7 steps to influencer marketing success for wine, hospitality brands

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Digital Marketing

Shana Bull is a Santa Rosa-based marketing educator and digital storyteller, working with wine, food, hospitality businesses, teaching classes on marketing, and freelance writing. Reach her with your questions about digital marketing at shana@shanabull.com, @sharayray on Instagram or at shanabull.com.

Read past columns at nbbj.news/digitalmarketing.

Influencer marketing isn’t new.

Long before this buzzword was coined, consumers turned to friends and family for recommendations of where to eat, what wines to drink, and which hotels to book. Today, influencer marketing takes a new form because of the popularity of social media, but the original idea is still the same: Someone influences others by sharing their experience with a business.

It’s also a trending subject within the wine and hospitality industry right now, and with good reason. Some hospitality marketers in the North Bay have been bombarded with emails and private messages on Instagram from “influencers,” requesting a free wine tasting in exchange for an Instagram picture. And the marketers aren’t sure whether or not to fulfill the request.

What is influencer marketing?

The term “influencer” encompasses a variety of social media savvy people who have a niche following on one or more social network. Talking to Raquel Royers, the marketing manager for Napa winery Clos Du Val, she simplifies the term: “Influencer marketing is leveraging bloggers, writers, and online personalities within the digital space to help increase your brand reach, authentically share your story, and garner new customers/fans.”

Influencer marketing is just one piece of the overall marketing puzzle. All of your marketing dollars probably shouldn’t go towards influencers, but it can do a lot for your brand, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t yet have name recognition.

Some brands even do a form of influencer marketing early. The concept is similar to when a business opens up via a ribbon cutting with a chamber of commerce. The chamber invites business members of the community to come, all with the hope that they will tell their friends.

Partnerships vs. free stuff

Influencer marketing has become a career for many people, so working with bigger influencers, providing a form of compensation, and obtaining a written contract is needed. By paying an influencer with money n addition to a product, you can work with them to set the expectations for what they post. A vague rule of thumb tends to be $100 for every 10,000 followers they have.

And, you can ask them to provide you with rights to photos, possibly for an additional expense, so you can use them across your marketing channels. In this relationship, you can ensure that they add a call to action in their content, abide by wine laws like not showcasing drunkenness or children, and get your information right, i.e., saying you are in Sonoma and not Napa.

If you compensate them with just a free product, then you cannot guarantee anything. It would be up to the influencer when they post — if at all — what product to feature, and what is said in the story. If they do share a photo, you would still have to ask them to reshare it. And since they’d own the rights to the content, you could not use their imagery across other marketing platforms without permission.

Either way, the influencer does need to mention that they were compensated, using the hashtag #AD if paid, or that they were gifted the wine, hotel stay or dinner.

Influencer marketing matters

Consumers trust recommendations from third parties, which is why review websites like Yelp are so important.

Studies show that reviews hold even more importance when trying to connect with an audience under 40 years old, because 70% of millennial consumers are influenced by their peers and social media influencers, rather than the brand itself.

Digital Marketing

Shana Bull is a Santa Rosa-based marketing educator and digital storyteller, working with wine, food, hospitality businesses, teaching classes on marketing, and freelance writing. Reach her with your questions about digital marketing at shana@shanabull.com, @sharayray on Instagram or at shanabull.com.

Read past columns at nbbj.news/digitalmarketing.

When a marketer partners with different influencers, they are able to capitalize on the trust that an influencer has built within their community. This can drive traffic to your website or brick & mortar location, build your own social media channels, and sell your brand.

There is no set number of social media followers that influencers have, because every industry is different. Paying thousands of dollars to have Kim Kardashian mention your brand on Instagram may work for some, but definitely not all.

Shana’s advice

1. Know your target audience

Before even getting started with influencer marketing, having an idea of who your brand’s audience is is essential to determining a good fit. Look at your CRM and wine club — who is buying the most wine, etc.?

Write this down. Knowing who your best customers are should guide everything your business does. If there is an “influencer” who asks to come by your winery, first look at who is commenting on their social networks to see if their audience matches up with your own. If not, then say no thank you.

2. Seek connection

Look at people who have connected with your brand.

Check your Google Analytics for blogs that have sent traffic to your website, search Instagram for the top posts from your location or on your own content, look at top commenters on Facebook, or start with the regulars at your own tasting room.

3. Dive deeper into their content

Followers and likes can easily be bought, so when looking at with whom to partner, dig beyond vanity numbers. Take a look at the comments on their content.

Are there genuine comments from a variety of people, or just the same two people over and over again? Are there mainly vague comments like, “Love it”?

If so, you may want to move on to the next person because there is a possibility that the comments are bought.

Also, take a look at the type of content they share. Do they post images you would want to share on your own social media pages? Does their aesthetic match your own? If yes, make a note about them.

4. Seek better, not more

Remember, when it comes to influencer marketing, it is about quality over quantity.

Raquel agrees: “We would rather have a long-standing relationship with a few influencers who understand our brand, over many influencers who are simply only there to reap the benefits of free product or a check.”

Long-term influencers continue to build trust for your brand.

5. Manually create a spreadsheet

Add influencers you want to connect with to a spreadsheet with their name, username, location, stats, and a way to contact them. This organizes how you can connect with them in the future, who you have worked with in the past, and who you want to work with again.

Make the spreadsheet shareable with your team on Google Drive or Dropbox. (Note: You could also hire an outside agency to do all of this work for you).

6. Start small

Plan a small event and invite influencers from your spreadsheet. Maybe you already have an event planned in the upcoming months? Make sure to have signs with details on how you want everyone (not just the influencers you invite) to share your event — your social media handle, hashtags, etc.

7. Build relationships

And, most importantly: actually get to know them in person or through social media. Connect with them on their own pages with genuine comments before ever sending an email asking for something. After events or promotions, follow up with an email or thank them on social media, and continue the relationship.

The team at Clos Du Val understands relationship building, as Raquel explains: “We find having an ongoing relationship with our influencer partners provides the best outcome for both sides.”

For further proof that influencer marketing is trending, the word influencer is now officially part of the Merriam-Webster dictionary as of early 2019. It is here to stay.

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