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Influencer Marketing – A Case Study

Influencer Marketing – A Case Study

The subject of Influencer Marketing has been widely in the news recently due to the interactions between an Influencer and Hotel / Restaurant owner going viral.

Influencer Marketing – A Case Study

Elle Darby is a UK based Social Media Influencer, who recently sent out a number of emails to hotels in Dublin, Ireland looking for ‘possible collaborations’.  She requested a free 5 night stay for herself and her boyfriend, in exchange for promoting the venue across her social media channels – offering to feature them in YouTube Videos and dedicated Instagram stories.

One of the venues she contacted, Charleville Lodge – owned and run by Paul Stenson, who also operates The White Moose Café, took offense at the message, and re-posted the email on The White Moose Café social media pages, along with a detailed response as to why he was saying no to her offer. Unfortunately, although Stenson had attempted to block out Darby’s name and the links to her social profiles, they were still readable, and people soon identified who she was, and began posting on her pages.

Following a 17-minute long response video uploaded by Elle, and a bill for Influencer services as well a ban on all bloggers visiting the premises issued by Stenson, there have been a large number of comments made for and against both parties. Because the comments from Stenson were generated from The White Moose Café social channels, they have received the focus of attention – and TripAdvisor have even had to remove and temporarily suspend reviews for the venue as people began to leave 1 star reviews in defence of Elle, and 5 star reviews in support of Paul.

Influencer Marketing can be very tricky to handle, and there is no definitive ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ person in this situation – there are areas where both parties made mistakes, and steps that could have been taken to avoid this situation entirely.

In this article, we will look at Influencer Marketing from the point of view or the Influencer, and the business receiving the request.

The Influencer

There were a number of mistakes Elle made when connecting with Charleville Lodge. Looking at where she went wrong, we can identify areas that all Influencers need to be aware of.

1. Research Your Chosen Venue Before Making a Request.

Sending out blanket emails to every venue in a specific location is not the right approach to establishing yourself as a trustworthy and relevant Influencer. It is important that you know exactly who your audience are, what they will be interested in – and which hotels or venues meet these expectations, you should only look to promote goods and services that your audience has an interest in.

In Elle’s case, if she had done her research, she would have seen that the Charleville Lodge is an unapologetically budget hotel, whose owner has been involved in online controversy before.

2. Match Your Request to the Venue
Depending on the size of the establishment, and the services it offers – you should be aware of what is a sensible request. If the hotel is a small B&B with no associated services (such as restaurants, spas, swimming pools, etc.) – then it would be more sensible to offer a short visit. A resort on the other-hand, where there are many activities to partake in, and a lot to experience to generate a balanced opinion would require a longer visit.

Elle requested a 5 night stay, not just for herself – but for her boyfriend as well. The Charleville Lodge is a small hotel, not a resort. Her request was disproportionate to the venue, making her look more like an opportunist than a reputable Influencer.

3. Be Honest in What You Can Deliver and How You Would Like the Partnership to Work
Hotels and resorts receive dozens and dozens of requests from Influencers, often daily – it has started to become somewhat of an annoyance to these establishments, so if you want to get ahead, and actually have your request accepted, you need to be clear, concise and honest. If you have worked with other establishments in the past, name them, and provide honest and easily understandable metrics such as how many people the posts have reached, and the number of clicks to the venue website, that prove your Influencer Marketing was a success.

If you are providing a review of the venue and its services, it is important that you inform them that you will be doing so in an unbiased and honest way, even if you had a free stay in exchange for your opinion. If you are simply creating featured articles or videos based on receiving a free trip, then it is vitally important that your audience knows this. Many social media channels, such as Instagram, require you to state whether your content has been paid for / sponsored, and you could be violating terms of service if you don’t disclose this.

Elle made the mistake of speaking generally – she talks of visiting Orlando, and how they were “doing great” however she makes no mention of any venue name, or demonstrates any quantifiable metrics that would provide useful insight and demonstrate how valuable her influence is. She also speaks of a ‘collaboration’ but does not state how she would intend for that to work.

4. If You’re Branching Out, You Need to Be Honest
If you’re an Influencer in lifestyle, for example – it may make sense to broaden your range to include Travel and Holidays, but it’s important that you are honest with your potential contacts. If you’ve not done travel or hospitality videos before, you need to examine your channels and decide if your audience would be interested in them, and whether you are committed to doing more than just ‘one off’ content. If people assume that your travel content only happens when you conveniently are planning a holiday, you will get a reputation for being a freeloader. Elle states in her email that she mainly focuses on ‘lifestyle, beauty & travel-based subjects’ but a quick look at her YouTube channel shows that she’s only ever posted two videos related to travel – her trip to Orlando, and these are focused on the trip – not the venue, and don’t have the same sort of view rate that her fashion and fitness videos do. This damages her credibility before any engagement is even conducted.

