The travel industry is driven by aspiration and inspiration. People have aims and ambitions, destinations they want to see and things they want to do there. But all travel goals have to start somewhere. They all have to begin as inspiration, as moments of clarity that end in an eventual purchase or booking. So where do these moments come from? The answer is a range of places: family, friends, books, dreams, and TV shows - just to name a few.
But as travel bookings are increasingly made online and social media platforms continue to grow, our inspiration and aspiration to travel are influenced more and more through these platforms. This phenomenon has given rise to the age of the influencer, of individuals or organisations that can influence large audiences through a combination of delivery, information and inspiration. The rise of the influencer is arguably more pronounced in the travel industry than any other. As prospective travellers seek out inspiration online, they are coming across people just like them, who've seen it, done it, and can offer insight and information.
Before we take a look at how your travel startup can harness the power of influencers effectively, let's think about the why.
Whether it's through Instagram, Twitter or a personal website, many travel influencers have a huge audience and a loyal, engaged following. Perception is everything, and sometimes people just want to be inspired. This targeted reach means that travel companies can tap straight into their target market, using a respected voice as their mouthpiece.
In case you haven't noticed, the days of travel brochures and printed media are starting to fall away. Marketing is changing, and harnessing the power of great content is now the best way to engage your audience.
Even online, standard banner ads are being subconsciously tuned out and ignored. Simply put, market influencers offer the perfect way to reach your target market without annoying them.
When travel companies target customers through market influencers, their products don't interrupt the social experience but accompany it. It means that agencies can place themselves more easily within organic content on social media.
Two studies have shown that the way customers react to advertising is changing. MDG Advertising state that 70 percent of internet users would rather learn about a product through content, while Dedicated Media found that purchase intent is 53 percent higher for native ads.
It's boring and tedious, but SEO matters, especially in a travel industry dominated by major players who hog the majority of organic search traffic.
Getting mentioned on established blogs and influencer websites is a sure way to boost your search engine rankings. Essentially, the more times you are mentioned online in the right places, the more relevant you are deemed, and the more easily people will be able to find you. It's a snowball effect.
Building a huge following across social media channels is a lot easier if influencers with an established presence engage with your content. Google knows.
It doesn't matter what you're buying: shoes, a new car, cheese or a holiday - The general rule is that if you receive a recommendation from someone you trust, someone who knows what they're talking about, you're going to take it into account when making a purchasing decision. A study by McKinsey found that “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.”
Harnessing the power of influencers in the travel industry is an obvious way to take word-of-mouth recommendations to a global level.
As we've seen, the potential power of market influencers in the travel industry is undeniable. But how can you get them on board? If you want to read into this further, Hubspot offers a great guide on influencer marketing. But here are four simple ideas to get you started.
Well this first one is pretty obvious. If you're going to communicate with influencers in the travel industry, a good start os to simply mention them on your social media channels. Offer them a read of your latest blog post, or comment on something of theirs that relates to your business.
If you want to form positive relationships with influencers and get noticed, you're going to need to start up that initial conversation. Twitter is a great platform for this kind of outreach. If you think something you offer is relevant to an influencer and their audience, put it out there!
Of course, if you don't want to mess around with all the usual subtleties of social media communication, you could just get in touch with an influencer directly and work out a sponsorship arrangement. Usually, this would involve paying a certain amount per post on Twitter, Instagram etc, and they would then share your content or products with their audience. If an influencer's audience is simply too good to miss out on, then this might be the way to go - but most travel startups are hindered by budgets and will simply have to create content that's good enough to get publicised for free.
This tactic is best employed in two scenarios. 1. The influencer you have in mind is on their way to becoming a big name in the industry but isn't quite there yet. And 2. You are an established company that can offer relevant exposure.
This strategy involves giving your chosen influencer a platform to reach out to your audience, in exchange for them doing the same for you. You might let them write a blog post for your website, or host a Q&A on Twitter or Periscope. If there is a mutual gain to be made, then go out there and make it happen!
This is slightly different to simply mentioning them on social media. If you're really looking to become an established thought leader in your field, then you'll be writing regular commentaries on what's going on in your travel sector. Why not include the thoughts of influencers you admire in these pieces, and then share them with the people mentioned?
As well as being good for your SEO (linking to established sources is a great way to let Google and the like know of your legitimacy), influencers will be much more inclined to share your content if their own thoughts appear within it.
We do things differently at Travelshift. Our community-driven marketplace doesn't just allow you to bring in influencers, it helps you to create your own. That's right. Our unique blogging platform is packed with SEO features that help you build up a trusted community of bloggers and thought leaders, so you can tailor all associated content to suit your travel industry niche.
Sound good? Get in touch with us today to see if we can work something out.