Martin Kubler is the founder of Iconsulthotels and the CEO of sps:affinity. Martin Kubler is the founder of Iconsulthotels and the CEO of sps:affinity.

Well? Am I? If yes, would you pay me US $5,000 for an Instagram post about your business? No? At least give me a free meal? A bottle of water? Okay, I’ll settle for a napkin.

Influencers are a thing these days. We used to call them brand ambassadors back in the old (pre-social media) days and back then, they actually had proper jobs and had mostly (though not always, of course) risen to fame thanks to hard work or extraordinary skills. Think Michael Jordan or, further back still, Bob Hope and many others.

These days we have Kim Kardashian. Someone once said to me that every generation gets the icons it deserves. I feel a little sorry for whatever generation we’re talking about here. But, there’s no denying it: Influencers seem to be here to stay.

Influencer marketing is big business, because consumers, instead of looking at companies, as they did in the past, now look at each other and at their favourite personalities, who are consolidating massive followings on social media platforms. There’s now a large number of so-called influencers in our region looking to work with suitable companies and products.

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There are many benefits to working with influencers. Done correctly, it can improve your social media and overall online visibility, open and engage new audiences, build trust, and even generate bookings or footfall. There are a couple of drawbacks, though. I see too many companies simply engaging influencers and then seemingly leaving them to their own devices. That’s probably fine for some of these influencers, but won’t produce great results. Like all relationships, co-operating with influencers requires work, active management, and a good sense of direction. As I said at a recent industry event: “If your concept is confused or your service tanks, even Kendall Jenner isn’t going to make a difference.” Not that most of us would be able to afford Kendall Jenner. In other words, you’ve got to know what you want them to do.

Let’s focus on what I call LLBIs —lower level bulk influencers — the vast army of bloggers floating round the region’s social and online space who “will blog for food or free room nights”. Again, there are real gems out here, who know a thing or two about hospitality, marketing, and audiences. Folks who can actually write. Think Foodsheikh, Foodiva, TravelJunkieDiary, and many more. And then there’s the bulk. What’s a PR intern to do? All too often the answer seems to be: “I know, invite as many bloggers as possible to the opening of my client’s envelope next Tuesday”. The result: You then have 30-odd people rock up that all take virtually identical photos and write virtually identical blog posts. Google doesn’t like it (see “duplicate content penalties”) and consumers don’t really like either, because it doesn’t stick out and go “pop”. I read the Foodsheikh’s posts, because they’re always entertaining and different. I might not always agree with him and the Serb, but his posts entertain me and, yes, potentially influence me. I’m not saying don’t work with LLBIs — just don’t work with tonnes of them at the same time.

A little while ago, we got the first standardised ranking of online influencers. SERMO’s Digital Influencer Index 2016 is a welcome attempt to rank the world’s top online influencers by region and “niche” and I wish someone would compile a similar document for the bulk influencers out there. In the absence of a definitive guide or ranking, how do you evaluate them?

Naturally, you can look at how many followers they have, how many likes they get on posts, and how engaged their audiences appear to be, but it’s often a good idea to look a little closer at their audiences. Are their followers actually from the markets or audiences you want to attract? After reading an influencer’s last five posts and perhaps exchanging a few messages with him or her or talking on the phone, ask yourself: “Would I buy from this person? Would my guests buy from this person?”

If the decision is between an influencer with over 50,000-100,000 followers or an influencer with more modest follower numbers, but a better “niche fit”, you should probably go with the “niche fit”. The reason is “authenticity” and “authority”. Better an influencer with a lot of authority in a niche that’s useful for you, than an influencer with 50,000+ followers out of which only 3% would ever do business with you.

Lastly, here’s a quick way to evaluate all the ever more popular Instagram influencers: Ask them to go live or watch one of their live broadcasts and keep an eye on the engagement. You’ll be surprised how many influencers with high follower numbers have very low “live” engagement. That’s not a good sign and says something about the nature of their followers. If you find one that has 15 thousand or more followers and good engagement during live broadcasts work with him or her!

Whatever you do: Keep it social!

About the Author: Martin Kubler is the founder of Iconsulthotels and the CEO of sps:affinity. Iconsulthotels is now sps:hotels — a leading hotel management consultancy that provides its clients forward-looking business strategies, keeping them ahead of the market. Email: hello@spsaffinity.com.