Head at Travelpayouts, the largest affiliate marketing network focused on the travel market.
It’s been estimated that more than 50 million people worldwide consider themselves creators. I expect this number will increase in the future, considering that a 2019 survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Lego Group found that more kids are likely to want to be a YouTuber (29%) than an astronaut (11%) when they grow up, according to a press release by Lego. Influencer Marketing Hub estimated that in 2021, the creator economy had surprised $100 billion and is “growing by the day.”
Travel influencers are a significant part of the creator economy, and there are ample opportunities for brands looking to break into this arena. As the head of an affiliate marketing network for the travel industry, let’s look at the five options I believe travel brands can explore to tap into the creator economy.
Travel brands can consider launching an affiliate marketing program. In these programs, creators develop content recommending good travel products, and they’re rewarded per sale. For example, if someone buys flight tickets through the creator’s affiliate links, the creator will receive a certain percentage of the ticket price.
The “cost per action” model used in affiliate marketing allows brands to reduce the risks of unsuccessful advertising campaigns. Only the results actually achieved are paid. The company can also build a safety net so that unscrupulous participants can’t make a profit. In the end, the audience of the content creator gets a quality travel product, the creator earns a commission and the travel brand makes a sale.
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There are several ways you can get started with affiliate marketing: develop solutions from scratch, find ready-made Software-as-a-Solution options or use partner networks or digital platforms. (Full disclosure: My company is an affiliate marketing network.) To decide which option is right for you, take into account development costs. For instance, it is cheaper to implement a SaaS solution by yourself, but more resources would be needed to build your own affiliate program.
Additionally, keep in mind that because affiliate marketing is an attractive business channel, it is no longer a free niche and there is fierce competition. There are a number of established partner programs among popular categories such as flights, hotels, car rental, etc., that your brand will have to compete with in order to get partners and audiences.
Another option travel brands can explore is working with influencers. Influencers can help instill high confidence in your product or service. In addition, opinion leaders often have a large loyal audience to whom they can introduce your brand. My company experienced this firsthand; we worked with a travel influencer whose high appreciation for our service allowed us to attract a lot of attention.
That said, there are considerations to keep in mind when working with influencers as well. For example, the company can lose control, since much of a campaign’s success depends on the blogger themselves. I’ve found it can also be difficult to measure results, and mistakes can cost a brand.
Social Media Marketing
Social media has become a common way for people to consume content. Hence, leveraging social media platforms can also be a great way for travel brands to share content themselves and interact with their target audience. After all, digital consumers spend more than two hours on social platforms daily, which enables companies to have a direct dialog with customers and choose various tools for each segment.
The disadvantages of the method are similar to working with influencers: Efficiency can be difficult to assess, and the cost of error can be extraordinary. The competition is also very high, which means your brand needs to regularly update its social media advertising strategy. Nevertheless, social networks are a powerful channel of communication with current and potential customers. Producing relevant content can help you reach them organically.
I’m finding that collaborations have gained popularity as well. Beyond collaborating with influencers, brands can also collaborate with one another to help increase awareness, create an information channel and reach a new audience on creator economy platforms.
If your company takes this route, ensure you collaborate with a brand that complements yours and vice versa. An outcome could be a material item or even a Twitter dialogue. Of course, keep in mind that it can be challenging to predict the result of the collaboration. For instance, if your company makes a mistake with the choice of a partner, you can alienate your audience.
Building Online Communities
Another way to use the creator economy is to unite users around the product, which can be done through community marketing. The main idea behind community marketing is to make buyers feel comfortable in the community, discuss exciting topics, exchange useful information, feel involved in something more than just a sale, and create a common lifestyle. For a brand, creating such a community is an opportunity to convey values and ideas to the consumer and gain a loyal audience.
The benefits of community marketing occur when people feel included and even proud of their participation in a cool community as a result of having a dialogue with a brand or other users. This model is particularly easy to implement in travel. Among the users of travel brands are many travelers who have something to share. Co-authors of your content can become brand advocates for your company. Many of these users even have their own audience they are eager to share this content with. That is how new content appears that is more important, engaging and interesting.
To sum up, I believe the prevalence of social networks and other platforms; the ease of creating new, high-quality content; and consumers’ interest in personal stories and expert advice have all contributed to the growth of the creator economy. There are several channels brands can leverage to join the creator economy, and travel companies should consider how to take advantage of each one.