Last month, we hosted a Social Media State of the Union webinar that focused on the rapid emergence of three newer social platforms: Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest. While each of these channels has certainly sequestered significant industry buzz throughout 2012, the major of hospitality marketers are still testing the waters to figure out how each platform can contribute to a more engaged, integrated social media plan. Over the next few weeks, we will take a more in-depth look at each of these channels and provide some tips and insights as to how to best manage your hotel or restaurant’s presence on each channel. First up: Instagram.
The Fundamentals of Instagram
Long before Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of the company, Instagram has existed as a mobile photo-sharing application, allowing users to enhance their photos and disseminate the content across an array of social networks. The app’s rampant adoption growth, coupled with the inherent photo-friendly nature of the travel experience, cements Instagram as an essential tool to utilize in building your hotel or restaurant’s social media content strategy. Here are some steps to take and tips to action when creating and managing your hotel or restaurant’s presence on Instagram:
Even if you are unsure what kind of content you want to post using the application, creating an account will allow you to survey the landscape and source user-generated content that has likely already been tagged about your brand. When signing up for an account – which you can only do by downloading the free app on a mobile device through the Apple Store or Google Play – make sure to:
1) Register with an email address that is already the default login for other social media sites (e.g. hotelXYZsocialmedia@gmail.com)
2) Select a Username that is easily recognizable and consistent with your branding across other social sites (e.g. if your Twitter handle is @HotelXYZ, your Instagram name should follow suit)
3) Upload a recognizable hotel or restaurant photo as your default Picture.
After signing-up, you will be brought to your Instagram account’s home page. Before you jump in and start exploring the various tabs, be sure to Edit Your Profile by clicking on the button furthest to the right on the app to ensure that your:
1) Bio section describes your brand and utilizes as much of the 150 characters of text real estate
2) Website is listed to ensure users can find you on their mobile device.
Step #2: Survey the Landscape
Before you begin posting through the application, it is a good idea to learn what kind of user-generated content (UGC) has already been shared about your brand. By using websites like Webstagram, Statigram or Pinstagram, you can easily discover posts from other users that pertain to your hotel or restaurant brand. This gives you the opportunity to:
1) Identify and start following other Instagram users that are interested in you
2) Discover which hashtags (#) are most associated with your brand
3) Determine what kind of content most resonates with those users.
It’s worth noting that you can also search for you brand by using the Explore > Hashtags feature that is accessible via the mobile application directly.
Step #3: Get Inspired by Others
By utilizing the same websites as listed above, begin to formulate a content strategy based on what kind of photos are most engaging on the platform. While your hotel or restaurant’s content should be wholly unique to your brand’s identity, there is often much to be learned from companies that are more experienced in the space. As we pointed out in our social media state of the union webinar, hotels like the Fontainebleau Miami, Beverly Wilshire and W Hotels in New York City are all utilizing the application extremely effectively. Use these examples as a jumping-off point when determining what kind of content you will want to share.
You will also want to consider following Instagram users that are interested in your destination or local neighborhood. You can search for these users by searching for the same hashtags that you may be following on Twitter and are associated loosely you’re your brand (e.g. #NYC #UpperEastSide, #hotel, #vacation).
Instagram also last month released a 3.0 upgrade that – in addition to updating users’ profiles – brought in a photo map feature that allows users to search and discover previously posted photos by the location they were posted at. From a destination hotel perspective, this rollout marks a huge opportunity for the hotelier to tag his/her photos to specific locations (e.g. restaurants, local attractions) and, more importantly, bring historical photos to the front of the fold. Says CEO Kevin Systrom, “Up until now we made it too difficult to access [those old photos], you had to scroll back pages and pages. We want to let you browse those photos in a fast and efficient manner, and we realized that the way to organize them wasn’t time, but [location].”
Step #4: Start Snapping Photos
Once you’ve identified what kind of content fits best with you brand’s identity, begin posting from the application. Remember that you can only post photos via Instagram through the iPhone or Android mobile application. Similar to Twitter, utilizing hashtags (#) when posting your content will allow your photos to be seen more prominently. As far as what kind of content is most appropriate to share, remember the golden rule of social: stay true to your brand while remaining real. This means sharing behind-the-scenes looks of your chef preparing a signature dish or your bellman playing with the dog outside the lobby, and not simply adding a filter to a professionally shot website photo. For more examples of brands that are leveraging Instagram effectively, have a look at this list published by Business Insider.
Step #5: Share Your Content
Perhaps the best feature of Instagram is its sharing capabilities. As social marketers have less and less time to devote to managing social media, one might assume that Instagram is just another consideration that will absorb even more time. On the contrary, Instagram is a tremendous timesaving tool that, in reality, will make your social media outreach both more engaging and efficient. With photos driving the most engagement on Facebook and Twitter, it is imperative that you give permissions to your hotel or restaurant’s respective social media accounts (Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and Foursquare) to the application to achieve the maximum social reach of your message. At the time of this writing, you are only able to directly share an Instagram photo to a personal Facebook page (associated with an individual) and not a brand page. That said, it is absolutely worth using an Instagram photo or compiling an album of photos as part of your Facebook content strategy.
Once you’ve gotten into your groove on Instagram, start to think about other ways you can engage and excite your customer. Holding an Instagram contest to encourage your customer to share, for example, proved very successful for this Los Angeles-based restaurant and can be similarly effective for your hospitality brand.