Using Influencers to Strengthen Your Marketing Efforts

In the past, celebrity product endorsements were an integral part of any major company’s marketing budget. Now, consumers are craving authenticity in the marketing messages they see. They want advice from a relatable, friend-like figure whom they can trust. As a result, we’ve entered the age of the influencer.

In 2016, over 150 marketers from a range of industries including media, retailers and CPGs participated in Linqia’s The State of Influencer Marketing Survey. The survey discovered that 94 percent of companies who utilized influencer marketing believed that their campaigns were effective, resulting in the expectation that influencer marketing budgets will double over the course of 2017.

A similar study from Tapinfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions revealed that influencer content delivered a return on investment that was 11 times higher than traditional forms of digital marketing. Finally, a study produced by Twitter states that 49 percent of users rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions.

So Who are Influencers?

TapInfluence defines an influencer as “a real, relatable person who has attracted a loyal following on their blog or social media channels” and draws a clear distinction between traditional
celebrities and influencers, who are found across social media platforms but primarily function through personal blogs, Instagram and YouTube.

Regine Berthelot, Treatment Manager at Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa in New York City, says that influencers provide the opportunity for a brand to cultivate a genuine relationship. “If there is a connection, they will continue to support the brand organically as they continue to expand their reach,” adds Berthelot.

Why Work with influencers?

Influencers bring several valuable factors to the table when collaborating with brands, making a partnership a great way to promote your brand without an explicit sales push. First, influencers have extremely engaged audiences. Because of the accessibility influencers provide through their blogs and social media channels, audiences connect with them on a personal

“We’ve seen great engagement and organic growth on our social media channels as a result of our work with influencers,” says Brad Packer, director of public relations for the Four Seasons Bora Bora. “Their fans and followers tend to be very loyal and a third-party endorsement shown in an experiential and personal way has great value to building our exposure and the incremental business that comes from it.”

Influencers also portray an authentic image by using their content to tell personal stories about their experiences with a skincare product or what they did on a weekend spa trip. This
authentic image builds trust between the influencer and her audience, which, in turn, makes the influencer’s recommendations even more trustworthy.

How to Choose an Influencer

The first step in targeting an influencer to work with is to focus on the right content areas. Most successful influencers tend to fall under a small number of verticals to specialize their content and appeal to a specific demographic. Spas and spa industry vendors should focus on tapping into the power of influencers who specialize in content related to lifestyle, fitness, wellness, beauty and travel in order to reach a desirable market.

Next, look at the influencer’s reach in terms of monthly page views, engagement and number of followers on social platforms. At first thought, it may seem obvious to choose influencers who have the largest reach. However, so-called “microinfluencers” (loosely defined as influencers with between 1,000 and 10,000 highly engaged followers) are becoming increasingly popular for their influence over a smaller, more niche audience.

“Whether a highly targeted audience, or someone with exceptional photography skills, there can certainly be great value in partnering with microinfluencers, even with a smaller audience,” adds Packer. “Microinfluencers also might have smaller audiences that are geographically specific, which allows very targeted exposure to a key market.”

Developing an Influencer Marketing Campaign

Once you have selected the right influencer to work with, develop a campaign that will successfully promote your brand while keeping in mind the influencer’s audience and their creative preferences. Ultimately, campaigns must be executed in a way that properly represents your brand’s image but also respects the influencer’s individual voice so that they are able to connect authentically to their audience when promoting your brand.

Begin by establishing and communicating your Key Performance Indicators such as views, engagement, click-throughs, increase in followers and sales. Request clear deliverables from the influencer, such as the specific number of blog and social media posts, lifestyle photos, hashtags, geotags, and mentions that you expect.

There are many ways to engage influencers with options that are low cost and require little involvement on the brand’s end such as sending products for review or inviting an influencer to spend a day at your spa. Other more involved options are available as well, such as planning sponsored events. Packer says that The Four Seasons Bora Bora has hosted influencers on an individual basis, as small groups and in conjunction with resource partners.

Meanwhile, Caudalie has worked with a number of influencers including Natasha Oakley and Devin Brugman of the popular lifestyle blog A Bikini A Day. To celebrate the launch of their swimwear brand’s Summer 2017 collection, Oakley and Brugman hosted a series of pop-up events that featured products from Caudalie.

The brand also hosted an event at its boutique spa to launch the Premier Cru Elixir with blogger Athena Calderone of Eye Swoon, drawing celebrity attendees such as Alec and Hilaria Baldwin, fashion designer Mara Hoffman, and Caudalie’s founder Mathilde Thomas. The catering and flowers at the event were designed to showcase the ingredients found in the product, such as prickly pear, jojoba, rose and grape.

When the St. Regis Aspen hosted the 2016 Snow Polo Championships, the resort partnered with several influencers to promote the event. Bloggers Blake Scott of The Scott Effect, Blair Eadie of Atlantic Pacific, and Marianna Hewitt of Life With Me were treated to a full itinerary, which included customized treatments at Remede Spa prior to the polo match, a media-only dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Chef’s
Club, and daily amenities—all of which were featured on the influencer’s social accounts.

“Influencers posted pre, during and post event content using St. Regis’ social handles, hashtags and geotags to bring global awareness to the event, the property and the spa,” says Julie Oliff, director of operations at Remède Spa at St. Regis Aspen.

Whether for large events, product promotions or simply a day at the spa, influencers can simultaneously expose your brand to new customers and help build a sense of brand loyalty among existing customers. By partnering with the right influencer, you can almost guarantee that your brand will be directly plugged into the right audience.