Consumer Trust & Leveraging Social Influencers

Dec 6, 2016  |  By Peter Billias  |  

Understanding the dynamics of social media is critical to the success of today’s marketer. In our Digital Travelscape series, we will examine the changing tides in digital marketing to highlight emerging trends that impact how travelers make buying decisions. Follow Civilian throughout this journey and discover new insights and approaches to your travel & tourism marketing.

Nurturing an emotional connection with consumers can inspire them to tell a story about your brand through social media and word-of-mouth. Social sharing is an extremely useful tool when building advocacy for your brand. Travel brands, in particular, have the unique advantage of selling experiences rather than products. This week we will be focusing on the consumer’s global trust in advertising and the significance of driving social influence.

In September 2015, Nielsen conducted an online survey to understand which form of advertising consumers trust most. The report revealed that earned and owned media resonates with consumers, while paid advertising lags behind. “Recommendations from people you know” garnered the highest level of trust, which 83% of respondents said they “completely or somewhat trust.” “Branded websites” (70%) and “consumer opinions posted online” (66%) followed as the second and third-highest levels of trust, demonstrating the effectiveness of a strong online presence and positive reputation among reviewers.

“As consumers are in control of how they consume content and interact with brands more than ever, understanding ad resonance across screens is the only way to successfully drive memorability and brand lift today.”

— Randall Beard, President, Nielsen Expanded Verticals

Trust In Advertising


This brings us back to the common thread in our Digital Travelscape series, user-generated content (UGC). A little over a year ago, millennials (ages 21-36) “inched past the other generations to corner the largest share of the U.S. labor market,” according to the Deloitte University Press. Less shocking, millennials make up the largest percentage of users across all social media platforms. Due to the younger generations’ growing presence in both the workforce and online community, it has become increasingly important to drive media that these young adults can relate to. These facts are especially important when considering millennials spend 30% of their daily media time consuming UGC. The fact that this generation is so immersed in UGC is something businesses need to keep on their radar, but what does engagement look like across four of the major platforms?

In August of 2016, TrackMaven performed an analysis of social media content and consumer interaction for more than 40,000 companies in 130 industries, over a span of 6 months. Their discovery shows low ratios for Twitter and LinkedIn, with Instagram leaps and bounds ahead boasting an engagement ratio 10 times greater than the nearest competitor, Facebook. Travel brands should focus heavily on pushing content through Instagram given the visual nature of the sector.

Let’s examine social media sensations that took the internet by storm, and the compelling influence they had on the behaviors of consumers.

One of the earliest examples of a social movement is the #FollowMeTo project, co-founded by Murad Osmann and his wife Nataly. The project began after Murad took a photo of Nataly, holding his hand and leading him through a graffiti-ridden hallway in Barcelona. After Murad’s post went viral, the popularity of the photo’s style exploded. The image has been replicated hundreds of thousands of times, and their combined followers on Instagram exceeds 5 million. This spark of social influence wasn’t manufactured by a travel brand. The couple captured a moment to which consumers could relate, and now, over five years later, this simple yet elegant photo styling is still flooding newsfeeds today. The couple’s massive following and online success has led to a variety of business opportunities, most recently serving as ambassadors for the Macy’s exclusive INC International Concepts fashion line.

The Osmanns are not alone in reaching social media stardom. There are thousands of social media juggernauts. Take a look at Social Blade’s Top 5,000 YouTuber Channels, where even the last channel on the list has over 600,000 subscribers! Big brands have taken notice. For instance, in early 2015 Marriott International partnered with 5 Major YouTube Stars to produce a video blog series titled “Experiences,” a product of the then-newly launched Marriott Content Studio. During the series, each influencer traveled to a different city across the world and filmed their experiences at the destination. Since the hospitality giant began collaborating with social influencers, the Marriott YouTube videos have over 13 million views.


Average Brand Engagement


“In partnering with What’s Trending and top YouTube talent from different channel genres, the influencers experienced new activities in various locations from around the world and created content that both entertains and informs viewers. At the end of the day, content done right builds an emotional connection with the viewer and our brands and ultimately equals heads in beds.”

David Beebe, Vice President, Creative + Content Marketing, Global Marketing for Marriott International

Leveraging social media influence doesn’t stop there. Marketing your travel brand through the visual channels can be supplemented with other forms of UGC such as a blog. With such a high value being placed on peer-reviews, a travel blog partnership produces cost-effective marketing for your brand while freeing up time for you to focus on what matters: running your business. Another benefit of working with a travel blogger is that your brand then gains a greater reach, to an audience to which you may not otherwise have access.

Hypothetically, let’s say you are a hospitality group located in the U.S. One of your goals for the year is to increase the number of foreign travelers to your destination. By sponsoring a foreign travel blogger to experience your accommodations in exchange for publicity, opportunities for massive reach in international markets arise. These bloggers have developed their own voice and following, and are a trusted source for their readers. Additionally, most travel bloggers churn out content across multiple channels. The images, video, and written content they produce are now all available for sharing and reuse, further promoting your brand.

By taking on a multi-channel marketing approach which incorporates social influencers, you invest in the long-term for your brand. Influencers engage consumers and ignite conversation, leading to the powerful effect of peer-recommendations and storytelling. Develop a relationship with your consumer and build on their passion for your brand. Once you start co-creating with your advocates, the domino effect begins and there is no limit to how deep their influence can travel.

Civilian understands what sparks and fuels consumer movements in the travel & tourism sector. Our weekly blog posts will explore the effects of social influencers, curating immersive escapes, the mobile first mindset, leveraging social sharing, and more.

Interested in more? Find the next installment of the Digital Travelscape Series here.

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