By Louise O’Brien

Traditional media relations and direct marketing still hold sway over the choices travelers make. But, in light of the fact that 76% of travelers share photos of their travel experiences on social media, it is not surprising that social media sites like Instagram are increasingly gaining importance when it comes to travel planning. More followers on your hotel’s Instagram page, and more posts about your hotel on Instagram by other users, leads to greater awareness of your hotel among a larger group of potential guests. And as the technology evolves – allowing travelers to actually book their hotel stay through an Instagram post that re-directs the user to your hotel’s booking engine – this can lead to more bookings at your hotel in real time.

Unlike Facebook or Twitter, Instagram allows for an easier transition for its users from role of passive consumer to content creator. “Doing it for the gram” is a common phrase among millennials but is a pervasive concept among all of the platform’s users.  It’s about finding that perfect moment that will work as an Instagram post or story. And hotels are the ideal place to find all these moments and more.

In 2018, hotels tend to reflect the contemporary traveler’s desire to be surrounded by innovative art and interior design; experience high-end and unique culinary and wellness offerings; and receive personalized touches and amenities. All together, these elements can create a perfect storm for the perfect gram, many of which the hotel PR and Marketing teams are capturing and sharing on the hotel’s official Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest pages. But the most impactful content about your hotel can actually come from your guests, which is why it falls to the hotel staff to make it as easy for your guests to share content from your hotel as possible.   

The first rule is to make it easy for guests to share posts from your hotel on Instagram. The number one way to do that is by providing free, high-speed Wi-Fi that allows for use on multiple devices. When handing out your hotel’s Wi-Fi code, either in writing or verbally, it is an ideal time for your staff to also share your hotel’s Instagram handle and hashtag.

Getting the right shot is crucial to the perfect gram. At any restaurant in any city in the world, it is now common to see diners standing up to get the best photo of their meal, or taking their plate over to a window to get a shot bathed natural light. As long as these activities don’t intrude on other patrons, hotel staff should allow for both to occur. While rules about flash photography are necessary, especially in fine dining establishments where low lighting is part of the overall ambiance, guests should be allowed to take as many non-flash photos as they wish to while creating their “food porn” about your hotel bar or restaurant.

There is no rule that says the inspiration for the perfect Instagram post has to come up organically. A hotel can create that moment for their guests. Pastry chefs, bartenders, spa directors, housekeepers – nearly every member of the staff who interacts with guests have the opportunity to create a moment worth capturing on Instagram. Who doesn’t want to snap a photo of towel shaped like a swan, or a dessert with edible flowers? Working with your staff to make them aware of the photogenic qualities of the work they already do can lead to increased sharing of their efforts on Instagram.

The Langham Huntington, Pasadena, recently took the concept of creating a moment one step further when they installed a greenery wall that spells out the hotel’s Instagram handle in flowers. Created as a living “step-and-repeat”, the staff at the hotel changes the theme and the accompanying florals based on what is currently on offer at the hotel or based on national holidays. Since it’s installation in December, nearly 200 photos of it have been shared, making it one of the most Instagrammed sites at the hotel.  

Authentic and interactive experiences are also a big plus for the Instagram generation. Langham Hotels & Resorts have offered cocktail classes with our head bartender in New York, flower arranging lessons with a local florist in Chicago and (my personal favorite) dumpling making under the tutelage of the chef at our three Michelin-starred restaurant in Shanghai. All of these work beautifully on Instagram, and give guests a window into a locally-sourced experience that can only be found at that hotel.  

One of the best ways to showcase your hotel is identifying the most influential content creators on Instagram for your brand. Identifying the right influencers for your specific property can help you achieve your goals for growth in followers as well as visitors to your hotel’s website without breaking the bank. The Langham, Boston recently invited a small group of carefully chosen local-area influencers to attend their world-famous Chocolate Bar brunch for Galentine’s Day – a version of Valentine’s Day that is about celebrating female friendship and is trending on social media. For just the cost of brunch for 10 people, the hotel received 60 posts and Instagram stories throughout the day, which led to an overall reach increase of 137%, including 2,763 visits to the hotel’s profile page, 325 website clicks, and a 10% increase in their total number of Instagram followers – within the first two days!

Once you have set the stage for your guests to want to share content about your hotel, it is imperative that your hotel then engages with these content creators. A comment on their post thanking them for sharing their experience on Instagram is always appreciated. The most impactful method of letting your guests know you appreciate their business and their choice to share their experience is to repost their content, with their permission. This validates them to their followers but also gives your hotel the opportunity to share more diverse content on your Instagram page with your followers – a win-win for everyone.  

About the author

Louise O’Brien is the Regional Public Relations Director for Langham Hospitality Group in North America, directly overseeing the public relations efforts for five hotels in North America, and acting as the liaison for all North American press initiatives on behalf of the Langham Hospitality Group hotels around the world. Prior to joining the team at Langham, Louise was a Vice President at DKC, in the hospitality and lifestyle divisions, focusing on launching hotels, restaurants and bars in New York, Chicago, Miami and around the world. She spent the previous portion of her nearly 15 year career as a destination specialist, serving as an Account Director on the South African Tourism account at Hawkins International in New York; Media Relations expert on the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority account for R&R Partners in Las Vegas; and Media Relations Manager for the French Government Tourist Office (now Atout France), servicing the entire United States. Louise started her career at KWE Associates, which was her first introduction to both public relations and the world of hospitality and tourism. A passionate traveler, she has visited nearly every continent and speaks conversational French and Spanish – or at least she tries. A graduate of Hofstra University, Louise majored in Philosophy and English and was a member of the Alpha Theta Beta sorority and served as Editor in Chief of The Chronicle, Hofstra’s weekly newspaper. Louise is a native of New York City.