Founded in 2010, in less than a decade, visual content sharing app Instagram has grown to achieve a staggering 700 million plus monthly users, with more than 400 million active users per day. Of these, there are some 15 million business profiles active on the site.
EyeforTravel recently announced that over 60% of travel brands now include Instagram in their marketing mix – and that’s exactly why in the vacation rental industry, Instagram can no longer be ignored. For any budding owner looking to make waves (and attract guests) on social media – you’d better start thinking visually.
For small businesses, Instagram marketing is still a pretty new concept. However, there are already plenty of tried and tested ways to gain traction, followers, and hopefully, convert them into bookings!
Our list of 50 tips (carefully organized into easy-to-follow sections) will help you to get you started. You’ll soon be able to use the social network to drive engagement and ultimately, boost rental bookings.
Note: We’re not suggesting you implement all of these action points in one day or even one month. Building a brand community on Instagram is a continual process. So refer back to this list as often as you need, in order to keep updating your Instagram feed with new ideas, gain more followers and engage with more potential guests!
1. Create an Instagram for Business account
First things first, you’ll need to have an Instagram Business Account before you proceed any further. To download the application on your device, and sign up by following the instructions.
Taking bookings and payments over the internet makes for a convenient experience for both sides. Guests are happy their accommodation request is processed quickly and owners are pleased to have the nights blocked out of their calendar.
Tip: Pair this with the 90% of guests who prefer to book online and it’s a total no-brainer.
2. Complete your profile
Your profile is what users will see when they tap on your username via any photo, comment or like – so make sure it’s filled out with useful information. That means add a profile photo (perhaps your business logo or a branded image of your rental), type a short bio about your home (using relevant keywords!) and be sure to add a link to your vacation rental website. It’s also a good idea to include a contact email address – just in case.
On Instagram, the only place you can link to any other site on the web is via your profile – so don’t miss out on this chance to drive traffic onwards to your bookable website.
3. Connect your account with Facebook
The other social network giant, Facebook, acquired Instagram back in 2012. That’s why the next logical move to follow is connecting your Instagram account with your Facebook profile to boost marketing efforts. In this way, you’ll easily be able to share photos from one platform to the other and improve overall social media marketing for your rental.
4. Connect your account with your website
In your website’s backend, there should be a section to connect your website with your social media accounts such as Instagram. Once you’ve done this, the Instagram logo icon will show on your website, allowing site visitors and potential guests to click through and see your Instagram profile and pictures.
Tip: Use a free tool like LightWidget to embed your Instagram feed directly into your website! It will automatically refresh every 24 hours to make sure your newest content shows up.
5. Decide which kind of content you’re going to post
Instagram is all about the aesthetic, so it’s wise to have some kind of idea about the types of images you’re going to post before you actually start doing so. Capterra suggests for hotels to stop relying solely on scenery, and show off their unparalleled guest experience – something which vacation rental owners can easily tap into.
So in between showing off crystal clear waters or postcard-perfect snow-capped mountains, sprinkle in some pictures of your unbeatable amenities, crisp bedding with plumped up pillows, or even guests enjoying a special event in your space.
Tip: Creating a consistent style that suits your vacation rental is easy with Instagram. With the “draft” feature, you can prepare various posts in advance with the same visual theme running through them – just remember to mix up the content from time to time!
6. Use hashtags (#) in your posts
Hashtags play a big role on Instagram, and can really help your photos get seen by the right people at the right time. This is because users often search for the hashtags they’re interested in – especially when it comes to travel destinations! Research shows the optimal number of hashtags per post is 11 – so try and be selective with your hashtags.
7. Create your own vacation rental brand hashtag
A great way to build your brand identity across Instagram is by creating a branded hashtag. Define your vacation rental hashtag from the outset (e.g. #skyvillaSF, #meadowfarmcottage), so that you can share it with current and prospective guests. This way, they’ll easily be able to post photos to your community and interact with others who have done so. According to a study by Simply Measured, some 70% of Instagram hashtags are of the branded variety. So use your branded hashtag consistently throughout your updates for better results!
Tip: Leave a physical reminder – i.e. on a chalkboard or framed printout – of your brand’s hashtag so guests don’t forget to use it for their uploads!
8. Use generic hashtags, too
When you’re first starting out with your business Instagram account, you can gain a lot of followers and engagement quite quickly by using generic (yet relevant) hashtags in your posts. Summertime at your vacation rental? Tag things like #summer, #vacation, #sunsout, #poolday etc. for more chance at building likes and engaging users!
