Instagram – How to Market a Hotel with it

By Cloudbeds, December 18, 2015
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Welcome one and all to this week’s webinar, “Instagram: How to Market Your Property with It.” My name is Brandon Dennis, I’m the VP of Marketing here at Cloudbeds, and I’m joined here today by Alex Gaggioli who is our Marketing Coordinator. We’ve got an excellent webinar for you. Many thanks to Alex who put together a lot of the content for this and made it look beautiful. So, thank you so much, Alex.

All right, let me set your expectations for this webinar. We are under the assumption that you know a little bit about Instagram. That you’ve toyed with it and you kind of understand some of the basic functionalities. We’re going to cover some of the major things like hashtags, and captions, and so on and so forth. But really, this webinar is dedicated to providing you with strategy. What strategies you can use on Instagram to maximize your ability to market your brand. That is the goal of this webinar, so I hope that you’re going to find it useful.

So, welcome. Hotels do well on Instagram. It’s almost as if Instagram was made to market hospitality properties, whether it’s a bed and breakfast, a hotel, an independent property, a vacation rental, they do very well on Instagram. You’re going to find a lot of really powerful hospitality-focused Instagram accounts. One of the reasons that Instagram is such a perfect platform for hospitality is because it’s just so visually focused. It’s all about images. We all know that the number one way to inspire a guest to stay at your property is to show them what it’s like and that’s the power of Instagram.

This network, Instagram is dominated by travel-bloggers, lots of different travel accounts and “wanderlusting users.” These are people who just dream about travel, and so they’re constantly sharing inspirational travel photos, whether it’s photos of a hotel property, or photos of a location, or photos of an amazing event. So there’s excellent potential to get your content to spread virally on Instagram, even if not every single person who shares your content is an actual guest himself.

Another great thing about this is there are 400 million users of Instagram. It’s larger than Twitter. We hear about Twitter all the time, it’s second only to Facebook. Facebook incidentally owns Instagram. So, it’s a very powerful social network. It’s the new kid on the block, it’s only been around for a few years now, maybe three years or so. I forget how many years. It’s been a handful of years, but it’s younger than both Twitter and Facebook. Yet, it’s already surpassed Twitter. So, it’s powerful, the people are there, it’s already hospitality-focused. It’s the perfect medium for promoting your hospitality property, so it’s definitely an excellent social network to add to your social media strategy.

Thirty point eight percent of hotels are on Instagram. You can look at that number one of two ways. You can go, “Wow, 30% is a lot.” Or you can say, “Wow, nearly 70% of hotels are not using Instagram yet.” That’s a bit of a shame, because as we just mentioned, it’s an extremely powerful platform. But it’s not just a powerful marketing platform for the United States. You would think that since it was published in the United States that this would have a huge United States audience. It does, but 75% of Instagram users live outside the United States.

What’s really interesting is that the most recent growth for Instagram has come from either Asia or Europe. More than half of the last 100 million users to join Instagram are from Europe or Asia. So, Instagram is truly a global international social media platform, which is excellent for hospitality because the international travel market is, as we all know, expanding. You’ve got people from China who are not just wanting to go and stay at a four-star hotel in New York, but they want to explore the American Midwest and they want to stay at bed and breakfasts. So, it’s great to get a lot of these international travelers to your property, which makes Instagram an even more compelling platform to market your hospitality property on. So, let’s dive right into some strategies.

Number one, tell your story. The reason we start with telling your story as number one is because Instagram users are attracted to personalities. That’s why you’re going to find a lot of celebrities do really well on Instagram. They share photos of their day, the coffee they had this morning, whatever. All of their followers really dig that because they want to feel like they’re getting to know that person or that they’re part of that person’s life. But a similar concept is true when it comes to your hospitality property. They want to be inspired by your property’s story.

Maybe it’s not necessarily the specific history of your brick and mortar building, but more than that, it’s the story that you’re telling. It’s the narrative of your brand. It’s going to include your location, it’s going to include the history of your location, it’s going to include the potential of what guests can experience at your location, as well as your own unique and quirky character and the character of your employees and your guests. Instagram is an excellent platform for you to share your story, but you do have to make sure that every photo that you’re sharing is part of your brand. It’s really just adding another facet to that gem which is your brand.

One of the great ways to do this is just making sure that every single photo that you share is beautiful. You’ve got a breathtaking view, or you’re showing amazing food, you’re showing an adventure, you’re showing off something about your brand, whether it’s your quirky personality, or the kinds of people who are staying there, that that kind of content that is deeply related to the core of your personal hotel brand is within every single image that you share.

One right way to do this is to find your unique angle. If every single hospitality property is going out there to tell their own story, that’s great, but all of those stories cannot be the same. Otherwise, people are going to get boring. The Instagram users who are going to follow your property are going to follow your property because it’s unique. Because they haven’t seen it before, because there’s no other Instagram feed out there that is sharing the exact same photos. Let me describe something to you, and I think you know what I mean.

