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It’s no secret that influencers play a big part in the hospitality industry, whether it’s sharing their experience at a hotel, or posting a picture of their beast of a burger (Nat Brereton we’re looking at you).

Now, there’s nothing wrong with using influencers to get the word out (we’ve all used them), but with the introduction of the mandatory #ad, #invited and #gifted in posts where goods or experiences were received, people are beginning to wise up to it. 

Studies have shown that 61% of consumers admit that they would trust recommendations from friends and family over influencers on social media, which for people like us in the bizz can be a bit of a red flag. 

Taking a peek at the trend predictions for the new year, many of them talk about the downfall of influencer marketing. So here’s our Duchess opinions on Influencer marketing for 2020. 

Frankie: 

Influencer marketing has become such a dirty word but I don’t think it’s going anywhere – it’s just going to change and I think that’s a good thing. I am not a fan of influencer platforms because I don’t think they drive any benefit to the brand – great if you’re an influencer, mind! We work really hard to build great relationships with people who we know will create awesome content in certain areas. If you’ve got 50k followers but all you’re posting is a picture of your pout and you want to come and review a restaurant – no thanks. The people we work with aren’t “influencers” they’re passionate about what they do and people follow them for that, and because we have a good relationship with them often when we #invite them they then come for themselves – and that’s where we see continued benefit. 

Meg: 

As Frankie says, the term influencer often gets people riled up, and looking after the PR side of things I often have to broach the subject of working with influencers with clients and it’s always funny to see the look of disdain that so often comes across people’s faces. That said, there’s no denying it’s here to stay and it bloody works! 

One of our recent restaurant openings is naturally very ‘instagrammable’ (sorry, excuse me while I vom) but we’ve actively worked to bring a steady stream of a few influential people in a month, which keeps the momentum of great content and great reviews coming. We now find that customers are coming in and showing the team the latest photos of the new dishes on Instagram and going “I want that!” – I certainly feel that’s proof enough influencer marketing is still working. 

We also choose the people we work with really carefully, making sure they’re the kind of people who would come to our venues anyway, which means their audience is likely to be too, and we have to make sure their accounts are relevant – I’ve had people asking for free meals when their entire Instagram grid is pictures of themselves, so you know you’re only going to get a story at best. In these cases we have to weigh it up – is a story really worth a steak dinner for two – nah babe!

Shonette: 

I think the mandatory requirement of influencers declaring whether a post is #invited, #gifted or #ad is a great step forward (although it’s not enforced enough by individuals, brands and agencies at the moment). Not being transparent made it a lot harder to trust what was genuine, and it’s good to see which places influencers go to when they’re not being invited along (if their feed is purely commercial content that is an immediate turn off for me). Of course famous people and those who have a strong personality online will always command a lot of influence on their followers which businesses will want to use, but the key is using this in the same targeted way you would a magazine or TV ad. What audience do you want to reach? What message do you want to get across? Blindly sending products or inviting people in to post about your food without considering whether their audience and tone matches what you want to convey can lead to a lot of disappointment. As long as you go into it with some key goals and expectations which you set out from the start, influencer marketing can be another great way of getting the word out there.

Steph: 

I’ve always been sceptical of the true reach of influencer marketing, however this is purely from a personal perspective: I don’t utilise my own social media enough to be targeted by any influencer-led advertising. Having said that, the power and, well, influence, of celebrity influencers is undeniable within their target demographics and I don’t see this going anywhere any time soon. As long as there are impressionable (mostly young) people using the likes of Instagram and Facebook, there will be a viable reason for brands and companies to keep using influencers. Whether this is the best, most trust-worthy and most reliable form of marketing out there is another question altogether, though… 

Clem: 

I don’t think influencer marketing is going anywhere – in fact, I predict that it’s only going to get more powerful and become even more of a core consideration for most PR and marketing strategies. However, I do think that people are starting to get tired of being bombarded with posts tagged with #Ad and #Invited. Influencers who want to stand the test of time will need to stick to their integrity and sense of purpose, to only promote things that are truly valuable to their audience in order to keep their trust and attention, and intersperse their sponsored posts with genuine, non-monetised content. 

Aemilia: 

I think while influencers have a bigger impact with larger brands and companies, (for example Kendall Jenner with Calvin Klein), for smaller and independent businesses they can be easily misused. For me, the smaller influencers (who don’t have a crazy amount of followers and go to places without being #invited all the time) are becoming more trustworthy with consumers and will be the way forward for businesses. 

Getting larger influencers who only go to places if they are #invited and #gifted are people who will always leave a positive experience whether they have one or not. I know that I would 100% prefer to see the non-influencer tagged photos before going to a restaurant or buying a product rather than influencer posts, because of the lack of honesty that hides within the #invited or #gifted. However, I don’t think the use of influencers is going to drop, I think that it is going to grow but grow with “fake” influencers (ones who pay for followers and likes) who are in it for the free stuff rather than genuine ones who care about what businesses they work with. 

We don’t have a crystal ball to tell us what is going to work and what isn’t for next year, but what we do know is that people aren’t playing dumb anymore. As Shonette said, the demand for #ad, #gifted and #invited is an important step forward as it keeps influencers honest and genuine towards the companies they work with. This is also important as influencers are (unintentionally) being split into categories; Fitness, beauty, food, fashion… Everything you can think of, there will be some sort of influencer group there. So be smart with what influencers you use as Frankie and Meg say, if you’ve been posting pictures of yourself and then asking for a free dinner then we’re not interested I’m afraid!