The Value of Social Influencer Campaigns

As a marketing tool aimed at increasing awareness and interest in travel to destinations, social influencer marketing campaigns are a growing trend. But how effective is influencer marketing? This article explores South African Tourism’s #WowSouthAfrica campaign as a case study to find answers.

According to an infographic on, influencer marketing can generate up to 11x the ROI of traditional advertising. And it’s not just about the size of the influencers’ following. Micro influencers (those with 1,000-10,000 followers) generate higher engagement rates than do macro influencers (celebrities) with a ‘like’ rate of 8% compared to 2.5% for the latter.

South African Tourism (SAT) launched a wildly successful #WowSouthAfrica campaign to communicate the real, unfiltered, accessible and inspiring experiences available in the country. With a brief to drive awareness and increase interest in travel from the USA to the long-haul destination, and a strong goal to improve upon the successful results of a similar program in 2015, Sparkloft Media leveraged the voices of hand-picked travel influencers to drive engagement, reach and video views.

The SAT Social Influencer Marketing Campaign Case Study

To build off the success of the SAT’s 2015 #MeetSouthAfrica influencer tour, Sparkloft pivoted in three key areas. Targeting North Americans with a strong affinity for travel, larger, macro-influencers were leveraged with a Facebook retargeting strategy and new, immersive social media technology to create compelling narratives about South Africa.

The team of influencers included a fashion blogger, @SimplyCyn; an adventurer, @ASenseofHuber; and a photographer, @Charissa_fay. The big-three took off on an epic journey of South Africa to experience bungee jumping, wild safari game drives, urban farmers markets and seaside hikes. Each was tasked to focus their posts on respective content pillars while capturing photo, video and Instagram Story content throughout the journey. An extension of their own content, the influencers starred in a series of highlight (:60), micro-moment (:15) and 360º videos to showcase individual #WowSouthAfrica experiences from their perspectives. Through a targeted interest and behaviour-based ad strategy, each influencer’s story was shared via multiple creative touch points, driving home the message to users: seek out your own #WowSouthAfrica moment and be transformed.

“More than a year after returning from South Africa, the three influencers continue to share wonderful memories. South Africa leaves a lasting impression on those who travel and keep people telling the stories of their visit far past their return date. Through this program and many others, we inspire travellers to experience how South Africa can inspire, move and excite them,” says Seth Buchwalter, PR Manager at Sparkloft Media.

The SAT Social Influencer Marketing Opportunity

In 2015, South African Tourism (SAT) and Sparkloft Media debuted the influencer program #MeetSouthAfrica. While successful, SAT knew it was important to evolve the program to continue to tell a fresh story about the destination, not just rinse and repeat. To do so, Sparkloft Media reinvented the program in 2017 in three key ways:

  • Influencer scale
  • New immersive storytelling tactics
  • Facebook-specific retargeted ad strategy

Targeting North Americans with a propensity to travel, Sparkloft sought to drive awareness of #WowSouthAfrica and increase interest in travel to the destination, prompt choice in those travellers by leveraging the voices of hand-picked travel influencers and improve upon results from the 2015 tour, as measured by engagement, reach and video views.

The SAT Social Influencer Marketing Campaign

Sparkloft Media developed an influencer tour to leverage larger macro-influencers, new immersive social media technology and a Facebook video retargeting strategy to craft a compelling narrative about South Africa while blowing the previous campaign’s results out of the water. This is #WowSouthAfrica.

Scored against an extensive rubric, Sparkloft Media selected three influencers that could organically communicate their authentic travel experience through the lens of certain content pillars, while seamlessly fitting within the SAT brand. The agency knew that simply creating static content would not immerse the target audience to fully experience a “wow” feeling. “To make sure we effectively communicated the emotion South Africa elicits, the agency developed an in-depth pre-production book, outlining a series of storyboards that informed various 360º videos, Instagram Story takeovers, videos, mood boards and shot lists. Taking this pre-production book across the Atlantic, we travelled for 10 days alongside our influencers to capture a series of video and photo content, focused on their real-time reactions to the destination,” says Buchwalter.

The SAT Social Influencer Marketing Strategy

Facebook’s sophisticated targeting and re-targeting platform were leveraged to optimize this campaign. A content distribution strategy was developed to not only mimic the user journey but also improve engagement and cost per engagement over time. From awareness/interest of the destination to positive affinity and action, the agency used a retargeting paid media strategy to deliver content pieces in line with travel cycle. Video content promoted via interest targeting and then re-targeted the active viewers of those videos with photo and website content as a second touchpoint to encourage both affinity and action. This resulted in a higher engagement, increased completed video views and more efficient ad spends.

Throughout the tour and for six months after returning back to the U.S., the influencers shared photos of their experiences on their own channels to keep the story going. This sponsored content, combined with 95% of media focusing on Facebook, Instagram and supporting buys on Twitter and YouTube extended the reach of the campaign.

The SAT Social Influencer Marketing Results

This campaign pushed the #WowSouthAfrica message and the influencers’ stories for more than six months and resulted in nearly 4 million video views and more than 34 million impressions across all platforms. These results demonstrate strategic shifts contributed to surpassing the benchmark set by the previous program and the goals set at the beginning of the campaign.  As of December 2017, arrivals from the United States to South Africa showed impressive growth with a 7.5% year-to-date increase, while arrivals from Canada showed 9.8% growth year-on-year.

  • Total engagement: 521,139 (+387% increase)
  • Influencer-produced engagements: 246,454
  • Total video views: 3,951,760 (+680% increase)
  • Completed views: (Facebook Only): 985,799 views at 100% completion

Editor’s note: The 2018 (Jan-May) results for North American tourist arrivals in South Africa already show a 6.1% increase against the same period in 2017. Read this story here. While you’re about it, check out TourismTattler’s social influencer media kit on Webfluential.

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