Update 5/23/2017: We’ve found a couple more ways to boost your Instagram followers and get more bookings. The list has been updated to 11 ways instead of the original nine.
400 million people. Think about that for a second.
That’s more than the population of the United States, more than all of the views on the famed YouTube video, “Evolution of Dance.” It even takes less than 400 million people standing on one another’s shoulder to reach the moon.
So, last September, when Instagram celebrated its new milestone of more than 400 million users, it was kind of a big deal. And for you, it means something as well: a platform with millions of potential customers (and reservations), right at your fingertips.
Now, having millions of eyes on your posts would be great, but for whatever reason you’re hitting a wall when it comes to your followers. You’re stuck in the hundreds, or even the double digits (shudder), and spend more time staring longingly at the accounts of your competitors, wondering if the decision between the Earlybird or Nashville filter means the difference between “like” or death.
Pretty serious stuff. But it shouldn’t have to be. Your Instagram account should be a light and fun way for your hotel to showcase all it has to offer.
So instead of spending your time agonizing over filter choices or hashtags, I’ve found some other, more surefire ways of guaranteeing your hotel twice the followers so you don’t fall into the traps so many other unsuccessful Instagram accounts have before.
Ready? Let’s get started.
1) Make It High-Quality
Seems pretty obvious, right? So obvious that no one in this day and age would never dare post a pixelated mess on their Instagram page, right?
I think you catch my drift.
While this is definitely obvious advice, it bears repeating since even some of the biggest names in the industry still commit this cardinal sin of Instagram.
Instagram is all about producing high-quality, shareable images that transport users to a visual paradise. So if you post poor content, you not only waste your chance at a potentially viral image, but you also transport your followers to photography purgatory.
Not to mention, uploading pixelated images makes you look like you don’t care. And for hotels, this means losing major hospitality points. Because if your hotel doesn’t take the time to care about its image, what does that say about your service?
But herein lies the obvious answer: pay attention to what you’re posting. If you think your image might be a tad too blurry, take another photo and make sure you’ve focused. If the lighting seems off, there’s an array of filters you can choose from to transform that snapshot into art. And if your image is distorted or pixelated, be sure that you’re using the app’s most recent version.
Instagram is all about projecting perfected effortlessness. It’s about looking cool, not careless. And in the hospitality industry, you know it takes a lot of effort to make things look perfect.
A string of great shots is an easy way to amass followers since it gives off the impression that you’re smart about your posting. And you should be. So remember: quality always trumps quantity.
2) Make It More Than The View
It’s not just about a room with a view anymore. Whether they’re on vacation or traveling for business, your guest’s needs extend beyond beachside breezes or the soft glow of city lights.
So rather than relying on scenery alone, show that your hotel offers more by highlighting your exceptional service and unparalleled guest experience.
Between your posts of palm trees in the breeze, pepper in photos of your stellar room service, images of your unique amenities, or even snapshots of your guests getting hitched on your grounds.
But don’t stop there! Thompson Hotels is a great example of offering more than just a pretty view or flaunting stunning amenities.
Aside from showing mouthwatering snapshots of some of their food offerings, Thompson Hotels takes it one step further by sharing recipe illustrations of their most popular dishes and drinks, enabling guests to take their hotel experience home with them.
By posting more than what a follower expects from a hotel’s Instagram account, Thompson Hotels stands out from their competition and catches the eyes of users interested in crafting, luxurious hotel-quality cuisine.
3) Make It Trend
Like its 140 character platform counterpart, Instagram also makes use of hashtags, giving trending topics a visual edge absent from text alone.
The Hilton, for instance, voiced its support for Spirit Day in October 2015, posting GLAAD’s infographic about bullying, as well as tagging its post with #spiritday.
By getting into the hashtag conversation, the Hilton demonstrated its support for the LGBT community and gave greater depth to their brand. Not only are they a high-class hotel, but they care about the welfare and treatment of their customers, LGBT community included.
And if you click on the hyperlinked hashtag, all Instagram posts that use the hashtag will be listed, Hilton Hotels included. By jumping in on a trending topic, Hilton Hotels gained additional exposure and a positive association with their customers, meaning more followers.
