Alyssa Clementi sits down with Santiago Garcia Solimei, director of global social media at Meliá Hotels International, to discuss the company’s use of influencer marketing through the Traackr platform.
Over the last five years, there has been an immeasurable surge in the use of influencer marketing by brands both big and small, who are reaping the benefits of a more cost-effective and personal type of audience reach. In 2016, Meliá Hotels International, which owns over 300 hotels around the globe, decided that the most authentic way of sharing their vacation experiences would be through content creation and influencers.
“Since 2016, we started noticing an increase in the requests we were receiving from influencers, from our hotels, from our regional teams, and directly to our hotel´s general managers,” says Santiago Garcia Solimei, director of global social media, Meliá Hotels International. “Towards the end of 2016, we decided we needed to put a solidified process in place. Specifically, we needed to organize everything in terms of the qualification of each request, discovery, and reporting.”
“We have more than 380 hotels and we have a presence in 43 countries, and basically what we started noticing was that if we were adding up the number of requests we were receiving at each individual property, our regional offices and our global headquarters, we could have days with over 100 influencer requests,” says Garcia Solimei.
Implementing influencer marketing
Since Meliá Hotels International has 11 different unique brands with a social media presence, the company knew they would need help organizing requests and choosing the most compatible influencer for each brand campaign.
“Without the tools and without a rigorous policy, we were finding that some requests were being approved just because someone thought that influencer would be a good choice, even though there was no way to measure or qualify those requests,” continues Garcia Solimei. “We had a pretty informal way of working with the influencers, until we realized that it was critical to add a strong process. We needed to make sure we were accepting who would be an advantage to us and that we were following a consistent criterion.”
Garcia Solimei explains, “The first step was finding a tool that could also act as an influencer database, because our strategy was to develop long-term relationships with the key influencers we wanted to work with. We also wanted to follow a policy where we would select influencers that shared the same values as our brands. We didn’t want to use the same influencer to work with us across all of our brands.”
“We scouted the market and we looked at different solutions, and we decided to work with Traackr in 2017,” says Garcia Solimei. “So, since early 2017, we started our partnership, which continues today. We chose Traackr because we needed an enterprise solution. We have hotels presence from the Asian Pacific to America, Europe and the Middle East, so we really needed a global solution that could fit the necessities of various markets.”
Connecting with Traackr
Traackr, an influencer marketing platform, offers brands and agencies an organized approach to discovering, vetting and activating the appropriate influencers for each individual campaign. Once the influencer is hired, Traackr helps with campaign management and performance measurement. In the world of influencer marketing, metrics such as follower count, audience reach, engagement and authenticity are critical to a high performing campaign.
“We ended up creating our influencer policy around Traackr, so whenever an agency with available influencers wanted to work with us, regardless of location, that same agency needed to get into Traackr and pull out all of the required information,” says Garcia Solimei. “We standardize all the information that goes into Traackr, then when the request goes to the general manager of a specific Meliá Hotels International property, who are the decision makers approving or rejecting a request, all the backup information is there.”
Garcia Solimei continues: “General Managers could see that we have already analyzed reach, engagement, brand affinity, and so on. When we say, ‘we believe this influencer is the right fit for that hotel’, normally there’s no rejection of our requests since all that information is supplied and supported.”
“One of the most valuable things about Traackr is that we are able to understand who the audience of each influencer is, including details like demographics, location, age, interests, and occupation and average income of that audience,” explains Solimei. “I think that’s extremely useful because at the end of the day, what we want is for that influencer to create custom content for that specific audience.”
Garcia Solimei mentions that each of Meliá Hotels International brands have a specific niche audience that the company is trying to appeal to, so Traackr can be used to decide whether a macro, micro or nano influencer is needed. For example, for some of Melia Hotels International´s more luxurious and exclusive locations, it would be appropriate to use an influencer that has a luxury audience that can relate, be influenced and consider booking a stay in those properties.
“Sometimes we do campaigns with micro-influencers, because for us, it’s not always about the audience numbers, it’s really about specific interests that influencer audience has. For example, for the ME Meliá Brand, which is a luxury lifestyle brand, we look for influencers that are primarily related to art, design, music, and fashion. The audience interests for us are more important than follower count.”
The bond between influencers and audiences
One of the biggest concerns a brand may have when implementing influencer marketing is the authenticity of their influencer’s followers, which can include fake accounts to bump up metrics, without any real ROI. With the help of influencer marketing platforms like Traackr, brands and agencies alike are usually able to weed out the fake followers and bot accounts.
“Obviously fake followers and authenticity are two concerns that we share across the board for all of our brands,” says Garcia Solimei. “Traackr gives us an indication of the audience types, so for every single influencer, we are able to analyze suspicious accounts. Suspicious/fake followers are indicated in the platform, we also receive a measurement of the quality of the audience as a whole.”
Garcia Solimei continues: “Of course, we want to use influencers to amplify our brands’ stories, and we really need to create content that is trustworthy. That’s where the reputation of the influencer is extremely important to us, and that’s why we put so much effort into the dedication to choosing the right partners to work with. “
As influencer marketing steadily gets more and more popular each year, Meliá Hotels International has seen some impressive metrics when it has come to their social media presence. Garcia Solimei credits much of the success in choosing the best influencers for each of Meliá’s brands, as well as keeping a close, long-term partnership with these influencers.
“We have identified around 900 influencers in our database, and over 100 of those are what we call advocates, or long-term collaborators,” says Solimei. “We feel that this working relationship is the key, because that influencer needs to trust us as well. If there is a mutual benefit and shared values in place, then the influencer fully committed and aligned with what the brand has to offer.”
“We have increased influencer mentions by over 100 per cent in the last year,” says Garcia Solimei. “We have also seen a 52 per cent increase in our social media interactions. When you look at our social media results from all of our channels in 2019, the combined reach has almost doubled. This means the right mix between owned and third party experience based content has paid off .”