Instagram Marketing For Hotels & Vacation Rentals: How to Convert Followers to Customers

Trade Secrets | Getting Online | Making a Profit

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We will be diving into the world of Instagram marketing for hotels & vacation rentals, exploring effective strategies and tips to elevate your hotel’s online presence and attract more paying guests.

But did you know that in 2022, brands are ranked in just second place as the most followed accounts by users on social networks?

According to the latest report by Hootsuite, the leading platform in social media management, the number of social media users in 2022 has reached 4.62 billion, an increase of 10.1% compared to last year.

The same report also indicates that 29% of users use social networks to seek inspiration on what to do (including travel) and that 71.7% use Instagram.  In fact, Instagram is positioned as the second favorite social media platform, surpassed only by Whatsapp.

With this data at hand, it is simply unthinkable that a business, let alone a tourism business, would not have a presence on the platform.

But have you ever thought about the reason for its success?

No one browses Instagram with the aim of buying something.  The main motivations, according to the report mentioned above, are:

  1. To maintain contact with family, friends and acquaintances
  2. For entertainment
  3. To search for interesting content (information, learning)

Social networks have brought brands closer to people by showing them their most human and informal aspect, connecting with their customers.

Users who search for your accommodation on social media do not want to see the same photos and descriptions of your services that they can easily find via a search engine or on your website; they want to get to know you!

Social networks give people the opportunity to choose who to buy from and brands to have a real impact on their audience through the content they share, interacting with their customers, entertaining and informing them.

What do you need to sell on Instagram?

By this point you will understand that social networks are a means and not an end.  Therefore, your efforts should not go into increasing your number of followers but in getting those followers (many or few) to become customers.

The first step is to ask yourself: how many customers do I need to make my business profitable?

You manage an accommodation business; you are not an influencer. You don’t have time to be running after the latest trends that are supposed to reach thousands and thousands of followers, but you know what? You don’t need to!

So, invest your time in what really matters.

Focus on your strategy!

It will take a few seconds for a new user to arrive at your profile to see if you have what they’re looking for. It is an automatic, almost unconscious process:

  1. They will look at your bio, look over the feed, the covers of your featured stories and that will be enough to give them a first impression. It’s like when in real life you are introduced to someone. You don’t know anything about that person, but you quickly form an idea of whether you want to get to know them more.
  2. If you’ve done a good job in the first phase, the user will want to know more about you. It’s still too early for them to become a customer, but they’ll want to interact with you, follow you, read your posts, and put you on their wish list.
  3. Then it’s time to reap the benefits. The user has been watching you for a while, loves your content, connects with your values. They are now ready to become a customer.  And once again it will be a natural process – they may send you a direct message, an email or visit your booking page from the link in your bio.
instagram mobile app download screen

Great, but how can you take the user from phase 1 to the booking phase?

Keep in mind that not everyone who knows you will end up becoming a customer, but without a doubt your role is to do everything possible so that as few as possible get lost along the way.

The key words in this process are: Consistency, Coherence, Creativity.  Without the combination of these three requirements, any social media strategy will be poor and will not deliver the expected results.

Coherence – the “essence of your brand”

a large selection of brand logos

With so many places for guests to chose to stay, for any accommodation business simply having an excellent property in a desirable location, with all the must-have services and facilities is no longer enough.

But to communicate the value of the experience you offer, you have to be aware of it yourself.

You need to define the identity of your brand because, exactly like people, businesses have their own personality and it is only thanks to this that they manage to connect with their customers and build loyalty.

So, before you start posting anything on your Instagram profile, grab your notebook and try to answer the following questions:

  • What values define you?  Set 3 values with which you identify. These will be your guidelines and will help you in making decisions. For example, when collaborating with another company/professional or participating in a project, only do it if they respect your values!
  • What is your purpose? Why are you running a tourism business? How did it start? What is your own history? People love stories. When they view your profile they want to know who is behind the business and travel with you the path that has taken you to where you are now.
  • How do you want your clients to remember you? What do you excel at? What makes you different? What is your background?  Remember that while you may not be the first to offer accommodation to guests, no one will do it like you.  Your personality, your past, your knowledge, your passions and your previous experiences have made your business unique, and your customer has to know it. Start by making a list of all these differential elements and think about how to use them in your communication.
  • Who is your target?  Think about your customer in a very specific way. It’s not enough to know the age, gender and purchasing power of your prospective guests to get to them. You need to ask yourself questions like what interests do they have, what are their concerns, what would make their ideal holiday?

