Delta’s Head of Social Content on the Role of Influencers in Social Marketing

Jasmine Atherton says we can all learn from each other

Before joining Delta Airlines as its head of social content, Jasmine Atherton worked at Airbnb. - Credit by Sean T. Smith for Adweek
Headshot of Ryan Barwick

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Between macro, micro and even nano influencers, there’s no shortage of partners for brands in 2019. But are influencers still the best way for brands to reach new audiences? Jasmine Atherton is no stranger to these partnerships. Before joining Delta Airlines as its head of social content, she worked at Airbnb as its head of social for the Americas. She’s currently overseeing Delta’s Brand Ambassador program that launched this year, working alongside Delta loyalty members with a sizable following to create content for the airline. Atherton also sits on Adweek’s Innovation Council.

At the QualtricsXM stage, Atherton led a group of marketers in a breakout session called “The New Wave of Influencer Marketing and How Brands Can Stay Afloat.” After the session, Adweek spoke with Atherton about what she learned in the session, her experience working with influencers in the travel industry, and how airlines overcome the inevitable tweet about lost luggage.

Adweek: In your presentation, you talked about the changing landscape you’re seeing between influencers and brands. What is that?
Jasmine Atherton: There’s so much more that we as marketers can do with influencers, there are more tools at our disposal, more partners at our disposal. There are so many new and interesting ways influencers are creating their space. How can we as social marketers and brand marketers understand what that is, and then find a way to creatively tie that back to our brands and our brand purpose?

We can all learn from each other; it’s not just one person standing on stage. Everyone has a wealth of experience and knowledge and we can really learn from each other.

What did you feel like you took away from this? What did you hear from everyone?
Well, there’s no right or wrong. What one person is doing in one space was so very different than another. Some are using influencers as a way to drive sales. Others are using it to create content. Some are dealing with celebrities. Others aren’t sure how to dip their toes in. The playbook is being written as we go.

Between micro and macro influencers, what’s worked best for brands?
I think it’s all relative; everyone defines it in a different way. It depends on what you’re looking to do. Micro for one brand can be 100,000 followers. For another, it could be 1,000 followers.

To me, micro influencer means they have a really focused narrative and passion point that’s tied back to a community in an authentic way. Yes, they also probably have fewer followers.

With macro influencers, it just gets to a point where you’re basically working with a celebrity.

How do you measure the value of an influencer?
At the end of the day, are they helping to build your brand love, are they authentic, do they allow you to reach an audience that you’re trying to reach? And yes, there are so many ways to measure all of those things, and a lot of KPIs that go against each of those. But, at the end of the day if you’re able to do those things, it’s going to be positive.

Creative content is a large part of the marketing approach in the travel industry. While “content” is semantically meaningless, how does it change between Airbnb and Delta, two incredibly different brands? How do they define content?
A lot of people are quick to say that my transition makes a lot of sense but it is very different. Airbnb is a startup. Delta is a tried and trusted brand. There’s a lot of difference in the tone we use. Airbnb is very much a challenger brand, and working for a “disruptor” is like putting on a different hat.

The art of what we’re doing is very similar, but how we need to do it, what we’re saying, and who we’re telling it to, that’s where the differences are.

How do influencers fit into the travel space? Especially with airlines, when flying is generally considered an uncomfortable experience?
All-day at Brandweek I’ve been hearing about “authenticity,” so if you can bring an experience that’s authentic, that’s rich, even if it’s just about a flight, or spending a night in a hotel or staying in an Airbnb, that just a part of the overall experience.

It’s about getting you to where you want to be so you can do what you’re there to do.

But some people love the plane! They love experiencing our new products, they love experiencing the brand. It’s about finding the right stories and elevating them.

How do you as a social marketer overcome the inevitable tweet about lost luggage or a flight with a lot of turbulence?
It’s a balance. We have an incredible care team. First and foremost, we have to listen to our customers, have an open ear and always put the customer first. It’s our job as marketers to drive brand love and drive it back to the experience of flying. At the same time, there are people who need help and that’s all it really is.

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@RyanBarwick Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.