You’ve probably heard of Instagram, and maybe you’ve already started using it a little, but are you aware of all there is to learn about it and how useful it could be for your vacation rental business?
Instagram is a widely-used social media network that allows users to post pictures and videos. The company was founded in 2010 and now counts more than 500 million daily active users. More than that, 90% of accounts follow a business on Instagram and already more than 200 million businesses use Instagram to grow their network, engage with customers and share insights into their business. When it comes to Vacation Rentals, Instagram is a powerful tool also for property owners or managers and, if used correctly, it could help you grow your business, gain trust and new guests. In this article, we’ll look at the reasons why property owners and managers should consider using Instagram to market their business, and which are the best practices to be successful on this renowned social media platform.
Why should I use Instagram for my vacation rentals?
Let’s start by looking at the reasons why you, as a property manager, should use Instagram for your vacation rental business.
Spread the word and gain visibility
Instagram can be a very powerful tool in spreading the word about your business and gaining leads. Creating interesting and engaging content, together with the use of good hashtags (that is, a word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#) used to identify content on a specific topic), will put your properties and business in front of a wide audience. At the same time, travelers and potential guests will be able to find your account, view your vacation rental and see what you have to offer.
Grow your network and relationships
As just mentioned, Instagram can help put your business in front of thousands of people, but it also allows you to easily connect and engage with them and grow your network. However, the cultivation of your network is not limited only to potential guests. Getting in contact, engaging and following companies and businesses in the area of your vacation rental such as local restaurants, stores, and activity providers will increase and show the value of what you have to offer. Growing your network of complementary services to your short-term rental will allow you to offer better recommendations and increase the quality of the guest experience.
Keep contact with repeat guests
A guest that has previously already rented your property will know what you offer and what to expect, therefore they will be easier to satisfy. Keeping in touch with returning guests and engaging with them until their next visit is a good way to build lasting relationships, but they can also be great references for new contacts. Guests will likely share pictures of them visiting the area and staying at your vacation rental, or they will comment on your posts. Getting these kinds of reviews from previous guests can help you understand what you’re doing well and what you might need to improve in the future.
Redirect to your website
Together with the other social media platforms, your Instagram account can help you get potential guests to look at your website and book directly with you. Direct bookings enable you to reduce your reliance on sales channels and, since there are no channel commissions on them, increase your revenue per booking. Direct bookings are usually promoted towards returning guests or people that show a higher level of interest, and this is why Instagram is an excellent means to increase direct bookings. You can read more about why direct bookings are important for your business here.
Easily showcase amazing photos of your property
Instagram is a social media platform that focuses on photos and videos, which is why it is the perfect place to showcase your amazing photos of your vacation rental. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, with the help of inspiring images you can show your potential guests what makes your vacation rental special and unique. But don’t limit yourself to that. You can also show through pictures what they could do and experience if they were to stay at your property, local places of interest, and outdoor activities.
Gain and improve trust
Nowadays people turn to social media when they want to find out information about a business. Being present on Instagram and showcasing your vacation home and all the activities around the area is a great way to connect with guests and gain their trust. Potential guests will see you as transparent and reliable, which will improve their trust.
How to use Instagram for your vacation rental
Now that we went through the reasons why you should use Instagram for your short-term rental business, we finally get to the best practices and what you should think about when setting up your Instagram account. Be sure to have the Business account, which you can get for free. It will give you access to a broader array of features like adding an industry label, insights and analytics, advertising options, clickable call-to-action buttons in your profile, and more.
1. Create a compelling Instagram Bio
First thing is to write a catchy but candid Instagram Bio. It should include all the necessary information about your business, such as your name, what your business does and what your industry is. You can shape your description according to your brand identity, and you can use emojis to make it more appealing and universal – especially if you want to attract a younger audience. You can also add a clickable hashtag to the description, which is a great way for people to view the content under that branded hashtag and, in turn, create their own content. In the Instagram Bio, it is also possible to add clickable links, driving people to your website or inviting them to send you a message or call you.
2. Post beautiful and inspiring photos
The key to a successful Instagram account for your vacation rentals is high-quality content. You can post beautiful pictures of your vacation home to attract new guests. However, the photos should be well-staged and professional-looking, all the while aiming to convey the atmosphere of the place. It doesn’t need to always be photos of entire rooms, you can also unveil smaller details that make your home special and unique. Here are 7 tips for taking great pictures of your vacation rental.
You can also show places of interest and activities available in the area of your vacation rental. By posting fun, engaging or amazing spots and activities, potential guests will be inspired to travel there.
Another great type of content is user-generated content. You could repost pictures that your guests have shared of themselves at your vacation home, or taking part in the activities in the area. Reposting this type of content helps your potential guests visualize and imagine themselves staying in your vacation rental. At the same time, it helps you establish and nourish relationships with your previous and future guests. Don’t forget to credit the owner of the pictures, though.
3. Engage with your potential guests
Since Instagram is a social media platform, remember to connect and engage with your followers! That means replying to their comments on your photos or thanking them for sharing your content, but also liking and commenting on the content of other people and businesses. Be authentic and connect in a personal way. Try to avoid appearing “spammy” – write personalized comments each time rather than just copying and pasting the same response.
