If you're looking for a way to increase your direct bookings and save on commission fees from Online Travel Agents like Booking.com, Airbnb, and VRBO search no more — you've come to the right place. One awesome free tool that can really help is Instagram. While you've certainly heard of the app and maybe even started using it, did you know how useful it could be to your Vacation Rental business?
Instagram boasts 500 million daily active users globally and more than 200 million businesses use Instagram to grow their network, engage with their customers and market their products and services through posts, stories, and cost-effective targeted ads. Also, more than 90% of accounts follow a business on Instagram which means there's plenty of opportunity out there for you to quickly build a strong following and network. When used properly, Instagram can help Vacation Rental homeowners grow their business, gain in visibility and popularity, and most importantly reach new prospective guests.
In this article, we look at the reasons why Vacation Rental owners should use Instagram to market their business, what the best practices are, and how the social network can help drive direct bookings.
Why should Vacation Rental homeowners use Instagram?
How to use Instagram to get direct bookings for your Vacation Rental?
Why should Vacation Rental homeowners use Instagram?
There are many reasons why you should use Instagram to market your property and in this section, we'll cover some of the most important ones.
Spread the word, gain trust 💯, and popularity
By creating inspiring and engaging content you can put your property in front of a very wide audience. Nowadays, more than ever, travelers use Social Media as a discovery platform to find new businesses, information about businesses, and get sources of inspiration for places stay.
So having an active Instagram account that showcases your Vacation Rental home, its amenities, style, atmosphere, and neighboring activities is arguably one of the best ways to get discovered and engage with prospective guests. By allowing guests to easily find you on Social Media you will appear more transparent, and as you build your following, you'll gain visibility and popularity as well. This will help put your account in front of even more prospective guests and so increase your chances of receiving direct bookings.
Highlight beautiful 📸 and videos of your home
Instagram is the perfect place to showcase your Vacation Rental with beautiful pictures and videos. Pictures are so much more powerful than words and so by posting high-quality pictures you can show prospective guests what makes your Vacation Rental special and help them get a better sense of what staying with you is like. They'll get an unrivaled glimpse of the interior details, color palettes, and overall atmosphere. You can also help them discover the activities they can experience nearby, the restaurants they should try, and the local businesses they should definitely check out while staying with you.
If you feel like your current pictures aren't quite doing the trick for your Instagram account, read our top tips for the best Vacation Rental home pictures.
🚀 Grow your network and build relationships
As mentioned earlier, Instagram can help put your property in front of many prospective guests and allows you to easily follow, connect, and engage with them in order to grow your network of followers and overall relationships. However, it is important to keep in mind that to build an effective network, you'll need to follow, connect, and engage with more than just prospective guests. Ideally, you should also focus on connecting with local businesses near your Vacation Rental, such as restaurants, grocery stores, activity centers, and even... fellow Vacation Rental homeowners! While it's important to remain selective of whom you engage with, the more relevant and meaningful connection you have, the greater and effective your network will be.
Stay in touch with repeat guests 🙋🏽 and get more referrals
Keeping in touch with repeat guests, or guests that have already stayed with you by engaging with them on Instagram is a very efficient way to build long-lasting and meaningful relationships. But more importantly, it's a great way to create trustworthy references for new guests. Guests who have stayed you with are likely to post and share pictures of them staying at your Vacation Rental or comment on your posts. In doing so, your account has more chances to land in front of their friends and followers which increases your chances to be referred and receiving direct bookings.
Direct users to your website 🌐 or direct booking link
As with other Social Media networks, Instagram offers you a variety of tools such as the Bio link, stickers, and ads that can be used to redirect prospective guests to your website or direct booking link. If you don't have a direct booking link yet you need to start using bookusdirect. It's 100% commission-free and built for Vacation Rental owners who want to grow their direct bookings. With direct bookings, you reduce your reliance on Online Travel Agents and increase your profits per booking by saving on commission fees. You also offer a lot more value to your guests as by booking directly they can save on service fees as high as 18%.
How to use Instagram to get direct bookings for your Vacation Rental?
Now that we've gone through the main reasons why all short-term rental businesses should take advantage of Instagram, let's dive into how the Social Media platform can help you boost direct bookings. Before we get started, be sure that you are using the free Business account. With a Business account, you gain access to more features, analytics, advertising tools, and many more.
If you're not sure how to upgrade to a Business account, you'll find a step-by-step guide here.
