Vail Marketing District using ‘influencers’ to attract guests
Selling Vail in the summer requires finding ways to draw guests who stay longer, spend more
Rules for influencers
If you want to come to Vail as a social media “influencer,” there are some expectations, including:
- No nudity or crass language.
- You need to post images every day of your trip.
- Be authentic.
- Take the job seriously.
VAIL — You’d think summer in Vail is a proposition that sells itself. But the Vail Local Marketing District’s job is to spread the word to more potential visitors.
The way the district reaches out to potential visitors has evolved over the years, and includes traditional advertising and an expanding reach on social media.
Newer ways of reaching people requires a lot of work and research. For the past few years, the district has hired social media “influencers” — people who are paid to come to Vail for a few days, then post their experiences on social media channels, primarily Instagram.
Kristin Yantis, a principal in Malin Yantis Public Relations, has worked with the district for some time.
Yantis said influencers are a kind of modern offshoot of celebrity endorsements, in which movie or music stars would tout the virtues of products from luggage to cigarettes.
These days, influencers can be celebrities — who are sometimes paid thousands, or more, for each sponsored post. Other people have built a strong social media following, and are paid for their time. In Vail’s case, the marketing district works with both paid and unpaid influencers. All influencers are provided with lodging and experiences. Paid influencers receive between $1,000 and $2,500 for their trips.
Yantis said the district focuses on influencers who have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers. But many of those followers have to be “engaged,” meaning they like, share and comment on social media posts.
Time and research
Finding those people can take a lot of time and research.
“When I research, it’s like going down a rabbit hole,” Yantis said. “It’s fun, it’s fun to talk to people about who they follow.”
Yantis said influencers who can take good photos are particularly valuable — Vail has some pretty compelling scenery, after all.
Joanna Adach came to Vail as an influencer last summer. Adach makes her living as an influencer, meaning she’s paid for her experiences.
A year after her trip, Adach was still singing Vail’s praises in an email exchange.
“Not only was Vail absolutely breathtaking in the summertime but there was so much to do,” Adach wrote. “One day we started our morning doing yoga, another day we did a hike with llamas in the mountains and also went horseback riding. We also indulged in the best cuisine including a meal I will never forget at an Austrian restaurant called Almresi. I still dream of the cheese fondue!”
Adach wrote that her followers were enthusiastic about her trip, which included goat yoga and a llama hike.
“Some of my followers thought I might have been visiting somewhere in the Alps and were taken by surprise to hear that the location was Vail,” Adach wrote. “I received only the most positive feedback.”
Finding the right families
Adach and other influencers are picked because of the people who follow them, including families with older children at home.
Cactus, a Denver-based advertising and marketing agency, works with both the marketing district and Vail Resorts.
Cactus Vice President of Strategy Mike Lee said those families are a kind of sweet spot in a key market for the district as it works on the twin goals of increasing revenue throughout Vail and increasing lodging occupancy, length of stay and how much people spend.
Families with older kids generally stay longer and spend more, Lee said. In addition, a family with two teenagers is more likely to book two rooms — one for the kids and one for the adults. Older kids are also more likely to order from adult menus at restaurants.
Lee said older kids are also more likely to participate in a wider range of activities. A 7-year-old isn’t quite old enough to participate in those activities, Lee said.
Older kids may also become Vail visitors when they become adults, Lee said. Those older kids may be turned loose on the mountain, or in town, a safe way for older kids to find their footing on their own.
Lee said Vail stands out among mountain resorts in its outreach to those families.
“No one in (Vail’s) competitive set is really going after this audience,” Lee said. “They’re going after young kids, but not really teens.”
Lee said aiming at families with teens is a great opportunity to talk to an audience that’s already coming. That outreach can lead to real brand loyalty, he added.