When you see a stock photo, every stock photo is really different, and yet they’re all the same. You can pinpoint a stock photo just by taking a look at the way it’s laid out, or taking a look at the way the cheesy actors are smiling in this cheesy way, right? That kind of stock photography doesn’t do well in marketing, people don’t like to see it, and people kind of get turned off by that. They’re looking for something genuine, they’re looking for something unique, something that doesn’t look like a bunch of stock photography that you either found on Wikipedia, Flickr, or iStock Photo. They want something that you took. They want something that maybe your guests took.

But in addition to it being genuine and unique, it also has to be really quality. It needs to be something that you’re not going to be embarrassed to put out there in the name of your brand. So here’s an example, this is the Ace Hotel. They know they’re brand. They’re happy hipsters. They love pop-culture. They’re all about unique events, and shows, and photo-magazines. That’s the brand that they wanted for the property. It’s not the right brand for everybody, but it’s great for them and it works well on Instagram. They upload photography that is crisp, it’s clear, and it’s quirky, and it fits their style. This example right here was actually taken by one of their guests. Ace Hotel managed to find it and then they reposted it to their own Ace Hotel account.

This is an example of leveraging the content that your guests are publishing Instagram. Crowd-sourcing content for your own feeds to keep your own feed really interesting. But we also want to make sure that you’re not just reposting everything that somebody within your area or a guest who stayed at your property has reposted. Just because a grainy photo of a fuzzy tree in a forest that’s five miles away from your property lands on Instagram is no reason to republish it to your stream. You’ve got to make sure that it’s a high-quality photograph to maintain the integrity of your hospitality brand.

Here are two more examples from Ace Hotel, and we can get a couple of things from this. Notice that none of these photos that we’ve seen so far have a hard sell. None of them have big tickets on them that says, “Fifty percent off if you stay more than three nights,” or something like that. That’s not what this network is about. It’s not about using it to share your promotions and your packages and really driving home the hard sell. It’s about creating a brand. It’s about creating a story. It’s about creating a narrative. When people follow your feed, they’re not following it because they think that they can get the best hotel deal. They’re following it because they love your photos and they want to be part of your brand. They want to see what you’re going to be doing next.

You’ve got to be interesting. It’s really easy to be dull. I’ve been dull many times in my life. Trust me, it’s difficult to be interesting. It’s going to take a lot of creativity, it’s going to take a lot of vision when it comes to looking at your property and your area in a different way so that you can imagine what that scene would look like on your Instagram property. And it may involve hiring a photographer. It may involve purchasing a high quality camera that you and your staff can use at your hospitality property just for taking Instagram photos and transferring them to your phone and uploading them. Of course, you can just use the camera on your phone. That’s completely fine as well.

This one on the left is just a simple photo that was shot within the hotel lobby. It subtly promotes the property and the coffee shop, if you notice that. You might not think that this is really an advertising-based image on the left until you realize that, “Hey, I’m understanding visually that these guys have a great coffee shop. It’s a cute coffee shop, it’s got some interesting characters, it’s quirky, now I suddenly want a scone, now I suddenly want a coffee.” They’re showing off their property and they’re subtly influencing you to check out what they have in store.

Both of these photos maintain the style and voice of the Ace Hotel brand, while not being a direct hard sell. That’s the key takeaway here.

Number two, use the right hashtags. Hashtags are a navigational structure that many social media networks use, but particularly Instagram uses, to allow people to follow feeds that they think are interesting. So, there are going to be hashtags for locations, whether it’s a point-of-interest near you, or a forest near you, or whatever, guests are going to be making their hashtags based on all of that.

Looks like my little boy has come in here to hear the webinar.

Or, they can be on movements. On the right hand side here, we’ve got #traveltuesday. This is just an Instagram movement, you’re going to find a lot of people who have decided that Tuesday is going to be the day that they want to share and promote travel related images. So, whenever they share an image related to hospitality, they tag it with “traveltuesday.”

“Wanderlust” is another one. “Wanderlust” is going to be a series of photos that inspire you, that inspire guests to stay in wonderful, beautiful properties. So, if you post an image that is particularly inspiring, you can tag it #wanderlust to add it to that feed.

What you don’t want to do is spam your uploads with a bunch of irrelevant hashtags that don’t apply. This is something that is tempting to do, especially if you’re wanting to reach a wide audience. One of the nice things about this about Instagram is that users can actually follow hashtags, and if you find a bunch of hashtags that are followed by millions of users like #wanderlust, which has 11 million followers, as you can see.

And even if you don’t have a bunch of followers to your Instagram account just yet, you can tag your images with the appropriate hashtags, #wanderlust or #traveltuesday, and then you can start to get some followers from the people who are following those feeds. So, it’s really tempting to try and tag your images with a bunch of hashtags that have a lot of followers, but might not be really relevant to what you’re trying to do. I encourage you to resist this temptation because it’s never really going to give you the best results.

