On March 15 this year, Instagram announced that they would be changing their feeds from a chronological format to a relevance-based format using algorithms that will choose which posts you will see. Immediately after announcing this change, Instagram users and businesses lost their minds over the idea that their beloved chronological feeds would disappear.
Why is Instagram taking this step to fix what most say isn’t broke? According to the announcement, they are making this change to improve user experience, but as always, it all comes down to making money. As advertising grows on Instagram, these changes will give businesses more opportunities to get their marketing messages out to the 400 million monthly active users. While many users are crying foul and threatening to leave the world’s eighth most popular social network, the change will likely improve advertising revenues as users eventually forget the old chronological format.
What exactly are Instagram’s algorithm changes?
According to Instagram, users are missing an average of 70 percent of feeds. This is because a chronological feed requires followers to see posts the moment they are posted. If a user has 10,000 followers, only a small portion of them will see that particular post before it falls off the chronological list. For many, this is the charm of Instagram. By showing posts in chronological order, users can tell a story and control how the story is being told. This storytelling style of posting will slowly start to fade away in feeds.
Instead, Instagram will use algorithms to decide which posts viewers will most likely be interested in seeing at any given time. Posts will still be in chronological order on an Instagram user’s profile page, but the algorithm will divvy out posts in the feeds more randomly. While users may not like the idea of an algorithm deciding what they might want to see, this change will likely benefit advertisers and marketers in the future, as long as they create an Instagram strategy that makes the most of a relevance-based feed.
How could this potentially affect hotel social media strategy?
As Facebook and Twitter have moved away from their chronological feeds as well, Instagram is the last vestige of the organic, linear, storytelling platform. For hotels, travel, and other hospitality industries, the chronological format was the perfect way to set the scene and create a mood by telling visual stories about a property’s activities, guest amenities, or featured events.
For many brands, chronological storytelling also meant having to strategically post multiple times a day in order to maximize fan engagement. With the new relevance-based algorithm, the focus will be on quality of content over quantity. Brands that post too often may be penalized in this new algorithm.
Instagram has always been a hotel’s best friend. With endless opportunities to post beautiful pictures of a wide range of interesting activities, it is the perfect platform to optimize all of your hotel’s visual offerings. From gorgeous shots of your outdoor pool throughout the season, to enticing shots of your chef’s latest culinary creation, to highlighting the weddings and events your hotel hosts, it is the quintessential picture-worth-a-thousand-words marketing tool.
The key to getting noticed by Instagram’s new algorithm is to focus on maximizing relevance and engagement rates rather than following and reach. It will involve a greater level of curation—essentially, it’s better to spend time getting the “money shot” that will get hundreds of likes and comments, rather than posting every few hours.
20 great ways to make your hotel’s Instagram feed pop
Wondering how you can make the most of your Instagram account? Here are our best tips on how to make the most of your Instagram account.
- Make sure all of your feed photos are interesting and tell a story on their own.
- Get creative by using staff members, guests, and props.
- Use movement and action in your photos. Kids jumping on beds, people diving into pools, guests dancing at a party, or your bartender making drinks.
- Food, food, and more food! The most popular and engaging photos are enticing food shots, so take advantage by featuring the best items from your menu.
- Fashion is another huge draw for engagement on feeds. Contact a local designer and feature their fashions in photo shoots inside your hotel.
- Partner with local retailers and use their products in hotel photo shoots. Create food photos using decorative table settings or other props in unique ways. By cross-promoting your hotel with these products, you can reach twice the audience.
- Work with local designers or artists to decorate rooms in a distinctive way and rotate them regularly. You will both benefit from the shared exposure on Instagram.
- Use your own staff members in photos and encourage them to show off their personalities to portray the human side of your hotel’s business.
- Share the love with your local Instagram buddies by using location tags and feed handles. Don’t forget to tag your hotel’s own location in your posts!
- Feature local points of interest and recommend local businesses outside of your hotel’s property, such as a nearby coffee shop or less publicized tourist attraction.
- Send a photographer to local festivals, concerts, or large community events that may be of interest to guests who would want to attend those events in the future.
- Encourage your guests to post their own photos of your hotel to your feed by hosting contests or special discount offers for the best photos. Repost the best photos on your account with an @mention of the original poster.
- Use short videos to capture interesting hotel events or just to show the bustle of activity in your lobby, bar, or restaurant on a busy night.
- Featuring cute kid pictures enjoying your hotel’s kid-friend amenities will attract followers with families.
- If your hotel is pet-friendly, monopolize on this by featuring animals enjoying the good life on your property. Furry friends on Instagram are impossible not to love!
- Keep your followers engaged by responding to their comments on your feed. Instagram users are 50 times more engaged in posts than Twitter users, so keep communicating with them.
- Stay away from language that is too sales-like. Interact with your followers on a human level to create an emotional connection between your brand and guests.
- Offer special rates to photographers and other social media influencers to stay at your hotel. They will then share photos and stories of your hotel on their feeds, reaching more potential guests.
- Create visual displays in rooms and common areas that wow guests and encourage them to take and share photos.
- Advertise your feed handle in your restaurant’s menu and encourage guest to share pictures of their food.
Instagram feeds vs. sponsored ads
Your Instagram feeds and sponsored ads should not be treated in the same way. Since opening up their advertising to all brands in September 2015, Instagram now has over 200,000 advertisers vying for feed space. Sponsored ads are not affected directly by this particular algorithm change, although you’ll want to take into consideration the platform’s new focus on relevance over chronology regarding your ad content.
Much like Facebook ads—in fact, Instagram ads are managed through Facebook—your Instagram ad can be targeted to specific demographics and interests. Engaging ads that generate comments and likes will get better reach and click-through rates. However, keep in mind that ads are entirely mobile—you’ll need to make sure your hotel website is mobile-optimized and ready to receive mobile-savvy users.