Updated: Dec 11, 2021
The game is changing. It takes a lot more than an aesthetically pleasing feed, high follower numbers and Instagramable shots to convert audiences into leads.
The market is more sophisticated than ever. We know when we’re being marketed to, and we’re desensitised to the typical marketing content that has been reinvented countless times before. Brands that just shout about their products or services may get likes – but do these translate into reservations?
What is this new buzz word: content marketing?
In a nutshell it’s about creating and distributing valuable, educational, and relevant content to the audience.
Using online channels and social media to distribute it, this type of content adds value to the users experience by providing a solution to their problems. You build a relationship through trust and authority with the ultimate objective of driving profitable customer action.
Despite its relatively new appearance in the marketing world, content marketing has been at play for decades. Soap operas were originally adverts. The travel sections of newspapers and magazines would sell ‘advertorial’ space as travel features and still do and hotels have paid travel shows to take audiences into the heart of a carefully constructed experience. Brands have known the importance of connecting with the audience on a level higher than selling for quite some time – they’ve just lacked the opportunity to do so.
In the absence of technology, direct marketing was time consuming and mass media was one of the few ways of getting to large audiences. Brands with big budgets like the Hilton, the Four Seasons and The Ritz would dominate the market voice - because they could afford to.
It’s a different story today. Not only does the media have its own social media - making advertising more affordable - brands have their own channels and a direct connection to the audience. With social media sites such as Instagram boasting more than 1.2 billion users, hotel brands now have endless scope to capitalise on this and thus far, many have done it well.
But the game is changing. It takes a lot more than an aesthetically pleasing feed with high impact images to inspire audiences and generate bookings. Inspiring photos have worked very well for a long time, but the audience is starting to seek more.
The market is also more sophisticated than ever. We know when we’re being marketed to, and we’re desensitised to the typical marketing content that has been reinvented countless times before. Brands that just shout about their products or services may get likes – but do these translate into reservations?
Websites are relatively static and limited in what they can showcase – but Instagram is where hotels can create amazing content that not only creates awareness, interest, and desire – but action.
It’s one of the few, if only, channels that feature at every single stage of the booking journey and yet it’s probably the most underutilised. It’s mostly used as a gallery of images where in fact, it could be a melting pot of interactive information that inspires desire and action.
How can hotels use content marketing to drive bookings?
Utilise the carousel feature
Each post on Instagram can be up to 10 pictures / videos, graphics, or a combination of all. That’s essentially the size of a brochure – yet how many hotels just put one or a couple of pictures and videos and leave it at that?
They could make guides about the destination with pictures from ‘Bucket List’ experience that the destination has on offer. Share cultural information, details about public transport and more. It could essentially be a travel brochure about the destination.
They could create an interactive menu – not just listing the items but illustrating them with little slow motion / close-up videos of the food being prepared or a video from the chef describing the inspiration behind the dish. A photo flat pan of all the ingredients next to the finished dish is beautiful. The same with cocktails – the creative scope is endless. It could be a book of the best reviews, top performing team members, in-room amenities menu or pillow menu. Unique insight into the experience that allows the audience to immerse themselves into it and essentially turn desire into action.
Use Instagram Reels
Reels are a fantastic way to put content out into the stratosphere and if done correctly (there are so many ways of doing it), it can clock up thousands of views and draw in hundreds of new and potential guests to the profile.
Short videos shot in profile format are best here and can be everything from closeup, slow-motion and time lapse videos to members of the team talking to the camera and showing the audience the new suite or a walk through a busy kitchen in an organic way – there are a lot of avenues for hotels to explore.
They can create a regular feature out of sharing ‘hotel hacks’, a step-by-step guide to making your bed like a hotel bed, how to make the famous hotel omelettes, and so much more. These educate the audience and provide value, but also allow the hotels to showcase their products, the brands that they use, their expertise and those luxurious touches in a subtle way.
Again, the creative scope is endless and has so much untapped potential in the hospitality industry.
IGTV is good for sharing interviews with team members, guests or other. A string of topical interviews by the GM or different department heads talking us through their experience, a day in the life, what service means to them etc. would serve as good content marketing.
Some could go as far as to create a ‘mini-series’ that get the audience hooked and engaged.
This must be quite well thought out in a hotel environment – but setting up a tripod and setting Instagram to Live in a busy open kitchen would rack up lots of views. An hour by the pool or by the bar as the sun sets would be beautiful. They could do a VIP briefing Live or do a live bed making competition to entertain.
Promote the destination
With pent up desire to travel yet much less opportunity to do so, guests are seeking to make the most out of their stay. They travel less now to sit around the resort and more to explore the destination and enjoy the unique experiences that it has to offer.
Using all of Instagram’s features, hotels and accommodation providers can literally show potential and upcoming guests what they have on the doorstep. They don’t even need to create this content themselves – they can share and repurpose existing content from the accounts of the key hotspots and attractions in the area and create a highlight in the stories called ‘Destination’.
They can compile an Instagram Guide that rounds up posts of the most Instagramable places or best views / best walks in the local area.
Showcase the experiences in detail
Instagram can serve as a unique window into the heart of the hotel operations and what experiences await the guest. Hoteliers don’t pay much thought to the mundane things that they are used to - the preparation of an omelette, the way the bed is made, the way the amenities are laid out, the way a cocktail is mixed etc. But the audience loves it – they don’t see this every day. They see the images of a beautifully styled in-suite breakfast table, but they don’t see all the little things that make it that way – and that’s what they want to see. Details. That’s what goes viral – empowering the audience to learn about it and the processes behind it – not just that last part.
Tap into the booking journey
Looking at the booking journey - Travel Inspiration, Research, Booking, On Property and Post Stay – Instagram is the only channel that can tap into each stage. Emails, the website, review sites – they’re all limited to sections of the journey but lack the ability to cover all.
Think of it as a loop. The existing guests (on property and post stay) have the potential to invigorate the first stage of the booking journey (Travel Inspiration) for a new guest. On property and post stay content that guests share are often shared to friends and family of a similar demographic – and therefore likely a key market to the hotel. Making the hotel Instagramable and encouraging social media sharing literally creates a journey for other people.
Then once the new potential guest has been inspired and introduced, they start to do research. Since Instagram is where they discovered the hotel, this is likely where they’ll start. When they come to the page – is it a beautiful gallery of images captioned by words designed to stop the scroll and create desire, or is it a beautiful gallery of images with useful, engaging and insightful content that brings the user into the experience and creates action?
Once they’re on property, there are countless ways to encourage Instagram content sharing. From personalised amenities and feature walls to unique F&B tricks and clever use of ingredients. Even once they’ve left, hotels can reshare their guests’ content and inspire further resharing. They can target existing guests directly with bespoke offers or even ask them to review or feedback.
It sounds quite labour some, but with the countless video editing and online graphic design apps etc. so easily available – it doesn’t have to take long at all. Content funnels work well for repurposing content through different features and channels.
The beauty of Instagram’s features is that they allow aesthetically motivated marketing managers to maintain a beautiful grid. The carousels can have a cover image that fits with the rest of the feed just like Reels can. Then behind these beautiful pieces of Instagram art is a treasure trove of incredible content marketing that allows hotels to take their relationship with their followers, and therefore their guests, to the next level.
READ: How to make your hotel INSTANTLY INSTAGRAMABLE
Marketing Advisor - London Rock Partners
Marketing Consultant | University Lecturer | Hospitality Specialist - Katie King & Co.
About London Rock Partners
Born in a post-pandemic hospitality landscape, London Rock Partners is a new approach to hotel management. They go beyond the tried and tested to deliver a standard of innovation to which the industry aspires.
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