Instagram can be a fantastic tool for connecting with your guests before and after their stay, acquiring new customers outside of your listing platform, and networking with other hosts who can inspire ideas for improving your own rental. We love Instagram for all the above reasons and it makes us happy to see hosts using the platform well. On the flip side of that, poorly executed instagram accounts can be a little cringe-worthy. Just like everything else you do to excel at designing positive customer experiences, using Instagram is no different — it’s an opportunity to seal in a positive impression of your rental… or risk accidentally adding a layer of frustration or annoyance. Let’s talk about how to avoid that!
Make the Most of Your Instagram Profile/Bio Page
Before we even talk about what to post on Instagram, let’s start with your profile page and bio. Our number 1 rule of thumb: think of your Instagram profile as a mini website. A viewer should be able to understand at first glance:
- What/who you are
- Where you are located (at minimum the city, a neighborhood/more specific area even better)
- Why you are special
- How to book a stay in your STR
We’ll use our friends at The Tiny Magnolia as a great example here:
Profile takeaway: don’t leave guests wondering who you are, where you are, or how to book your rental. Give ‘em everything they need in one spot!
Strategies for Posting on Instagram for Short Term Rental Success
Now that you’ve got your account page set up, it’s time to add some content! Here are my top 10 suggestions for great instagram posts:
- Take good photographs and only post the best. Instagram is the most visual of the social media platforms. It’s literally all about the pictures. To take good photos: pay attention to lighting (don’t post dark or grainy photos), get your composition right (don’t cut off important features or get too far away from your subject), watch for sneaky distractions like your reflection in a mirror or a full trash can in a corner, and use a decent camera! Smartphone cameras are phenomenal these days – so there’s no excuse for bad photos!
- Post frequently. If a potential guest finds your instagram account, and you haven’t posted in 6 months or a year, they may very well think you’re tending well to your unit. If you’re gonna do social media, you have to stay current. Plan to post weekly at a minimum.
- But don’t post too frequently! Spread out your posts. If you’re not in your rental unit every day, you’ll likely want to take a bunch of photos while you are there. Don’t post them all at once, though – create a calendar (even if just mentally) and spread it out so that you can get 3 or 4 weeks worth of posts rather than just one weekend’s worth of posts that overload your followers’ feeds (and likely lead to some unfollows).
- Show Befores & Afters. One thing I know about STR hosts is that y’all love the spaces you create for others, and you’re constantly making improvements. Doing multi-photo posts with before shots and after shots shows your guests how much love and attention you put into your space. This gives the impression that they too will be well-taken-care-of in your space. And they don’t have to be grandiose changes – showing a new set of curtains or bed linens, an upcycled or antique furniture find to replace something without much character, or installing energy efficient appliances are all great before and after shots!
- Call out your efforts toward sustainability. Eco travel is a huge industry! If you’re taking steps to make your unit greener, brag about that (but don’t “green-wash” it – be honest about your efforts)! Green cleaning, thrifted/upcycled/vintage purchases, smart lights and thermostats, low-flow water amenities, etc are important deatils to guests who care about saving our planet!
- Use Hashtags I’ll talk more about hashtags in the audience building section, but it’s worth mentioning here, too! Hashtag your city or region if applicable, special categories that you fit into (#oceanfront #tinyhouse #aframe #mountainvacation etc), general industry (#vacationrental #shorttermrental #businesstravel, etc), and your own unique hashtag too (we’ll get to why that’s important, later) like #thetinymagnolia.
- Put Important Links IN BIO! You may never have an occasion to need to link to a URL other than your property listing. In which case, ignore this advice. But if you do want to link to a website that isn’t your listing, you’ll need to use the “link in bio” trick because Instagram does not create clickable links in your posts or comments. It’s really annoying to expect your readers to type in a url, especially if it’s long. So the link in bio trick works well if you do it right. You’ll want to use a service like Link Tree (which is what we use) – which has free accounts. In your Link Tree, make sure your rental listing is always the top click. But below that, you can include links to local coffee shops, special event tickets, or whatever else you’ve mentioned in a post that you want folks to be able to click on.
