Three Ways the Hospitality Industry is Using Instagram

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With a $1 billion acquisition by Facebook and over 80 million users as of last August, Instagram has officially become a platform to watch. Destinations, hotels and restaurants would be amiss to undermine the potency of having a presence on this channel, and optimizing it through a promotion or some sort of initiative to maximize the potential exposure.

How Can a Destination Use Instagram to Promote the City?

In September, the city of Toronto partnered with Four Seasons on a contest that encouraged entrants to visually depict what Toronto means to them. Users were required to follow @FourSeasonsFotog on Instagram and submit an original photograph using the hashtag #UncoverToronto. They then had to visit a designated website to submit the photo to an entry form.

The image submitted had to be of an experience that was undeniably Toronto, a perfect Toronto moment captured in time, or a picture of a favorite Toronto architecture, park or urban landscape. The picture need not have been recent, and filters were allowed. The picture had to be tagged with the promotion hashtag and include a creative caption.

Patrick Colpron was declared the Instagram contest winner, and awarded a hefty prize: a $1,000 Four Seasons gift card. Patrick had this to say about his gorgeous photo: “The sun was setting beyond the CN Tower creating a prism of light and colour I just had to capture. I braced my iPhone on a light pole so the shot would be steady. When I saw the photo, I almost pinched myself.”

This was an excellent marketing tactic in that it had its own audience create and share marketing collateral. It also got people excited about the city and the various components of it.

Hotels Bringing Images to Real Life

The W Hotel in Times Square created an Instagram Photography Exhibit, a collaboration between the hotel and a photography community called Instagram NYC. The exhibit ran for a week and was free and open to the public.

The exhibit included shots by many talented Instagram photographers including Brian Difeo (@bridif), founder of Instagram NYC, John De Guzman , Angeliki Jackson, Liz Eswein, Chrixtian Xavier Chantemargue and Theo.

The W Times Square Hotel also held a social media contest inviting instagramers from all over the world to be featured in the exhibition by uploading images to the Instagram page and using the hashtag #WDESIGN.

The #WDESIGN winners can be viewed here. This exhibit was the first of its kind in New York City, while the artistic communities of London, Dublin, and Singapore have also had Instagram exhibitions.

Instagram has really evened the playing field for people to be able to become their own artists, in a sense, and translating these mobile-based images to a physical exhibit allows people to experience a sense of pride, as well as a connection to the hotel which is showcasing their work.

Restaurants on Instagram 

Rubio’s closed out 2012 with several awesome initiatives, including an online store that debuted on Cyber Monday.

A couple months ago, they encouraged diners to share photos on Instagram with the hashtag #ILoveRubios for the chance to win gift cards. With 94 pages of entries, it’s safe to say they excited fans and spurred a ton of engagement.

Maggiano’s Little Italy is another restaurant that has gone above and beyond with Instagram. Not only are they encouraging users to follow the restaurant’s Instagram account, they are also asking diners to take photos of cocktails tried at the restaurant, and share them with the hashtag #Maggianos. Winners were chosen weekly to win gift cards.

People are naturally photographing their food and beverages now on a regular basis, so incentivizing this practice is a great way to increase hype around the brand and create a unique experience for the visitor.

What other brands have you seen go above-and-beyond on Instagram?

Debbie Miller
Debbie Miller contributes a monthly column on Social Media for the Hospitality Industry. Debbie is the President of Social Hospitality where she provides clients with writing, editing, and social media services. She is also the Social Media Manager for Search Engine Journal and the Digital Communications Manager for HyperDisk Marketing. Prior, Debbie worked for a destination marketing organization and now has 8 years of hospitality marketing experience. Debbie has also taught social media courses and speaks at industry events. When she's not online, Debbie enjoys spending time with her spoiled dog children; watching movies; reading; and drinking copious amounts of coffee or wine. +Debbie Miller
Debbie Miller


Covering trends related to hospitality and social media, technology, marketing, branding, customer service, engagement, SEO, blogging. Founder: @TheBigDebowski
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