Instagram is leading the pack when it comes to visual social media platforms. With over 300 million monthly active users, it shows no sign of slowing down post its Facebook acquisition. As social media marketing trends predict persistence of visual social media platforms for 2015, businesses in the hospitality industry should take advantage of the free photo-sharing tool for their marketing campaigns.

One should note though that social media marketing approaches are very different from the traditional marketing approaches. There are certain marketing strategies that you can’t (and shouldn’t) use Instagram for:

Don’t use Instagram for hard sales messages. e.g sales pitches
Don’t use it as a traditional advertising platform. e.g brochures, postures

That being said, here are seven tips on how hospitality businesses can use Instagram for marketing. Use the potency of this channel to maximise potential exposure to support (not advertise or promote) campaigns or initiatives.

Add creative angles to your restaurant, bar, hotel rooms or cafes.

How you present the main areas of your business, its hospitality furniture or the amenities is what will set you apart from competitors. For example, instead of just taking pictures of hotel rooms, take photos of what the room looks like with the window displaying a gorgeous sunset or sunrise.

Present your hotel using different perspectives.

Don’t limit your photo sharing to just rooms and amenities. Showcase your surroundings, the special in-house menu that you offer, spontaneous smiles from receptionists welcoming guests or the busy hustling of valets and bellboys.

Instead of taking pictures of an empty bar or your list of drinks, take photos of the bar scene during nighttime and down time. Explore moods in photos that can evoke specific emotions in people.

Think of what will elicit strong emotions that will encourage people to go to your bar, book for accommodations, eat at your restaurant, or meet in your cafe.

Take them on a virtual tour behind the scenes.

What drives people to feel connected to businesses is being able to see how a business works. It sends out a message of transparency, honesty and if shown correctly, the high standard of quality your business lives up to. Highlight special ways your staff makes guests feel special – how hotel maids leave flowers or notes in beds after cleaning, how your valet seems to memorise every car that gets sent to the service without you showing the ticket or how your chefs cook the guest’s meals. It shows how hardworking and dedicate your staff members are to make guests’ experiences as seamless and a positive experience as possible.
These features humanise your business and positions your Instagram account not as business promoting its business, but a company that wants to share what goes behind the business.

Don’t limit your photos inside your business – highlight local attractions.

Promoting local attractions is an effective yet indirect way of promoting your business. This is a win-win situation in every aspect in whatever business you are in. If you own a hotel, you encourage travellers to visit the area and book with your hotel. If you own a restaurant, you gain traction with your area and the probability of tourists coming in will be high.

Use hashtags and tags effectively.

Hashtags are a great technical marketing tool. It functions like a search keyword that users can click to see related results. You can create your own hashtag for your business but don’t forget to use common hashtags too. For example, if you post a picture of a room view overlooking the beach, you can use the hashtags #beach #travel #adventure and your hotel location too.
You can create your own unique campaign or run contests using created hashtags too. Use it to share specific events your establishment is holding. For example, a weekend special may be #BeachSummerCamp or a special dining special with a band in your restaurant can be called #ValentineWeekendSpecial.

Share a story – not a photo.

This is where you can ask guests to participate. Ask them to take photos of their time in the hotel, the restaurant or cafe and share it in the platform using a designated hashtag – this way you can monitor who joins and feature them in your feed. Document other fun activities in your business too: lounge concerts, weddings, team buildings – and share that viewers in your feed can experience that too.
Never underestimate the power a tagged photo by a client of your business can do. People nowadays take photos of everything – their food, their scenery and every detail of their lives. A great photo of a delicious food spread tagged in your restaurant location is free and effective advertisement.

Don’t forget to interact with customers.

User engagement is key to building an audience and maximising your exposure in social media. Content easily goes viral and if used effectively, can be very good for your business. Answer comments and leave comments on users who have tagged you in their photos. It’s free advertising – be grateful for it.

Social media is a way to reach customers and potential clients on a more personal level so make sure that your feeds stay current and updated. Just like with any other social media channels, your presence should be consistent. Assign a team member to handle your Instagram account so that he can see to it that regular updates and customer engagement are done consistently.

We are also on Instagram! Check out the Nextrend Furniture Instagram account and click that follow button while you’re there.