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4 Innovate Ways Hotels Can Use Instagram to Get Travelers Into Bed



September 29, 2020 7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

To put it mildly, 2020 hasn’t been very kind to the hospitality industry. The economic fallout of Covid-19 travel restrictions has put hotel owners under increased pressure to attract guests and keep the lights on. Though disruption in the sector is hardly new, owners will need to place their marketing mix under the microscope as lockdowns begin to ease. One thing is for certain, will always be central to a winning (and cost-effective) social media strategy that drives direct bookings. Here are four ways can leverage the platform to position for revenue recovery and attract guests into bed as domestic and international travel markets start to awaken.

1. Targeted giveaway campaigns

Who doesn’t like a freebie? Giveaways are fast and reasonably affordable promotional tools for driving engagement and customer loyalty. In other words, likes, shares, and comments are more important than aimlessly posting the same five photos hoping to generate sales. The more your guests are talking about their stay and sharing their experiences, the better.

Related: Summer’s Officially Over – What’s Next for Businesses That Rely on Seasonal Tourism?

Setting up a giveaway on Instagram doesn’t require a great deal of investment or research and the rules are very simple. For example, a hotel could encourage people to tag a friend in the comments to win a free night’s accommodation or receive a discount on their stay. This is a great way to keep users on your profile and entice them into making a booking. By tagging a friend, they keep the conversation going. Use a photo that showcases the offering and consider a carousel post with the instructions contained in an image or short video as well.

A more ambitious approach would be asking past and existing guests to share their own photos with a unique hashtag (more on that later) to win a prize. The photo might be a view from their window or a selfie that includes some of the hotel’s amenities. This is an excellent way to highlight the positive experiences of guests and have them do some of the marketing leg work for your business. And the best part: word of mouth doesn’t cost a thing.

2. Piggyback on influencers

has exploded in recent years and can be a useful strategy for hotels with deeper pockets and several locations. Recruiting influencers to promote your hotel on Instagram can certainly have an impact on its exposure and sales. Research indicates many businesses are seeing a return of over $5 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing – not a bad return if you’re targeting millennials in particular. So what’s the catch?

Influencer marketing requires extensive planning and research before implementation. The market is quite saturated at all levels, from small-time players with a few thousand followers (micro-influencers) to established individuals commanding millions. Hotel managers need to understand who their guests are and what segment of the market they primarily fit into before reaching out to influencers. Always be wary of scam profiles run by individuals looking for free accommodation or perks without offering so much as a selfie or shout-out in return.

Related: 7 Innovative (But Simple) Ways Hotels Can Survive the Covid-19 Travel Crunch

Hotel chains that are famous for adopting influencer marketing strategies include and . Hilton enlisted some of Instagram’s most popular travel influencers to create content for its ‘Seven Urban Wonders of the Urban World’ campaign in 2018. The campaign targeted an audience of over 3 million combined followers and received nearly 2,000 comments across various accounts. Marriott is taking a slightly different approach, promoting its Moxy budget hotels to younger travelers by tapping into the mid and micro-influencer market. Micro-influencers tend to have better engagement levels than the big fish with millions of followers and can get people in a particular city or area talking very quickly. In the case of Moxy, hotels continue to pop up around the world and its Instagram profile has over 90,000 followers despite the pandemic.

3. Boost stories with hashtags

Hashtags are a great way to increase brand visibility and there is definitely a science behind using them. Earlier we looked at unique, promotion-specific hashtags that allow users to generate targeted content for brands, but hashtags on day to day posts and stories need some attention too.

This is where it pays to do a little research and think about who your guests are. Using broad and popular hashtags will certainly increase reach, but your posts may be drowned out in an ocean of similar content. If you don’t receive many international guests, consider using tourism-related hashtags that target local audiences. This is even more helpful in today’s Instagram environment as users can follow hashtags as well as profile.

The same goes for stories. Users often neglect hashtags in stories, but including up to 3 hashtags in each story can help drive traffic to your profile and allow your stories to show up in hashtag-specific searches like any other post. Considering using one hashtag with over a million posts, one with fewer than 500,000 posts and another with fewer than 100,000 seems to be most effective.

