Instagram is one of those social media platforms that everyone’s heard about, if not actively using. Although it’s only six years old, it’s basically a middle-aged man with a receding hairline in Internet Years. It seems weird that we’d still be wondering why, in 2017, many hotels still aren’t taking advantage of the “social revolution"?
Social media has the power to push brand awareness and create a loyal and engaged fan-base. But you probably already knew that. You’ve probably also heard every statistic under the sun about how many people use various forms of social media and how it can be used for your own benefit.
Unless you have very deep pockets and resources, it's best practice to focus on a few social media channels only. While it depends on the type of avatars or personas that stay at your hotel, we believe every accommodation provider should at least have an Instagram presence online.
Despite reading everywhere that “approximately 100% of everyone in the universe” uses social media, your reasons for not getting on board the social train probably don’t relate to a lack of knowledge. Most hotel owners appear to have hesitations in how to get started, or don’t think they can do it, or don’t really think they have time.
I wanted to address some of those concerns with this article with the hopes that you’ll have more confidence about dipping your toes in the water and evaluating whether Instagram is a good thing.
What is Instagram?
It's a social media platform that primarily involves photo sharing online. You can establish a presence on Instagram for free and guests can then include your hotel's hashtag in their posts.
Guests and anyone with an Instagram account can then follow your hotel and will see your photos in their feed whenever you post them.
Benefits for Hotels
There are many benefits for hotels to use Instagram to show off their hotel, food, facilities and events. But it’s also incredibly powerful when combined with a local focus to show off local attractions, restaurants and sights.
This way your guests can be attracted to book at your hotel due to its close proximity to these attractions. While this can be done with Instagram alone, it is even more powerful and effective when integrated with your main marketing website both in terms of a live 'Instagram feed' and also your general 'Locus Focus' content marketing strategy (blogging about local attractions).
But there is one more benefit of using Instagram. It provides social proof that your hotel or motel is popular and guests can see the types of people staying there.
So if your hotel targets a younger crowd then they will see your younger guests having fun and this will resonate with them.
Even if your hotel targets retirees or an older demographic (for example a quaint English Bed and Breakfast) if your hotel website Instagram feed clearly shows people of this demographic this will absolutely resonate with other guests. Or in other words - like attracts like!
So even if prospective guests have never heard of Instagram they will still be exposed to it and be influenced by it on your marketing website.
And if that wasn't enough, Google also takes cues from social media sites and factors these into rankings. Therefore, it pays to have active and engaged social media and link this from your website so Google can follow it.
“I know what Instagram is all about, but I’m not really sure where to start.”
The good news is that nobody really does. You never know exactly what people will respond to on the internet. Sure, there are good rules of thumb and considerations to be made. But depending on your location, your brand and your avatars, it’s difficult to know what your audience will respond to until you show them.
Try photos of the local scenery, the food at your restaurant, and even take photos of local events and put them up on your hotel’s Instagram page. Let people know that you’re active in the community and with your guests.
Try to take photos of the type of guests you want to attract!
If you’re game, try asking some of your guests if they’d like a photo taken for your Instagram page at the poolside, tennis court or bar. This won’t work for every hotel, but if you have a more casual atmosphere, it can absolutely increase the attraction of your Instagram account to potential guests.
Whenever I’ve started Instagram accounts, I’ve just put up a few photos, maybe with a few carefully considered hashtags. I’ve also tried putting up short videos and interesting quotes, just to gauge interest. The point is, some stuff I’ve put up has pulled in five times more comments and likes than other stuff, and it’s difficult to explain why!
Even after choosing hashtags carefully and choosing a perfect photo filter, using Instagram often comes down to simply having an intuition about what to post. And the only way to build up this intuition is to start using Instagram and continue using it.
Remember: Instagram is a social network. It’s about sharing and interaction. Building up these relationships with follows takes time and takes some feeling out.
“I’m not really interested in Instagram”
This is a tricky one. If you aren’t particularly interested in using Instagram and interacting with your followers, it becomes difficult to actually make it work for you. Building an effective Instagram account is like a New Year’s resolution to lose weight.
At the start, you hit the gym and start eating better, and you lose a few kilo’s. But eventually, you realise your heart’s not really in it and you start to fall back into old habits. At this point, all that work you put in was just a waste of time and now you feel like a failure.
However, things could go the other way. You realise that it’s difficult, and you’re not seeing exactly the results you want. But you understand that you want to make it work and you figure it out.
The point is, if you aren’t willing to commit to engaging with your audience over a long term, any short term gains will be wasted. You need to push through the rough start of having 33 followers and wondering why no one is seeing your posts. Just remember that it’s a long-term play. It takes time for people to get to know you, to like you, and to trust you.
Just like it takes you a while to build up a friendship with someone in real life, so it is on Instagram. If a stranger came up to you and threw their holiday photos in your face to look at, you’d probably tell them to go away. But if your best friend does the same, you’re probably clamouring to look at them.
“I don’t have time for Instagram”
If you’re a hotel owner you probably think that you just don’t have time to be posting on Instagram, replying to comments and following interesting accounts. However, getting started with Instagram doesn’t need to take up your entire day.
Set up an account and throw up a photo of the outside of your hotel or a new dish on the restaurant menu. Find a few local businesses to follow. Search for some relevant hashtags and like a few photos. Then put it away. Come back to it when you’ve got a spare five minutes.
If you just get started with it and follow it through, you’ll make time for it. Once you start to build a following on Instagram, you’ll make even more time. Just don’t get carried away. Like with your New Year’s Resolution, don’t give up sugar, coffee and cigarettes and start running 2km a day all at once. We know that most manager’s are run ragged during the day, so just check it out here and there.
You’ll see plenty of “Top 5 Tips”, “How to Boost Your Followers” and “What To Post on Instagram” articles all over the web. However, the takeaway from this article should be that all of that stuff only matters once you’ve got your mindset right.
If you’re willing to explore Instagram and get started with it at your own pace, you’ll find that it’ll just become something that you enjoy doing. That’s not to say you can’t have a publishing schedule, a strict hashtag regime, and a certain tone to your comments. But don’t dive headfirst into it or you’ll be overwhelmed with the whole thing and it’ll turn into a chore.
Your Instagram followers are checking out your stuff for fun. They’re looking for inspiration, for social contact and to chill out. As a hotel manager, you should be looking to do the same.
That means, don't use Instagram for directly advertising special offers or pushing promotions - instead post photos of actual events that inspire people to want to participate at the next event.
The bottom line is if your hotel is not on Instagram you are missing out on multiple levels so get started today—you might just love it!
Nick’s background is with visual media, most notably photography and graphic design. His experience with composition, colouring and storytelling led him to his latest role at Raving Digital. He also dabbles with recording music, so he understands how important audio is in any video.
He’s worked at everything from checkout chick to business analyst to pizza chef, but somehow his loyalty lies with telling great stories with brilliant visuals and even brilliant-er sound.
As the director of photography, he’s often behind a camera, but then he’s also back in the studio splitting hairs over the amount of green in the shadows or the stereo spread of the room tone.