General managers, PR firms, marketing directors, and everyone in-between in the Caribbean tourism and hospitality industry are constantly bombarded with requests for everything from comp’d meals to free vacations (flights included) in exchange for some 21st century ‘word of mouth’ marketing from online bloggers and influencers.
Having been (and still am) a blogger and online influencer in the Caribbean AND having worked at and with various resorts and tourist boards throughout the region on the other end of things, I have seen both sides of the coin. For some Caribbean hotels, working with online influencers is totally worth it. For others, not so much. There are a few key aspects that both the resort AND the influencer need to understand and agree on in order achieve the kinds of goals you’re both looking for and a lot of those key aspects can be lumped into ‘finding an angle.’
READ THIS IF YOU’RE A RESORT:
When it comes to working with an online influencer, it’s easy to look at someone’s social media following and blog’s Alexa rank to make a determination there. Beware though: don’t become star struck by numbers!
You must remember that numbers do not equal influence.
A real influencer will have good interactions with his or her followers, a dedicated core whose decisions are actually ‘influenced’ by their recommendations. For a Facebook page with 100K+ fans and only an average 150 likes on their posts – that’s not good influence. For a Facebook page with 10k fans and 150 likes on each post – that’s a better ‘influencer.’ Fans should actually be reading, liking, sharing, and participating with the content that online influencers create be it on their blogs or social media channels.
Finding an angle for your resort for an influencer to talk about to one of your target market segments is what is important. If you’re managing the marketing for a 100 room all-inclusive in Punta Cana and two influencer emails asking for comp’d stays come across your desk… which one would you choose?
- A medium sized following geographically and demographically aligned with your target market but little interaction on each post
- A small following focused solely on destination weddings in the Caribbean. Interaction is high on all posts.
- Mega-following fashion blogger who posts pictures of her outfits in the exotic locations she visits. The interactions are really high but 90% of the interactions are about what she’s wearing, not where she is.
In this case #2 is the safest bet.
When you’re considering hosting online influencers at your Caribbean resort there are a couple of things that you want to crosscheck:
- Does their audience match your target market?
- What are their numbers?
- Compare their following with interactions. Do they seem like they ‘influence’ or not?
- Could you see an angle you’re looking to promote fit into the other content they are sharing with their readers and fans?
If you go through these exercises, first in finding your angle to meet the criteria of your target market via market research and THEN connecting the dots to match with the perfect influencer – it’s going to be a worthwhile experience for you both.
READ THIS IF YOU’RE AN INFLUENCER:
Just like your online community, the travel industry is a huge one, yet a small one. The same people work in the industry, often for their lifetimes, moving from management to marketing, from tourism to design… there are lots of crossovers happening but they tend to all stick to this crazy ride we call the hospitality and tourism industry.
PR companies, hotels, consulting agencies, marketers, and managers have access to detailed lists of online influencers because most everyone shares this sort of information. It’s a ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch my back’ system when it comes to word of mouth recommendations. Basically, as an influencer, you don’t want to get yourself black-balled, never to be invited on another all expenses paid press trip again to the Caribbean again.
Here’s the easiest way to stay in good standing when working with resorts in the Caribbean:
- Find an angle
- Find the most symbiotic angle for both you and the hotel and play it up, that’s what you’re there for.
- Ex: If you’re a travel blogger geared towards adventurous, experience-seeking Millenials, a good angle may be the resort or hotel’s central location that provides easy access to several points of interest making ‘doing it all’ convenient.
- If you’re a wedding blogger visiting an all-inclusive resort that isn’t adults only – (take Beaches for example) find an angle in second marriages or find an angle in kid-friendly, family, extended family, and friends focused weddings.
- Stay positive.
- Hotel management knows that your time is valuable but don’t forget that you’re an expense to the resort and that revenue has been displaced to fly you down to the Caribbean, host you, spend time with you, and wine & dine you. You’re not there as a consultant. If you’re there during the off-season, you’re not just a revenue displacement, you’ve become an expense.
- I guarantee you – unless it’s something above and beyond the norm, complaining to management is not ‘constructive criticism’ – if they wanted constructive criticism they would have used the money they’ve spent to host you to hire a consultant with regional and industry knowledge. Every island has unique labor laws, challenges, cultural attitudes, and a million other things unique to the industry that hotel management works with – so they are likely aware of the ‘island time’ wait for your main course and are implementing changes already.
- Don’t let it go to your head.
- I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve been the good the bad and the ugly! On my first ever press trip did I complain to the GM about the state of my morning waffles and then swan around the resort, soaking up the sun, booze, and taking more selfies than resort pictures that would inform and appeal to my audience? I sure did. (He has since forgiven me)
- After packing my attitude back where it belonged and getting on with my career, I’ve met the humblest, loveliest, hardest-working online influencers and you would have never guessed that their Instagram following was over a million. I’ve also seen a diva cause such a raucous about the ‘lack of luxury’ at a newly opened branded property that her ticket was changed and she was sent home the same day she arrived.
Basically, until you’re paid to be somewhere (celebrity level of influence) always remember to be the good and find your angle!8