Ask Jonathon Hospitality Advice Column

Ciao Jonathon,

I’m a manager at a large city hotel in the United States. At least once a day we receive a request from a social media influencer (usually via Instagram) to stay at our property in exchange for a free room. It’s nearly impossible to stay on top of all of the requests. We try to research if the exchange would be good for us but with so many requests we usually end up declining. Do you think it’s worth it for us to collaborate with these influencers? What should we look for in partnering with an influencer?


Influencers (not) Wanted

Ciao Influencers,

Thanks for writing in! Platforms like Instagram have made it so easy for anyone to declare to know the best of the best of anything, which makes it so hard to know who really has the clout to influence purchasing decisions. I believe there are some Influencers who truly do have the power to drive conversions but I think the majority of them only wish they did.

In your case, I suggest you take a more offensive approach. Put together a list of criteria for what you would want in a collaboration. Include things like:

  • location: a local influencer is great because (s)he knows your city well and can provide quality, authentic content
  • age: look for someone who can relate to your target market
  • the right kind of content: watch out for a profile full of selfies and look for a feed with high quality images and captions

Here are a few other tips I suggest for handling influencer requests:

Don’t let the numbers fool you

I don’t believe there’s any magic number of followers that defines an influencer, it’s really about engagement. I’d rather work with someone with 1,000 highly engaged, real fans than one with 100,000 ghost followers, wannabes and dreamers. Although, admittedly, it’s not always easy to tell the difference.

A very large following can be a good thing or it can be misleading. Be aware that it’s possible to grow a large number of followers by using a bot and/or paying for them. So if you are approached by someone with a relatively small number of followers but is highly engaged with them, that can actually be a stronger endorsement and a better source for quality content.

Influencers will have the most impact on your social media following

Don’t expect the reservations to be pouring in immediately after collaborating with an influencer. Influencers are great for new property or service launches because they raise awareness and create buzz. But chances are their endorsement won’t necessarily start filling your rooms or seats at some alarming rate.

You can improve the results of a collaboration with an influencer by providing them with a special rate or promotion. Also ensure your property profile(s) are optimized for conversions. Make sure your profile has a current phone number, email address, and link to your website for booking. Identify any personalized hashtags in your bio so users can share their experience with you. Use Linktree to direct traffic to multiple links or websites within the single link space of your Instagram business profile.

Work with likeminded fans

It’s simple enough to find out if there’s already chemistry between you and an influencer by scrolling through his/her feed. Does the influencer requesting a collaboration already follow your profiles? Does (s)he know who you are and what you do? A real fan is one of your best ambassadors, so that can be a great indication if that influencer is right for you. But it’s not required. Take a look at the content he or she posts. Is it in line with the content posted on your business’ profile? That’s a good test for compatibility.

Set expectations and deliverables

You can decide if a post on an influencer’s feed is sufficient for a complimentary stay. But you may also consider negotiating multiple posts, cross posting to different platforms, mentions in Instagram stories, and/or a feature on his/her blog.

You can also consider a media rate in lieu of a complimentary stay. If you are opening your doors for the first time, offering complimentary stays could be the way to go to build more buzz around the property and testimonials for your services. But if you’re a historic property with decades of satisfying loyal guests, a media rate is probably a better way to go.

Treat your influencers like journalists

Regardless how you feel about influencers, it’s important to treat them like the media they are the and brand ambassadors they’re going to become. So once you’ve confirmed the list of deliverables, invest in your influencers to show them a good time. Treat them to new cocktails at your bar to talk about on their social media. If possible, book them in rooms with the best views. Offer them room service for breakfast – those photos consistently get great engagement on social media. Give them the experience you’d want your potential guests to crave.


“Ask Jonathon” is a Hospitality Advice Column by Jonathon Dominic Spada, founder of SAYHELLO Creative, a hospitality consulting and creative agency based in California and Rome, Italy.

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