The importance of your hotel’s Instagram page is growing in lockstep with the popularity of the social media platform. Rest assured, it is not just for millennials…
Not only does Instagram offer a great way to show off your property and connect with guests on an emotional level, but through guest photography or UGC (user-generated content), it’s also enabled hotels to share their brand story in an incredibly authentic way.
Unfortunately, most hotel social media practitioners handle Instagram in the same shortsighted way they handled Facebook 5 years ago, making three critical mistakes:
1. Designing their Instagram page for fans/followers rather than buyers
2. Failing to recognize that unpaid social media posts reach very few followers
3. Relying on self-published organic posts rather than guest-generated content
Here’s our advice on how to fix these three problems to unleash your property’s Instagram potential:
1. Design your Instagram page for buyers, not followers…
Who is your direct hotel website designed for… past guests or new prospects?
Most hoteliers would agree, the key audience is NEW customers, because you can’t achieve ever-growing annual revenue projections from your loyal audience alone. Similarly, your Instagram page should be designed for the discerning, connected traveler who is using Instagram to evaluate your property and make a booking decision.
Instagram is a visual tool, so hotels must ensure their page is a visually arresting canvas rather than a chronological display of every event that happens on the property (when was the last time you saw a Taco Tuesday photo on a hotel social feed and decided to go stay there)?
Instagram can be a critical place to move the needle from would-be guest to loyal customer, but that shift won’t happen with content geared only for your current followers. Help move the needle by giving consumers a snapshot of your hotel/brand personality without ever having to click on an individual Instagram post: when a user lands on your Instagram feed they are able to see the first three posts on desktop and the first nine on mobile without scrolling. By having a design-focused grid, hotel marketers can give prospective guests all the highlights of the property from the moment they land on the feed, and direct them right to their hotel website listed strategically in the clickable bio link right above your images.
Moreover, consumers are finding your Instagram page via referrals from friends, from your hotel website and from Instagram’s search feature itself. Thanks to the increasing use of geotags and hashtags, Instagram has become an increasingly popular search engine itself. To capture the attention of Instagram searchers and inspire them to put the property into the consideration set… Savvy hotel social media pros are focusing on the aesthetic and vibe of their Instagram page, rather than pictures of recent events on property.
Maintaining a semi-permanent “magazine-style” Instagram page design may seem counter-intuitive, but remember who you’re creating it for… NEW buyers, not existing followers (very few of them see your posts anyway… read on for more about that).
2. If you want to reach people, you better reach into your pocket…
Facebook has admitted that less than 5% of fans/followers ever see your posts unless there is paid promotion behind it. Without a paid component to your social strategy, you don’t have a social strategy.
And don’t blame Facebook or Instagram for this.
Companies (including hotels) themselves are to blame; by posting an incessant, self-serving stream of trite content, companies killed engagement on social media platforms. Facebook and others responded by essentially saying: “if no one is reading this stuff, we’re not going to show it to anyone…”
Smart brands are taking this into account and pairing advertising efforts to run alongside their organic/unpaid content.
Paid social ads enable hoteliers to grow online brand awareness, capture emails for remarketing lists and serve direct booking offers to a targeted audience.
In his recent article: Stop All Social Media Activity (Organic) | Solve For A Profitable Reality, Avinash Kaushik, a well-known digital thought leader presents a compelling example of low organic engagement using a recent post from Expedia (see below): “To give you some context as to how insanely lame these numbers are, Expedia.com received 59,400,000 visits in May 2017. This post accomplished 85 total interactions. More people walk into the Expedia lobby in Bellevue, WA, every second of every minute!… Expedia should immediately cease 100% of its organic Social activity. 1/100th of the Social Media budget could be spent on any other random digital strategy to get 85 interactions and have zero brand destruction!”
One tactic that will grow your Instagram following is simple retargeting. It works like this: a potential guest visits your hotel website, leaves and soon after, visits Instagram where they see an ad for your property. (Instagram ads look just like a post, btw.)
They click on the ad and are returned to your beautiful Instagram feed (you’ve curated it, designed it, made it wonderful… see #1 above). They like what they see. They book and/or follow you.
Isn’t that how it should be?
Paid social ads, if done correctly, fuel real, relevant growth and real results by targeting real consumers at the point of decision.
3. Harness the power of UGC
User-generated content (UGC) has become one of the most popular (and cost-effective) ways for hotel marketers to win guests’ hearts and wallets.
Because consumers no longer trust advertising… they trust each other. As this article in AdAge so aptly put it: “Your brand is defined by the interactions people have with it.”
UGC, especially photos depicting actual on-property experiences are more authentic, less sales focused and organically more creative than anything hotel social media folks could ever dream up!
To alleviate the time spent looking for images for Instagram, consider adding a UGC acquisition tool (or engaging a hotel social media agency that provides one). Hotel UGC tools that scour the internet for images tagged by guests are a great way to save time and effort when looking for user-generated content and allows you to see the entire sample of images within one interface.
But you can also hunt down UGC from your guests on your own, here’s how:
Search for your hotel’s geotag on Instagram and it will pull up all the Instagram images that users have posted from your property. Select which images you’d like to keep for marketing purposes and message each user individually to ask for their permission.
(NOTE: shameless plug.) This process can be time-consuming and tedious… if you want a quicker way, you can use our new tool, Tout, and we’ll take care of all of these steps for you.