5. Personalise Your Correspondence, Do NOT use Generic Templates.
When you are making contact with hotels and the managers, it is vitally important that you don’t copy and paste the same email to every venue. There’s nothing wrong with using a template to ensure that you’ve covered all of the benefits and details you wish to include, but to create meaningful and authentic connections, you should personalise the outreach email.

Take the time to look up the Manager’s or Owner’s name, take the research you’ve done and say something genuine and complimentary about the venue – show that you care about their establishment and have a genuine reason for staying there.

Addressing an email ‘Hi there,’ is extremely casual and when contacting a company for the first time, can be seen as being rude. If Elle had conducted some research into the venue (as she should have done), finding the proprietor’s name and some personalised information regarding the venue would have allowed her to amend her template to reflect the establishment and show courtesy to the owner.


The Hotel

Paul Stenson has a bit of a reputation for causing a stir – he’s been in the media a number of times for upsetting vegans, breast feeding mothers and people with specific dietary requirements. He is also very adept at turning his stance and sense of humour into a marketing opportunity, which is what he has done with ‘bloggergate’.

Ordinarily however, dealing with Influencer requests is dealt with in a much different manner.
If you are getting a lot of requests, it can be easy to dismiss them all and simply delete them without reading. However Influencer Marketing, when done correctly is a cost effective and form of advertising and community building. Deleting every request means that you could lose out on an opportunity to reach new paying customers.

  1. Identifying the Right Influencer For Your Venue
    It is important that you research the potential Influencers – look at their reach, engagement and values, not just their follower levels. Likes, followers and shares can be bought – making these values less trustworthy for deciding on how genuine an Influencer is.When you work with an Influencer, you are tying your reputation to theirs – you need to make sure that your values, ethical and moral standpoints, and brand voice are reflected or enhanced by your connection with the Influencer.Paul Stenson, on receiving the email from Elle was frustrated and assumed that she was a ‘freebie hunter’ but he could simply have ignored the email, or responded to her directly with his reasons for refusal. By making the post public, and not sufficiently hiding her contact details (they were still easily readable despite his attempt to block them out), he opened her up to ‘trolling’ and cyber-bullying, he has publically stated he does not agree with or the way Elle is being treated. However, the fact remains – that by putting that email out in the public domain, he may have found support with some members of the public – but his reputation is severely damaged with others.
  2. Know What Your Influencer Is Offering and That They Comply With Terms of Service
    Is your chosen Influencer providing you with a feature piece? Are they writing/recording an unbiased review? Are they advertising on your behalf? These are important questions you need to know before agreeing to an Influencer visit.With social media channels requiring disclaimers for sponsored posts, and audiences growing increasingly frustrated with Influencers who give a positive opinion only for it later to be discovered that they were paid (either in money, goods or services) for it, you don’t want to tie your reputation to an Influencer who is either in violation of T&C’s or potentially in danger of losing their audience due to dishonesty.
  3. Have a Monitoring System in Place and Know Which Metrics to Use
    To decide whether an Influencer Marketing campaign has been successful, you need to have a way of measuring the impact. By deciding on the reason for the campaign, which areas you are going to target – and what you want to see improve, you can put metrics into place that will allow you to monitor changes and the success of a campaign.Without knowing if a campaign is successful or not, you won’t be able to get the best results from your Influencer Marketing strategy, and you leave yourself open to fake influencers and freebie hunters.
  4. Make Sure the Campaign is Followed Up and the Brand is Accurately Represented

Once the Influencer has visited, it is important that follow up is undertaken, to ensure that any issues are given the opportunity to be worked out prior to the Influencer making their posts public, and that they deliver on the coverage they have promised.

Following up with an Influencer also allows you to monitor the metrics, and cultivate a relationship that could prove fruitful in the future as well.

Influencer Marketing, when done correctly can provide a great number of benefits to a venue, but it requires both the Influencer and the Venue to have a strategy in place that works together to provide real value to both parties.

If you are interested in Influencer Marketing – either as an Influencer or a Venue looking to connect, our team of industry experts carefully vet and provide support to our Influencer connections and can help you take the smart approach. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.