I know I’m a bit late to the game, but Instagram marketing has finally reached my radar.
I know, embarrassing right? Until 2016, I was primarily a Facebook and Twitter user, but now that I’ve added Instagram, I actually have to set a timer on my desk so I get off the darn thing; otherwise I keep scrolling and my productivity takes a serious hit.
Instagram is addicting.
Because it’s visceral in a way no other social media platform is. Much more than a site of pretty photos, Instagram is artsy and experiential; your imagination is set on fire with people’s moments and spaces on a more human and relatable level.
Topping 500 million monthly users, Instagram has become an insanely effective marketing tool for vacation rental sites, such as Airbnb, VRBO, Home Away and Booking.com. No surprise there. According to Inc, humans form their first impression in a mere 50 milliseconds. It’s hard to resist dreamy images of far-off (or not so far off) homes in which to unwind into decadence.
Even more noteworthy is that individual vacation rental owners are increasingly using Instagram to get a leg up on competitors. They’re “branding” themselves using the power of imagery.
The best vacation rental Instagrammers inject some lifeblood into their images, or as I like to call it, wabi-sabi, a Japanese expression for ‘perfection is imperfection.’ A slightly undone quality yields an element of dreamy imperfection and reminds the viewer that there’s an authentic humanness to the home. An unmade bed, for instance, might not go over well on a listing site but could get hundreds of ‘likes’ on Instagram.
Last year, one Instagramming Airbnb owner, in particular, caught my eye.
In a big way.
At first scroll, I took notice because the house is stunning. Like 10 out of 10. As in cannot get any better, no improvements possible.
But then I saw how many followers she had. Whoa!
Just so you know, the more followers you have on Instagram, the greater your exposure and the likelihood of getting more followers.
What in the heck is this vacation rental Instagrammer doing to get so large a following?
I decided to find out….
Introducing The Beach Lodge
Before I say anything about The Beach Lodge in Hollywood Beach, California, it’s important to understand something about its location. Hollywood Beach contains one of the densest vacation rental neighborhoods in the state. I know because I live nearby and have rented several beach homes there over the years.
The majority are either dedicated vacation rentals or second homes rented out to tourists when the owners aren’t there (which is most of the time).
Despite the stiff competition, The Beach Lodge’s owner, Tiffany, has managed to book up a solid 4 to 6 weeks in advance. In the low season. She’s even managed to book the entire month of January, the lowest of the low season here in central California.
I think Instagram has something to do with it.
Tiffany has a jaw-droppingly gorgeous house that she renovated in 2015. It was a 1971 eye-sore before she reimagined it and turned it into a vacation rental. Since it’s inception, she has Instagrammed the heck out of it, slowly but surely gaining followers in the process.
Tiffany posts images of The Beach Lodge several times a week; each beautiful shot seems to involve epic relaxation, like sleeping in, binge watching TV shows, hanging out on the patio, eating exotic cheeses, reading bestsellers. Strategically changing around curiosities, pillows and textiles (Tiffany loves tribal fabrics) as well as staging for the seasons and holidays, The Beach Lodge’s photos always look fresh, despite the fact that Tiffany photographs the same rooms over and over again.
That’s right. The same rooms over and over again.
Merely through Instagramming, The Beach Lodge has been featured on Front + Main and Domino. Most impressively, The Beach Lodge caught the attention of the Venue Report and won the ‘Best New Venue Award of 2016.’
Let’s take a look at a few of her 400 plus images and deconstruct why they’re working.
(By the way, if you find yourself coveting any of Tiffany’s finds, go to her Instagram page and click on the item. A pop-up appears with the buying source).
Why the image works: It’s a beach house, right? So guests want to know they can enjoy the patio when not on the beach. This isn’t just any old patio however; she’s got bright pillows, a boldly patterned rug, a table on which guests can set cocktails. Life doesn’t get much better than this.
Why the image works: People love babies and are more inclined to like photos with babies in them. Period. Secondly, the photo shows prospective guests that The Beach Lodge is family friendly. The fact that the dining table is in the background tells young families that babies can play on the clean floor while they eat in peace. Think about how many Millennials are becoming parents and the fact that their generation are the primary drivers behind Instagram. Winning marketing!