First of all, it’s going to make your uploads look really spammy. It’s never good to take a look at an image and see one or two words of a caption and then 15 different hashtags. You’re going, “Why do I see all these hashtags? This is overwhelming and confusing.” I suggest using one or two hashtags, maybe three, if they’re all really relevant. But just kind of rein that in and only choose the ones that are most focused on the actual point of that image, that are most focused on what your brand is trying to achieve and accomplish. So make sure that you use the right hashtags.

Part of this is to create branded hashtags. Here’s an example of Generator Hostels, they’ve made their own hashtag called #genlove. This is all about their brand, the only people on Instagram that are using the “genlove” hashtag are Generator Hostels themselves and guests of Generator Hostels that have taken photos at their property or whatever.

Branded hashtags are a great way to group your photos together to aid your guests in navigating. It’s going to allow guests, or people who are interesting in your property, to find very specific photos about an idea that is part of your brand. So you could have two or three different hashtags that are part of your brand. Let’s say, and I’m making this up on the fly here, but let’s say that you’ve got a California bed and breakfast and you want a hashtag to represent adventuring in the redwood forest. You could have a hashtag called #redadventure, or whatever, something like that.

Then that could be your hashtag where you publish all of your outdoor scenery, redwood related, hiking photos to inspire people who are really outdoorsy, who love going out into nature. Then people who go to your Instagram account, who go to your Instagram feed, all they have to do is click on your hashtag that you made, your branded hashtag, and they can see all the photos organized by category that they’re interested in. So that they can “like” them all and repost them all and start following you.

It’s not only a good discovery tool for potential guests, but it helps you find your guests so that you can interact with them. When people start subscribing to your hashtags, you get notified. When people start liking them, you get notified. It’s a great way to give you a broader insight into the landscape of your marketing powers on Instagram. So that you can see the people who are sharing your content, and so that you can follow them or send them a message or otherwise interact with them.

Number three is focus on the caption. As I talked about earlier, there are a couple of anatomical structures of Instagram, one is a hashtag and another is a caption. By caption, this is exactly what I mean. On the left-hand side here you see the image with the name of the Instagram account and a location tag. On the right, you’ve got the caption, which is basically just a short description describing the photo. This affects the amount of engagement that your post is going to receive. Yes, if you publish a really beautiful, inspiring photograph, it’s probably going to get shared a lot, but if you don’t provide any context, then that’s half of it right there. It’s kind of like eating food without being able to smell it or taste it, one of those, you kind of need both to really enjoy food. It’s the same way with an Instagram photo. You got to have the photo, of course, but you also have to have the context of the photo.

This is a great example, because this just looks like a busy marketplace, but with the caption, we get the context of it. We understand that this is Bangkok’s Chinatown. It’s a tourist attraction, vibrant and tasty street food. We can hear the sounds and see the sights and smell the smells because we have the context.

Now, you don’t want to go hog wild and crazy, this isn’t your opportunity to craft an 800-word manifesto for every single Instagram. Keep it short, these Worldpeckers fellows, friends of ours, they made it great. It’s one, nice little paragraph. They’ve got quite a few hashtags in there, but you’re going to find that many brands on Instagram use a lot of hashtags. More than I would use, but they’ve got–one, two, three, four–five hashtags in there and they’re not too bad. But they’re making sure that they’re using hashtags, which is important. So, these guys did a really good job explaining their post and providing the context that is necessary for guests to understand and enjoy it.

Number four, share content beyond your property. Sometimes we forget that social media networks are social. It almost sounds trite for me to say that, but oftentimes, people and brands will go onto their social media pages and just share their own stuff. Me, me, me, I’m talking about me, this is my property, these are my photos, me, me, me. And then they don’t respond to comments, and they don’t reach out to other brands or other people and share their content or like their images.

On Instagram, it’s important to be very social and to share content beyond your property. Not only is this going to help you with your followers and help you with the velocity of your content because if you start following people who have liked your stuff, they may follow you back. And if you start “liking” people’s photos, they may come and “like” yours. But you could also keep your feed full of really interesting content. If you find another business in your area, for example, that maybe you had a partnership with or had an arrangement with, you can go onto their Instagram feed and see if they have anything interesting, like let’s say, you’ve got a hotel in California and you’ve got a partner with a dune buggy rental, right?

Your property is only 15 miles away from the sand dunes in California, or is it Oregon? I know there’s some in Oregon, maybe some in California as well. Then you can start saying, “Hey, we’re 20 miles away from these wonderful chaps who have a great dune buggy rental.” You can repost their photo onto your feed, it’s going to be useful for your guests. It’s going to be staying on brand with your property, it’s going to be kind to your neighbors, and it’s going to encourage them to share your stuff.

If you’re really social on this social network, if you’re kind, if you’re generous, you’re going to make friends with other businesses in the area, with other guests in the area, and it’s only going to help the “virality” of your content. So, looking for local events that are going on, local attractions, local businesses, local hot spots, finding them on Instagram, following them, making sure that you reach out to them or share them in some way as part of your Instagram strategy.

