SYDNEY: Social media influencers can boost audience reach for Australian hospitality brands by up to ten times, new research has revealed.

Data from Hootsuite, a social media monitoring company, have revealed the power of influencers in Australia, where Instagram in particular is emerging as a powerful marketing platform for many brands.

The hospitality industry is already capitalising on opportunities from the photo-sharing app, with an Australian bar, hotel or restaurant being tagged on Instagram every 28 seconds, B&T reported. The highest performing influencers drive up to 87% of post traffic.

The report also revealed the positive brand impact of social media activity by hospitality brands – hotels, bars and restaurants with an active online presence enjoyed an increased positive brand perception of up to 20%.

Despite the clear benefits, less than half of hospitality brands of tourism in Australia use social media to engage with consumers. Almost half (45%) of those brands with accounts aren't actively engaging with their followers.

"Social media has transformed the way Australians discover, consume and share experiences at hotels, bars, and restaurants," said Ben Mulligan, Regional Marketing Leader, Australia & New Zealand, Hootsuite.

"With more access to real-time information than ever before, the customer journey has evolved, and organisations need to think 'digital first' to meet and capitalise upon the expectations of the connected consumer," he advised.

The report also suggested that brands should work with "micro-influencers" (influencers with small, more localised followers) who offer a more targeted potential audience.

US word-of-mouth specialist Keller Fay has noted the "hand raising" role of influencers, who are disproportionately more likely to call customer service-numbers, visit brand websites, or volunteer for marketing programs.

Marketers should make a priority of effectively responding to incoming inquiries and build databases of these types of consumers, it recommends in a Warc Best Practice paper, How to use influencers to drive a word-of-mouth strategy. They should also use their websites as a hub for content to be shared.

But offline channels should not be neglected as two-thirds of the sales impact of conversation comes from offline discussions about brands, rather than through social media.

Data sourced from B&T; additional content by Warc staff