Major trend that is shaping the events industry, and MICE in particular this year, is influencer marketing. We know it from other industries – leisure travel, food, fashion, parenting etc. As much as there are many similarities with other industries, MICE sector works differently with influencers and has different set of expectations.
The product or service in the MICE industry is more complex, as well as the decision making process. In general, in the B2C sector influencers are tasked to promote a product for £20, or £200 or so, and the price sensitivity is lower. In the MICE industry, on the other hand, the sales funnel is longer because the product is more complex, more expensive and the decision making process is longer. An influencer who is tasked to to promote a MICE destination, for example, can contribute to the overall economy both directly and indirectly.
I never called myself an “influencer” until people started contacting me saying that they came across my profile because they were looking for influencers in the MICE industry. That was the moment, happened about only a year ago, that I realised that the trend has arrived and what I do has value.
Of course I’m flattered and it’s an additional source of income, but with this comes the responsibility to deliver results. So what does it actually means to be an influencer in the events industry and how can brands measure results?
Before we continue, I want to add that I based this article on many discussions over the years with bloggers from other industries, with event professionals and most importantly with clients. Based on their objectives and negotiations, I came to realise what influencer marketing means for a supplier or event organiser, and how both can work together to achieve their business objectives. I work in the B2B space so this article will focus on business events.
New marketing and PR landscape for MICE suppliers
Brands in the MICE industry have a fix budget they will spread over the year for their marketing and PR activities. These include major trade shows, such as IMEX and IBTM, smaller and regional buyer and supplier workshops, awards, sales calls, print and advertorials in industry trade magazines and fam trips. Influencer marketing in 2017 is not yet on top of their list. At least yet.
As you see, MICE suppliers have enough exposure throughout the year, so why should they contact an influencer for more exposure? Where’s the value? What’s the ROI?
What brands really want when working with an influencer is access to new and highly qualified audience on an ongoing basis and to stay in their minds. This audience should have the potential to convert into warm leads and come in contact with the brand at a different touch point, for example attend one of their local events and have a face-to-face appointment. The role of the social influencer is to bring his/her online community into the physical space – all the online activities before and after the event should support this process.
There are two types of collaborations a brand can have with social influencers:
Short term – one off collaboration, usually a sponsored post for SEO purposes, couple of posts on social media or a video.
Long term – collaborative campaign including account take over, ghost writing on brand’s website/blog, content distribution, hosting events, multiple event attendance and fam-trips etc. This collaboration will usually stretch over couple of months or even years.
The ROI of influencer marketing
From all definitions available about influencer marketing ROI, I’ve found the best one given by Emily Leary, founder of the A Mummy Too, a food and lifestyle blog for busy parents. This was part of her discussion on #TraverseTalks YouTube series about Digital Influencer (Blogger) & Brand Relationships.
The question was “when you’re working with brands, how should influncers quantify or display our value to the client? What’s the ROI?
To summarise Emily’s explanation: To understand the digital ROI, it’s first important to look back at the old school marketing with defined marketing framework, where each marketing framework has a ROI and a goal/ target. Based on this, the brand will be able to tie every marketing activity to an increase in sales. If it doesn’t tie to an increase in sales, it won’t get the budget next quarter.
The blurriest element in the marketing framework is PR. The assumption of PR is that a positive article and mentions (in newspapers and blogs) will affect brand warmth, how people feel about the brand and brand awareness, and as a result, those metrix will have a predictable impact on the number of units sold.
In the past few years, brands and agencies have realised that working with bloggers and influencers is a clever way of influencing direct sales. This can happen through SEO (belong to marketing) or by influencing brand warmth and brand awareness (belong to PR). Bloggers and influencers need to fulfill both these requirements of marketing and PR. For example, bloggers can influence sales directly and show ROI though click through, top google rankings or affiliate sales.
But more likely, the influencer will be showing how she/ he has created a positive feeling around the brand. The role of PR is to look for exposure metrix, such as traffic numbers and follower numbers. The more data bloggers have, the more will it be possible to estimate the value of their activity. Overall, brands are able to see higher conversion rates when working with bloggers. For example, even if the number of people visiting blogger’s page might be relatively low, they will be genuinely interested in the specific product or service, and if someone have commented the conversions are significant.
Lastly, the influencers should be aware of their demographics. If two bloggers have an identical traffic numbers, it will matter what the brand wants to achieve in terms of outreach. Therefore, the more data a blogger has, the easier it will be to justify the spend and why it’s worth it.
