Articles, advice, and insights from the HSMAI Digital Marketing Council
By Michael Innocentin
Executive Director, Digital Marketing, FRHI Hotels & Resorts, and member of the HSMAI Digital Marketing Council
A picture is truly worth 1000 words; or 400 million users in Instagram’s case. The popular photo sharing platform has experienced phenomenal growth since Facebook acquired it in 2012, with 75% of users located outside the United States. For hoteliers, Instagram represents a great opportunity, with engagement rates typically exceeding most other social networks and 80M + photos shared per day. With that said, here are some best practices for managing your Instagram presence and ensuring that guests visually experience your hotel through carefully curated photos.
1) Find Your Voice. It is important to utilize authentic photos in your accounts and to find the right niche for your hotel or destination. Leave out over-staged stock shots, and concentrate on providing users with photos that show the real experience offered by the property and the destination surrounding your hotel.
2) Posting Frequency: Unless you have a never ending supply of incredible photographs, do not feel compelled to post every day. Start with once a week and build up to two or three times per week. If photography and art are part of the fabric of your hotel, you may choose to post more frequently, but remember that quality should always trump quantity.
3) To Regram or Not to Regram. Regramming or reposting user generated content on Instagram is a great way to expand your image bank, but be careful about how you do this. Instagram doesn't currently support regramming natively, however, there are a number of third party apps that allow you to repost an Instagram user’s content and most importantly credit them. While this seems very easy it may not be the best way for hoteliers to implement regramming. Even if you choose to use an automated app, I encourage you to still always seek (and keep on record) written permission from users first before reposting their content. And always credit them in your post, no matter what. While you are seeking permission to use the photos, you should also consider asking for permission to use the photos on your website.
4) Naked or Filtered. Instagram offers a great collection of filters to use on your photos but that doesn't mean you should use all of them. Remember that you can't hide a bad photo with a filter. There is conflicting research on which filters create the greatest engagement. See The Science of Instagram and Science Has Determined Which Photo Filters Work Best. In my experience, #nofilter brings in the most likes on our accounts, but this could be related to the fact that I primarily use professional quality photographs for the brands I work with. Don’t be afraid to test filters and determine what drives the most success. Once you’ve determined what works best for you, stick with using a handful of filters to promote a stylized consistency through your Instagram grid. For more photo tips click here.
5) Hashtags are a great way to ensure that your photographs are discovered on Instagram. Choose timely and relevant hashtags that fit with your brand identity and the image you are sharing. For example your #destination, #hotelname, #restaurantname, #chef and #brand may work well as hashtags. If you don't have a large following it is probably best to avoid creating new hashtags other than your property name or brand name if they are new. If you do decide to start your own hashtag, make sure to encourage your guests and followers to use the same tags in their posts. It’s always a good idea to try and amplify your reach on trending topics and hashtags (such as holidays or large global events), but only when appropriate and relevant; don’t reach too hard if it’s a real stretch. If using multiple hashtags consider including them in a comment below your caption.
6) Get Active: Although you may not be posting daily on Instagram, ensure that you are active by following relevant accounts and commenting and/or liking relevant photos and videos. Engaging with relevant Instagram users is a good strategy for growing your own following. If you have started your own hashtag, make sure to search regularly for photos that may have used it and like / comment on these images. This shows your followers that you appreciate the photos they share. If guests are using the tags while on property you will also have the ability to engage with them in real time. Also, ensure that you reply in a timely manner to all and any questions or comments left on your own Instagram posts; by acknowledging the users who are engaging with you, you show appreciation and can drive loyalty and future engagement with these valued fans.
7) Advertising tips: It is now possible to utilize the same level of granular Facebook targeting to run advertising campaigns on Instagram. If you choose to run an Instagram campaign make sure you have a clear business objective in mind i.e. building brand awareness, driving qualified website traffic, retargeting website visitors or reaching a custom audience. Keep your captions short and concise. Link back to your website. Test out multiple creatives since you don't know which photos will resonate with Instagrammers. Based on personal experience I haven't found video ads to be as effective as photo ads on Instagram, but you should test this on your own account. Consider using follow-up ads on Instagram to support your Facebook campaigns, as you can now target the same audience on both platforms.
Instagram represents a great opportunity for hoteliers to let users visually experience the unique characteristics of their property. Be sure to manage your account with clear business objectives in mind and be prepared for the platform to potentially change over time. When brand pages on Facebook launched, businesses everywhere invested heavily to build out audiences. Over time, the organic reach of those accounts was scaled back and replaced with a paid advertising model, making those initial follower counts a moot point. With the recent release of Instagram advertising, based on the Facebook advertising platform, we may similarly see that organic reach on Instagram decreases over time to encourage more advertising. Only time will tell, but you should keep this in mind as you develop and refine your Instagram strategy. However, if Instagram is part of a balanced digital marketing strategy you should be able to adapt to changes with minimal impact to your business.
About Michael Innocentin
Michael Innocentin is currently the Executive Director of Digital Marketing for FRHI Hotels & Resorts, a leading global hotel company with over 130 hotels, resorts and residences under the Fairmont, Raffles, and Swissôtel brands. Michael is responsible for Digital Marketing strategy, systems and budgeting for the organizations three brands. Furthermore, he is responsible for Search, Metasearch, Display Advertising, eCRM, Social Media, Online Reputation Management, Affiliate Marketing and Web Analytics. His mandate is to maximize the ROI of the organization’s digital activities.
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Outstanding points thank you