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Is Instagram an Under-utilized Platform in Hospitality?

PORTLAND, OR—All hoteliers know that social media is an important piece of digital strategy, but some social media platforms are better utilized than others. For instance, Yesmail, the digital marketing services provider within Yes Lifecycle Marketing, analyzed more than 2,000 brands on social platforms and found that only 30.8% of hotel brands are on Instagram.

“Instagram is still fairly new to the advertising game as it just introduced sponsored posts in 2013, so it’s possible that brands are still warming up to the idea of using it for marketing purposes. Before sponsored posts and its Carousel feature, Instagram wasn’t a major player in the advertising field and was probably viewed as a nice-to-have rather than a must-have,” explained Bob Sybydlo, director, intelligence products, Yesmail, of possible reasons why brands are slow to adopt the channel.

But, Instagram is an extremely engaging platform, boasting more than 300 million users and 70 million photos and videos shared daily,” he continued. “Instagram’s platform enables users and brands to not only share a picture, but tell a story with their posts. The hospitality industry is a very visual industry, making Instagram the perfect platform to engage an audience. Hospitality’s multiple verticals—hotels, travel, theme parks, etc.—leave plenty of room for brands to tell a story and entice visitors. For example, the platform lends a hand to restaurants who wish to show off their latest dishes and specials and hotels who wish to promote new locations, resorts and updated products.”

Hotel brands did better than the retail and consumer-packaged-goods brands surveyed, but engagement on Instagram still falls far behind other channels. By comparison, of the hotel, restaurant, retail and consumer- packaged-goods brands analyzed, 80% have Facebook pages, 83% are active on Twitter and 60% engage on YouTube. More than a third of the brands have a Google+ profile. The research found that, when brands promote themselves via three social channels, only 12% include Instagram. If they add a fourth channel, that jumps to 37%, and brands that use five channels jump to 47%.

However, the research also showed that Instagram could be a high-engagement channel. Brands on Instagram experienced a 278% growth in followers in 2014, according to Yesmail. Retailers included in the research observed on average an 8% increase in followers per month, which was double the rate of other platforms analyzed.

Brands who don’t engage with their customers on Instagram miss out on a very interpersonal social channel. More importantly, brands should not miss the opportunity to have customers share a positive experience on Instagram,” said Sybydlo. “This type of ‘secondhand advertising’ has the power to reach people who may not be engaged with your brand and develop brand advocates.”

Sybydlo had some advice for hotels and brands just starting out on Instagram. “At the core of a great Instagram account is the experience created. Creating a profile that highlights a hotel’s most attractive accommodations—the pool, restaurant, etc.—can help potential guests picture the experience they’ll receive during a stay. Additionally, hotel brands can highlight local attractions and events to entice visitors to come to a specific location,” he said.

“For brands just launching an Instagram account, try out a variety of best practices for connecting with an audience. Encourage users to share their pictures of your hotel using a specific hashtag—you should also be using this hashtag—to create a community of brand advocates. Launch competitions that encourage picture-sharing, and ask questions that motivate responses,” he continued. “Above all, stay true to your brand and create an experience that is unique to the experience and accommodations potential guests will receive at your hotel. If you claim to have the best room service, for example, find a way to demonstrate that with imagery. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Nicole Carlino

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