By Alex Gaggioli
Instagram is one of the largest and most influential social networks in the world. There are currently more than one billion monthly active users on this popular social media platform – more than two-thirds of which are 25-34 years old. In short, it is a great place to build your hotel’s brand and promote to a target audience of millennials that are ready to jump on a new experience.
Despite other platforms’ popularity, Instagram continues to grow and plays an important part in a lot of peoples’ day-to-day lives. Hotel brands have a unique opportunity to connect with current, future, and past guests using Instagram’s many features.
Instagram is no longer just about posting pretty photos to your feed. It is a powerful marketing tool for the hospitality industry. There are many different features that your independent hotel should take advantage of to engage your audience. We created a guide that explains each of Instagram’s most popular features for hotels and how you can use them to your benefit.
Jump to a section:
What We’re Going to Cover:
- Instagram’s Different Features Explained
- How Your Hotel Can Use Instagram’s Different Features
- Types of Content Your Hotel Can Publish
- How Often You Should Post
Set Up Your Business Profile for Success
Before we dive into Instagram’s features, it’s important to make sure your instagram profile is set up for success.
- Upload a clear profile photo that is easily recognizable. For most properties, your profile photo should be your logo.
- Add the name of your property as it is listed on your website and OTAs (this is different than your username).
- Add a link – for most properties, we suggest linking directly to your booking engine or your website’s homepage.
- Add a bio – inform your audience who you are. Include where you’re located, what type of accommodation you are, and even the type of traveler you want to attract. This information helps people discover your profile in searches.
Instagram’s Different Features Explained
Instagram has changed a lot in the past few years and they have added many different features. While their main user experience remains relatively unchanged, there are a lot of ways to use the service.
Here’s a breakdown.
Instagram’s main feature is the Feed located on the account’s profile page. These posts show up in the feeds of your followers. Instagram Feed posts can be photos, videos, IGTV snippets, or Reels. They do not expire and remain on your profile unless you delete or archive them.
IGTV is Instagram’s long-form video experience. Videos can be anywhere from thirty seconds to ten minutes for regular users and up to an hour for verified users. Users can post the first minute of their IGTV as a feed post to attract more attention as well. IGTV posts appear under a tab next to feed and tagged posts if a video has been uploaded.
Instagram stories are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. They appear in the circles at the top of the main feed screen. Instagram allows you to take photos and videos within the app or you can upload them. There are many different options inside stories to engage your audience like location tags, mention another user or Instagram influencers, hashtags, gifs, music, polls, questions, countdowns, quizzes, and more. It is a great place to engage your audience and extend your reach.
Although your stories only remain active for 24 hours, you can save them as highlights. Highlights are displayed on your profile page underneath your description and above your feed. Many people create highlights to showcase stories that follow a specific theme or category. For example, you can add different groups of highlights for your property, guests, employees, or your restaurant, etc.
Reels are one of Instagram’s newest features, similar to the viral TikTok social media platform. They are multi-clip videos that can be up to 30 seconds and have proven to be one of the most creative ways to add new content. They have built-in text editors, AR filters, video editing, and audio, including popular music. Once you upload your first Reel, a new tab will appear above your feed on your profile page where all of them will appear.
Instagram now allows you to combine several feed posts into a scrollable guide. Guides allow you to give more context to a collection of posts around a certain topic. When you add your first guide, it will appear on your profile page above your feed as a tab.
Messenger allows you to send messages, images, and videos to accounts on Instagram or Facebook. Facebook recently combined Facebook Messenger and Instagram Messenger so you can manage them from one place in the Facebook Business Suite to streamline your efforts. This is especially helpful for customer service-related requests.
Shop allows consumers to make purchases on Instagram in several different ways. Instagram allows you to upload a catalog of products and then tag them the same way you would tag a user. When a user taps on the product they’ll be directed to a detail page that allows them to view the product on your website. You can also place a product tag in your story posts. This is specific to tangible goods and most relevant for eCommerce businesses.
The Explore page is Instagram’s algorithmic real-time news feed – sometimes referred to as Instagram’s “front page”. You can see the Explore Page by clicking on the magnifying glass on the main tab. The Discover Feed is unique to each account and is populated based on who you follow, who follows you, and the accounts you interact with.
