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Instagram for Hotels: Why to Get Active and How to Be Effective

instagram-logoIf your hotel isn’t on Instagram yet, now is the time. Launched in 2010, Instagram is the fastest-growing social network in the world, with over 300 million active users who share an average of 70 million photos and post 2.5 billion likes per day.

Instagram offers unique opportunities for hotels to build awareness and engage travelers. Here are 12 reasons for hotels to get active on Instagram, along with guidelines for making the most of your presence.

1. Instagram is perfect for travel marketing
As more social networking activity shifts to mobile devices, Instagram, an app designed for mobile devices, is well positioned to continue its explosive growth. Instagram combines the two most powerful aspects of social media—imagery and sharing—and is particularly popular with travelers. Great photos grab attention, convey a sense of place, inspire people to travel, and don’t require translation.

2. It’s free, uncluttered and effective
Whereas Facebook shuts out most organic posts and Twitter is so cluttered it’s hard to be heard, Instagram offers a simple, clean feed, with no links and minimal advertising. Users are more accessible, too. A study from Forrester Research found that Instagram delivers 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more than Twitter (Forrester, 2014).

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3. It’s easy and low maintenance
Setting up an Instagram account is simple. Download the app to your smart phone, choose an account name (ideally your hotel name), and add a short description and profile photo (your logo or a great shot of your hotel; keep in mind it will appear very small). Even if you’re not active, it’s a good idea to claim your brand name before someone else does. After that, it’s a matter of snapping great photos, adding a comment and hashtags, and sharing.

4. Reach millennials
Instagram users skew toward the young, including those elusive millennials. A survey from Piper Jaffray found that 83% of teens in wealthy U.S. households are on Instagram, ahead of even Facebook (Business Insider, 2014). While teens may not fall within your target market, they can influence family vacation decisions and can become long-term loyalists. At the same time, Instagram is growing in popularity among older age groups, too.

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5. See what other hotels are up to
Before uploading photos and videos to your Instagram, spend some time exploring the app to get a feel for how people and brands use it. Check out other hotels in your destination as well as hotels and brands you find inspiring. Take cues on the types of photos to share and which photos get the most engagement.

6. Promote your hotel in real-time
Take photos and videos that capture attention and are authentic and relevant to your hotel. Make each post a visual story that complements your overall brand story. Add a brief caption to explain the photo. You can enhance images with filters and in-app tools, but a beautiful picture shouldn’t need it. Remember that your account is a business channel, so be professional, respectful and on-brand.

7. Involve staff and guests
Looking for ideas? People love to look at pictures of scenery, food and people—and where better to find them than in a hotel? Grab a camera, take a walk around your property, go behind the scenes, and explore the neighborhood. Share photos and videos of staff at work, new menu items, guests enjoying their stay, and local scenery and activities. Be sure to ask for permission before posting people’s photos and tagging them.

8. Promote your destination
Play your part in promoting your destination by sharing local imagery and engaging local travel businesses. When uploading imagery, be sure to use the photo map feature and specify your location so that photos are searchable.

9. Build a community
Use the search function to find people, places and topics related to your hotel. Engage other users by liking and commenting on their images. Let people know that you’re on Instagram by adding an icon or link to your website, social networks, advertising and on property signage. Hold a contest to encourage people to share brand-related photos, create a special hashtag, and advertise it on your website, Facebook, Twitter and onsite.

10. People love selfies
Selfies are a great way to get travelers to spread the word about your hotel to friends. Encourage guests to take selfies on property by making selfie sticks available and designating selfie spots. Display signage to show your account name and related hashtags for tagging photos.

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11. Hashtags help to promote your hotel
Instagram users are #hashtag happy. A hashtag is a word or phrase identified by the # sign used in social media to identify topics, themes and brands. They are important on Instagram because you can’t add links to posts. Create hashtags for your hotel and campaigns and include them in posts along with other popular and relevant hashtags. Don’t go crazy—three or four hashtags per post is enough.

12. Track mentions and performance
Use the “tags” and “places” filters to search for images tagged with your hotel name and related brands. Check your profile regularly to see who has tagged your hotel, and share appropriate photos on Facebook and Twitter. If an image is inappropriate or unflattering, use the “Report Inappropriate” feature and click “Photo Options” to hide it from your profile. Instagram doesn’t yet offer analytics, but you can track performance using applications like Iconosquare and Hootsuite.