9. Use geotags to boost location value
Geotags are what makes your photos show up in Instagram’s location-based feed. As this feature now means they will appear in local search results on Instagram, geotagging your pictures can lead you to achieve higher engagement levels.
It also means that potential guests can check out all the photos that have been uploaded to Instagram at your location, and get inspiration for their own stay!
10. Monitor your brand hashtags
As users start to get to know your hashtags, they may use them to get in touch with your rental, inquire about a booking or ask you something specific. That’s why you should make an effort to monitor your brand name mentions on Instagram, to make sure you don’t miss a beat.
You can either do this manually or use an automation tool like Zapier to set up this type of alert for you.
11. Jump on trending hashtags
Nowadays, any world, national or even local events bring about trending hashtags. So if you find some that resonate with your brand, get on board and use these hashtags to generate even more engagement for your vacation rental. Your post could quite easily be seen by hundreds or thousands more users in an instant!
12. Hide your hashtags
Hashtags are ugly and nobody really needs to see them – they simply help your photos get found by others! There are a few tricks to hiding your hashtags on each post. Post your hashtags in a comment once you’ve published your photo (then once you have a few comments they won’t be seen).
13. Make sure your hashtags are active
Before hashtagging any new photos, check the hashtag feed to confirm whether or not
these tags are currently being used by others.
Tip: If you scroll down 20+ rows and come across content posted in the last few seconds or minutes, the hashtags are active!
14. Copy your competitors’ hashtags
Generate more exposure, boost your follower numbers and get seen by influential Instagrammers when you use the hashtags that competitors in your niche are already profiting from.
15. Exploit daily hashtags
Every day on Instagram, there are millions of new trends. However as the weeks go by, there are recurring hashtags that pop up time and time again. Find out what the most popular daily hashtags are and utilize them by participating with a relevant photo from your vacation rental. Whether this is #motivationmonday, #throwbackthursday, or #fitnessfriday, these hashtags will help your images show up to an even larger audience!
16. Hashtag in your local language
Increase your online reach, even more, when you take into account the local language of your vacation rental destination. Search for top travel-related hashtags in that language, or if you don’t know it, simply use a free tool like Google Translate to find out! Double check by searching the hashtag on Instagram to see if it’s got a lot of engagement and regular usage.
Interacting with guests
17. Share guest-generated content
According to the Internet Trends Report 2017, user-generated content can produce almost seven times more engagement than brand-generated content.
What does this mean for vacation rental owners?
Using your guests’ own photos (with their permission, of course) is a sure-fire way to promote a stay at your rental! Given that 76% of people trust that content shared by “regular people” is true-to-life, user-generated content is definitely a trend to get behind on Instagram.
Once you’ve got your guests approval, you can use one of the thousands of apps such as Repost for Instagram to do this. This app will connect directly with your account, making it easy to repost pics and give credit to the original Instagrammer.
18. Embed your guests’ or followers’ posts on your website or blog
Instagram has a smart function that allows for easy embedding of photos to any website or blog, so you can use this for further promotion of your rental elsewhere on the internet. Add a section to your vacation rental website of “Our Guests’ Photos” and ask for their permission to include some snaps!
19. Like your guests’ photos (and follow them back!)
Show your guests some love when you follow them back during or after their stay. You’ll then be able to like their updates – particularly if they show off your rental offering.
20. Comment on guests’ photos
Engage with your guests on an even more personal level when you leave friendly comments on their pictures taken around your home or local area. This will help build rapport and a good relationship with your guests, and hopefully, even persuade them to come back to visit again!
21. @Mention your guests
Increase chances of engagement and get guests’ attention even more quickly when you use the @ feature to mention them directly.
22. Post with potential guests in mind
Your Instagram feed is a place to post more than just pictures of your vacation rental. Show off what their vacation lifestyle might be like! Think about what they can expect to do nearby, where they can go to taste local cuisine, where they can sample the best cocktails in town and so on. This way, you’ll create a more authentic connection with guests, and in turn, they’ll become even more excited to visit!
Creating a buzz
23. Follow everyone that follows you
On Instagram, if you want to receive love, you have to give it out. So as long as the accounts aren’t spammy or fake, you should follow back any new user who starts to follow your profile.
