Is the influence of influencers more hype than real clout?

It probably depends on the influencer, but destinations and hotels often play the influencer card almost reflexively, enlisting them in marketing campaigns. It undoubtedly takes a lot of vetting and staff hours to make a hopefully realistic projection of what kind of bottom-line impact a celebrity or other social media standout might have.

“Right now, we hotels are making educated guesses about which influencers will produce for us,” said Adele Gutman, vice president of sales, marketing, and revenue for Library Hotel Collection, pointing to the problem. “Even when we see 100K views on something, we don’t know if it helped anyone decide to book us.”

So along comes a consumer-facing iOS hotel-booking app, Six Travel, that on Wednesday is adding a business-to-business platform geared to resolve this influencer dilemma. Six Insights, the product’s name, purports to deliver real-time analytics to hotels to enable them to measure metrics such as an influencer’s number of followers on Instagram, but it also tallies engagement rates, and quantity of bookings that came through that influencer once the influencer signs onto a hotel’s campaign.

The Insights dashboard also details things such as whether the influencer is compensated through free rooms or commissions, the number of Instagram stories published, and interactions with consumers.

Six Insights is a separate offering from the consumer app. “The Six app is simply another channel for hoteliers to target users and promote offers,” a company spokesperson said.

Something Like This Is Needed

Since the Insights platform is just launching, we couldn’t independently verify whether it works as advertised and how effective it might be. But the prospect of measuring the actualities of influence as opposed to settling for a nebulous potential outcome may be intriguing for hotels, destinations, and other brands.

In addition to this new Insights tool for businesses, the Six Travel consumer app offers travelers a curated list of hotels, and touts itself as the only hotel booking platform that enables bookings right on Instagram without having to navigate elsewhere.

Hotels participating in the consumer app receive a 12 percent commission, on average, while they also can subscribe to the Software as a Service Six Insights platform on a subscription basis for $299 per month, said Six Travel co-founder and CEO Khalid Meniri.

Meniri said Six Travel analyzes the quality of an influencer’s images and content, and can give a thumbs up or down on the influencer. Hotels can choose whether to collaborate with influencers, and can pay them commission so they in essence become an affiliate of the hotel.

In addition to the consumer app and Insights platform for analytics, Six Travel also offers a travel affiliate platform that connects hotels and other brands with influencers and content creators.

The Reaction

Skift reached out to a number of people who aren’t affiliated with Six Travel and haven’t actually seen the new Insights tool yet, but there was plenty of support for something like it in theory.

Gutman of Library Hotel Collection said the company previously used Buzz & Go, which kept tabs on influencer requests, did due diligence on them, “and also tracked their posts, but I haven’t seen anything that actually tracked reservations.”

A Six Travel spokesperson said the Insights platform can attribute bookings to influencers because they are using the Six Travel booking engine.

“Influencers who register with Six can post images or videos of hotels in their Instagram Stories; Instagram Stories allows viewers to book these hotels with a simple swipe up, and Six’s proprietary software tracks which hotels are booked and saved for later,” the spokesperson said. “These are attributable to the influencers who post them.”

Gutman said she would be interested in a product like the Insights platform “as long as the value proposition was there. All hoteliers are trying to lower their acquisition cost, after all.”

Johnny Jet, an influencer who produces content about travel tips and deals, said he can’t think of another platform similar to the Six Travel Insights tool, as described, “so it definitely would be an attractive option for hotels and influencers alike.”

Jet, who’s real name is John DiScala, added: “I would use it as long as their prices are competitive, and customer service is solid so my readers/followers are happy.”

Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, said “this type of technology is potentially very valuable, both for consumers and suppliers. We know the power of Instagram as a tool for engagement and promotion, but marrying this with a transactional component for instant book-ability is a powerful combination. Added convenience for consumers and measurable results for marketers could produce a unique win-win proposition.”

The Six Travel iPhone app for consumers offers a curated list of hotels, and touts itself as the only hotel platform that enables bookings on Instagram without having to navigate elsewhere. Meniri said Six Travel re-engineered the Instagram browser so when consumers swipe down after viewing a promotion, “they won’t bounce out of the experience and have to start again. The booking flow stays within Instagram.”

In addition to the consumer app and Insights platform for analytics, Six Travel also offers a travel affiliate platform that connects hotels and other brands with influencers and content creators.

Six Travel has worked with some 150 influencers, including Nick Pescetto, Giulia Calcaterra, and Aaron Brimhall in adventure and experiential travel, and fitness/wellness influencers Faya Nilsson and Krissy Jones, for example. On the hotel front in the consumer app, a quick look at partner hotels in New York City included Mandarin Oriental, The Greenwich Hotels, The Quin, Soho Grand Hotel, The Times Square Edition, Freehand New York, HGU New York, and the NoMad New York, for example.

Meniri of Six Travel said the Insights platform would be launching with nearly two dozen hotel partners, but he declined to name them.

 

Photo Credit: Pictured is Oneika Raymond in Knoxville, Tennessee. Raymond is a travel influencer who blogs as Oneika the Traveller. She also hosts Travel Channel shows on Facebook called “One Bag and You’re Out” and “Big City, Little Budget.” Six Travel is introducing an app for businesses to assess the value of influencers. Crystal Martin / Travel Channel via Associated Press