Instagram Live is a live broadcast that other users can tune into in real-time. When you go live, a push notification will be sent to your followers and it will appear in the same place as Stories on the main feed screen.
How Your Hotel Can Use Each of Instagram’s Features
Now that you have a brief overview of Instagram’s features, we can discuss how you can use them. Depending on where you are in your current Instagram strategy, using all of these features may seem overwhelming – and it is. We’ll offer advice and ideas on how to use them, even if you don’t start today, tomorrow, or even a year from now.
The feed is Instagram’s main feature (in our opinion) and this is where your hotel should focus on posting your best content. What does “best” mean for hotel Instagram marketing specifically? Each property will be different and it ultimately depends on your unique branding. You’re using social media to attract new customers, interact with current guests, and share what’s happening to past guests.
Post Instagram photos of your property, content your current and past customers have tagged you in, promotions, and timely information. As we shared above, your Feed content lives forever, so make sure the content matches your branding or the mood you’re trying to create.
For most properties, we suggest creating content that matches the tone of your website. Are you informative, wishful, comedic, or boastful? Your Instagram feed and your captions can reflect that.
And don´t forget to use popular hashtags in your posts to reach your target audience. Hashtags work as keywords; they make it easier for users to find you.
Stories are great for sharing content that you do not want to live on your profile forever. Stories are great for reminding your guests about something that is happening soon. Stories are a perfect place to show what’s happening in real-time – whether it’s a live event, your restaurant’s happy hour, a night-time activity, or just a gorgeous day at your hotel.
It is also quite common for Instagram users to tag businesses when they are visiting – i.e. when they’re checking-in, enjoying their room, or checking out. Instagram allows you to repost these moments and it is a good idea to publish these with your own story. It shows that you’re engaged with your audience and keeps your property top-of-mind for future or past guests.
When someone tags you, it will appear in your messages and you’ll see the option to add it to your own story.
As mentioned above, Highlights are Stories that you want to live on your profile for longer than 24 hours. We suggest creating Highlights to showcase a certain theme. For example, you could have a “Guests” highlight where you save interesting stories your customers have tagged you in. Or, you could have a “property” highlight that shares photos and videos of your rooms and common areas for people to check out.
IGTV is a longer-form video feature and could take a bit more effort to execute than Feeds, Stories, and Highlights. You can compare IGTV to short episodes, like YouTube or TV, that are longer and require more time and money to produce.
If you’re creative with storytelling and editing capabilities, IGTV can be a great place to publish information and enhance your brand. Your hotel could create videos showcasing your property and the destination as a whole whether it’s a highlights video, behind-the-scenes, or even a reoccurring talk show related to an aspect of your property. For example, if you’re located in a theater district, you could highlight ongoing shows or interesting people you’ve met. Or you could review local restaurants, which then become a resource for travelers. The possibilities are endless! If you already have pre-made videos that you would like to use for Instagram, all you have to do is adjust the aspect ratio (shape of the video) to fit with IGTV’s platform. Using a video editor, you can crop videos with a 16:9 widescreen size to fit the square 1:1 ratio of Instagram without losing valuable content.
We suggest using Reels to create fun content that attracts a younger audience. Reels and Tik Toks have many popular trends that surround a certain action or a sound. You can jump on the bandwagon by creating similar content that follows the same trend. The main difference between Reels and the other posting features is the ability to easily add sounds and effects. If you’re going to try out Reels, we strongly recommend you play around with the in-app filters and controls. This is one of Instagram’s newest features and is still being tested by even the world’s largest hotel brands.
Hotels should use Messenger to interact with their customers. Many properties will use this as a customer service channel to help people book or as an opportunity to handle requests while a guest is on site. Facebook and Instagram have put a lot of effort into adding features to Messenger creating more opportunities to interact with your audience.
If your property sells products, you can and should sell them via an Instagram shop. While there is not built-in direct booking functionality, Instagram Shopping and Shops could be useful if you sell your products.
Everyone on Instagram is searching for a community to engage with. While it would be amazing if all your potential guests could discover your account right from the start, it’s not likely. We suggest interacting with accounts related to your property and guest type. As you begin to post on your account the Explore Page will become a powerful discovery engine. People will begin to notice your account when you take the time to engage (like, comment, and share) related accounts – whether it’s another hotel, travel blog, travel company, or hospitality provider.
