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4 Innovative Ways Hotels Can Use Instagram to Get Travelers Into Bed How hotels can leverage Instagram to bounce back from the pandemic blues.

By Harley Cannard Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Sofie Delauw | Getty Images

To put it mildly, 2020 hasn't been very kind to the hospitality industry. The economic fallout of Covid-19 travel restrictions has put hotel owners under increased pressure to attract guests and keep the lights on. Though disruption in the sector is hardly new, business owners will need to place their marketing mix under the microscope as lockdowns begin to ease. One thing is for certain, Instagram will always be central to a winning (and cost-effective) social media strategy that drives direct bookings. Here are four ways hotels can leverage the platform to position for revenue recovery and attract guests into bed as domestic and international travel markets start to awaken.

1. Targeted giveaway campaigns

Who doesn't like a freebie? Giveaways are fast and reasonably affordable promotional tools for driving engagement and customer loyalty. In other words, likes, shares, and comments are more important than aimlessly posting the same five photos hoping to generate sales. The more your guests are talking about their stay and sharing their experiences, the better.

Related: Summer's Officially Over - What's Next for Businesses That Rely on Seasonal Tourism?

Setting up a giveaway on Instagram doesn't require a great deal of investment or research and the rules are very simple. For example, a hotel could encourage people to tag a friend in the comments to win a free night's accommodation or receive a discount on their stay. This is a great way to keep users on your profile and entice them into making a booking. By tagging a friend, they keep the conversation going. Use a photo that showcases the offering and consider a carousel post with the instructions contained in an image or short video as well.

A more ambitious approach would be asking past and existing guests to share their own photos with a unique hashtag (more on that later) to win a prize. The photo might be a view from their window or a selfie that includes some of the hotel's amenities. This is an excellent way to highlight the positive experiences of guests and have them do some of the marketing leg work for your business. And the best part: word of mouth doesn't cost a thing.

2. Piggyback on influencers

Influencer marketing has exploded in recent years and can be a useful strategy for hotels with deeper pockets and several locations. Recruiting influencers to promote your hotel on Instagram can certainly have an impact on its brand exposure and sales. Research indicates many businesses are seeing a return of over $5 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing – not a bad return if you're targeting millennials in particular. So what's the catch?

Influencer marketing requires extensive planning and research before implementation. The market is quite saturated at all levels, from small-time players with a few thousand followers (micro-influencers) to established individuals commanding millions. Hotel managers need to understand who their guests are and what segment of the market they primarily fit into before reaching out to influencers. Always be wary of scam profiles run by individuals looking for free accommodation or perks without offering so much as a selfie or shout-out in return.

Related: 7 Innovative (But Simple) Ways Hotels Can Survive the Covid-19 Travel Crunch

Hotel chains that are famous for adopting influencer marketing strategies include Hilton and Marriott. Hilton enlisted some of Instagram's most popular travel influencers to create content for its "Seven Urban Wonders of the Urban World' campaign in 2018. The campaign targeted an audience of over 3 million combined followers and received nearly 2,000 comments across various accounts. Marriott is taking a slightly different approach, promoting its Moxy budget hotels to younger travelers by tapping into the mid and micro-influencer market. Micro-influencers tend to have better engagement levels than the big fish with millions of followers and can get people in a particular city or area talking very quickly. In the case of Moxy, hotels continue to pop up around the world and its Instagram profile has over 90,000 followers despite the pandemic.

3. Boost stories with hashtags

Hashtags are a great way to increase brand visibility and there is definitely a science behind using them. Earlier we looked at unique, promotion-specific hashtags that allow users to generate targeted content for brands, but hashtags on day to day posts and stories need some attention too.

This is where it pays to do a little research and think about who your guests are. Using broad and popular hashtags will certainly increase reach, but your posts may be drowned out in an ocean of similar content. If you don't receive many international guests, consider using tourism-related hashtags that target local audiences. This is even more helpful in today's Instagram environment as users can follow hashtags as well as profile.

The same goes for stories. Users often neglect hashtags in stories, but including up to 3 hashtags in each story can help drive traffic to your profile and allow your stories to show up in hashtag-specific searches like any other post. Considering using one hashtag with over a million posts, one with fewer than 500,000 posts and another with fewer than 100,000 seems to be most effective.

Related: Airbnb Hosts: 3 You Can Do to Reassure Travelers Right Now (Infographic)

If you find hashtags clutter your stories with text, you can get creative and hide them behind stickers or animated gifs. Using relevant hashtags will help Instagram categorize your posts effectively, meaning your hotel will appear in the explore feed.

4. Make your Instagram feed shoppable

Instagram boasts over 1 billion active users and is perhaps the most lucrative social media platform for online sales and advertising. While dwarfed by Facebook's 2.6 billion active users, ever since its inception, it's been the platform of choice for travelers looking for accommodation options and inspiration. Couple that with Instagram's enormous average engagement lead over its bigger social media sibling, it would seem that Instagram offers hotels far superior selling opportunities. Yet to-date, hotels have struggled to drive room bookings from audience engagement on Instagram. Enter "Shop Now'.

The Shop Now feature is a much needed Instagram advancement, allowing brands of all kinds – hotels included – to transform social media content engagement into revenue gains. In the past, brands such as Conrad Hotels and Starwood developed hotel booking marketing funnels linked to Instagram feeds, but the process was far from seamless. Heeding the industry's frustrations, Instagram and Shopify have developed and streamlined a range of new action buttons specifically for booking hotel rooms and making other travel reservations.

Powered by its partnership with Shopify, Instagram now enables any hotel to develop seamless checkout experiences. Thankfully, Instagram has simplified the process of adding this feature, making it easier to quickly transform your hotel business profile into a direct-booking funnel, without leaving the app platform. To add booking call-to-action buttons to your hotel business profile, all you need to do is follow six simple steps:

  1. Go to your Instagram business profile ( of course, you'll need to make sure you're approved for Instagram shopping)
  2. Tap "Edit Profile'
  3. Under Public Business Information, tap Contact Options
  4. Tap the Add Action button
  5. Select the action button you want to be added and tap Next
  6. Enter the hotel website booking page URL and tap Done. It's that easy.

With any new feature that's released, there is an opportunity to pioneer a new way and invent a new method and user experience. I believe that in time the Instagram shop now tab will be the Tik Tok disruption for hotels in the future. How are they used currently? Well, there's not too many hotels using this feature well, so nows a good time to start and be the brand that stands out from the crowd.

No one knows for sure how long and arduous the post-COVID19 road to recovery for the hotel industry will be. Despite the slump, hotels need to start ramping up their investments on Instagram and position themselves to attract guests. But one thing is certain, while people are prevented from traveling, wanderlust grows, and hundreds of millions of users, hungry (perhaps starving) for their next trip away will be daydreaming on Instagram long before their next destination or accommodation choices are made.

Harley Cannard is an internationally renowned leader on e-commerce, digitalpreneur, and founder CEO of AMZ Automation Australia, CEO of Amplifyou, a fast-growing, global eCommerce and digital marketing company.

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