How Meliá Hotels International scales influencer marketing by sharing best practice and tailoring its influencer approach to fit each brand.
Traackr has partnered with Scott Guthrie for the following interview, as part of our new global series “Influencer Marketing at Scale”.
Listed on the stock exchange (Part of the IBEX 35 index) and still family-run Meliá Hotels International is one of the largest hotel companies in the world.
This house of brands operates over 90,000 rooms across 377 hotels worldwide under its seven brands: Gran Meliá Hotels & Resorts, Paradisus Resorts, ME by Meliá, Meliá Hotels & Resorts, Innside by Meliá, Sol Hotels & Resorts and TRYP by Wyndham. Its portfolio is complemented by its international shared vacation membership Meliá Club.
I spoke with Santiago Garcia Solimei, Global Director of Social Media, Meliá Hotels International to better understand how this resort and city hotel operator works with influencers globally at an enterprise level.
The interview explores how the firm has built an influencer system robust enough to optimize investments, improve efficiencies, comply with regulations and share best practice across 43 countries on four continents. At the same time, it's a system sufficiently flexible to adapt its approach to meet the differing needs of its seven brand identities.
[SG] What drives Meliá Hotels International to use influencer marketing?
[SGS] About 11% of traffic to our booking website Melia.com comes from social. More and more people are reaching out to social media channels to discover new hotels and to discover destinations.
So not only do we need to be present on social, but we need to be present with really good content and the way to ensure we have amazing and varied content is through influencer marketing.
We used to operate a company-wide PR and social media strategy that was well established by brand and region but lacked a system approach and specific methodology to influencer marketing.
In January 2017, we made the switch to a system-based approach. The move was a response to the increasing number of influencer requests being received at the hotel, regional and global levels, plus the amount of time needed to evaluate, consider and respond to all those requests.
Our systematic approach, driven by Traackr, has given us the benefit of a consistent method to identify, validate, respond and report on influencer related proposals.
[SG] Can you give me an idea of the scale of influencers Meliá Hotels International works with?
[SGS] We categorise influencers at three stages: identified, engaged and advocates. We only keep relevant influencers in our Traackr database. So far we have identified 896 relevant influencers. This gives you an idea of the size we’re talking about. Of those 896 influencers, 150 are engaged. That means they’re doing something with us. A further 75 we classify as advocates.
Overall about a third of our influencers are associated with the ME by Meliá brand. But, every year each one of our seven brands runs a global campaign which contains an influencer marketing component.
[SG] How does Meliá Hotels International identify the most appropriate influencers to work with for each brand?
[SGS] The brand marketing department creates a persona of an ideal influencer for each brand. These profiles cover the ideal interests, age, and trends that these people follow, along with brand configurations, and reach. We have a very clearly spec'd out map of what an influencer should be for each of our brands.
It is really important for us that we do not share influencers across different brands. Each brand has its own specific targets and profiles.
We engage with influencers on an exclusive basis. We look very carefully at the values of that influencer and our brand, the message the influencer is portraying to his or her audience; what type of audience it is and where they are located.
We really want authentic content which amplifies all of the fantastic stories we have in each of our properties. We're transitioning our approach towards having a lot more culture and art-based influencer engagement.
[SG] Which team within Meliá Hotels International 'owns’ influencer marketing'?
[SGS] The Global Social Media department is responsible for the influencer marketing vision, strategy and program, plus the way it’s implemented by the regions and hotels.
We have created a methodology called the MHI Influencer Best Practice Guide. PR and social media agencies engage with influencers based on our methodology. They use Traackr as the influencer database and reporting framework.
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We devise the framework strategy centrally. We then present this strategy to our PR agencies, social media agencies and hotels worldwide. Given our geographical spread we rely on PR agencies and social media agencies - our specialised resources - to conduct local training with hotels. They take the strategy down to a property level. So for example, if a general manager received a request from an influencer, he will know what to do and who to contact. This entire workflow is included in our Influencer Guide.
[SG] How does Meliá Hotels International allocate resources to its influencer programs?
[SGS] We have a central influencer budget allocated to each brand that covers travel, hosting and related expenses. As part of our global campaigns, there is also a budget for influencer marketing-related actions specific to each campaign.
We want to engage with influencers who fully connect with our brands at an emotional level so we invite them to an unforgettable hotel experience where all expenses are covered. We only pay for the influencer participation on specific ad-hoc activities (for example for DJing, art interventions, or Ted Talks). We believe this approach will result in more effective and authentic content as well as a long-term relationship of brand advocacy.
[SG] How do you measure the success of your influencer marketing?
Part of proving the ROI of social is via a data-driven approach. Through Traackr, we're able to generate a report of every relevant influencer campaign. Within the report, we can see all of the coverage generated plus the mentions and interactions. We can see which content has worked best for us on each social network and by specific influencers.
We're also putting together internal business cases which show results on all the different campaigns. Globally, about 11% of traffic to our booking website Melia.com comes from social. In some countries, social media drives 15% of traffic to the booking site. Through business cases and reports we show our hotels’ general managers how much coverage has been generated and how much traction was achieved.
[SG] What barriers need to be overcome to effectively scale influencer marketing within an enterprise and how do you overcome them?
[SGS] The main barriers are taking the strategy to all markets, on all four of the continents that we operate. Each market has its own specific rules, regulation and different digital behaviours.
We’re grouped by regions. Each region has its own annual conference. Social media always has a slot at these conferences. So at least once a year, we have the opportunity to get in front of the general managers of any particular region and really give them an update on trends, strategy, and different projects. Then the general manager is responsible for passing on the information to their team.
Face-to-face knowledge sharing is augmented with online training and a social media ambassador scheme. There are also bootcamps and there's a company online portal where employees can share their ideas with their peers.
Providing updated training is a challenge given how quickly social media is evolving. So, we're looking into providing full online training which covers our influencer marketing methodology.
[SG] What influencer marketing activation are you especially proud of?
2017 marked the 10th anniversary of ME By Meliá. To commemorate this landmark we devised an always-on, year-long global campaign across all the ME by Meliá hotels and markets. Our aim was to educate audiences about the brand and to celebrate the first decade in a way that reflected the ME vibe. We held events at ME Miami, ME Madrid, ME London, ME Mallorca, ME Ibiza, ME Cabo and ME Milan. These events drove traffic to the brand channels and web content hub where all event-related content is hosted.
Campaign results for the 10 Years of Me were phenomenal on social media. Content created from the Milan event, for example, generated a 30% engagement rate. For that event held last December we combined the glamour and exclusivity of ME by Meliá with the distinctive values of Milan: Fashion, design and gastronomy.
Influencers were given makeup and hairstyling make-overs by specialist stylists. They were then offered branded accessories to complete their new look.
We also showcased the city's architecture and gastronomy legacy before hosting a party on our rooftop bar giving influencers the perfect opportunity to take and publish pictures of the sun setting behind the Milan skyline.
The campaign was a success. The hashtag #10YearsofME was used 1,346 times throughout the year on Instagram. It generated 1.36M likes and comments on the platform. In total we achieved 3.5M content engagements on all promoted posts.
Scott is an independent influencer marketing consultant. Previous roles include overseeing influencer relations at leading agency, Ketchum, and serving as the newswire product manager, EMEA at PR Newswire. Follow him on Twitter. Read his influencer marketing blog, or watch “My Influencer Marketing Philosophy”.