How to find the right MICE influencer
Luckily, identifying influencers online is easy, but will require some work in finding the right ones. Social influencers have their online activities public, which makes it very transparent. The brand can track the number of followers, engagement rates, quality of followers etc. instantly and compare between the influencers. But, there are few things to consider before actually reaching out to influencers.
Highly sought after influencers have a landing page – a website or a blog. Online free tools like moz show domain authority and page authority, and Alexa shows rankings, what key words they are indexing for, bounce rates etc. The brand can obtain vast analytics without even asking the influencer, and compare the performance between influencers. The analytics available online gives a good indicator on how well the website is performing and its credibility.
BUT, in the MICE industry there are very few bloggers which might limit the scope of collaboration (especially for those looking to integrate SEO). On the other hand, there are many micro-influencers. Micro – influencers are content creators on social media platforms. There are varied estimates of how many followers they should have, but in general it’s somewhere between 1,000+ to 50,000, depending on the industry. Due to their specific niche and strong online activity, they have loyal community of followers and high engagement rates. Micro – influencers will distribute content on various platforms, but in our industry these are primarily Instagram and Twitter. Micro-influencers are great for brands looking to boost their brand visibility, outreach and audience engagement by inviting them to report live from events. In my opinion, if the brand chooses to collaborate with a micro – influencer, they should also ask the influencer to produce an additional piece of content for the brand’s website or blog.
Forms of content
The influencer should be able to produce different, high quality forms of content across multiple channels. These will mainly include photography, text and video (also live, such as Instagram stories). For example, it’s important to showcase the venue or destination in the best light, therefore I’m a strong believer that good images are essential to grab reader’s attention.
The influencer must create content on a regular, weekly basis. This content should be distributed across the different social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
When the content is published, the brand should check the quality of the followers who engage with this piece of content, and their industry relations. I hear many say “it’s not about the quantity, but the quality of followers”. In reality, both are equally important.
Live coverage from events
As the article title indicates “influencer marketing in the MICE industry”, influencers will be expected to attend industry events. The type of events they attend and what they post will give the brand a good indicator of their outreach and competencies. For example, important to note how many tweets they send out, whether they share more visual/ live streaming/ text only content, do they interact (respond, retweet) with other audience and the brand itself etc. Lastly, it’s recommended to note whether the influencer also shares update before and after the event to increase reach and visibility. In my opinion, from a major full day event there should be at last 10 tweets, two Instagram posts and one Facebook post per day.
Now to the holy grail of influencer marketing. How much it costs? We hear that models can charge anything from £1,500 to even £250,000 and more for product placement on Instagram, video and campaigns, but this is rather unrealistic in the MICE industry, at least for now.
There are different opinions and formulas to calculate how much to charge. Some influencers charge per hour, others per blog post or number of words, per number of social media updates and the platform they post on and additionally add a price tag to their following number. These are all individual elements and should be negotiated between the brand and the influencer.
It’s recommended, for both influencers and brands (or agencies acting on brand’s behalf), to be clear about the nature of the commercial relationship they are entering into when they start the negotiation. The brand shouldn’t be surprised when the influencer will put a price tag on their services, and prior to contacting them should have a budget in mind they are ready to invest. It all based on supply and demand principle, so the more experience the influencer has and can demonstrate a proven track record, the influener is in a better potion to negotiate a fee for the partnership.
Here are few guidelines what to charge/ offer:
Barter – free hotel stay, meal etc.
For sponsored posts it can be anything from £80 – £500
Live event coverage from £100 per day
Account takeover from £250 per day
Video from £200
This article showcased the wide scope of online activities covered by influencers. From seeing colourful photos on social media, many might think that influencers are just invited to attend events free of charge at the most prestigious locations. But there is so much going on behind the scenes which is often overlooked: the strategy that goes behind each social media post, creative process of composing a post, editing of photos and text, the admin and negotiations pre- and post- event and responding and interacting with their audience on brand’s behalf are just few of the elements. Usually, what an influencer does by himself/ herself, is a job that could be done by a small agency team.
Being still a new trend in the MICE industry, we’ll see more influencers in this space very soon. Those influencers who want collaborate with brands should have patience and concentrate on creating high quality content before they start charging. At each collaboration they should be able to prove results in form of leads and conversion rates, increased interaction both on their page and of the brand’s to prove the effectiveness of the campaign to justify future collaborations. Above all, both brands and influencers should keep in mind that this is for the long run and that they still have a steep learning curve ahead.
Photo credit: Nathalie Zimmermann Fotografie