This time last year I was returning from a trip to Portland, meeting with clients, and preparing for our busy season. Influencer Marketing in the travel industry always ramps up for spring and summer travel. We all know what happened next. One day we had 90 campaigns set to launch- contracts signed, travel booked, Twitter chats happening- and the next day I was being interviewed by the New York Times about how travel influencers were going to survive this unknown crisis.

Of course we had no idea how this last year would have unfolded. We’ve all heard the words “unprecedented”, “pivot”, and “new normal” more times than we can count or care to, and most of the predictions were off simply because this was uncharted territory. Some areas of the country tried to carry on as they did in the beforetimes, while others shut down completely. We might have been (and still are) in the same storm, but as one meme put it, “we’re all in different boats, some yachts and some dingys”.

So what happened in the Influencer Marketing world? 

Time on our phones exploded

The power of social media increased, more than perhaps anyone would have imagined. We all wanted any type of connection we could get so we spent more time than ever on our phones. Tik Tok exploded, and not just with teenagers. The fasting growing users were 30-39. Influencers were held more responsible and those with a loyal following saw views skyrocket. Wannabe influencers or part-time hobbyists were weeded out.

Influencers had to get political 

We also saw a huge awakening around racial inequalities and audiences holding brands and influencers to higher standards around their diversity efforts. A heightened election season required influencers and brands to get involved politically. Nothing was off limits and if you didn’t stand for something, you didn’t stand for anything. Audiences were demanding to know what side you were on, and unfollowed if you didn’t stand up for what was right.

They showed how to live now, building unbreakable trust

Influencers supported their local communities – sharing how to help local restaurants and businesses, and how to do it as safely as possible. They normalized mental health needs and how the pandemic was affecting us all. Audiences started really understanding how influencers can help, entertain, and inform them, and that trust has continued to grow.

They kept creating

With all this time at home, influencers got more creative than ever, hosting virtual cooking classes or showing you around a city hundreds of thousands of miles away. They collaborated, they tested out new ideas, experimented for us to see what worked and what fell flat.

So, how do we work with influencers now?

  1. Don’t undervalue the inside knowledge from influencers about their audiences. Influencers know their audiences better than anyone or anything. No platform or software will be able to tell you exactly how their audience FEELS about any one topic. Ask influencers to be involved in the creative process. Ask them how will their audience best receive your product or brand. This behind the scenes knowledge that only they know is invaluable as you start planning your strategy.
  2. No more one off posts. Build a true partnership and ambassador. This might mean that you work with fewer influencers but each one for longer periods of time. We guarantee that if you build these thoughtful relationships and treat these partnerships with respect, the influencers will share way more than what’s written in the contracts.
  3. Diversify your influencers. This should be a no-brainer and something you already do. If you look at your influencer list and feel like it’s not as representative as it should be, start now. Ask your current influencers for recommendations of their favorite peers who are POC, LGBTQ+, etc.
  4. Utilize influencers to try something WAY outside the box of your normal marketing. You can quickly and easily A/B test ideas with influencers. This is low stakes and many times low cost to potentially stumble upon a really remarkable and viral moment.
  5. Allow them to be creative and have a voice about the content direction. Influencers have likely tested the success of different partnerships, swipe ups, call to action wording, etc. Ask them for what works best before slapping together an idea that might not hit your desired KPIs.
  6. Learn how to repurpose and amplify their content. There should never be a piece of influencer content that isn’t shared by your brand multiple times. The influencers are recommending your product so why wouldn’t you share that third party approval with your own audience. Sharing their content is free and will immediately get more eyeballs to view and potentially share. You have nothing to lose.
  7. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, that added trust has led to higher sales and a bigger ROI. With whitelisting and retargeting abilities, we can now take influencer’s content and retarget your exact target market -whether that’s the influencer’s audience or look-alike audiences. The results are clear- with one campaign we saw a 36% increase in sales YOY and almost $500K in sales during the two month campaign.

Influencers are sharing, right now, how to travel, where to travel, and what looks different in this new world. The time to inspire your ideal audience is now.

Influencer Marketing can no longer be an add-on to your traditional marketing and PR efforts.  It is a must, just like retargeting and SEO. If you’re new to influencer marketing or unsure what this new way of working with them means, reach out to us for a call and free strategy session.