Hotels can use Instagram Live to make announcements or launch a new offering. You can also go live with another user and do a question and answer session or interview them. Live is often used to give people a behind-the-scenes look and interact with your followers at the same time.
The Different Types of Content Your Hotel Can Publish
There are many different types of content you can post on your property’s Instagram. And contrary to popular belief, you aren’t constrained to always post photos of perfect scenes. Your content needs to be high quality, but the definition of high-quality has changed.
Over the past few years, different types of content have done well on the feed. For example, meme accounts have become quite popular and are influencing the way people use the platform overall. A meme generally involves comedic or relatable text and a photo with cultural significance. Most memes evoke some sort of emotion that they want to share with their friends. There is a lot we can learn from these types of accounts, and Hootsuite does a good job at explaining that on their blog.
High-quality Instagram posts evoke emotions, whether it’s nostalgia, desire, passion, surprise, or endless other possibilities. For every piece of content you post, you should define what type of emotion you are trying to conjure up. Also, you need to define what action you want someone to take. Not every post should have a sales-focused call to action, but it should have a focused goal. That goal could be as simple as brand awareness or driving direct bookings for an upcoming holiday.
Here’s a quick list of content your property can publish:
Informational content about the property:
Images and videos of your hotel rooms, property, and amenities – these could be professional photos or high-quality photos you take on your phone.
Guests love to share photos while traveling and they’re probably interacting with you online – whether it is in stories or on their feed. Reshare their images or stories and provide context. For example, if someone adds a picture of their meal at the restaurant, you can reshare with the specials of the night or the hours for the rest of the week.
Testimonials or reviews from former customers
Reviews that are directly sent to you or posted on third-party websites are a great place to source content. Use positive reviews to showcase what people love about your property. You can share their reviews in a caption with a photo they provided or add one of your own.
Branded content that shares your story
Your property and your employees have interesting stories to tell. Most independent properties are works of passion and you should show why you love your property and destination with the world. Tell your audience why you got started or what has changed over the years – people resonate with stories.
Promotional content for sales, booking windows, and beyond
The ultimate goal of any social media strategy is to generate sales – both directly and indirectly. You should post when you have promotions or upcoming booking windows.
How Often Your Hotel Should Post on Instagram
There are a lot of opinions about how often you should post on Instagram, which features you should use, and at what days and times. Instagram is controlled by an elusive algorithm that constantly changes. And while it remains unpredictable, we suggest you create a plan that works for you.
Currently, social media professionals agree that the algorithm likes consistency – both in the number of postings per week and time of day. Depending on where you are in your current posting schedule, we suggest you set realistic goals for yourself.
Start with a Plan:
The first step to creating a great Instagram is to create a plan. Choose which features you’re going to take advantage of and how many times you’re going to post. For example, if you’re just getting started, choose Feed and Stories posts. Choose one or two days a week to post on your feed and what type of content you’re going to publish whether it’s pictures of your property, promotions, or user-generated content from your clients. Stories can consist of day-to-day happenings at your property and could be as simple as sharing the daily weather.
Make it easier on yourself and decide which days and what time of day you’re going to post. If you already have an Instagram business account, you can use the analytics dashboard to tell you which days and times your users are online. You can read more information on how to use analytics here.
Next, decide how long you are going to stick to this schedule. It is easier to add on once you’ve mastered an existing schedule.
In January 2021, an Instagram account manager shared with an influencer how often they should be posting. Their recommendation included:
- One to two stories per day
- One reel per week
- One IGTV per week
- Three to four feed posts per week
That is a daunting schedule for pretty much anyone. But, it gives us insight into how Instagram wants users to utilize all of its features regularly. We know from experience that it can be overwhelming to stick to a schedule. The more you practice, the easier it will become.
Experiment, have fun and keep it social. As time goes on, you’ll learn what works and doesn’t work for your property. A well-rounded Instagram marketing strategy helps hotels attract new followers and surprise and delight existing ones. And, if you need an expert to run your social media campaign, check the different solutions offered by professional hospitality digital marketing agencies.