This is the last installment of the 4 Horrible Mistakes You’re Making with Spa Branding & Marketing series! We’ve talked about spa branding mistakes, spa website mistakes, spa promotions mistakes, and now we’re going to look at influencer marketing.

Plainly, working with an influencer without a strategy or working with the wrong one could have disastrous results and #fail in epic proportions.

In last year’s marketing issue of Pulse Magazine, a case was made for using influencers to promote spa brands. And for a hot minute, influencer marketing seemed like a win for the hospitality business. That is, until a backlash started sweeping across the internet. In one very viral incident that happened in January, a hotelier in Dublin named Paul Stenson banned all social media influencers from his hotel and adjoining café after a YouTube star asked for a free stay in exchange for promotion on her social media channels.

While the incident was hilariously played out (at least on the hotelier’s part) it brought to light a very important question: who really pays for the promotion and is it worth it?

Stenson’s point was: if he let influencers stay for free, who ultimately pays the bills for her stay? Who pays the hotel staff? Who pays for the utilities used during that stay? And, cheekily, he added, “Maybe I should tell my staff they will be featured in your video in lieu of receiving payment for work carried out while you’re in residence?”

Stenson and his hotel already had a significant following of their own, and even so, he argued that he would never ask for anything for free. He also felt that the issue “puts into question the authenticity of influencer marketing.”

It’s a point well-made for smaller brands who don’t have mega-resort money behind them to throw around to simply build brand awareness.

Spa marketing influncers and influencer programs have to be carefully considered.

The Mistake: Using influencers without a strategy or plan for ROI

I don’t endorse giving away entire spa treatments away for free in exchange for the possibility of positive promotion. This is also known as “building awareness”. It’s one thing to have marketing spend, but it’s another thing entirely to use it at your staff’s expense.

What kind of compensation are your people left with after you’ve comped their service? And then you have to hope that the person who got that free service is actually going to do as they promised and promote your brand positively.

And by the way, if your spa doesn’t live up to the hype, bloggers will say so even after getting that treatment freebie you threw their way.

Gifting is not a good strategy for the spa business. It doesn’t guarantee exposure, or positive exposure either. While many influencers will gladly accept those free spa days, that cost does not equate a promise of editorial coverage.

There have also been some epic influencer fails over the past year to show everyone how these campaigns can instantly go upside down. From celebrities copying and pasting their instructions into their posts (cough cough Naomi Campbell, Scott Disick) to Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi controversy, to the discovery that many influencers are either buying followers and comments to significantly increase their numbers. These fails illustrate how the world of influencer marketing is the Wild Wild West of internet advertising right now.

How to Fix It

Instead of thinking of influencers as deus ex machinas, think of them as part of your marketing strategy. Pull out your brand guide (don’t have one? Talk to us about getting one!) and build your strategy and editorial calendar on your brand’s USP, voice, and positioning.

Is It Worth It?

With your WHY in mind, ask yourself: why would you, a spa owner/operator, want to use an influencer? And how should you work with one if you decide it could be worth it? But first, you have to define “worth it.”

Many influencers, especially if they are of the mega variety (like celebrities), will not only ask for free stuff, but they will also ask for a promotional fee. This could run from the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands in dollars!

Macro-influencers (usually bloggers) with large followings also ask for a promotional fee, especially if they are writing and creating content around the brand they’re partnering with. These fees could run upwards from the thousands and will depend on what channel they are using for the promotion.

There’s a budget with every marketing project. What you’re willing to spend can be a large part of whether you want to work with influencers. Keep that in mind as part of your ad spend.

What are you trying to accomplish?

Now that you know what you’re willing to spend, create a very focused and intention-based influencer strategy. Are you looking for reach, traffic, awareness, engagement, or conversions to sales? That should be the main determining factor in whether or not an influencer campaign is worth it.

Having a clear, numerical goal will help you assess whether you met it when the campaign is over. What good is a marketing plan if you aren’t sure if it did anything?

What type of influencer should you work with?

If you’ve decided an influencer campaign is a good direction for you to head in, what’s the best way to collaborate with one? And who do you decide to work with? One of the biggest mistakes brands can make is choosing the wrong influencer to work with.

For the spa industry, micro-influencers and brand ambassadors are a great place to start. This is especially effective for smaller or up-and-coming brands with limited budgets. These are everyday folks or minor celebrities who have a following in 1,000-10,000 range.

Brands partner with these individuals with smaller followings on social media to promote products and businesses with authentic, visual posts instead of sponsored ads. A recent Markerly study showed that micro-influencers get better engagement rates than mega- and macro-influencers. They also have more targeted follower bases and are more authentic. Their content is real. Their followers are real and engage more authentically.

Choosing the right Micro-Influencer

Choose a micro-influencer who works or specializes in the health, wellness, or beauty vertical and will frequently share social media content about their interests. These influencers should have Instagram followings in the 1,000-10,000 range.

A good spa micro-influencer might have only a few thousand followers and post instructional or inspirational videos. Their average post receives a decent amount of engagement relative to the size of their follower base.

If you’d like to use micro-influencers for awareness, especially among millennials, Instagram is the way to go.

Set clear goals

Instead of just saying, “We want to create awareness,” measurable metrics include things like website views, referral visitors, and social media reach. Like we mentioned before, setting clear goals before launching a campaign will help you determine whether the campaign was successful and help you pivot for the next one. Goals that are attainable, such as increasing followers by 10% or getting at least 5,000 pairs of eyeballs on your new seasonal treatment, is both realistic and measurable.

When you set goals before launching a campaign, you’re better able to track the impact of the campaign and its influencers. You can also develop a strategy to show the top line revenue return on investment of influencers.

If you’re looking for conversions to sales, you can also do this by tracking direct conversions through Instagram’s “comment to buy” feature. People comment directly on an influencer’s post expressing an interest in purchasing the products featured in the post. Then, they receive a personalized link via email. Tracking this “comment to buy” feature not only provides revenue info for the campaign but it also gives valuable demographic insights.

Key Takeaways

If you decide an influencer campaign is “worth it,” in terms of budget, look for an influencer to partner with.

Look for a micro-influencer who talks about health, wellness, or beauty and who frequently shares content based on their interests. The important thing isn’t about how many followers this person has, it’s about how engaged their following is. That means they have real people following them, which, in turn, will mean real people will hear about your spa.

Clearly define goals before the campaign begins. They should be attainable and measurable. This will help you determine the ROI and success of the campaign.

Influencer marketing is a powerful tool, but it isn’t for everyone. You have to get serious about tracking its ROI and how effective it is for your spa. Once you’re well-versed in the metrics of your influencer campaign, you’re set up to leverage your influencers successfully.

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