24. Follow your suggested users
Instagram automatically recommends a list of suggested accounts to each user. It’s probable that the algorithm takes into account a number of factors such as: connections between your followers and people you follow; searched hashtags; similar followed accounts; mutual interests etc.
25. Follow your phone contacts
Find all your cell phone contacts who are on Instagram by connecting the app with your mobile number. This may even help you find previous guests from years gone!
26. Follow your Facebook friends
Facebook provides an easy way to find people to follow when you connect with your Facebook friends who are on Instagram. Given the almost universal “follow back” rule, you’ll be able to build up a lot of followers in no time, and show off your vacation rental business to them!
27. Post new photos regularly
The key to staying cool and relevant on Instagram is by posting fresh updates regularly, so your audience remains engaged and keeps growing. Use real-time insights to check out which days and times of day are best for sharing new posts, and schedule content around your findings.
Tip: Create a content calendar and schedule your posts in advance! Use tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, etc. to program a bunch of your images, so you can focus more on gaining followers, optimizing ads and getting more bookings.
28. Ensure all updates are high quality
While it seems like obvious advice, many small businesses still make the mistake of posting ever-so-slightly pixelated images to their feeds. On Instagram, this is one of the biggest offenses you can commit!
As your vacation rental needs to project an appearance of professional, clean, and possibly even perfection to catch guests’ attention, only upload photos that are very high quality, taken with good lighting and no mess or clutter.
29. Share Instagram videos
Many marketing experts agree that video has the best return on investment out of all forms of online content, so jump on this trend and start sharing videos as well as still photographs.
30. Post live videos
Instagram Live is taking the business world by storm. You can use it to show off a new property amenity, raise awareness about a current promotion or flash sale, and even capture email addresses of potential guests.
31. Respond to every comment on your pictures
Make it your own social media mission to reply to every comment you receive in order to engage with your community to the best of your ability. It will help your followers to become more loyal to your brand, and encourage them to engage more in the future.
32. Share your posts to other social media sites
Boost exposure and likes when you share your Instagram posts on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can either do this manually or use a tool like Zapier to perform these tasks automatically every time you upload a new post. It will even help you to grow your other social media accounts simultaneously!
33. Post “fill in the blank” captions
When you post a beautiful photo, a great way to engage Instagram followers is by getting them to finish your picture caption for you. Think of phrases related to your rental, or the theme of vacations in general. For example, “the first thing I do on vacation is…”, “My favorite vacation activity is…”, “… days until vacation!”. Not only will this help your viewers to feel excited about their upcoming trips, but it will also help your photos and account be seen by more Instagrammers.
34. Ask questions in your photo captions
As noted with fill in the blank type posts, asking questions can also get your followers engaging more! Even better, ask a question and have users tag two friends to share their responses.
35. Share your Instagram account with your email list
A great way to gain new followers, periodically share Instagram images in your rental newsletter
Promote your Instagram account to your email subscribers. Periodically share an image in your newsletter and link it up to your Instagram account to attract new followers from your existing list.
36. Partner with local brands
Share a photo or video of the neighborhood bakery, Farmers’ Market or bicycle rental shop on your feed. In the act of promoting these local brands across your feed, they’ll likely share or regram your post and get your profile in front of more viewers. For an even better chance at connecting – call them or send them an email to let them know you’ve shared a picture on your feed.
37. Connect with influencers
While you may not be able to get a Hollywood movie star to promote your pad, there is a growing trend of travel bloggers sharing snaps of their stays in luxury locations. If you deem it a valuable investment, offer an influencer local to you a free night at your
rental in the off-peak season, so they can review it and share it with their audience.
Tip: Ensure the influencer has plenty of engagement before inviting them to stay. That means, not just followers, but rather likes, comments and frequent updates.
38. Propose a contest
An innovative way to drive engagement and create excitement amongst your followers is by creating an Instagram contest. Not only can you use contests to produce great, unique user-generated content, but you can also pick up plenty more followers in this way!
An ideal contest prize would be a short stay at your rental – in exchange for hundreds of users sending in their best photos for your consideration!
Tip: Set the rules of the contest to include users tagging a minimum of two friends in the comments in order to enter. This will help spread your contest quicker and gain more traction!
39. Flaunt your property’s best features
With Instagram filters, it’s easy to make your property sparkle. As travel photos are some of the most popular shots with Instagram users, remember this when curating your feed. Capture your property’s top highlights in an interesting way – whether that’s the view from the jacuzzi at night, the pizza oven firing away or the infinity pool on a clear, blue-skied morning.