Not all trending topics have to be serious in nature. They can be fun as well. For example, Delano Hotels in South Beach posted this photo on #nationalcoffeeday, celebrating both the caffeinated drink and pointing out the warm climate of its South Beach destination location.
4) Make It Cute
Everyone likes to feel positive, and there’s no surer way of hitting your followers right in the feels than with an adorable animal.
So if your hotel has an open pet policy, you have it made when it comes to doubling your followers.
Aside from the surefire cuteness that can make any animal photo flood the Internet, the number of Instagram accounts dedicated to our furry friends alone is also skyrocketing.
Take Lil BUB for instance.
This toothless little bundle of joy has amassed an impressive one million followers. Clearly, cute has massive curb appeal in the internet.
Now imagine if one of these Instagram superstars stays at your hotel. Not only can you make the most out of their adorable factor, but tagging them in your posts also exposes your hotel to their audience. Their followers will remember you as a pet-friendly place and your followers will appreciate that little dose of cute that brightens their day.
And don’t be afraid to get creative. There’s nothing quite like a French Bulldog in a robe enjoying all your hotel has to offer.
Or a Goldendoodle washing his paws.
Even Grumpy Cat will smile. (At least on the inside.)
And if your hotel isn’t pet-friendly, there are still opportunities to make the most out of online animal mania.
Whether you’re located by the beach, way up in the mountains, or out on the desert, shots of wildlife can still function in much the same way as our domesticated friends. For example, if your guests can swim with dolphins, go dog-sledding, or go out on a safari, these are all viable options for increasing your account’s adorable factor. And even if a roaring lion inspires more majesty than delight, animals still evoke strong emotions, and these emotions will guarantee more followers.
5) Make It Funny
A laugh can go a long way. Not only will it brighten your followers’ day, but a good chuckle can do wonders for your brand.
Many hotels post boring photos: flat, tired images of guests lounging by the pool or that ‘quintessential’ sunset shot that speaks more about your locale than your hotel.
They’re pleasant, but pleasant doesn’t elicit a strong reaction from your followers. You want your photos to stand out, and photos that make your followers feel will do just that.
With a nice laugh, you highlight your multi-faceted hospitality experience, promising guests both a relaxing and enjoyable time.
Whether it’s through an image of a suite’s creative towel display or a tongue-in-cheek reminder that smoking is not allowed, laughter can create a positive and memorable association between your customer and your brand.
Not to mention, this positive association can prompt your followers to share your posts, opening you up to even more potential followers.
6) Make It A Contest
Contests are a great way to create excitement around a product and engage with your customers. And in the world of online sharing, it can be a quick way to get your hands on some great content.
For example, the Four Seasons hosts a successful photo contest on their Instagram called Focus on Four Seasons.
Those who participate will be entered to win one of three exotic photography expeditions (as well as a free stay in each destination’s accompanying Four Seasons hotel, of course).
In addition, the contest also stretches over a month, with each week promising a new photographic challenge for followers to complete. Not only does this enable the contest to catch on, but also time for the hotel to amass even more Instagram followers .
7) Make It Collaborative
Since there are more than 400 million active Instagram users in the world, you can bet that someone will be snapping photos at your hotel. And with a camera inside of every smartphone and Instagram’s array of filters, these users might even nab a good shot or two.
Professional photographers can leave a deep dent in your wallet and Instagram users are becoming more aware of the difference between a perfectly posed online illusion and reality. So rather than spending money on a photographer who may not capture the essence of your guests’ experiences, tap into the very recipients of your hospitality who are already camera-ready.
Not only will your guests feel thrilled that you used their photo, but an unstaged, natural photo shot by a guest grounds your customer experience in reality. It also makes your hotel appear social media savvy and interested in what you customer has to say.
Collaboration doesn’t have to end at guests, either.
Even in the digital age, some hotels still display an array of brochures advertising sight-seeing opportunities or local restaurants for customers to make the most of out their downtime.
Why not take a step into the 21st century?