Here’s an example, this is from the James Hotels, they’ve got two hotels, one in New York City and one in Chicago. On the left-hand side, this is the New York City Marathon, right? It attracts over 100,000 people a year. The hotel doesn’t have anything directly to do with the New York City Marathon, but it happens to be in the local vicinity. So, they’ve got their photographer going out there and taking photos of the marathon as the scaffolding is being set up, as the barricades are being put up, and they’re sharing it with their followers. It’s on-brand, it’s a local event, it’s important, people are going to find it interesting.

And on the right-hand side, this is a photograph of the Tiffany Dome in Chicago. This is the largest Tiffany Dome in the world, it’s made out of beautiful Tiffany glass and Carrara marble and it’s just a gorgeous sight. What this does is it inspires. They’re basically saying with this photograph, “Okay, check out our property because look at this wonderful, beautiful piece of architecture that is only five miles away, or within walking distance of our front door, that you could go see.” They’re inspiring the guest to check out the rest of their feed, to like more of their photos. What the guest is basically doing when browsing this hotel’s Instagram feed is they’re planning their trip. They’re fantasizing about traveling to that location. They’re getting inspired by all the wonderful sights that they’re seeing to travel to that location.

Number five, stay on brand. This is extremely important. Let me talk about these two examples. This is the Urban Cowboy Bed and Breakfast in New York City, it’s an urban B&B, but it is a B&B, and they’ve got 28.5 thousand followers. It’s a bed and breakfast with 28.5 thousand followers. They’re not some big huge hotel brand, they’re not a huge chain, they’re a bed and breakfast in New York with almost 29,000 followers. They’ve accrued a huge, huge following because they’ve got pleasing photography with a consistent on-brand style. They know their brand and every single photograph is on-brand. It’s young, it’s urban, but it’s also relaxed and outdoors.

You’ve got this sort of country kitchen on the right-hand side, you’ve got this sort of country cabin on the left-hand side. You’ve got these young people enjoying a restful, peaceful stay, and the photography is excellent. It doesn’t look like it was just snapped with bad lighting or any grainy situations. It looks like the photographer paid special attention with the scenery and with setting it up. It looks like it was meant to be there, and by extension, it looks great. They’ve made good use of Instagram filters. I think the one on the left has probably been used with the lo-fi filter, if I’m not mistaken? And the one on the right used…it’s been a long time since I’ve used Instagram filters. But they’ve made their photographs look really beautiful.

What this does is it encourages…if people are following you because of their brand, they’re envisioning themselves as fulfilling your brand. They’re seeing themselves wrapped in this Native American blanket, sitting outside of your cabin with a fire in the stove and smoke billowing out, enjoying a New York winter morning, right? They see themselves there, and that’s one of the wonderful things you can do with making sure that your photos are on-brand and consistent.

Here’s another good example, this is Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel. They are a little less stringent about their brand and their style, but you can definitely tell their personality based on the kind of content that they’re sharing. Compare these photos with the ones that were shared with the last one. These photos are less set-up. These photos are more off-the-cuff and happenstance.

The one on the left, you’ve got a group of young people who are probably at a wedding, who are laughing, drinking champagne, maybe they’re on a boat and somebody just happened to pull out a camera and take something. It looks spontaneous, it looks fun, right? That’s the kind of brand they’re trying to portray.

The one on the right is silly and quirky. Is that a goat, is that a little mini-horse, what is that? That’s like this little mini-horse and they decided to just play with the mini-horse and you’ve got someone smiling. It’s fun, it’s quirky, it’s not very serious. But that’s their brand. They are all about laid back partying, rejoicing, having a happy time. And that’s the kind of feeling that they want to portray with their brand. This one focuses on people, the last one focuses on scenes. So, we’ll go back real quick.

This was the last one, this was the Urban Cowboy B&B. You see that it’s a completely different kind of feeling and brand, but it’s consistent. Both of these photos have that exact same feeling and brand. This one, the Watson Bay Boutique Hotel, is completely different from the last one, from the Cowboy B&B, but both of them are consistently on-brand. Number six, let’s go back to a little bit of Instagram anatomy, this is Tag Your Location. So, what you’re going to do with your phone is as you’re publishing a photo to Instagram you can say, “Oh, this photo was taken here,” and you can tag the location on your map.

The one on the left, in this example, they tagged their location. The one on the right, they didn’t. The Urban Cowboy B&B actually tagged themselves at the Urban Cowboy B&B and the Generator Hostel, they didn’t tag anything at all. But the reason that this is important is because every single place where you can tag your Instagrams is an actual physical…it’s not only an actual physical location that can show up on maps, and that people can take and go research afterwards but it also creates its own feed on Instagram.

Let’s say that there’s an old rock quarry that has been grown in by a beautiful garden and it’s become a tourist attraction. That place probably has its own feed on Instagram and it’s two miles away from your property so you can go to that old rock quarry, take a bunch of beautiful photographs, tag them by that location and within the caption section of Instagram, you can talk about your property and how close your property is. Then when guests go and start browsing photos of that quarry on Instagram, they see all your photos, they see all your descriptions and they go, “Oh, these guys are only two miles away, maybe I’ll stay there.”