Use a searchable 🔍 name
Before you create an Instagram account for your Vacation Rental, you'll need to make sure that it is equipped to stand out with a catchy name that can be easily searched and found. A name like "1 bedroom apartment in Paris", will never stand out and will rank very poorly in overall search results. Rather, think of naming your Vacation Rental in a unique way such as Woodfox Cabin, Snowpeak House, or even L’Écume des neiges (French for snow foam) like this popular Airbnb listing in Valloire, France. Once you've landed on a name that works make sure that you use that same name on all Online Travel Agent listings, Social Media handles, and your Google My Business profile.
Create a Bio that converts followers into guests 🥳
One of the most overlooked pieces of content on Instagram is the Bio. It's absolutely key to write a catchy and compelling Bio that helps prospective guests immediately understand what you offer and why they should book with you.
The description should include all valuable information regarding your Vacation Rental business such as your property name, property type, guest capacity, and location. Be sure to tailor it according to your brand identity and use emojis to make it more appealing. Also, include in the last part of your description a short phrase that easily informs your guests they can book directly.
Use the "Vacation Home Rental" category (Edit profile > Category) on your profile to improve your search results.
Setup all contact options (Edit profile > Contact Options) in order to maximize the chances of prospective guests reaching out to you directly.
Most importantly, make sure that your website clickable link is properly set up. This is the most powerful tool you have to drive direct bookings and convert followers into guests. If you have a direct booking engine on your website, then be sure to input your website's link. Otherwise, with bookusdirect you can get a custom direct booking link for your Instagram Bio that allows your followers to book directly without leaving the Instagram app or having to download anything!
Finally, make sure that all your profile displays are visible, otherwise, your followers won't be able to see your contact details or your business category. To do so, head over to "Edit Profile" from your account, then scroll to "Profile Display", and from there make sure that "Display category label" and "Display contact info" are enabled.
Find 👀 and utilize user-generated content (UGC)
We have already touched on the importance of posting and sharing beautiful pictures of your Vacation Rental home to help guests get a better sense of what your property is all about. Another great way to post content on Instagram is to make use of UGC. You can for example repost pictures guests have shared of themselves staying at your property. Reposting this type of content helps prospective guests better visualize and imagine themselves staying at your Vacation Rental through the experience of other guests. It also helps you further establish trust and nourish relationships you have with your guests. A great tip to drive UGC is to make sure your guests are aware of the hashtag and handle to use when posting content about your property. You could include this information in your guest's room on a small tent card, your business cards, or even an automated email you send your guests before they check-in. In any case, be sure to credit the owner of the picture every time you use UGC.
Design 🎨 and schedule consistently ⏰
The look and feel of your Instagram profile, or grid, should be aesthetic and inspiring. The overall design should be aligned with your brand image, colors, and font in order to help prospective guests and followers identify you quickly. At the same time, you'll need to be consistent with the time, days, and frequency at which you post. While this can seem like somewhat of a tedious task, there are many great tools out there like Later, Hootsuite, and Facebook Planner that can help you streamline the process by creating and scheduling posts ahead of time and auto-publishing them to multiple channels in one go.
Finally, using Instagram Insights you can get a clear understanding of your audience's social patterns and see when your followers are most active. As you review the data, make the relevant adjustments to your posting schedule in order to maximize the engagement you receive on your next posts.
Use #️⃣ hashtags to improve your visibility
Adding #hashtags to the content of your post is an excellent way to grow and expand your network. Through hashtags, Instagram users can very easily search, find, and even follow relevant content from other users and brands. Using the right hashtags on each of your posts can help you appear in more hashtag searches, grow your followers, and put your Vacation Rental in front of more prospective guests. The below screenshot shows that a #vacationrental search on Instagram has nearly a million relevant posts matching that search, so it's definitely a great hashtag to include in your posts.
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per post, and since every hashtag could be an opportunity for you to appear in front of more customers, you should use every single one of them all the time. You should, however, be diligent in the hashtags you choose and a little bit of research here is well worth the effort. Generic hashtags, such as #Holiday, will most likely have a lot of posts related to them and so your post might necessarily appear at the top of the search results. With that in mind, it's a good practice to mix generic hashtags with more specific ones where you will have more chances of appearing at the top. If you need some inspiration, or simply want to dig deeper on the topic have a look at the best hashtags for Vacation Rentals here.
Add your location 📍 to each post
Instagram Locations allow you to add a precise or general location to your Instagram posts. There will be an option to 'Add location' when you create a post. The location can be geographic, for example, 'Nairobi', or the location can be of an actual Vacation Rental home, for example, 'Footprints House, Diani'. Instagram users can see this location at the top of a post and can click on it to see more posts that have been tagged in the same location. Similar to #hashtags, there are millions of people browsing through Instagram Location-tagged posts, looking for content and accounts to like and follow. Adding a location makes it easier to reach more people, and likewise, easier for users to find you. So if you're looking to increase your reach and engagement on Instagram, utilizing the Instagram Location tagging feature for all your posts will definitely help do that.
