There is simply no denying the power of Instagram for travel brands. The photo sharing network is second only in size to Facebook, its parent company, with over 600 million monthly active users and more than 400 million daily active users.
While it had a slow start when it launched in 2010, the platform has come into its own in the last two years and firmly embedded itself in popular culture. Now, being Insta-famous, Insta-worthy and Insta-ready are words in their own right and celebrities, brands and influencers flock to the site to share products, services and insights in their millions.
For travel brands, this visual discovery medium is a real treasure trove of potential – no other social network offers as much opportunity to share beautiful imagery of destinations, rooms and facilities to such a large daily engaged audience.
Due to the nature of Instagram, it’s also ripe for making sales – something that can’t be said of all social networks. According to MediaPost, “A recent survey by MissTravel found that 48% of Instagram users use the app to help them choose travel destinations for vacations. The survey also found that 35% of users use it to discover new places.”
With travellers incorporating Instagram into their planning behaviour, how can your hotel brand ensure it’s using its own Instagram presence to make bookings? Try these five tips to help transform your follower engagement into actual room reservations.
1. Use Dynamic Ads
Dynamic ads can be used to increase conversions and lower cost per acquisition and the good news is, they work across any type of device. Introduced last year, Dynamic Ads are a unique type of advert that fit perfectly within the travel sector. This type of advert allows you to promote a relevant product to shoppers browsing on the website or mobile app. You can upload your entire catalogue of destinations or packages at once and Instagram will then show the right ad, to the right person, at the right time based on their previous behaviour.
What’s more, Dynamic Ads have travel-specific extensions, which means that ads can be used to show certain offers to travellers who have expressed an interest in a particular destination or a certain date. Dynamic Ads will show to those looking for hotels but can also be used to cross sell to those searching for flights for example, by matching the user’s flight search to your own relevant destination. The ads also function dynamically to show room availability and pricing, helping you to fill your room inventory by connecting your hotel with users planning and booking a trip using Instagram.
2. Promote authentic experiences
The list of travel brands successfully promoting authentic experiences on Instagram is long. Norwegian Cruises have long been a pioneer of this approach, using their own hashtag and user submitted images to share the excitement and authenticity of a Norwegian Cruise Lines. Temporary accommodation provider Airbnb takes a similar approach, as does Hilton Hotels, with many of its posts generating thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.
With around half of travellers using Instagram to help them choose a destination, sharing authentic images and videos of relevant experiences can help your hotel stand out.
3. Use Influencer Marketing
A Rhythm One Influencer Marketing report found that Instagram was the best performing of all social media channels when it came to driving sales from influencer activity. It averaged a 3.21% engagement rate, more than double the average 1.5% rate for social networks in general.
Find the right influencers for your target demographic and you can use this propensity for action to drive bookings directly from Instagram. You can use this tactic for both new and established hotels and, you can add a sense of urgency for special events, low occupancy dates or holiday weekends by issuing influencers with discount codes or coupons to share with their followers.
4. Encourage user content
You can put user generated content to work on your Instagram account and tap into the power of reviews in a more informal way. Research by Bright Local has found that 84% of consumers trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation. Now, consider a post such as this one shared by Ritz-Carlton, which is a repost of a guest’s own Instagram post:
The comments from followers who’ve stayed at this hotel on Maui all act as reviews and endorsements of the accommodation, with each saying how much they enjoyed their stay.
This type of positive interaction from previous happy guests puts the power of the online review at your fingertips directly from Instagram. Encourage your guests to share their content with you, and repost images you find using your hotel’s hashtag or geotag to benefit directly.
5. Add a call to action to your posts
You can apply the same rules for calls to action that you’d use for landing pages or email marketing to your Instagram posts. This may be to click the link in bio for more, or encourage visitors to download your app. Don’t be afraid to add a call to action on your Instagram updates if you’re serious about using this channel to drive sales – just be sure that it’s a value add and tagged on to your best imagery. Use three to five hashtags to complete the post, making it more discoverable and opening up that call to action to more users.
A final word of advice
Social media should never be approached simply as a sales channel. Even though a large proportion of Instagram users are known to browse their feeds for travel inspiration, you risk losing the power of Instagram if you approach it purely as a lead generation source. Being too salesy with your posts is a sure fire way to turn off users and send them elsewhere for their source of inspiration.
Combine the tips above to drive sales with a commitment to sharing authentic, memorable and visually engaging imagery, your best user generated content and truly immersive experiences to really get the most from this network.