Special guest blog by Greg Oates, hotel media strategist
With the exponential growth in mobile/tablet usage and the proven value of visual storytelling, photography has more impact than ever to increase direct bookings on hotel websites. There are many ways to create new imagery, but Instagram is one of the best for a variety of reasons.
Instagram makes anyone a professional photographer. It’s not always great in low light conditions, but otherwise it’s relatively easy to create publishable photos. For inspiration, check out pro shooter Alex Strohl who only creates photos with Instagram.
Instagram has a huge user base. Over 100 million active monthly users update 40 million photos daily. It’s seamlessly integrated with Facebook and Twitter for sharing, and anyone can search and share your hotel with travel-related hashtags. Meaning, if you’re posting new Instagram photos on your website consistently, Instagram users will find you based on destination searches, consistently.
That’s the number one thing that hotel marketers need to know about Instagram. It’s much more than a smartphone photography tool. It’s a highly interactive social media platform that hotels can tap into easily and affordably with a potentially sky-high ROI.
There are many examples of brands using Instagram to promote their products. The Mobile Media Lab, for example, is a digital creative agency who works with brands like W Hotels through various Instagram-related promotions. Follow the founders at NYC Instagram Community and see how you can work with them for your hotel.
Canadian-based ALT Hotels heavily incorporates Instagram into their overall visual storytelling strategy. I love their Facebook page. In March, the hotel group hosted its annual ALTexpo Instagram contest asking for submissions based on a different theme every day for a month. They received over 85,000 photos, some of which are used to create giant murals inside the hotels.
Any hotel can create in-house contests for guests to submit their Instagram photos of the property, with comp’d meals or hotel stays as rewards. Or seek out any budding photographers on staff and work out a trade for new photos. Instagram is also a great way to engage the local community with contests created for them exclusively. For example, create a contest for one month asking patrons to submit their best cocktail photos. That’s a fun way to promote your bar and draw people into the restaurant.
This works even better when you include promo codes in your photos’ descriptions redeemable for discounts at your restaurant, bar, spa, golf course, etc. Or, for any special events, you can create a hashtag specifically for that event, and then track the conversation leading up to the event. That’s a simple and cost-effective way to learn what your customers are saying about your brand. How easy is that?
Another great way to build a hotel’s photo inventory is by asking your guests to submit theirs. Standard Hotels does an excellent job combining crowdsourced Instagram photos with their own professional photography. If you go to their Gallery pages for each hotel, you’ll see a running stream of Instagram photos along the bottom. Standard Hotels simply asks for guest photos at the bottom of the page and provides an email for photo submissions.
St. Regis Punta Mita is a great example of a globally branded hotel that works individually to promote itself via an exclusive Instagram account. They consistently publish beautiful photos of the resort and special events. They also use their Instagram photos as simple but powerful marketing collateral with type on the photos highlighting various amenities.
While guests are enjoying your hotel’s amenities, suggest they use Postagram to tell their friends and families around the world. It’s really easy to use. Guests send their Instagram photo and a short message to Postagram, who then create a postcard and mails it to whomever you wish.
Lastly, I love this photo from San Juan Marriott Resort showing a couple in the lounge taken by someone standing behind a pro photographer. It’s a great example of what anyone can do with Instagram. It was even used in a national print magazine, which is something to think about. Instagram is no longer just for digital publication. You can create free, professional photos for print and broadcast media, too.
For further reading about Instagram and how travelers are using it, check out this new book published last month: Instagram as your Guide to the World.
About Greg Oates
Greg Oates is a travel editor and publisher of 200rooms.com, profiling innovative small hotels and their role in local tourism development. Greg also works closely with hotel professionals to help them reach guests through content marketing strategies, visual storytelling and media relations.