Print brochures are still handy, but with everyone connected to their phones, digital advertising can give you and your brochure businesses increased visibility
The Carlyle Hotel, for example, managed both a nod to the rich culture of their NYC location and a pat on the back to local foodie favorite Sant Ambroeus.
Their post was simple and effortless, and also caught the attention of Sant Ambroeus, who thanked them for the tag and established a relationship between the two businesses.
8) Make It Move
Instagram also enables your account to come to life with short, 15 second video clips. And nothing immerses your followers quite as well as showing them a real-time, real-life experience.
Let’s go back to the Four Seasons’ Instagram again.
Aside from its obvious cuteness, this clip does more than invite smiles. It implies that if you stay at the Four Seasons, you too may have the opportunity to live out the once-in-a-lifetime experience of swimming with baby sea turtles, advertising both the particular hotel’s destination setting and a fun activity for guests to take part in.
While cute, this clip was also a great way to intrigue Instagram users and accumulate followers interested in what other feel-good clips the Hilton’s Instagram has to offer.
9) Make It Enviable
There’s always something special that makes one hotel look cooler than another, and Instagram is the perfect place for you to prove how cool your hotel is.
Take The Plaza: this hotel has a rich history, from hosting Hollywood hotshots to the series of Eloise books set within its iconic halls. The Plaza Hotel makes use of its luxe reputation, implying that their guests are also privy to this high-life.
But creating a desirable undertone on your account doesn’t have to rely on a rich history or a destination location. Your customers (or at least the models used as customers in your photos) can do that for you.
For instance, aside from creating warm, fuzzy feelings in your followers, Instagram is also ground zero for the lifestyle envy phenomenon.
Urban Cowboy Bed & Breakfast, a bohemian haven in (where else) but Williamsburg, thrives on this tactic through creative and artistic photographs. Through their imagery, they capture the juxtaposition of their rustic and industrial aesthetic, attracting both photography enthusiasts and hipsters.
But it’s not just their aesthetic that inspires envy and amasses tons of followers. It’s the addition of their effortlessly cool guests that seals the deal for follower jealousy.
By projecting a “cool crowd” tone with your posts, it evokes that feeling of exclusivity that’s integral to successful marketing and sales. Everyone wants to be a part of the club, and Instagram enables your followers to be a part of that club, even if it’s at a distance.
It’s a concept that will make your followers want to go to there.
10) Make It Behind-The-Scenes
While it’s true that sometimes you don’t want to know how the sausage is made, in most cases people like to know what’s going on behind the scenes. That applies to your guests, and Instagram is an awesome opportunity to give them an inside look at the inner workings of your hotel.
Showcase those dedicated staff workers happily working hard on a beautiful soufflé for the restaurant, or a smiling maid laying crisp, beautiful white sheets over a bed. It both humanizes your staff and provides a layer of authenticity to your hotel.
(via Flickr user Jun Seita)
And, more importantly, it gives people a reason to tune into your Instagram account instead of your website or reviews on third-party sites.
After all, it’s behind the scenes where all the magic happens at hotels. Make sure guests know about all the hard work that goes into every pleasant experience at your establishment.
11) Make It Local
The reality is that people aren’t coming to your hotel just to stay at your hotel (unless you really are a rock star in the hotel business) — they’re in town for something local. So make your Instagram local, too.
Showcase all the cool things you can do around your hotel to encourage more bookings. Take a photograph of that super trendy bar your guests probably won’t know about and post it on your Instagram account. Or take a video in a local park to appeal to your more nature-obsessed guests.
(Image via Flickr user Andrew Hitchcock)
In fact, some hoteliers are using Instagram communities to curate travel guides for guests. People are using social media like Instagram for discovery and inspiration rather than relying on TV and print, and that gives you a big opportunity to connect with those potential guests.
By creating your own travel guide in the form of an Instagram account that highlights local attractions, you can grow your following and entice more people to choose your hotel.
Can you think of any other tips to attract tons of followers to your hotel’s Instagram account? Let me know in the comments below.
Header by Rachel Wille
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