Over the last few months, there have been some rather interesting ‘scandals’ in the social media space. Bloggers and influencers who are looking for free food, free hotel stays or other perks are taking to social media or emailing proprietors and asking for perks because of their status.
Some hotel and restaurant owners aren’t taking too kindly to those requests, and are “shaming” those who asked on their own social media, as well as responding to negative reviews of their premises with scathing reviews of their own. The Stop Working for Free Facebook group is full of posts relating to influencers who are asking for free stuff. The consensus among them seems to be that social media is not the same as PR, and that likes and retweets don’t pay the bills.
While this is a reasonable stance to take, it does open up some interesting questions about travel PR. The line between social media and PR is blurring, and many users have stopped reading blogs and news sites, preferring to consume most of their content via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. At what point does someone cease being ‘a person with a lot of Instagram followers’ and become a real ‘influencer’? How many people who follow food social media pages are actually qualified prospects, rather than just people who like to look at pictures of food?
It’s hard to know, at this stage, what numbers are needed to make it worth giving a blogger free stuff, and it’s hard to track the real impact of an Instagram campaign. There’s not much chance that the average user on Instagram will decide to stay at a hotel in Greenwich because their favorite poster happened to stay there. With that said, if you run a brand that makes snack boxes which can be purchased via mail order, you have a decent chance of getting conversions by being active online.
Social media as a whole is still a relatively new industry compared to print, radio and TV, and food social media is evolving rapidly too. Now is the time to test, track and experiment, and talk to other brands and find out what works for them. Everyone benefits from information sharing, and it will be fascinating to see how the landscape plays out, and which influencers are still making an impact next year, let alone a decade from now.