Leveraging Image-Based Social Media for Hospitality Businesses
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Leveraging image-based social media for hospitality businesses

By Laura Burkehart 09/06/2018

Social media and the spending habits of millennials continually top the marketing headlines. So how can innovators in the tourism industry continue to elevate the conversation to engage and bring in even more visitors, both online and in person?

2018 study by the travel marketing organization MMGY Global shows a 375-percent increase in Instagram use by millennial travelers since 2013. And a survey by the website Bustle found that 81 percent of millennials said social media was the best way to reach them. 

To this end, installations, backdrops and shot setups are popping up at events and businesses all over California as marketers and owners embrace leveraging image-based social media as a top advertising platform.

At a recent street festival in Sacramento, the Our Street Night Market, at least three areas were staged specifically to encourage attendees to take photos to post to Instagram and Snapchat. Festivalgoers thronged for a chance to pose in front of lights, flowers and oversized letters. The last step? Tag the market online. Once posted and depending on users' privacy settings, these staged photos broadcast the market to thousands of other Instagram users. Interestingly, the website for the Yellow Brick Group, which organized the festival, loops video footage of people prepping for events in Sacramento and action from the events themselves, alongside an Instagram icon and a contact submission page for potential collaboration.

Sacramento and Napa are both taking advantage of blank walls to promote art and bring attention to their cities. Sacramento recently celebrated its second annual Wide Open Walls event, attracting talent like Shepard Fairey, who installed a 15-story mural of Johnny Cash in Midtown. Similarly, Napa has embraced RAD Napa, or Rail Arts District, taking an industrial area from bleak walls to an impressive art corridor. A popular mural there celebrates the firefighters who worked tirelessly in the area during last year's devastating wildfires. Both cities' new murals are constantly photographed and shared widely on social media.

Large international brands have used social platforms to engage current and potential customers as well. Four Seasons Hotels hosted a successful international Instagram photography contest, awarding getaways to three winners who then photographed the resorts to which they were sent. Four Seasons embraced hashtags early and continues to interact with its 741,000 followers on the platform through tagging images with #fourseasons, #FSResidences, #FSJet, and so on.

On a very personal level, hashtags have become a way for individuals to both bring viewers to their content and to organize their images from an event. Many weddings these days have a dedicated photo booth and a personal hashtag so family and friends can create what amounts to an online photo album from a cherished event.

The takeaway from this is that image-based social media platforms are king, and business owners can invest at several levels. It is a worthwhile investment to provide at the least some photo-worthy backdrops at a small restaurant or hotel. Fortunately, much of California is already a photo-ready backdrop (think palm trees and vineyards), but creating something specifically for your brand can bring attention and visitors – and therefore revenue. In addition to a photo-op, a custom hashtag can encourage users to create shareable content.

It may be well worth the initial investment to go bigger and contact Snapchat about adding a geolocation filter. But simply creating a custom hashtag related to a business or event alongside an offer only found on a social media platform can be very effective in spreading the word and bringing in visitors, both online and in person. And as those people share in turn, you can have exponential growth in engagement.

Some key questions to ask:

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