The American hotel giant, Starwood, claims it is now successfully using Instagram to drive more reservations, and in turn avoiding costly sponsored advertising on the most visual of social networks.
By linking up with shopping platform, LiketoKnow.it, the hotel chain pays influencers to take photos on Instagram that are bundled with a direct booking link for anyone who happens to come across the image in their feed.
While it can’t be ignored that Starwood probably has something of a monolithic marketing budget, they are at least proving that Instagram can be used as a way to increase sales within the hospitality trade, without turning to the paid advertising option.
If you’re an independent hotelier, you may not be able to afford the going rate for the top influencers on Instagram, but you do have something far more compelling at your disposal: a unique offering. For, as lovely as Starwood hotels are, they’re still part of a chain; you’re on your own. And that makes you special.
With that in mind, you have all the material you need to make a success of Instagram marketing, but how do you use it effectively?
We’ve got the answers.
Don’t let your account slip
Just like any social media service, it’s all too easy to set up an Instagram account for business purposes, post to it while the novelty remains and then let it slip into obscurity as the daily grind takes over.
Unfortunately, if this happens with your Instagram account, it may as well not be there. Only active accounts attract followers and shares - remember that. You’re capable of posting at least one photo per day, aren’t you?
Of course you are!
Hashtags aren’t confined to Twitter - they work brilliantly on Instagram, too.
Used as a way to categorise an image, a hashtag ensures your content stands the best chance of being found by anyone with an active interest in whatever it is you’re posting. Examples in this industry may include #NorthamptonHotel, #BoutiqueHotelUK and #HotelFood.
Use as many hashtags as possible on each post - you’ll be surprised by how quickly people start to take note (it seems to happen far quicker on Instagram than on Twitter).
No matter how big or small a forthcoming event, Instagram is the perfect platform on which to promote its existence.
To influence potential guests, continually post photos of any fliers you may have, but also behind-the-scenes snaps of the preparations (and remember to use those hashtags liberally!).
Feature guest content
If a guest is particularly happy come check out time, bite the bullet and ask if they’d mind providing a thumbs up to camera or - even better - offering a quick ten second video testimonial. Either could be posted to Instagram and offer a real-world account of how fab your hotel is.
User-generated content is incredibly powerful, and the more guest-centric stuff you can post on Instagram, the better.
Most social networks now offer some form of ‘story’ feature, and Instagram is no different.
A story is essentially a collection of photos and videos that can have text overlays and which lasts for around twenty-four hours before disappearing completely. Instagram stitches it all together for you, allowing you to simply shoot away as you go about your day. It’s perfect for behind-the-scenes stuff at hotels, and people love an insight into what goes on behind the curtain.
Never forget food
People love food, and the next best thing to eating it is devouring pictures of dishes on Instagram.
Culinary imagery goes down very well indeed on this particular social network, therefore if you have a restaurant on site, make the most of the skills within the kitchen by posting as many pictures of finished dishes as possible. Again, use plenty of hashtags and watch engagement rise.
Most importantly, have fun with Instagram. It’s an incredibly addictive social network that has the added benefit of being relatively easy to attract attention if you’re a business operating within the hospitality industry.
Show off what makes you unique. All it will cost you is your time, but it’s some of the best time you’ll spend in 2017.