It’s important if you have the opportunity to tag your Instagram photos just because it adds one more feed where your photos are going to show up. That’s the benefit of hashtags and descriptions and all of these different things that you can use. If you can maximize the number of feeds where your photos show up, you’re going to maximize the number of people who see them which maximizes the traffic to your website and potentially the conversions. We need to remember, however, that the goal of using Instagram is not directly to get new guests to stay at your property but indirectly. With Instagram, we’re building a brand, we’re building a reputation, we’re inspiring people. Yes, we’re getting our content shared, yes but it’s really about making ourselves into a…really showcasing the personalities of our properties so that our content can be shared.

So the metrics we’re looking for the success of an Instagram following is going to be the followers you get, the shares you get, the comments you get. Those are all great metrics to look at. As a side on that, you’ll probably be getting some traffic to your website and maybe even some bookings.

Number Seven, Post Consistently. You have to show up to the party. Nothing is more tragic than to see a hotel owner get all excited about a social media platform and they’ve got all these great ideas for content and they sit down, and they brainstorm, and they make this list, and they’ve got some stuff, and they take their photos, and for the first month they’re excellent. They’re posting every day. The second month, they got busy so they’re posting every week.

The third month, they had to go on vacation or they had some out of town guests, and they got one or two out a month. And the fourth month, they just forgot. You can see the content just slowly dwindle to a trickle, and then they’re really only posting once or twice a year. And by that time, they’ve lost. They’re not getting new followers. The people who have followed them are likely to leave because they’re not posting consistently. Nobody likes to sit in an empty room.

You’ve got this opportunity with an Instagram feed as you start to accrue some followers, to say something interesting to the people who are following you every single day. These are people who have their phones on them. They probably pull out Instagram to chat with their friends all the time, multiple times a day. This is an opportunity for your content to reach their eyes multiple times a day. I’m not saying you should post every day.

I think two or three times a week is a good cadence for posting on Instagram. If you’re one to start slow, maybe once or twice a week is a good cadence for posting to Instagram. You definitely don’t want to overwhelm them, but you have to make sure that you’re speaking, that you’re consistently posting. This is a long-term strategy. This isn’t something that you experiment with. This is something where if you’re really wanting to create a consistent and powerful brand, you’re going to have to show up to the party, and you’re going to have to be consistent with what you post.

Let’s look at some examples of before we move to the Q and A portion of this program. Here are some independent hotels that we found on Instagram that have exceptional Instagram photos in our opinions. This is The Line Hotel, The Lafayette and the Hotel Marlin’s. We’ve got three different strategies. On the left they’re really showing off their food. They’re talking about their restaurant, they’re really getting at the gastro-pub fellows, the people who are gastronomic who follow on Instagram.

In the middle, we’re really topical. This is December 17th. It’s close to Christmas, so they’re posting photos of a Christmas tree with some Christmas ornaments just letting the world know that they’re being festive for the holiday season. Then on the right hand side, they’re sticking with the Caribbean nature of their luxurious travel experience. They’re just showing off the palm trees, the sand, and the water, and the beach. That’s what they want to show and they’re being consistent with it.

Three great examples of independent hotels using Instagram to their advantage. Check out the likes, 516 likes of a photo of some steak on a plate. People love it, right? They dig it. One hundred eighty five likes of some chairs by a pool and 35 likes of a Christmas tree. I don’t know how many followers these guys have but clearly they’re doing something right.

Here we have some bed and breakfasts. This is the Parijs aan de kaai. I apologize, I’m probably butchering the pronunciation of this. Then on the right-hand side we’ve got the Bouganville. Again, probably butchering the pronunciation of this. But both of these photos, they’re bed and breakfasts, and they both go back to what we were talking about earlier. On the right-hand side this is a ruin. This is a local tourist attraction near their property and so this bed and breakfast owner is going out with his or her smartphone and making sure to take photography, to take photographs, of the things that are close to them. They’re using the location marker, they’re tagging their location as you can see. I don’t see any hashtags in this particular example, but it’s got 127 likes.

On the left-hand side, they’re just staying on-brand. This is a quirky brand. They’ve got some polar-bear skinned rug under there. It’s probably faux fur I’m sure. They’ve got a hand-written document. It’s very hipster, very urban and of course one or two different hashtags in there. But they also tagged it. They’re doing all of the things that we’re talking about.

A quick re-cap before we get into the Q&A. How to get Started Today. Anyone could get started. It’s free to join, of course. All you have to do is have a smartphone, install the app, start taking photos as I’m sure you all already know so that you can start promoting your property.

Find your unique story. What is it about your property that makes you stand out from all the other properties on Instagram? There are probably other properties in your location that are on Instagram, too. What’s your unique story? What’s your unique brand? How are you going to sell your property? What unique personality are you going to develop for your hotel brand to entice people to follow you?

Number two, Use hashtags wisely and then with that, number three, write captivating captions. We don’t want to be using too many hashtags, and we want to make sure the hashtags that we do use are directly focused with what our properties are about or where are properties are located.

The captivating captions is a great way to describe it. Every caption needs to be descriptive, it needs to be inspiring, it just needs to be captivating.

