Vice President, HVS Executive Search
Lacey Hagen, Vice President, HVS Executive Search, will provide insight into her experiences as ...
An Introduction to Instagram and How Hotels Can Use It
Digital and social media has created a relentless pace of change for the hospitality industry according to Laurence Geller, CEO of Strategic Hotels and Resorts. The new generation of hoteliers can capitalize on these new online tools because, generally, we not only understand what the different social mediums are and how they work, we also enjoy using them.
As Mr. Geller mentioned, new social media platforms are coming to life “every five minutes,” and this is a chance for millennials to make an impact. I dedicated a previous blog to the different ways hotel companies could use Pinterest and now I will shed some light on Instagram.
Facebook purchased Instagram this past April for $1 billion, and I believe there are many ways hotels can take advantage of this picture-centric social app. Why should the hotel industry pay attention to, yet another, tech fad? According to Mashable, Instagram now has over 50 million users and is adding an additional 5 million per week.
WHAT IS INSTAGRAM?
According to the website “Instagram is a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever.”
Instagram is only currently available on iPhones and Androids and allows users to take pictures with their phone and instantly crop and add different filters and boarders to make the photos look “artsy." The location can be tagged, captions can be added, and the pictures can then be shared on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and Tumblr at the same time. Instagram users also have a home page that allows them to see a stream of pictures from other users that they follow, which can be synced to twitter followers and facebook friends. Similar to Pinterest, Instagrams’ purpose is to share images; however, unlike Pinterest, all images come from a camera phone. However, unlike Pinterest, Instagram photos are all real-life and real-time (hence the name). Also, similar to twitter, hashtag rules apply.
HOW CAN HOTELS USE IT?
There are a handful of hotel companies and individual properties that have established a significant presence on Instagram. Hotel Chatter even had a post back in December called Hotels to Follow Right Now on Instagram that identified the active hotel accounts and the ones to watch for in the future. As mentioned previously, hotels can use Instagram to post real-life, real-time pictures of rooms, the property, F&B, amenities, unique views, sunsets, etc. to give a more interactive and insider view than the property website. It also gives hotels the option to post those photos on all other social mediums simultaneously to save time. Below are some examples of how hotels are using Instaram.
The Standard’s account features pictures from all Standard properties and has established a large following. They have been able to use Instagram in association with other forms of social media to not only showcase their unique hotels, but to promote branded products as well (such as sunglasses).
Thompson Hotels also streams pictures from all of their properties to give a good variety to their posts. In the examples above they use Instagram to promote A60, the exclusive roof terrace at 60 Thompson, and posted a truly vintage photo from the Hollywood Roosevelt.
Gansevoort Hotel Group utilizes the location tag and has found creative ways to showcase the views from their Manhattan properties.
WHAT IS THE ROI?
The biggest demand associated with corporate social media is the ability to quantify the return on investment. Other than saving time by only requiring one posting, there are actually some potential revenue generators that can be derived from Instagram usage.
With some creativity hotels can turn these cyber messages and pictures into actual human beings walking through front doors. For example, another not-so-digital social media start-up Meet Up (which I will dedicate another blog to explain more in-depth) provides a platform for local communities to organize “meet-ups” for people with similar interests to get together. One of the most popular meet-up groups is for Instagram users, with “meet ups” being organized in over 1,000 cities worldwide. A hotel with an active Instagram account would be a perfect setting for an Instagram group meet up.
Tapping into the heavy social media users and inviting them to your property will also have more long term effects than just filling up the restaurant for one night. Remember, these are the people that enjoy sharing their experiences through pictures and typically have a large group of followers. These are the people that will become independent brand ambassadors and PR agents to all of their social networks. The W Time Square hotel even hosted an Instagram exhibition where followers of @WhotelsNYC would upload instagram photos with hashtag #Wdesign to win a free stay, dinner, photo lens, and have their photo on display in the exhibition if selected as a winner.
Although the concept of Instagram may be difficult to grasp, hotels will find value in including this pictorial form of social media into the marketing mix.
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