit for our brand. Unfortunately in this region, influencers who buy fake followers are a common problem, so we have the tools in place to spot this too.
Once we’ve identified influencers to work with, we need to decide how to compensate them for their posts and content. At Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, we are fortunate enough to have a valuable offering when it comes to influencers due to the fact that we’re relatively new and the resort is luxury and photogenic. We are therefore able to work with influencers on a barter basis, with most influencers enjoying a complimentary stay alongside meals and an array of tailored activities. However, because no payment exchanges hands, we have no control over the content and number of posts received. We work closely with our PR agency to navigate this, and more often than not the risk pays off. If done right, influencer marketing can be the most cost-effective and fastest growing channel to build awareness and revenue.
That being said, a significant part of our marketing campaigns still relies on traditional media. Since opening last year, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort has been reviewed by a multitude of journalists from high-profile publications, which not only reach our target audiences but also add third party credibility from a reliable and professional source.
To summarise, working with social media influencers is a great way to drive engagement and sales, however it is vital to choose who you work with carefully and incorporate it as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy that integrates both traditional media and digital media.