Share content beyond your property. Don’t just constantly produce your own content. That’s good, we need to continue to produce our own content, but be social, reach out to other businesses and share their content. Reach out to guests who have been in the area and share their content. That’s one of the greatest ways to start building a following.

Number five, Stay on Brand. We don’t want to confuse people, we don’t want to offend people. We don’t want people to forget why they followed you because they thought they were following this great outdoorsy brand and then suddenly they’re seeing a bunch of surfing. Surfing is outdoors though, isn’t it? That’s probably a bad example, but you get what I mean. Stay on brand because your followers have that set expectation for the kind of content they’re expecting from you. And if you deviate from that, make sure that it’s not too wide of a margin.

Post Consistency because nobody likes to sit in an empty room. Most importantly, get started now ladies and gentlemen. There is no time like the present.

My colleague, Alex, I believe has dropped off the call.

Alex: I’m here.

Brandon: Oh, you’re there? Okay.

Alex: Yup.

Brandon: Well, on my end your video is frozen, so I thought that you dropped off long ago and I was a little worried.

Alex: No, I’m here.

Brandon: I’m glad that you’re here. There you go. Your video is…

Alex: I’m back. Hello.

Brandon: Awesome. Well, Alex, is good to have you here. You’ve been here, not back. I want to know, are there any questions? Ladies and gentlemen, you guys can ask us some questions. If you put your mouse on top of your zoom viewer, you can see a Q&A button and you can write a question there and we’re happy to answer them. Are there any waiting for us?

Alex: Yes, we have a question from Peter. He asked it a little while ago, but I wanted to wait to the end to address it. He asked, “Instagram and Facebook are both parts of Facebook. How do you see one versus the other? Today we publish our photos on Facebook. Are you suggesting we use both?”

Brandon: Yeah, and you don’t have to. It’s really up to you. It’s going to be about what you feel is the best use of your resources and your time. There really are two different networks. Instagram is owned by Facebook, but the content that you publish to Instagram doesn’t automatically appear on Facebook and vice versa. You’ve got two different sets of users who are enjoying different experiences on these different social networks.

Facebook is a great social network for any hospitality property to be a part of, so you are doing a great thing by maintaining a strong Facebook presence and sharing your photos on Facebook. That’s great. Instagram has a completely different audience. Different demographics, it skews a little bit younger. Millennials tend to really enjoy Instagram, whereas Facebook has a wide range of demographics, and it’s also dominated by a lot of Baby Boomers, as well. Instagram has different demographics, there are different expectations for the quality of photos that are uploaded to Instagram and there are different ways that photos are discovered on Instagram.

Even though they are owned by the same company, they really are two different networks with completely different audiences. I encourage you if you believe that photography is going to be part of your marketing presence for the foreseeable future, then I encourage you to robust Instagram presence, a robust Facebook presence, and maybe even in the future, a robust Pinterest presence because all of those are really excellent photography based platforms.

Alex: Right, and if I could add to that, one of the main differences between Facebook and Instagram is that the way that people browse Instagram and the way that people are able to discover new hashtags and new followers is really you kind of fall into a hole. So you find someone who is interesting through a hashtag and that kind of spirals down, and then you really have the opportunity to be seen by more people. Whereas Facebook doesn’t really work like that, where if you’re seeing a picture from a certain profile…hashtags just don’t work the same way as they do on Facebook as they do on Instagram. So the discovery and the more happenstance kind of followership is probably going to happen more on Instagram than it would on Facebook.

Brandon: Yeah, it’s much more likely on Instagram for a guest to stumble upon you and discover you because they were browsing the right feed or browsing the right location, whereas on Facebook, they have to have already discovered you because they’ve got to follow your page first or one of their friends must have shared something that you published. It’s a little bit different that way. Discovery is different on Instagram.

Alex: Right. Also from Peter, he said, “When I post on Instagram, I almost always select the option to post on our Facebook page, Tumblr and Twitter. Is that wise or is that bordering on spam?”

Brandon: A couple of schools of thought on this and I’ll try and cover…I’ll cover both and then, Alex, your feedback is going to be good on this as well. It’s a little bit of both. I understand the temptation to do that, and I do it personally myself for my own social media profiles outside of Cloudbeds, often just because it’s easier. I only have to upload one photo, I only have to write one caption, and yes I am reaching out to a completely different network so there is that.

Yet, the thing is that many of these social networks don’t favor content that is published via a third party. This is something that I’ve experienced. So for example, if you’re publishing to…Lets say that you’re using a third-party software system like Hootsuite or Buffer, both of which are great tools, and you publish something to Facebook. Facebook’s algorithm tends to favor content that is directly uploaded to Facebook rather than content that is published to it from a third-party. Your content might be hampered in its ability to get likes and shares because you are using one system to publish the content instead of uploading it to Facebook directly.

Additionally, you need to bear in mind the different kind of audiences that are on each network, and it’s going to be different based on the kind of brands. I recommend that you have only one kind of brand and you maintain that brand across all different social media networks that you use. People are different on different networks. The kind of personalities and needs and wants on Pinterest are completely different from Instagram.

