On social media today, your ability to be creative with the way you market your hotel is as important as mastering the essentials of each platform – if not more so. Nowhere is that more true than on Instagram, especially when you’re trying to build a loyal following to drive bookings from Instagram.
There are 440 million Instagram users, topping Pinterest, Snapchat and Twitter. Engagement is also out of the world on this network, with per follower engagement rates on Instagram at 2.3%. On Facebook, engagement hovers around 0.073% and on Pinterest it is 0.097%.
A survey also found that 48% of Instagram users use it to choose travel destinations for vacations and 35% use it to discover new places.
Long story short: if your hotel isn’t on Instagram, you’re missing out on potential hotel guests. Since Instagram is a great place to build personal followings and connect with guests, you can use a properly-developed strategy to drive direct bookings from Instagram. It doesn’t take much of a budget, either!
Instagram limits sharing to pictures and 30-seconds-or-less videos. This makes it perfect for hotels, as vibrant food, beautifully decorated rooms and other facilities offer massive amounts of visual appeal.
Several hotels are already thriving on Instagram by through an array of best practices and proven techniques.
Here, we want to shake things up. However, we’re not going to let you go without covering the basics either! This article will cover 8 simple strategies to drive bookings from Instagram: 4 classic, essential tactics, and 4 to get a little creative with.
Note: This article is for Instagram accounts that are already up and running – it assumes you have a marketing plan set up, an engaging bio and a set of goals to meet. If you need help getting started, here’s a great case study from SumoMe with instructions and downloadables.
- High-quality photos
- Running contests
- Tips for Tagging
The Innovative Hits:
- Putting fan-generated photos on your hotel website
- Insta Influencers
- Video testimonials
Essential Strategies to Drive Bookings from Instagram
These are the musts. If you aren’t covering at least #1 and #3, your Instagram is going to go unfollowed, and you’ll have serious trouble meeting your goals. Take a look and make sure you’re up to scratch:
1. Share Photos of Your Hotel
As we mentioned above, one of the biggest benefits hotels have over other industries is their aesthetic appeal. You can share a multitude of photos with your followers, ranging from food to hotel decor to the surroundings, and even photos of hotel guests having fun.
Make sure you use a good camera to capture these photos – don’t just pull out your old flip phone. If possible, hire a professional photographer, or ask someone on staff who’s a photography buff if they’d be interested.
Sharing photos works for 2 reasons:
- Tell guests what to expect: The obvious benefit of sharing photos is that it provides potential guests a glimpse of what to expect from staying at your hotel. If they like what they see, they’ll be more likely to want to book a room and experience it in real life.
- Trigger FOMO: If you share photos of other hotel guests enjoying themselves, it triggers the same feeling we get when we see celebrities at great parties or read about high-profile events: we want to be there. This fear of missing out (FOMO) will make sure they keep you in mind when it’s time to book. Persuasive copy in your post descriptions and a call to action will help close the loop on the booking.
An example of a hotel that shares great photos is Double Tree Hotel. On their Instagram hotel account, they share photos ranging from rooms at their hotels to swimming pools, food & drink served at their restaurants and bars, and outdoor activities you can perform in and around the hotel.
Here’s a photo on the Doubletree Instagram account that shows someone skiing near the Doubletree Breckenridge Hotel. Breckenridge is a ski resort, so this photo caters to their key customer base and highlights the ease of access skiers will have to the slopes.
Another thing hotel chains can learn from Doubletree’s photos is that they make it easy for followers to find the location of the hotel. They not only geotag the location, they also add the location directly to the photo! The more (subtle) ways you can tell your guests where you are, the better.
2. Run Contests
Contests are one of the classics, and they have a lot to offer. Contests can rack up followers and engagement (likes and comments) quickly. You can even get a hashtag to trend or build up your email list with contests. Several hotels have used contests to catalyze their Instagram marketing goals.
A key part of running a contest is remembering that each contest you run should only have 1 primary goal, plus 1 or 2 secondary goals that contribute to your marketing strategy.
Here are some quick steps for running a contest…
Choose your goals: The first thing you must do while running a contest is to decide what you want it to accomplish. Do you want to get followers or engagement?
Then, set secondary goals. These might range from building your email list, to driving traffic, to getting one of your unique hashtags to trend.
Pick a prize: Your prize should be relevant and enticing. People should be willing to spend time to win it. Usually, an easy option is to give away a stay at your hotel – maybe a midweek break? It also promotes your hotel and generates a lot of word of mouth as people like to speak proudly about prizes they won.
Define the steps: Write down the steps to participate in the contest. These steps should be based on the goals you want to achieve. Keep it simple: if you want to get more followers, ask people to follow you. If you want engagement, ask for likes and comments.
Promote the contest: Once you’ve got your contest ready to launch, you should begin promoting the contest. Your primary promotion channel should be Instagram, since people are more likely to participate when they’re already on the site. You can promote it with posts, in your bio, and with ads on Instagram.
On your hotel site, promote it by creating a landing page where you describe the contest and how to take part in it. Include the final dates entries will be accepted on to help drive urgency! Then, use your email newsletters, other social channels and even paid ads to promote it.