In this way, you might realise that most of your customers love to travel, but they do not want to be separated from their pet and need a place to spend the holidays in a beautiful, cozy and pet-friendly place. It may turn out that no establishements in your area offer this, or if they do, not as well as you do, with a fenced and quiet garden where their dog will be safe, dog treats, baskets etc.

You could become a benchmark for pet-friendly getaways in your area. See where this is going?

Now you have 80% of the work done and an advantage over your competition because, today, most accommodation businesses on social networks focus exclusively on the service they offer. Very few undertake an in-depth analysis to give identity to their brand and to respond to the real needs of their clients.

Creativity – the content plan

Now, the time has come to take action with a content plan that adds value.

What does adding value mean?

helping customers at a hotel reception adding value

Keep in mind that every time you share something on your profile you are competing for the user’s attention. And that not just what your competition publishes, but also the posts of their family and friends.

You have to give them a very good reason to take their attention away from their best friend’s baby pictures and interact with you – because the amazing sunset from your garden is simply unmissable!

Therefore, when creating content you have to consider the following:

Is it content that my community:

  1. Will save?
  2. Will comment on?
  3. Will share?
  4. Will it prompt them to visit my website?

If the answer to any of these options is no, it means that it is not interesting content for your audience. It is not valuable content.

How can you know what content is interesting to your community?

You already have the analysis work done so it won’t be difficult to find topics to talk about.

One way is to think outside the box and to talk about those topics that allow you to connect with your audience and earn their trust. For example, if you’ve found that most guests are families traveling with their dog, you could offer advice on the best dog-friendly attractions, local countryside and beaches, and any restrictions in place on access.

Instagram rewards consistency

three identical windows representing consistency

That’s right. The world of social media, like everything in life, requires dedication to see results.

Think of it as a friendly relationship. If you take care of it and pamper it, you will have a good friend by your side, but if you start to neglect it and you never have time for it, the relationship will break down.

That’s why you need to organise yourself in advance by preparing a content plan that will help you keep up and not run out of ideas.

How do you do it?

Go back to your notebook where you have the analysis of the “essence of your brand”. The answers you’ve given will give you a lot of content ideas.

  1. Start with brainstorming and then narrow the selection down to 3 pillars that will be your main themes.
  2. For each of them try to think, at least, of 4 types of content (video, post or reel).

And voila! You already have material to make 3 posts a week for a month, alternating the three main pillars.

You’ve got it! Your strategy is ready for you deploy.

But here’s one more piece of advice, which could be the one that makes the difference: don’t forget to interact and collaborate.

Social networks, as the name suggests, are born to socialise. They are a two-way communication channel that has nothing to do with an advertisement.

That is why it is very important that you encourage interaction and ensure you respond to comments and direct messages, but also engage meaningfully on the posts of others. Take advantage of the social media space so that people notice you adding value to a community of others who share your same values.

In a nutshell

  • Give importance only to the numbers you need to make your business profitable. If you don’t need thousands of followers, why do you want them?
  • Become aware of the “essence of your brand” to understand how to connect with your customers and build trust so that they buy from you.
  • Apply the principles of consistency, coherence and creativity to make your communication strategy successful.
  • Don’t get stuck in the concept of one-sided marketing, where it’s enough to just present your services. Take advantage of social media to truely connect with your customers.

About the authour:

Silvia Lippi is an expert consultant in digital communication for rural tourism companies, based in Spain.

Silvia helps accommodation businesses be more competitive and position themselves effectively in the tourism market using measurable marketing and digital communication strategies.

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