Tips for Insta-Success: An Instagram Checklist for Independent Hotels

It used to be photos in magazines and scenes on television that inspired us to travel, but the internet has made the world much more accessible, inspiring our dreams anywhere, anytime. While we are still motivated by traditional media and recommendations from friends and family, we’re also now constantly influenced by online campaigns and social media, where the experiences of people we know—and don’t know—feed our travel dreams.

According to recent research by easyJet, more than half of 18 to 65 year olds book holidays based on Instagram posts, with almost a third choosing destinations based on “instagrammability” (how photogenic a place is). Filled with beautiful photos and captivating videos, Instagram allows users to categorize and find posts via hashtags like #travelinspo or #sanfranciscohotel, making it an exciting platform for both discovering and marketing content.

With its focus on visual storytelling and boasting higher engagement rates than any other social media channel, Instagram is the perfect platform for travel marketers. One billion people use Instagram every month—that’s a huge, highly engaged audience just waiting to be inspired to visit your property! Whether you are already on Instagram or just thinking about getting started, the following tips will help you make the most of your property’s Instagram account.

#AccountSetup

Business Profile

If you haven’t already, make sure your hotel’s Instagram account is set up as a business profile. Switching to a business profile is free and gives you access to tools that help you market to a wider audience, improving visibility and driving sales.

With a business profile, you can run promotions through Instagram Ads (more on that later), and connect your Instagram account to your property’s Facebook page to boost the exposure of your posts. An Instagram business profile gives you access to Instagram Insights, providing real-time metrics on post and account performance, and helping you fine-tune your marketing efforts. Last, but not least, your business profile allows you to select a category for your business and add contact information (email, address, phone number, website, opening hours) so customers can easily find you.

Username

Choose a username that clearly identifies your property; ideally, the actual name of your property. Bear in mind spaces are not allowed in usernames, so keep it simple and understandable.

Profile Photo

Your profile photo should reinforce your branding, so it’s best to use your property’s logo or a photo of your hotel that is easily recognizable as a small thumbnail image.

Bio

In just a few compelling words (up to 150), your bio should describe your property while showcasing your property’s personality and prompting customers to take action. Your bio appears near the top of your profile and should include a link to your property’s website. If you’ve created your own branded hashtag you should include this in your bio as well (more on branded hashtags later).

#BestPractices

Follow Local Businesses

Use the Search function to find and follow other local businesses that complement the guest experience, such as tour operators, restaurants, galleries and other attractions, and engage with them (like and comment on their posts) to build your Instagram community. Follow your local competitors too (you know what they say about keeping enemies close!) to gain insight into their strategies and help you stay competitive.

Maintain a Cohesive Look and Feel

Decide on a “style” for your posts that reflects your property’s personality. Maintaining a cohesive look and feel for your account helps to reinforce branding and tell your story.

Quality Photos and Videos

Instagram is filled with great-looking content designed to inspire, so low-quality images stand out like a sore thumb. Creating quality content builds brand credibility and isn’t difficult to do with Instagram’s various filters and effects, allowing you to produce creative, professional-looking photos and videos with your phone.

Purposeful Captions and Hashtags

Keep captions short and sweet, but do put some thought into them. Captions play an important part in engaging followers and calling them to action. Use captions to provide context for images, and communicate messages in your brand’s unique voice.

Include relevant hashtags to help people find your post, but don’t go overboard—any more than 10 will come across as spammy and desperate.

Use a Branded Hashtag

Branded hashtags are great for promoting your property and campaigns and encouraging user-generated content. Consistently using your property’s name as a hashtag (for example, #willowmotel) with every post helps people find your content and encourages guests to use your hashtag when posting their own pics of their experiences at your property.

Branded hashtags can also be created for special promotions, events and contests, for example, #willowmotelselfie #freenightonwillow or #willowdisco2019.

Add Location

Take advantage of the Add Location feature to tag your posts with a physical location that helps users discover your posts and your property.

Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are short slideshows of photos and or videos that make full use of the mobile screen, have the ability to add text, stickers and music, and disappear after 24 hours (unless downloaded, archived or saved as a highlight). Stories are an effective way to promote your property, with one third of the most-viewed stories being from businesses.

Instagram Stories are a fun and engaging way to interact with your audience and are ideal for promoting limited-time offers, showcasing new amenities, running customer polls, and sharing behind-the-scenes glimpses into your world, all while celebrating your business’s personality and style.

Extra tip: Any stories you want to preserve beyond their 24-hour lifespan can be saved as “highlights,” which are displayed prominently on your profile until you choose to remove them. This helps make the most of those stories you worked so hard to create!

Paid Advertising

Instagram ads work like Facebook ads, helping you get the most out of your best-performing posts. With five ad formats to choose from—image, video, carousel, stories and collection ads—advertising on Instagram is a cost-effective way to expand the reach of any kind of post. It’s simple too, with ads run directly from the Instagram app or managed from your Facebook Ad account (if your Instagram account is connected to your Facebook page). Just like Facebook ads, you have full control over defining the target audience, campaign objectives, budget and duration of each ad.

Remember to keep an eye on ad performance through Instagram Insights to find out what works best.

Engage

To become an active and engaging member of your Instagram community, it’s important to engage with other users by liking and commenting on the posts of guests and local businesses that inspire you.

Promote Your Instagram Account

Let customers know they can find and follow your property on Instagram by promoting your Instagram account on your website and your other social media channels, in pre- and post-stay emails and your newsletter too. An Instagram icon or button that links to your Instagram account is all it takes. 

Promote your Instagram account offline too, in in-room welcome packs and on property signage. Include your account name and branded hashtag.

Post Consistently

You don’t need to commit to posting every day to be successful on Instagram. The key is being consistent. Settle on a schedule that is manageable going forward; consistently posting two or three times a week is much better than posting every day for the first week and then quickly running out of steam.

#ContentInspo

As for what to post, focus on telling your property’s story. People use Instagram to find inspiration, so inspire wanderlust by showcasing your property’s personality and uniqueness. In addition to promoting your rooms and facilities, create content that highlights the stay experience from different angles.

Out and About in Your Neighborhood

Attract visitors to your destination by promoting the scenery, attractions and local hotspots of your neighborhood. Show them an experience beyond the walls of your property.

Guests’ Interests

What do your guests like to do when they stay with you? Exploring the surrounding mountains? Wining and dining? Relaxing on the beach? Show them the kind of content they love.

It’s In the Details

Exercise your artistic eye and capture those special details unique to your property—like that cool pattern in your tiles, that beautifully presented dish from your restaurant, the way the evening light dapples across your patio…

Behind the Scenes

Give your followers a privileged glimpse behind the scenes to show them how much you care about making their stay a great one. Staff interviews and selfies, renovations in progress, the making of your best-selling cocktail, property events… sharing behind-the-scene moments helps your followers feel more connected with your business.

Seemingly everyone is online these days, which makes social media an essential marketing channel for businesses today, especially for those in the travel and hospitality industries. Instagram’s popularity in particular is rapidly increasing, especially among millennials who are proving to love to travel. So be sure to make the most of your property’s Instagram account to reach highly engaged travelers and inspire them to stay with you.