Social Media’s influence in the travel industry is undeniable – and Instagram is the world’s most popular visual content sharing app. Boasting 500 million monthly active users sharing around 80 million images and videos each day, it unites the two most powerful aspects of social media -imagery and sharing. Currently, Instagram is boosting travel industry revenues like nothing else. Incredibly well suited for vacationers – incredible images grab attention, convey a sense of locality, inspire travel and require absolutely no translation.
A recent Expedia survey indicated that a staggering 85% of travellers are influenced by Instagram when booking holidays. Ideally suited to hotels – on social media, what you are getting is professional styling. As one luxury hotel told Fortune magazine, “As much as I can try to ask our in-house photographers to take beautiful scenery pictures, we don’t have the skills to do an editorial type of photograph. The influencers produce their own editorial styling, modelling, editing of what one weekend here looks like, which may influence our potential guests to consider staying with us more than other resorts using traditional print ads with photos of empty rooms.”
Digital entrepreneur and influencer Emmie Cosser has worked with a number of global brands and says, “Forward thinking hotels are the ones who go the extra mile and pay close attention to even the smallest of details. For example, a guided tour on arrival pointing out unusual elements of a hotel which could work in a shoot or a welcome hamper with props for an influencer to use such as branded robes and snacks can be really accretive. Little things here and there, like complimentary ice creams or cocktails can also really help liven up photos and potentially help make something out of nothing.”
She adds, “one of the most helpful experiences I have had recently was with a proactive member of a hotel’s team who shared a list of activities that I could participate in (such as excursions, fitness classes etc) and helped me build an itinerary before I arrived so that no time was wasted and I could start thinking about the shots in advance!”
One of the UK’s top bloggers, Peony Lim says that in terms of selecting a destination she looks for something that is a natural fit with her luxury focused brand. “I like to look for unique properties, in terms of style, service and location – places I think are exceptional. A lot of us choose hotels based on interior design – I would never choose a hotel that has very strong colours because that doesn’t fit my aesthetic. I would advise hotels to choose an influencer that matches your brand ethos – doing that makes you both look good. “
Hotels would do well to bear in mind that print journalists work differently to the visual medium of social – they are different media animals entirely. Says Peony, “Think in terms of images. Offering a room service breakfast or a snorkelling trip may ultimately offer a bigger return on investment. For example, with room service, I can get a better picture; an image without anyone in the background. One of the pitfalls hotels can fall into is short sighted thinking”. Says Emmie, “Given what the influencer is trying to achieve in partnership with a hotel, you should consider offering rooms with the most appealing views and features to maximise the chances of getting great shots. After all, the better the shots, the more likely they are to gain traction online! Likewise, hotels could be more thoughtful about the dining tables they give influencers; good light often helps make great photos, so sticking the influencer in the corner where there is no light is unlikely to be a recipe for success!”
And when it comes to Instagram, sunshine and blue skies are non-negotiables. Says Peony, “Hotels understandably want to book you in during off season but in doing so they risk photos not looking as lovely – no blue skies, pool pics too dark and inside gloomy.”
To hashtag or not to hashtag? Peony advises to make sure you are geotagged, your Instagram handles are easy to find and only use one key hashtag. “In fact,” she adds, “before the influencer even arrives, ensure you have given very clear instruction on all the tags you want used – and don’t go overboard on them. One hashtag and one handle is best. When I make my press booking I would want the handle and hashtag in advance – don’t leave it until they have arrived. In some cases, I’m coming off a 14 day trip when I get there so it’s not the best time. Don’t panic if all the images don’t go up at once. It’s not always best to publish all the images back to back. If I publish 3-5 images a day of holiday images only, I won’t get the same engagement and interaction from my readers. Hotels need to understand you can have the same quantity but sometimes it’s better if it’s not all at once.”
Keep in mind that not all influencers are created equal. “Some have huge stats and great click throughs, but they don’t convert financially or they aren’t ‘luxury’,” says Peony, “whilst others are smaller but have very dedicated viewers who will convert with bookings, and others have a more long term effect because they are ‘on brand’, ‘cool’ and ‘luxury’, and are read by other influencers and valuable in a longer term way for PR.”
As more and more people base holiday decisions on the visual power and immediacy of Instagram, Pinterest and other pictorial mediums – this trend will continue to go from strength to strength, leaving hotels who have not adapted far behind. Emmie concludes, “In future, I hope that hotels see the value in using more influencers to help drive the awareness of their properties, particularly where the influencer aligns well with a demographic which the hotel is trying to tap into.”
Ultimately, by upping your hotel’s Insta-Game – you are creating the picture perfect holiday ideal. By allowing the right influencers to put themselves in the shot, you are inviting billions of Insta-users to do the same, to see themselves in the photo – something that seems likely to yield dividends for decades to come.