The term “influencer” is such a buzzword these days that it can be hard to sort the real-deal Instagram celebs from the small fish trying to project a level of clout that they do not, in fact, possess. This puzzle is especially relevant to companies who must decipher which self-titled influencers are worth doing business with—aka, whose social media presence will provide enough exposure to justify showering them with free goodies.
The luxury hotel industry has to put up with a lot of these types, so-called “D-list influencers” who are increasingly sliding into the DM’s of high-class destination resorts, requesting free sh*t in exchange for the utmost honor of featuring said hotels on their Instagrams. It may seem like a ridiculous and somewhat self-important idea, but the reality is that when it works, it works…and when it doesn’t, you end up looking kind of stupid.
This is the case for the many “influencers” who are rejected on a daily basis by establishments such as the picturesque beachside resort Dusit Thani Maldives. The hotel’s website describes the location as
“blend[ing] graceful Thai hospitality with the unparalleled luxury setting of the Maldives. Encircled by white sandy beaches, a stunning reef and a turquoise lagoon…the setting is of unparalleled beauty.”
It’s no wonder then that Kate Jones, marketing and communications manager of the highly-coveted spot, reports receiving an average of 6 requests a day for sponsored rooms, spa visits, meals, and the like. However the vast majority of these requests, Jones says, are not even worth investigating:
“Everyone with a Facebook these days is an influencer. People say, ‘I want to come to the Maldives for ten days and will do two posts on Instagram to like 2,000 followers.’ It’s people with 600 Facebook friends saying, ‘Hi I’m an influencer, I want to stay in your hotel for 7 days.’”
While this characterization may seem rather scathing, at least Jones still permits some influencers to partake in free offerings from the resort. Some locals have been even less generous or accepting in their treatment of social media personalities, with a boutique hotel in Ireland rejecting their presence all together. Paul Stenson, the owner of the quaint but sophisticated White Moose Café responded to a request for free accommodation with a Strongly Worded Email™ that read:
“Dear Social Influencer (I know your name but apparently it’s not important to use names),
Thank you for your email looking for free accommodation in return for exposure. It takes a lot of balls to send an email like that, if not much self-respect and dignity.
“If I let you stay here in return for a feature in a video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room?”
It seems that while influencer marketing is growing, some sectors of society are simultaneously becoming more hostile to the industry. The only takeaway one can be certain of is, if you are going to—in the words of Paul Stenson—sacrifice your self-respect and dignity for a free night in a hotel, you better be pretty sure that you’re worth it.
(See here for the full Paul Stenson/Influencer saga.)