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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, @sharayray on Instagram or at shanabull.com.
Read past columns at nbbj.news/digitalmarketing.