Social media has done wonders for the travel industry. Not only has it made it easier than ever to reach travelers around the globe, it has also added layers of appeal by giving business and travelers alike an opportunity to share experiences in real time. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are invaluable to hotels.
Since its creation in 2010, Instagram has steadily held a title as one of the most popular social media channels available. In October 2020, a survey revealed the platform has 1.158 billion active users, and more than half of those are daily users of the app.
Instagram allows the posting and sharing of images and videos using mobile devices. Users are able to tag other accounts and add location references, enabling others to see who they’re with, and where they’re at. In 2016, Instagram launched Stories – a feature of the platform that gives users the opportunity to share images or videos that disappear automatically in 24 hours.
The visual nature of Instagram makes it perfect for the travel industry and particularly for hotels, giving travelers a glimpse into the experience of being at your property and inspiring them to daydream about their next vacation.
So how do you leverage this massive platform to your advantage, and tell your story effectively to attract travelers? Read on for some top tips for marketing your hotel using Instagram.
Keep your account active
To start, ensure you’re staying active on your brand’s account. This means posting regularly (some recommend even 1-2 posts per day, but we recommend starting with a few quality posts per week), and interacting with other accounts. Liking others’ posts as well as responding to comments made on your own are great ways of showing the Instagram algorithm that you’re present and active, and you will be rewarded with the reach to wider audiences.
Make sure your account information is current and relevant, and that your posts are recent and reflective of the experience of being in your hotel. It’s important to include a link to your website within your profile information, so that when your audience is inspired by your great content, they can go directly to check out your availability and make a booking. If you have multiple links you’d like to share – say, a link to your site, to a blog, and to your Facebook page, for example – free tools such as Linktree allows you to add a custom URL that directs to a list of link destinations.
Post pictures of your hotel
When it comes to posting photos, first ensure you’re posting high-quality, professional content. It’s important to stand out with crisp, sharp images showcasing what makes your hotel unique. The images should stimulate the senses, with stunning views, delicious cuisine, and by placing scenes that your audience can really imagine themselves in.
To create a sense of connection with your location – not just the incredible views or rooms you offer – be sure to include people in some of your images. Share images with people (both guests and staff) featured in your imagery, which helps tell a story through a scene. Photos of guests enjoying the facilities serve as a testimonial to the wonderful time people have there.
It’s also a nice content idea to share behind-the-scenes or more ad-hoc imagery of your hotel. Try sharing photos or short video clips of the kitchen preparing for a dinner service, or florists putting together arrangements for an upcoming wedding. These lively, unexpected posts are likely to become popular (or even go viral) which gives your hotel a massive boost in exposure.
Check out this image from Hotel Max, with an eye-catching image of a behind-the-scenes moment, with a chef cooking in their restaurant.
Just because Instagram seems to be a primarily visual platform, don’t take this as an excuse to cut corners on the captions. Engaging captions add a bit more “juice”to the story you’re telling with your imagery. It’s a great idea to include information on how to book, making it easier for intrigued viewers to become guests. You can also include special offer codes to captions and images, encouraging people to book and receive some sort of bonus – whether it’s a discount, or something extra. Be sure not to run on too long with the text, but blend a little intrigue with practicality for a winning caption.
Share guest photos and testimonials
Within Instagram, others can post photos and tag your hotel. They can also use location tags to add to their images. The best, of course, is if they do both! Location tags show others where they are at physically (these tags can be clicked and will open a map with a pin), and by tagging your account, their audience can easily arrive at your page. This is why it’s important to have an easy-to-find, easy-to-remember account name.
Make it a regular practice to check who has tagged you in posts. You will receive a notification when someone tags your account, but the location tag is a different story – you’ll need to search for the location and see the activity yourself.
When a guest posts a photo of their experience at your hotel, share it to your audience. These photos and their captions are valuable and genuine testimonials, giving a first-hand insight into what it’s like to spend time in your space. These will also provide you with extra content. Word-of-mouth has been long known to be one of the most effective marketing tools, giving potential guests a sense of familiarity and building trust in your brand.
Be sure to check with the original poster first, reaching out to see if you can share their image. Of course, it’s best to tag them in the image as well, giving credit to the original poster. Instagram doesn’t allow for direct re-posting, but third party apps such as Regrann allow you to share posts in a couple of easy steps.