Why the image works: Showing your guests that you care about them is the golden rule in the hospitality business. The fact that Tiffany buys fresh flowers and a nice birthday gift for an incoming guest makes her instantly likable (and trustworthy). Adding that she’s a people pleaser is genius marketing because it’s authentic, not canned.
Why the image works: An artsy, unexpected photo hooks viewers in and activates their imagination. Tiffany is showing us that (yay!), the beach is only a 3- second walk away while also reminding us that kids get their own porthole windows. Hard to resist.
Why the image works: Tiffany understands that a single shot of a perfectly made bed can be boring, even if the room is beautiful. She shakes it up by staging the bed for reading, watching TV, or sleeping in, thereby allowing viewers to better understand the vibe of the bedroom. Winning!
Why the image works: Tiffany decorates for every holiday – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Cinco de Mayo, Hannukah, Christmas, New Years – and December is no exception. Photographing holiday decoration reminds people that The Beach Lodge is a great place to spend the holidays.
Why the image works: Tiffany asks all guests to follow her on Instagram before they even arrive and they continue to follow her afterwards. When they see posts like this, they might be likely to book her house again. Instagram is great for rebookings!
How to mimic The Beach Lodge’s success on Instagram
#1. Decorate fabulously so people want to follow you. One way Tiffany’s house stands out from her competition is having a bright, fresh interior, with intense splashes of color, using art, textiles, rugs and pillows. If you look closely, her furnishings are mostly neutral under all the pillows and throws. Read this step by step article on how to do that.
#2. Tag, tag, tag. You can never do too much of it. It’s how people find you on Instagram in the first place. BUT (and this important), don’t do it in your primary paragraph. People find it distracting. After you phrase your initial comment, hit enter, and then enter a hashtag extravaganza. Tiffany uses these hashtags, among many:
thebeachlodge#beachhouse #bohostyle#finditstyleit #midcenturymodern#bohemianmodern #bohemianstyle#beachhousedecor #airbnb #coastalstyle#Jungalow #coastal_living #vrbo#globaldecor #TheVenueReport#sodomino #MyDomaine #FoundForaged#apartmenttherapy #designsponge#HomeWithRue #MyCovetedHome#MyOKLStyle #InteriorDesign#IHaveThisThingWithTextiles#StyleMavenMe #Jungalowstyle#currentdesignsituation #DotAndBo#MyHouseBeautiful #SimplyStyleYourSpace.
Why do you tag? People look for images via other power players. When you hashtag, anyone looking for anything similar to said hashtag will see you. For example, Tiffany always tags Airbnb. Anyone looking for all things related to Airbnb will see her fabulous house.
#3 Attribute all the things you buy to its source. Tiffany gives credit where credit is due. For example, many of her accessories come from Dot and Bo and she always credits them when appropriate with a @dotandbo. It’s like free advertising for Dot and Bo. Here’s the good part: Dot and Bo returns the favor and regrams Tiffany’s post, whereby The Beach Lodge gets a ton of Dot and Bo’s followers to her page. It gets even better: Dot and Bo decided to feature The Beach Lodge on their website. When they did that, Tiffany gained thousands more followers. Marketing can’t really get better than that.
Kinda genius, right?
#4 Post at least once or twice a week. The more posts you have, the larger your audience becomes. The Beach Lodge has clearly demonstrated that people don’t get tired of seeing your fabulous pad. As long as you keep your photos original, there are hundreds of ways to photograph a table, bed, kitchen, foyer, or other feature of your vacation rental. The possibilities are sky high.
#5 As soon as someone books your place, ask them to follow you on Instagram. They will continue to see your posts well after they check out and are much more likely to book with you again. And again and again and again.
That’s it, folks
Now that you know everything there is to be successful on Instagram, it’s time to get to work. Let’s follow Tiffany’s lead and forge ahead.
By the way, as long as we’re on the subject of Instagram, we recently started a 1 Chic Retreat Instagram page. Do us a favor and follow. You’ll see our original work, as well as more decorating ideas geared for vacation rentals.
And if you already have an Instagram account for your vacation rental, congratulations! You have already taken the bull by the horns. Do us a favor and post it in the comments section below so we can check you out!