Social media is a buzzword thrown about by jazzy marketers. Get social, they claim, and you'll have unbridled access to a youthful, new-generation clientele. It's so quintessentially and irresistibly millennial that resistance seems futile. But how much of this is actually true? And how can hotels benefit from a social media presence? In this three-part series, Matt Langie, CMO of visual commerce platform, Curalate, and Manager of Marketing and Distribution at Ruby Hotels, Tobias Köhler, share their insights on how to best use Instagram in the hotel space.
Part one deals with the visual aspects of Instagram and how to best leverage images of your hotel. Part two will explore interaction, hashtags and sharing strategies. Part three will take a closer look at time investment, conversions and other platforms. So, let's get started…
Instagram: A visual platform
The jury is in: the visual is power. Social media has opened a world of unrestricted access and — for better or for worse — the ability to portray its own version of reality. The audience is no longer passive. It is a wild beast, free to highlight, criticize and engage more than ever before…and this is having an impact.
"As consumer expectations and modes of communication continue to be visual, the social platforms that dominate consumer time, attention and engagement will be based on images," says Curalate CMO Matt Langie, adding that visual platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr are outpacing the others in growth and adoption.
In other words, consumers are increasingly drawn to new ways of viewing and experiencing places and brands, including hotels, with images at the core. Here are three ways to make your images count:
Forget stock images — a pretty picture is no longer enough. According to Langie, material not only has to be visually appealing but also authentic. Consumers want to see something they feel they can trust.
"Photos are now a core part of the human experience," he says, "The pervasiveness of images is leading consumers to hold brands to higher standards. Stock images simply won’t cut it in the sea of imagery people are consuming every day. Hotels MUST build engaging visual campaigns beyond the stock property photos, and show consumers engaging with the hotel in an authentic way."
A real guest enjoying the view from their room, a meal at the hotel restaurant or showing off the décor will have far more sway than a sterile, but professional, image of a lobby.
"[The right] images are extremely powerful," says Ruby Hotels' Manager of Marketing and Distribution, Tobias Köhler, "…as the old saying goes “a picture says more than a thousand words”. It’s important for us that the viewer feels as if they are at the hotel, that they feel the personality, character and authenticity we have at our hotels."
Images should be as much about the experience of the hotel and its culture as they are about the visual aspects. The feeling of a place will draw in potential visitors; they will connect with the sensation that they know what it's like to stay there.
"We can create the illusion that the viewer is in the hotel by posting pictures of the interior, the rooms, the public places etc. This way, the viewer gets an idea of our hotel," says Köhler.
Every hotel is different and images are the perfect way to show this to new and returning guests. Images true to your brand, vision and point of difference will garnish far more attention that those that merely tick off a list of amenities. Every hotel has a lobby, what makes yours different? Which elements of your hotel make it stand out and how can they be visually represented?
Ruby Hotels finds Instagram to be extremely advantageous in showcasing unique styling and décor.
"At our hotels we’ve got lots of interior and design elements we can post, showing anyone who is interested in the hotel what they can expect when they stay here," says Köhler.
Coming up in part two and three:
How to interact and engage guests — and potential guests — on Instagram? How much time does it take to keep a social media presence going? What is Instagram: a conversion tool, a branding tool or something else entirely?
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"With a laptop and a cup of coffee as constant companions, Agnes Stockburger lives out her life as freelance journalist, editor and published author. She once used her wordsmithery to enrich lifestyle and B2B finance publications in Sydney, Australia, but has since made her home in Munich. These days she spends her time analyzing OTAs, writing articles on a range of topics and trying to teach her toddler not to eat rocks."