Social media has changed the way that companies across countries and sectors communicate with customers and market products, and the newest platform in the mix, Instagram, has proven indispensable to lifestyle brands like fashion and some travel companies.
Fashion brands were the first to latch onto the platform and work with fashion-minded fans to post photos of outfits, provide a glimpse of fashion shows from the front row, and position their products in the most aspirational light. The market has since exploded with high-end brands paying thousands of dollars for a single post on the Instagram accounts of influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers.
The travel industry entered the Instagram market shortly thereafter with destinations and organizations such as the Canada Tourism Commission and Australia emerging as early leaders. Today, working with influencers has become a marketing standard and travel companies are learning how to leverage the most influential bloggers and make the experience beneficial to both parties.
Skift spoke to the social media manager of a major fashion brand, the founder of a creative agency that connects companies and influencers, a blogger who crosses into both fashion and tourism, and a tourism board for insights on what the travel industry can learn from fashion brands when it comes to social media marketing.
A Fashion POV
Brian DiFeo, founder of creative agency Mobile Media Lab, which connects advertisers and influencers, points to fashion’s aspirational lifestyle marketing as a primary differentiator when it comes to the sectors’ marketing strategies.
“Fashion sees so much value in the lifestyle. Think of a luxury watch that we’d never afford, but you would look at in ads. Typical social media users can’t afford the product but they want that life,” DiFeo says.
“It’s for recognition and the eyeballs, but it’s not necessarily going to translate into sales. From a travel company’s perspective, if they’re not booking hotel rooms or plane tickets, what’s the point?”
DiFeo points to Turkey’s #ComeSeeTurkey initiative that brought 20 photographers from 13 countries to photograph 23 cities last spring. The campaign was led by famous Turkish photographer Mustafa Seven and was considered very successful in terms of numbers. DiFeo doubts, however, that many people actually bought a ticket to Turkey as a result.
“That’s the model of the high fashion brands: “This is a lifestyle and experience that you might not ever be able to afford, but come along on the ride because it’s going to be beautiful,” says DiFeo.
Another differentiator is how tourism and fashion brands reimburse their influencers.
Reimbursement can range from behind-the-scenes access and free products and services to monetary compensation. Tourism brands are working through this new reality and determining what, if anything, they plan to pay influencers in addition to a free trip. Meanwhile, some influencers working with Mobile Media Lab earn up to $2,000 per photo.
DiFeo believes that Instagram influencers need to be reimbursed financially and that a $400 hotel room isn’t worth the rental rate on a popular Instagram account.
BCBG social media and brand engagement manager Cuit Gonzalez echoes the sentiment, explaining to Skift that many fashion brands today are paying influencers for collaborations in addition to covering the cost of clothing. He points out that monetary compensation gives brands more control of the final outcome.
“When there is an exchange of monetary compensation, brands are in a better position to have signed contracts outlining the specific expectations of the collaboration, sometimes creative direction and, depending on the platform, even require a report of the results including numbers that only the influencer would have access to,” says Gonzalez.
An Influencer’s Observations
According to Glassman, one major differentiator between fashion and travel brands is the flexibility they give influencers with whom they coordinate. Fashion brands often work through a PR agency and have an exact sense of what kind of contributor they want for a specific project. They are also much more specific when it comes to details like when assets go up and what’s included in the caption, Glassman says.
Influencers working in the travel space will often work with regional or national tourism boards. These organizations often have a more general campaign that they’re looking to collaborate on and are more open to seeing how the influencer can weave themselves into the marketing missions.
“From my standpoint, I’ve found that tourism boards have been more flexible. I think they realize content can be posted at any point during a day. They trust your voice and documentation.” says Glassman, noting that tourism boards are starting to make their requirements more specific.
What L.A. Learned From Fashion Bloggers
The Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board started working with Instagram influencers this year and doubled the reach of its #LAStory campaign by exchanging a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a few hash-tagged posts.
DiscoverLA’s social media manager Leslie Guettler has learned several lessons from the social media habits of fashion bloggers and brands. For example, she notes how fashion bloggers are very consistent and will apply a certain theme like recipes or outfits or DIY to the kind of content they upload for each day of the week.
Fashion bloggers also take note of what people respond to and continue to repost those items. For example, if a coffee photo gets triple the “Likes” of a martini photo then they’ll post more coffee photos. Destinations can apply this philosophy and take note of whether architecture, sunsets or people photos get the most “Likes” and post more of those.
Guettler echoes DiFeo’s observations about the aspirational slant of fashion brands’ and bloggers’ photo content.
“They post things that either, frankly, make you envious of their lifestyle, or make you want what they have to be where they are,” she says. “It is beneficial and interesting for a destination marketing organizations to showcase real life and the hidden gems of a city; however, the brands that appear most successful on Instagram — since it’s primarily a visual platform — are the ones that post almost entirely beauty shots.”