For example, a lot of people on Pinterest are really all about the do-it-yourself hobby kind of stuff. They love arts and crafts and they love things they can build and how-to guides and infographics and stuff like that works really well. On Instagram, that’s not so much. It’s not a lot about do-it-yourself stuff, very few infographics are shared. It’s more about just beautiful scenery, and experiences, and inspiration. So the same content isn’t necessarily going to work the same on both networks.

If you have the resources, my recommendation is to develop a unique strategy with unique content for each network that you use, which is why we recommend to really only use one or two, maybe three. You don’t really need to boil the ocean. You don’t really need to have a presence on every single social media network, just the one or two or maybe three that are the most relevant to your property and your brand so that you can craft the appropriate content for each of those. Alex, your thoughts?

Alex: Yeah, they’re similar to your thoughts. I tend to not use those share buttons for a couple of reasons. When you share from your Instagram to your Facebook, I notice that they changed the resolution. Facebook does allow you to upload big, beautiful pictures so I tend to…I will use the same picture that I uploaded to Instagram to Facebook, but when you use that share mechanism, something changes when you go over. So I tend to not do that. You can do it to save time, but just keep that in mind.

On Tumblr I think it’s fine to share directly from Instagram. I don’t see any changes. With Twitter, I suggest you don’t do it only because when you share it, Twitter a long time ago blocks the API that let the Instagram picture show up as a native picture, so you’re posting a link instead of the actual photo. And then a lot of people won’t see it. A way around that is to use a site called “If This, Then That.” There’s a “recipe” is what they call it, so if you post on Instagram, it automatically uploads Twitter with the native picture. It might cut off some of your caption, but it will post the picture natively and it will post a link to the original Instagram post. So there is a way around that.

I don’t think it’s spam, I just think that there’s ways to make sure the quality is there and to get…The text tends to differ per social media platform, too, so just be careful. Hashtags don’t really work on Facebook, in my opinion, so you want to delete those before you upload them to Facebook as well.

I don’t know if you know this, but after you post an Instagram picture if you don’t share it to those other platforms, there’s three lines next to the photo in the right-hand corner and you can share it to the platforms and change the caption, so there’s a way around that too.

Brandon: Very cool.

Alex: Peter also asked, “Is there etiquette on how many posts one can post each day if they’re all great photos?”

Brandon: This is a gut thing. Imagine that you are on Instagram, and you pull out your phone two or three times a day, and you check your feed, and if every single time you pulled out your phone there were three photos from the same brand that you enjoyed and then you enjoyed the next one, but you kind of want something else so you just swipe past it. It would get a little frustrating.

If you’ve got a huge store of photos that you really want to get through, in my opinion, I wouldn’t post all of those in one day. I wouldn’t post all of those in one week. I would take that wonderful content and I would stagger it out over a series of weeks. There’s no hard and set rule on how many times you can post a day and it’s going to be different for your audience. You might have an audience that is just so pumped up and amped up by your brand that they want to see as much as they can get. It’s not going to be true for everyone, but maybe that’s you, and so you can get away with publishing 10 photos a day. Sure. But I think for most properties, we’re talking at most one a day I would think. Alex?

Alex: It really depends. Everything is dependent, right? If you look at the biggest brands in the United States or around the world, which obviously operate on a different level, if you’re familiar with Urban Outfitters, a very popular American clothing brand, they post up to 10 times a day and they get great engagement on all of it, but it’s because they have millions of followers.

For a social media blog, website, we’ll tell you that you should post two to three times a day, but if you…like what Brandon was saying, if you only have 100 followers and your followers tend to only follow 100 people, then every time they log on, they’re seeing multiple of your pictures in a row. It takes a lot of time, usually, to craft these types of posts to do it well. So from a time perspective, you probably want to shoot two, three times a week, but if you can manage one a day, that’s probably perfect. But it depends on your engagement. If you’re seeing high engagement on all your posts, go for two, three times a day and see what happens. It’s really dependent on how your audience reacts to it. Play around with it and see what happens.

Brandon: Excellent. All right, do we have any others?


Alex: Yes, does Instagram sell post boosts like Facebook does?

Brandon: I know that there is an advertisement program on Instagram. I’m not sure about boosted posts. Do you know that one, Alex?

Alex: I do. Facebook ads are…They introduced it like two or three years ago, but a couple of months ago they finally opened it up to everyone. It actually operates through Facebook’s ad platform. I don’t know the specifics…There’s like four or five different engagement strategies, whether it be get people to my website, convert to a sale, get someone to shop, probably book reservations on there, but there’s not one to specifically boost like you see on Facebook, so you can’t boost to your followers. But the way that the sponsored boost shows up in a feed, you’re likely to get more likes on a post by it just being in the feed. I’d be careful with sponsored posts, though.

Brandon: So, that is a sponsored post system on Instagram?

Alex: Yes.

Brandon: Okay, do they pay for that directly through Instagram or through Facebook?