Engage 💬 with your network
Instagram is a Social Media platform, so remember to connect and engage with your followers. This means trying your best to respond to every comment on pictures, thanking guests for sharing your content, but also, liking and commenting on the content posted by your guests and other local business in your network. As you engage with your network, be sure to do so in an authentic way, and favor personalized comments as opposed to copy-pasting generic ones.
Use Instagram stories 📹, link Stickers, and Story Highlights
As a Vacation Rental owner or manager, you should make use of Instagram stories. They allow you to share short videos and images to a temporary “Story” that lasts 24 hours. Using these small videos to showcase your Vacation Rental is a great way of giving prospective guests a more immersive experience of what staying with will be like. You can create a Story from the top of your Instagram homepage by hitting the "+" button. With stories, you can be a lot more creative than with posts and add text, colors, emojis, effects, stickers, hashtags, polls, and many more! Viewers can engage with your stories by liking them or messaging you directly, and you are able to see who has viewed your Story and access Insights into their performance. Here are a few content ideas to use in your stories:
Highlight the advantages of direct bookings to your guests
Share special offers you might have going on during the low season
Share short detailed videos of some of your top amenities
If ever you're renovating, keep your followers updated using stories
Highlight a last-minute availability
Highlight magazine or media articles about your Vacation Rental
More recently, Instagram has allowed every account, even those with less than 10,000 followers, to add link Stickers to their stories. This is yet another great tool to help redirect followers and prospective guests to your website and increase your direct bookings.
To add a link sticker to your Story, hit the Sticker icon from within the Story you are creating, in the search bar type "link", and select the first option as displayed below.
Once you've selected the link Sticker, you'll be prompted to enter the target URL of the Sticker. This is where you'll enter your website's web address or direct booking link. Now, place the link Sticker strategically in your Story so that users can easily see it and click on it. Now your guests can not only access your website from your Bio link, but also from your stories!
Once you've created a few stories, you'll be able to highlight your favorite ones. Highlighted stories are pinned to your profile and a great way to easily offer more information to your guests about your Vacation Rental home using videos, pictures, and text. Story highlights can be used to complete your Bio's content and put forward the information you want followers to see first such as your latest reviews, offers, and availability.
Review your Insights 📊
With your Instagram Business account, you also receive free access to a suite of analytics tools accessible from the "Insights" menu. Instagram Insights allows you to study the trends of your followers and review data regarding the performance of each post and Story you've posted. You're able to double down on the number of accounts you have reached, the types of posts that receive the most engagement, and the number of impressions, or the number of times your content was shown to users. With this kind of information and data, you'll be able to refine your content strategy and ensure you are targeting people who have an interest in Vacation Rental. In the event that you are running ads or campaigns on Instagram, you'll also have access to Insights detailing the performance of each individual ad.
Partner with local influencers 🕺🏽
Partnering with local travel influencers such @adventuresingh or @go_withthechlo is another great way to use Instagram to grow your network and boost direct bookings. By inviting local influencers to stay at your Vacation Rental you are guaranteed (in most cases at least) to see high-quality UGC posted about your property. The advantage here is that the network of these local influencers will be exposed to your property and this will greatly help improve your following, engagement, and even the number of direct messages or bookings you might receive. Be sure though, to only partner with legitimate influencers, that will actually post about your property and not just come along to enjoy a free stay.
Create targeted 🎯 ads
If your Instagram account is connected to your Facebook account, you'll be able to advertise your Vacation Rental on Instagram and reach new prospective guests by turning any of your posts into targeted ads. Sponsored posts, or posts that have been turned into ads, will appear in users' feeds, stories, and Explore section of the app. With Instagram ads, you are able to set your own budget and campaign duration, and most importantly customize the call to action which you can use to drive users to your website. Be sure to regularly review your ad's analytics and use these to adjust your target audience, budget, and duration in order to improve the results of your next ad.
Using Instagram for your Vacation Rental is a powerful and free way to spread the word about your business, gain visibility, connect, and engage with prospective and past guests. It also allows you to share beautiful content of your property and local businesses around it to help guests better visualize what staying at your property is all about. Finally, with a Business account properly set up and using a compelling Bio, Vacation Rental homeowners can drive their Instagram network to visit their website in order to get more direct bookings.