Related: Airbnb Hosts: 3 You Can Do to Reassure Travelers Right Now (Infographic)

If you find hashtags clutter your stories with text, you can get creative and hide them behind stickers or animated gifs. Using relevant hashtags will help Instagram categorize your posts effectively, meaning your hotel will appear in the explore feed.

4. Make your Instagram feed shoppable

Instagram boasts over 1 billion active users and is perhaps the most lucrative social media platform for online sales and advertising. While dwarfed by Facebook’s 2.6 billion active users, ever since its inception, it’s been the platform of choice for travelers looking for accommodation options and inspiration. Couple that with Instagram’s enormous average engagement lead over its bigger social media sibling, it would seem that Instagram offers hotels far superior selling opportunities. Yet to-date, hotels have struggled to drive room bookings from audience engagement on Instagram. Enter ‘Shop Now’.

The Shop Now feature is a much needed Instagram advancement, allowing brands of all kinds – hotels included – to transform social media content engagement into revenue gains. In the past, brands such as Conrad Hotels and Starwood developed hotel booking marketing funnels linked to Instagram feeds, but the process was far from seamless. Heeding the industry’s frustrations, Instagram and have developed and streamlined a range of new action buttons specifically for booking hotel rooms and making other travel reservations.

Powered by its partnership with Shopify, Instagram now enables any hotel to develop seamless checkout experiences. Thankfully, Instagram has simplified the process of adding this feature, making it easier to quickly transform your hotel business profile into a direct-booking funnel, without leaving the app platform. To add booking call-to-action buttons to your hotel business profile, all you need to do is follow six simple steps:

  1. Go to your Instagram business profile ( of course, you’ll need to make sure you’re approved for Instagram shopping)
  2. Tap ‘Edit Profile’
  3. Under Public Business Information, tap Contact Options
  4. Tap the Add Action button
  5. Select the action button you want to be added and tap Next
  6. Enter the hotel website booking page URL and tap Done. It’s that easy.

With any new feature that’s released, there is an opportunity to pioneer a new way and invent a new method and user experience. I believe that in time the Instagram shop now tab will be the Tik Tok disruption for hotels in the future. How are they used currently? Well, there’s not too many hotels using this feature well, so nows a good time to start and be the brand that stands out from the crowd.

No one knows for sure how long and arduous the post-COVID19 road to recovery for the hotel industry will be. Despite the slump, hotels need to start ramping up their investments on Instagram and position themselves to attract guests. But one thing is certain, while people are prevented from traveling, wanderlust grows, and hundreds of millions of users, hungry (perhaps starving) for their next trip away will be daydreaming on Instagram long before their next destination or accommodation choices are made.


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The Trump campaign celebrated a growth record that Democrats downplayed.



The White House celebrated economic growth numbers for the third quarter released on Thursday, even as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign sought to throw cold water on the report — the last major data release leading up to the Nov. 3 election — and warned that the economic recovery was losing steam.

The economy grew at a record pace last quarter, but the upswing was a partial bounce-back after an enormous decline and left the economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The White House took no notice of those glum caveats.

“This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump’s policies, which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country,” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement, highlighting a rebound of 33.1 percent at an annualized rate. Mr. Trump heralded the data on Twitter, posting that he was “so glad” that the number had come out before Election Day.

The annualized rate that the White House emphasized extrapolates growth numbers as if the current pace held up for a year, and risks overstating big swings. Because the economy’s growth has been so volatile amid the pandemic, economists have urged focusing on quarterly numbers.

Those showed a 7.4 percent gain in the third quarter. That rebound, by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II, still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels. The pace of recovery has also slowed, and now coronavirus cases are rising again across much of the United States, raising the prospect of further pullback.

“The recovery is stalling out, thanks to Trump’s refusal to have a serious plan to deal with Covid or to pass a new economic relief plan for workers, small businesses and communities,” Mr. Biden’s campaign said in a release ahead of Thursday’s report. The rebound was widely expected, and the campaign characterized it as “a partial return from a catastrophic hit.”

Economists have warned that the recovery could face serious roadblocks ahead. Temporary measures meant to shore up households and businesses — including unemployment insurance supplements and forgivable loans — have run dry. Swaths of the service sector remain shut down as the virus continues to spread, and job losses that were temporary are increasingly turning permanent.

“With coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower,” Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the report.


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Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.



The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.


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Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.



As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.


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