Alex: It’s through Facebook Power Editor.

Brandon: Okay, so log into Facebook, go to the Facebook Power Editor. You have to be an advertiser on the Facebook platform, but from within there you can choose to publish and sponsor a post on Instagram. Now how does that work, Alex? When you publish that post, is that photo going to your Instagram account, or is it just directing people from Instagram to Facebook?

Alex: It actually posts as a native photo on Instagram. It has nothing to do with Facebook, it’s just that’s where the ad platform is.

Brandon: It’s just managed through the ad platform.

Alex: Yup.

Brandon: Excellent. That’s great. Thanks.

Alex: Okay, one more here. Since a long time Instagram was struggling not to become a place where brands used their upload sponsor like we see today. At the moment we are seeing in our feed a lot of publicity. How is it working for the brands that are using this new tool? Can we develop a strategy in order to show these uploads to the right people? I can speak to this if you want me to.

Brandon: Sure.

Alex: So, the original numbers coming out of the sponsored posts are very high compared to any other social platform, and we’re probably going to see a slight dip in the amounts of engagement and the amounts of success only because it’s brand new. People in their nature divert away from advertisements. They don’t want to interact with them for the most part. Right now people are interacting with them because they’re new and they don’t know that it’s a sponsored post even though it’s labeled, but it’s working. Facebook ads are also every powerful and we strongly agree you should be using those, as well.

You can find a strategy to find the right people to upload them. It uses the same targeting strategies that Facebook uses, and Facebook has the most advanced targeting features out of any social media platform. You can target people by age, location, job function, job title, how much money they make, the way they shop, their shopping behaviors. It’s really incredible how you can target people. They carried that over to Instagram. So, the answer is yes, you can develop a strategy to find the right people, and I would definitely suggest playing around with it and seeing how successful it is for you, especially in these early stages.

Brandon: Awesome. Do we have anymore?

Alex: Yes. Can Facebook push viewers to Instagram, and if so is it a preferable modality? It may be a sort of chicken and egg situation.

Brandon: You could. You could always log into your Facebook feed and then post a link to your Instagram and say, “Hey, everybody, follow me on Instagram,” and share content that way. That may be a way to jumpstart your Instagram followers. But really, you’re talking about two different networks, two different kinds of people who tend to gravitate towards those networks. It may be okay every now and then, not very often, to promote your various social media networks on other social media networks just to kind of get some of those followers who happen to have crossover accounts to follow you on the new one as well, especially when you’re first starting out, to kind of jumpstart and kickstart your followers.

On a whole, no, I wouldn’t use that. I wouldn’t use Facebook as a way to promote your Instagram content. I would, instead, work on nurturing my Instagram audience, finding new people on Instagram, getting new guests on Instagram and sharing content directly with them and growing that user base from within that network instead of leaning upon other networks to prop it up.

Alex: Yeah, I think cross promotion is great. Like Brandon said, don’t overdo it and don’t try to take all your Facebook people and make them into your Instagram followers, but definitely let them know. While your Facebook and your Instagram probably cater to different audiences, the audience that’s going, or the market that you’re trying to target with your hotel it’s probably interested in both markets. I think especially in 2016, we’ll really see a change or growth in demographics for Instagram. Instagram is only five years old, and now that it’s gaining traction, now that they offer sponsored posts, older people, older demographics are going to start being on the platform which in my opinion is a good thing because then it gets better and more people are on it and it becomes more useful. So, you can sponsor, you can shoot people there, but be careful as in anything.

Brandon: Awesome. Thank you, Alex. All right. Lots of great questions. I’ll leave it open for a few more seconds before we close. I just want to say thanks everybody for registering. One of the reasons we did this webinar is because we’ve done a few other webinars in the past and every now and then we get an Instagram question. We realized that Instagram is a hot button issue, Instagram was a pretty popular topic, that you guys had a lot of questions about it. We wanted to put our minds together, do a bunch of research, and get this webinar out for you guys to really help you jumpstart your Instagram marketing strategy. I hope it’s been useful. We are going to publish this webinar recording on so that you can refer to it in the future. We’re also going to publish an e-book, which has all of the content that was in this webinar that we’ll e-mail to you tomorrow.

Alex: Great. If I could offer one more piece of advice before we end, is if you are new to Instagram, if you’re never used it before and you’re interested in doing it for your property, I would suggest joining it yourself and exploring all of the possibilities. Instagram is really easy to tell what works and what doesn’t work by following really popular accounts and then following your friends and following your family because you see what is popular and how people use the platform. Before you even attempt to start it for your property, start it for yourself and follow a bunch of people and see what’s working and see how people share stuff. It’ll be really helpful when you try to use it as a marketing platform for your property.

Brandon: Excellent advice. If there are no other questions, we will end it with that. Thank you, everybody, for coming to this week’s webinar on Instagram by Cloudbeds. I hope that it was useful. Stay tuned for our next webinar which is going to be in two weeks. We will send out information on that. Thanks again for subscribing. See you all later.

Alex: Great. Thanks, everyone.

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