40. Show off the “behind-the-scenes”
A lot of work goes into prepping your vacation rental for each set of guests – and Instagram is the perfect place to showcase this! Landscaping the garden in preparation for the summer season? Upload photos to your feed. Winter just around the corner and you’re restocking your home’s supply of fluffy blankets, warm slippers, and organic cocoa? Share a few snapshots.
Potential guests will feel part of the action and will understand even better just how much effort you put into making sure the experience they have is second-to-none. Additionally, it could even extend into a great review after check-out!
41. Research your competitors – and out-Instagram them!
If your property is located in a heavily saturated vacation rental area, this can be a great source of inspiration when it comes to photo ideas, hashtags, and engaging guests. Find some of the most popular rental homes in your locality on Instagram, and use their winning tactics to create even better content for your feed.
42. Follow your competitors’ followers
People who are already following your competitors already have an important characteristic you’re looking for: they’re interested in your industry and/or location!
Users who are following your competitors may have already visited that destination, or are simply looking for inspiration for their next trip. That’s good news for you as it won’t be too difficult to gain their attention!
Once you’ve identified your competitors and noted them down (in a spreadsheet if you like), start to follow around 50 to 100 followers from each competitor. This will help you get a good number of followers back. In order to engage with them properly, remember to like and comment on their photos.
43. Promote more than just your property – the area
For many vacation rental owners, one of the biggest strengths they have is their property location and surroundings. If you’re lucky enough to have a home which is situated in a naturally visually attractive location, use this to your advantage when prepping your posts.
Use your locational advantage as a superpower to draw indecisive guests to your home. Share secret insider hotspots and off-the-beaten-path gems that only locals know about as another incentive to stay with you!
44. Advertise on Instagram
There are now more than one million monthly active advertisers on Instagram, and with good reason. During the month of February 2017, more than 120 million Instagrammers visited a website, called, emailed or direct messaged to learn more about a business. In other words, there’s no doubting that Instagram adverts bring results.
Depending on your needs, there are different types of adverts you can set up on Instagram. These include Photo, Video, Carousel, and Stories.
45. Include a “Book Now” link on your ads
At least 30% of Instagram users have bought something they first spotted on the site, so why should travel be any different? By adding a call-to-action such as a “Book Now!” to your adverts, you can help boost traffic to your website, improve conversion and secure more nights booked.
46. Retarget your website visitors with Instagram Ads
As Instagram is owned by Facebook, you can apply the same Facebook pixel remarketing tactics to your Instagram account. AdEspresso has a very easy-to-follow tutorial for setting up remarketing ads.
Remarketing campaigns are especially effective because they are highly targeted and, when done well, your viewers may not even see it as an advert – instead, it serves as a gentle reminder that they need to book accommodation for their trip!
Tip: When creating your custom audience, exclude users who have already converted (i.e. booked their stay at your property). Additionally, you can go one step further and exclude any users who have already clicked on your remarketing ads. This way, they won’t become bored with seeing the same ads time and time again.
47. Ensure Instagram Ad images blend in
Aesthetically pleasing pictures is part of what defines Instagram and its users. That’s why you need to make sure your adverts don’t stick out like a sore thumb and use equally beautiful images in them to capture Instagrammers’ attention.
Oh and – don’t add any text across your photos. Text rarely features on Instagram, so users are more likely to scroll past an image with text as it is more obviously an advert.
48. Create Video Ads for even more engagement
Therefore, investing in an Instagram video can be really beneficial for your vacation rental. Video ads can be anywhere from three to 60 seconds long and include a call-to-action and caption space as default.
49. Test and measure everything
Getting the best results and achieving more bookings isn’t just about leaving it down to luck – you need to pay attention to the results you’re seeing. Luckily, Instagram Ads allows for A/B testing in a very simple way (by duplicating existing adverts) and you can customize different aspects, such as the call-to-action button. Monitor your results to see which campaign is working better for your vacation rental business.
50. Don’t expect hundreds of bookings overnight
Above all, the power of Instagram lies in its ability to build your brand, reach more potential guests from all over the world and gain not only their trust but also their interest in what your vacation rental is offering.
Paid Instagram Ads are just one piece of the puzzle that makes up your wider marketing strategy. While you may not achieve a full calendar overnight, investing in Instagram will pay off in the long term as your brand gets more recognition, more followers and consequently, more bookings!