4. Be consistent in posting schedule and design
The look of the grid (ie. your profile feed which is made up of the photos and videos you post) should be aesthetically pleasing while being interesting and inspiring. The overall design should be aligned with your brand image, colors, and fonts in order for your potential customers to be able to quickly identify you. At the same time, your posting schedule – that is, the times and days when you post content – should also be consistent. The best practice would be to study and understand the days and times when your followers are online. You can use Instagram Insights to get a clearer picture of your audience patterns and see when your followers are most active.
5. Use hashtags
Through a #hashtag users can easily find relevant content, users, and brands. Hashtags are an excellent way to expand your audience and for others to find you since your post will show among other posts using the same hashtag. People can also decide to follow hashtags, therefore the use of hashtags can increase your chances of being seen by users that are not following you.
It is important to choose hashtags with care and not to overdo them. You should research appropriate property management hashtags. Very generic hashtags will likely have a lot of posts, so your post might quickly be lost in the sea of results. For that reason, a good rule of thumb is mixing generic hashtags with more specific ones with fewer post results. Should you need some inspiration, you could look at which hashtags your competitors and your followers are using. For example, suitable hashtags could be #vacationrental, #rentals, and #airbnb, but you could also look for hashtags that describe amenities in your home or points of interest in the area as well as hashtags that revolve around travel and vacation.
6. Use Instagram Insights
With an Instagram Business account comes access to free analytics. Through Instagram Insights, you can study the trends regarding your followers and view data for specific posts and stories. You can understand which type of posts got more engagement, how many accounts you reached and the number of impressions. This kind of data allows you to understand if your content is targeting the right people interested in vacation rental, or if you need to adjust your aim. If you are using Instagram ads, you will also be able to see insights relating to the campaign’s performance. And to get a clearer picture of your audience, you can see the location, age-range and gender of your followers, as well as the active times and days.
7. Use Instagram Stories
While Instagram started out as a simple platform based on posts, over the years Instagram has continuously added and improved features. As a vacation rental owner or manager, you should also use Instagram Stories, which allow you to share short videos and images to a temporary “Story” that lasts 24 hours. You will find them at the top of your Instagram homepage. You can be creative and add filters and effects, text, emojis, stickers, time stamps, hashtags, polls, doodles, and much more. Viewers can react and answer directly to your Story through a Direct Message. You can also see the list of who has viewed your Story and, with the Business account, you can also see Insights of your Story performance.
Stories are a great way to drive engagement, build brand awareness and value. You could use Stories to show insights into your properties and business, create polls, create quizzes, use the question sticker to let people ask you questions to which you can reply in DM or in another Story. All these Story features, and many more, allow you to encourage audience engagement.
8. Create your own Instagram guides
Another 2020 new feature is Instagram Guides. This feature allows you to create easy and helpful lists of tips and recommendations for your followers. To create a guide, go to your Instagram profile and tap on the “+” icon. You can choose three different guide formats: places, products or posts. A good way to use this Instagram feature for your vacation rental could be to create a guide of places of interest or activities in the area of your vacation rental. You could also create a guide of posts you created or saved that you recommend as useful to your potential guests. The guides will appear on your profile in the dedicated section.
9. Take advantage of all of Instagram features
There are a few other features that you should consider using to really take advantage of Instagram to the maximum for your vacation rental business:
- Live stories: another option of Stories is sending a live feed. Live stories drive instant engagement and allow you to connect with your audience in a more personal way. They are an excellent way to answer your audience questions forum-style. Since Live stories trigger a notification to followers, it’s better to go live when the majority of your audience is online.
- Story Highlights: since stories last only 24 hours, Instagram introduced Story Highlights as a way for users to save some of the stories and pin them in their profile. As such, story highlights are also useful as they allow businesses and brands to showcase the content that they want users to see first. You can gather stories into collections, creating different themes and topics, and display them on your Instagram profile.
- Reels: introduced in 2020, Reels are a new Instagram feature that invites users to create fun and entertaining 15-second multi-clip videos with sounds, effects and other creative tools. Users can share reels with their followers on the Feed and in the new Explore section. With the Business account, it is also possible to view Reel Insights, ie. metrics that register the number of accounts reached, the number of plays, the amount of likes, comments, shares and save of the reel. Many businesses are already creating reels, realizing the opportunities of greater engagement and brand awareness. As a property owner or manager, you could create reels to showcase your properties or show behind-the-scenes peeks. You could also engage with your audience in a fun and personal way, answer quick questions or educate with short how-to’s.
10. Connect with Facebook and start promoting
By connecting Instagram to Facebook, you have the option to market your business and reach new guests by turning any post into an ad. When you decide to promote your posts, they will appear in the users’ feeds, Stories, and Explore. These posts have a “sponsored” label to indicate that they are an ad.
The budget and duration of each campaign is completely up to you, and you can always decide to change the amount you want to spend depending on your goals. The amount of accounts that you will be able to reach depends on your budget and duration. Instagram recommends a default budget and duration for optimal results, which you can tweak to your desire. For each selected budget and duration, Instagram shows an estimation of the reach. You can decide if you want to select your target audience automatically to target people like your followers, or if you want to manually enter your target options. Furthermore, you will be able to view your promotion analytics and use those insights to adjust your target, budget and duration for the next time.
Instagram can help you connect with previous and future guests, but it can also help you increase your direct bookings. However, using Instagram is just one way to grow your vacation rental business. Combining social media with other digital solutions like Property Management Systems and Channel Managers is key to succeeding as a 21st Century Property Manager.