- Tag local establishments near your rental – coffee shops, retail shops, independent grocers, publications, – it creates goodwill and gets your rental on that business owner’s radar. So pay attention to which venues around you have their own instagram accounts, and find ways to tag them in your posts. For example, take a photo of something in a local retail store that meets your own aesthetic and post it with a note to your future guests not to miss an opportunity to explore that shop.
- Don’t forget about video! Videos on Instagram often bring good engagement! Doing a little video tour of your rooms, or yard, or a local attraction is a fun way to engage. Even if you’ve done still photos in the same areas before, video brings a new perspective. If you’re comfortable in front of the camera, get in front of it! Talk to your followers as if they were in the space with you and tell them what you love about it. Your enthusiasm will be contagious!
- Feature things unique about your area. We love this example from Das Haus in Cleveland. Who knew this incredible rock feature could be spotted on a hike in Cleveland? They knew. Now we know. Now I want to go!
Building an Audience for your Short Term Rental
Building an audience on Instagram is a slow roll. Of course, you can find “get rich quick” schemes out there for building your audience in a hurry, but you will definitely sacrifice quality for quantity if you use tactics like “follow/unfollow” (LAME!) or services that “buy” you followers (hint: they’re probably not real people, but fake computerized accounts. Computers don’t pay for vacations!). Instead, just get comfortable with the fact that this will not be an overnight success, while knowing following these simple strategies will pay off over time.
- Include your instagram handle in your listing. A quick “for more pictures follow us on instagram” at the bottom of your listing is a great way to attract followers specifically interested in your location.
- Ask your guests to follow you. Include a link to your account in the signature of your communications with guests (and inquiries) and put a note in your guest book.
- Ask your guests to tag you in their posts during their stay. One great way to do this is to include your instagram handle on the document that provides wifi login information. Think about it – your guest has probably just arrived, is getting on the internet, and will likely check their socials out of habit if not intentionally! So, tell them right off the bat that you’re on Instagram and would appreciate some @s. This way when the take photos of their stay in your home and tag you, you’ll get the exposure to that person’s friends, who by the way, will be looking on enviously as their friend enjoys some much needed time away… and perhaps decide to plan their next vacation, too!
- Use hashtags wisely! Hashtags are used for the purpose of clumping like things together. And instagram users follow hashtags when they’re enthusiastic about a topic or have a reason to see what’s going on with a topic. Since your target audience is people who will want to stay in your city, always use the hashtag for your city when you post. For example, here in Durham, NC we tag #DurhamNC #Durham and #BullCity because visitors often follow those tags to see what’s happening in and around their future destination. Also tagging what makes you special (i.e. #TinyHome or #MidCenturyModern) will attract the attention of enthusiasts who may not have been considering a trip to your locale, but might now if they like the idea of staying in the space you’ve cultivated! Make your home the destination, then add the city as a bonus!
- Follow and interact with like-minded and relevant accounts! For example, if a local national park posts a picture of a native flower that’s blooming – comment on the post about how it makes you feel (i.e. – how special it is to witness the seasons of this place you love!). So, first things first, make sure you’re following the awesome local accounts that will give you opportunities for this engagement!
- Share posts from other accounts in your stories. We haven’t really gotten into stories much, and that’s an article for another day, but we should mention this one quick way to use stories to help boost local or like-minded accounts. Using the little “paper airplane” icon below any post will allow you to choose to share it as a story. Make sure you add your own content using the text tool and use a “sticker” to tag the original posting account so they know you’ve shared and your followers can easily click through to see that account.
An Instagram presence is a great marketing tool, but it’s also a beautiful way to build community. Before you know it you’ll have Insta-Friends who interact with you regularly, share you content, and make it a generally enjoyable place to hang out! And, if you aren’t already, please follow us: @sowellappointed! 😉