An example of a well-run contest is this one by Marseilles Hotel. To take part, the participants had to upload a photo, tag it with #marsaycheese, and follow them. The hotel reposted their favourite submissions and picked one as the winner. The prize was a 3-night stay at the hotel.
3. Add Relevant Tags to Photos
An easy way to make your Instagram photos more engaging is by adding hashtags. How many? Experiment and test your engagement, and don’t be afraid of adding too many. A report by TrackMaven found that posts with 11+ tags get the highest amount of engagement.
To get the best results, make sure you only use relevant hashtags. Don’t make up hashtags that make no sense, or use ones that are too long. #OurHotelRestaurantHasASteakDealOnWednesdays, for example, is too long – it’s difficult to read, and no one will be searching for it. You’re better off with #restaurants #hotel #travel #steakwednesdays #steaks in a case like that.
Here’s a good example of tag use from The Redbury Hotel. They used lots of relevant tags for their post promoting their restaurant, and the tags were both popular and short.
4. Share Quotes
On any social network, you will find that quotes are extremely popular. They get plenty of likes and comments as they are non-promotional and can be funny, entertaining and educative.
Hotels can take advantage of this to drive bookings from Instagram. Share catchy or inspirational travel quotes, and you’ll connect with followers in the same way they connect with friends or other brands they like who post quotes.
Foundr Magazine knows how to get the most out of quotes on Instagram. Visit their Instagram account and you will notice that they post images with quotes printed on them regularly. This has helped them gain over 849,000 followers. SumoMe’s strategy, which rocketed their following from 1,000 to 88,000 in just six months, also relied heavily on quotes.
Creative Ways to Drive Bookings from Instagram
1. Display Fan-generated Instagram Content on Your Website
The content other users post on Instagram will have a bigger effect on people than the ones you post yourself – social proof is a powerful tool. The main hurdle to overcome here is that the average number of Instagram followers per user is only 150.
This means that the things they say about you won’t reach huge numbers of people – a challenge you need to overcome if you want to drive bookings from Instagram in any significant number. One way you can ensure their posts reach more users is by reposting the images on your hotel’s Instagram account. To avoid scaring followers away with too-frequent posts, display all these posts on your website and then divert traffic to it. People who are skeptical about booking a room at your hotel can view all this social proof in one place, giving your conversion rate an instant jump.
You can either do this manually or by using a tool like Curalate’s Fanreel. The tool will find photos via hashtags on Instagram and you can moderate the ones that go live on your website. People can also directly upload the photos.
2. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is one the hottest forms of marketing at the moment – it’s been around for years, but even over the last 6 months it has skyrocketed in prominence. One place where businesses are using it frequently is Instagram. Businesses are giving away products and paying money to popular Instagrammers in their market space to promote their products with photos, because they know that it generates a good ROI.
Recently Starwood hotels teamed up with 5 Instagram influencers to promote the opening of 2 of their hotels in Paris and drive bookings from Instagram to the new properties. This campaign reached 500,000 users and the posts got more than 17,000 likes.
Here’s one of the photos from the campaign. Alexcloset, a travel blogger with over 139,000 followers, posted it. It’s a photo of her relaxing at the hotel. She wrote a description where she mentioned the hotel’s Instagram handle, making it easy for her followers to find the hotel helping the hotel gain some followers.
In a similar manner you too should find some good influencers and invite them to your hotel. Ask them to take quality pictures while enjoying themselves at your hotel and share it. Also ask them to write a good description (or write it yourself) and mention your hotel’s Instagram handle in the description. If possible, get them to replace their bio URL with a link to a landing page of your hotel’s and ask them to mention the link in the post.
For best results, work with travel and lifestyle influencers, or others who reach the audience that you want to reach.
3. Share Tips
Very few hotels try to share helpful content on Instagram – the default is hotel photos, inspirational quotes and promotions. While those are all good roads to go down, standing out from the crowd is a way to differentiate your hotel and drive bookings from Instagram.
Your hotel can offer tips on topics like recipes from your hotel chef, local specialties from local business owners, home décor with your hotel rooms as samples, exercise in your hotel gym and more. The sky’s the limit.
Try creating short videos – think about the success that 30-second recipe videos are getting. For a great example, check out Buzzfeed’s Tasty Instagram account. They regularly share short recipe videos and they perform brilliantly.
You can also directly add the tips to the images or the description, or you can ask people to visit your blog to check out the tips.
4. Share Video Testimonials
Another way you can take advantage of videos when you’re trying to drive bookings from Instagram is by sharing video testimonials of hotel guests. To get testimonials, try running a contest requiring a video testimonial submission (this will work better if you promote it to repeat guests or guests in your loyalty club).
These are the essentials of Instagram marketing, along with some creative ways to give your account a boost. For more marketing tactics, there are several tools that can help you out. You can also browse through the Instagram accounts of other hotels and other businesses for inspiration.
What are the essentials of your hotel’s strategy to drive bookings from Instagram? What ways are you getting creative?