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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013

Hotel giving away rooms for free



By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


Social media has become such an influencer on where people stay, where they go, and what they do. It's gotten to the point that now I've seen the first published report of a hotel in Australia giving people free stays if they have 10,000 Instagram followers!

Rooms at the 1888 in Sydney normally have a nightly rate between $150 and $400. But guests who want to take advantage of the free night's stay simply have to get in touch with the hotel's media department in order to verify their social media followers...and then follow the hotel on Instagram, of course!

Historically, travel writers have gotten free stays. But now people who have big followers in social media can get freebies too because they're now known as influencers. You see the same thing happening with restaurants comping meals to those who are big on social media.

As cheap as I am, the message here to me is not about how to get something for free. My takeaway for you is that you don't know if a social influencer is being compensated for what they are saying.

Think about it like this: If you are receiving a free stay, what are you going to say about the place? There's a quid pro quo there. So know when somebody on social media says, "Check this out," or "Check that out"…know it could be heavily influenced by what that person is getting.

Automakers looking to target younger audiences have gotten in the habit of offering courtesy test drives of vehicles to influential auto bloggers to get the positive buzz out there. It's the same thing now showing up in the hotel world.

So use your normal skepticism. If somebody is going crazy about how great something is, what's really going on there?