Many members of the hotel industry have always been quite progressive–hopping on board the newest social media platforms and adding them to their repertoire of marketing tools. Well, there is a new player in town and it may just shake up the way the travel industry engages with its online followers and fans. Its name is Instagram Direct and it is already changing the way that some brands interact with their potential customers.
Travellers love Instagram and, over the years, many hoteliers have used this fascination to their advantage with some clever hospitality marketing programs. Starwood Hotels, a global conglomerate that owns popular brands like Sheraton, Westin, and St. Regis, boasts a network of guests that share approximately 40,000 images of their properties each month.
The 1888 Hotel in Sydney, Australia holds the title as “the world’s first Instagram hotel.” With a snapshot friendly decor that includes a “selfie space,” a guide to the city’s most Instagram-friendly spots, and screens at reception that display the hotel’s Instagram feed, this is a dream destination for Instagrammers the world over. They reward users who have 10,000 followers or more with a complimentary night’s stay and reward guests who post the best shots of the premises each month.
Introducing Instagram Direct
Instagram Direct builds on the traditional Instagram platform by adding the ability to share photos, videos, and messages with specific people. You can send them to your “followers” in general or to selected individuals. Recipients will be able to see your message immediately and respond. And, as an added bonus, you will be able to find out who has viewed your picture or video and who has “liked” it.
Practical Applications in the Hotel Business
Hyatt Hotels was one of the earliest adopters of Instagram Direct. The company nurtured its relationship with its customers by sending out personal Christmas card to its followers. Not only did they manage to tie their brand name to the warm and fuzzy feelings associated with the holiday season, but they also managed to attract followers to the rest of their Instagram content.
Experts in both the fields of travel and social media marketing cite several potential ways to add Instagram Direct to their hotel social media marketing mixes and the benefits of doing so.
• Appeal to a hip, young audience. As Facebook and Pinterest become more and more popular among multiple generations, younger audiences seek a place of their own. Instagram is increasingly becoming their “go-to” destination. Early adapters will also be attracted to Instagram Direct. By adding this new feature to your marketing mix, you will be able to attract the next generation of travelers to your brand.
- Deepen customer relationships. By engaging with customers on a personalized basis, brands will be better able to foster consumer loyalty. This is especially important for large corporate-owned hotels as they are often perceived as more impersonal than their “ma and pa” counterparts.
- Offer rewards. Everyone loves a company that rewards them for their loyalty–and Instagram Direct enables hoteliers to do exactly that. A great way to do this is to send a snapshot to select followers and offer them a coupon code or special deal at your premises.
- Conduct a contest. Your followers will love the chance to win a contest. Again, you can invite select followers to either comment on one of your company photos or submit a photo of their own in order to win a free night’s stay or a complimentary meal. Whether the winner is chosen based on the best photo or through a random selection like “the twelfth person to comment,” this will increase goodwill towards your brand and create a valuable buzz.
- Create an “insiders’ circle.” Customers love to feel that they are valued. Offering your followers a preview of a new hotel, a sneak peak at refurbishments, or some other “insiders only” information will deepen the relationship immensely. You can also ask for customer input when it comes to your hotel’s client services. One great idea is to ask followers to submit a picture of a dish that you could add to the restaurant’s menu or for suggestions for a new animal to be introduced to the guest towel origami repertoire. You could, then, select the best ideas and have followers vote for a winner.
- Personalized customer service. Instagram Direct also enables your customer service department to handle customer queries and complaints on a private one-to-one basis.
Yes, Instagram Direct’s applications for your hotel business are as unlimited as your social media marketers’ imaginations. So get creative and invite your Instagram followers to rest their weary heads in your Egyptian cotton-laden beds. And make sure that your “no vacancy” sign is close at hand.
How do you feel about Instagram Direct? In what ways do you think it will benefit the hotel industry?
Images courtesy of photos.com.