With just over a month to go until MATTER, brought to you by Tourism Australia, lands at Marrakech’s The Source, we’re beginning to drop some of the names and ideas you can expect to find across multiple stages and two days – see our first release here and stay tuned for more announcements coming soon.

We know that you’re always keen to hear about the latest ways to engage travellers on social media and use your platforms effectively, so we’ll be putting on a number of talks focused around how to best use your social networks to communicate. This includes a discussion between Amanda Ho, the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Electrify Magazine, and Marianna Jamadi, a travel photographer and writer, about using influencers to drive content and ROI. We caught up with Amanda to delve a little deeper into what MATTER delegates can expect from the conversation.

Can you explain the difference between a blogger and an influencer? Should brands have a different strategy for working with each?

The simplest way to denote this difference is that almost all bloggers are influencers, but not all influencers are bloggers. Many ‘bloggers’ have achieved influencer status through their blogs, though there are influencers who have developed a blog to have another outlet besides their Instagram feed for their content and work. Let’s also not forget about the Youtube stars who operate in the same realm, and have successful Instagram accounts as a result. As the demand for influencers increases, so has the saturation. There is an influx of so-called ‘influencers’ who have most likely purchased a majority of their followers and have low engagement rates – it is now more important than ever for brands to do research to truly understand any influencer’s audience and reach in order to determine a strategy for a partnership.

Why should influencers matter to the travel industry?

Influencers are masters of creating content, and compelling content drives conversation. The emergence of Instagram has paved the way for the rise of travel influencers and bloggers alike who are dominating the digital realm; transforming the traditional notion of marketing initiatives in the travel industry. The ‘discovery’ mode of the millennial audience now exists through social media as a demographic that will vet out destinations and properties to visit on Instagram before making a booking. Travel brands can effectively use influencers to their advantage to craft their story and visual messaging to drive both awareness and sales in target markets.

What do brands need to tell content creators in order to get the right kind of coverage and maximise their impact? As a content creator, what do you look/ask for when working with brands?

Brands should begin with defining clear goals for any influencer campaign. Start by asking: What do you want your content creators to do? What brand story do you want them to tell? What strategic role in your campaign will influencers play? What audience do we want to reach? These questions can then inform the design of the experience and partnership. From the content creator perspective, it is useful for brands to provide a creative brief in order to set key messaging guidelines so that creativity can flourish and the brand is projected in the best manner through art direction and copy guidelines. This also ensures that expectations are set from the beginning with clear deliverables.

100 Grams of Sun for Electrify Magazine

What do you think of the trend for micro-influencers? Would you recommend that brands use these kinds of influencers above ‘macro’-influencers? Is there a different way they should engage with them?

I think that micro-influencers are considerably more impactful in engaging with niche audiences, as opposed to Instagram ‘celebrities’ who have over a million followers. Although the term ‘micro-influencer’ is quite broad, denoting a 10,000 to 100,000 follower count, these individuals generally have a more targeted audience of loyal followers who are in tune with the influencer’s specific industry, whether that be travel, food, fashion or beyond. In essence, the smaller the influencer, the more trusted they are by their audience – which can consequently lead to actual sales conversions. I also evaluate an influencer’s ‘influence’ and clout based not only on their follower count, but also their reach within specific communities and the distribution of their content. For example, a micro-influencer may have less than 100,000 Instagram followers, but also contribute to top travel publications and likely pitch a story for additional exposure beyond just their feed. This individual should be considered a ‘key opinion leader’ in the industry. Working with micro-influencers or macro-influencers is not just a gimmick, but a strategic solution. Any influencer should be seen as a storyteller who can amplify a brand’s message through original content – it is up to the brand to determine what story is being told through the influencer and select who to tell their story.

How can brands translate social media and blog coverage into ROI, as well as track and measure this? 

Specific goals and tracking methods should be set from the beginning for any campaign. In luxury travel, whether these metrics are based on impressions or engagement, the direct ROI of influencer programs is seldom the measure of hard sales conversions. The main takeaways from influencer partnerships in the travel industry are the production of high quality content, amplifying the brand’s message/core values and increasing exposure/awareness/loyalty within the influencer’s audience.

What can those who attend your talk at MATTER expect to take away?

I will be leading a discussion on how travel brands or hotels can effectively work with influencers to achieve their marketing goals in the most impactful way. Key points of the talk will include how to identify goals of a partnership/ROI, the process of vetting influencers, understanding the power of content creation, and navigating a contract through an example case study of an influencer program with Electrify Magazine. Marianna Jamadi (@nomadic_habit) will be joining me to share her perspective as a dynamic storyteller, micro-influencer and content creator who has been published in VogueAFAR, and CN Traveller UK, among others.