Whether you reshare an image or not, it gives your brand a sense of personal connection and adds a personal touch to use the Comment feature to thank guests for their stay and wish them well, when they share about their visit.
Use hashtags to promote picture and video sharing
Hashtags are a popular way within social media channels, aggregating content by keyword to help users find specific content or themes. If you’ve been using Twitter to market your hotel, you’re likely familiar with how hashtags work. General hashtags – such as #hotel, #poolside, #roomwithaview – are great for attracting broad attention, but less effective for specific marketing efforts.
Using brand-specific or unique hashtags allows your guests to share their posts with a specific reference tag, giving future guests a change to find your hotel only using that tag.
The Ritz-Carlton, for example, uses the hashtag #RCMemories, and encourages guests to share their experiences using the tag.
RCMemories hashtag results from Instagram
You should also include trending and relevant hashtags to attract users searching for particular phrases or keywords. Remember to keep them as relevant as possible, so you don’t attract viewers who aren’t interested in what you have to offer.
Be sure to keep an eye on relevant and trending hashtags, which can attract users who are searching particular phrases and keywords. Keep them relevant – don’t just load in tags that are popular now for the sake of capturing attention, as you’re more likely to reach a wide audience, but not one that will end up booking.
Post about local events and holidays
Is there a local event coming to town? Something happening nearby that is generating a lot of excitement? Be sure to post about them! People searching for a new travel experience may find this an encouraging reason to visit. Use relevant hashtags – especially if the event has one of their own – and capture the attention of those who are already planning to visit. Chances are, these people are planning to come but still looking for a place to stay, and could easily become your guests.
Similarly, use holiday-specific hashtags and themes when there are local, national, or international holidays approaching. Using seasonal photos with these relevant hashtags will help build a sense of shared excitement about the upcoming holiday.
Create contests and competitions for followers
Competitions and contests are a great, fun way to attract new customers, engage current followers, and encourage sharing. There are a couple of popular ways to leverage Instagram for contests:
By creating a branded hashtag for participation, you can ask your audience to share photos and videos to share their own unique content in one stream. Much like the above-mentioned use of branded hashtags, this is an effective way to generate authentic marketing images by and for your own guests.
For participation, tell your guests to follow your page, then share posts with your unique hashtag for participation. Make sure you make an announcement, and follow it up with reminders about the prize and time left for participation.
A great example comes from The James Hotels:
The #JamesPOV contest (@jameshotels)
Like to Win
Another, simpler means of attracting interaction for contests is a Like to Win option. Your social media manager should simply encourage followers to “like” a certain post. While this type of contest does not necessarily mean you will attract an audience that is attached to your brand, it is a great way to increase engagement (and therefore, visibility) and has a low barrier to entry. Once the time comes to announce the winner, select someone at random and create another post for a celebration and to present the winner.
Providing regular and useful content that suits your viewers is a great way to capture attention, and add some variety to your posts. Sharing travel tips or activity reviews from around your area will give helpful insight for your future guests. When people see they can turn to you for this help and valuable advice, they will think positively of your hotel to provide a complete experience. Positive opinions of your brand will generate new business.
Post on Time
In addition to following the above tips, the time that you post also matters. Once you start sharing through your feed, you can check in with the analytics of your page in the Insights section of your profile (available only to those with logins to your account, of course) to see the times that your audience is online the most. These are broken down by days.
Until then, many have done a lot of research on optimal times, to get you started.
Consider the activities of your audience – people often check their social media accounts at lunchtime, so it’s said that posting between 11am and 3pm is a sweet spot. Posting in the evenings at dinner time is also a prime time to capture attention while people are unwinding from their day with a meal. On weekends, late mornings are optimal.
Check out this article from HubSpot with some great insight on when to post, including this suggestion:
Best times to post (HubSpot)
Keeping an eye on the number of likes and comments your photos receive will help you get an insight into what your audience responds to, and will help inform your activity and content going forward. It will also help you gauge the success of your efforts. As mentioned above, the Instagram Insights section of your profile is a valuable feature for business profiles to understand their audience.
By following the advice above, you’re sure to reach a wider and more relevant audience and see success with Instagram marketing. By reaching the right audience with the right content, you’ll increase direct bookings and build a recognizable Instagram brand that people will love.