How to Use Instagram for Vacation Rentals: The Beginner’s Guide
Instagram is a powerful marketing tool for vacation rental hosts. With over 1 billion monthly active users, this immensely popular social media platform is second only to Facebook. Instagram presents endless opportunities to small business owners who know how to use it.
But what if you’re new to Instagram? How can you learn to harness the benefits of social media marketing for your vacation rental business?
In this blog post, we introduce you to Instagram marketing for vacation rentals. You’ll learn how to get started with the app, how to create and share your first post, and how to optimize your Instagram performance to start getting direct bookings from guests who found you on the platform.
Let’s dive in!
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Why Should You Use Instagram for Vacation Rentals?
Instagram is a highly visual platform. People go to it not just to be entertained, but to find inspiration. That’s why Instagram works so well for travel brands – including those in the vacation rental industry.
Today, 200 million Instagram users visit at least one business profile per day. They use Instagram to search for products, services, and brands. And, they trust the recommendations of other Instagram users. That goes to show just how much potential Instagram has for businesses.
Whether you’re planning to grow on Instagram organically or have the budget to invest in Instagram ads, your vacation rental is likely to see a boost in bookings as soon as you start consistently using the platform.
By promoting your vacation rental on Instagram, you can reach travelers from all over the world who are planning their next trip and looking to book the perfect accommodation. You can use the app to showcase your property, build your vacation rental brand and drive traffic to your website. You can build trust with guests and let them get to know you before they book your place.
Besides targeting potential guests whom you may not be able to reach on other platforms, Instagram also lets you keep in touch with guests you’ve already hosted. Building an engaged community is important for all vacation rental managers. After all, who doesn’t like repeat bookings?
To access all the benefits of marketing your vacation rentals on Instagram, you need to learn the basics of using the app. Then, you can optimize your Instagram marketing strategy and start getting bookings from Instagram. Let’s start from the beginning:
Step 1: Create Your Vacation Rental Instagram Account
To start using Instagram, the first thing you’ll need to do is download the app. If you’re using an iPhone, you’ll find it in the App Store. If you’re on Android, you can download it from Google Play Store.
Once you’ve installed the app, tap the Instagram icon to open it. The app will then ask you to create a new account by entering your email address or phone number. You then need to create a username and password and fill out your profile. Tips on how to choose a catchy username below.
If you have a Facebook account, you can also use that to sign up for Instagram. If you choose this option, you won’t have to create a new username and password – the app will just ask you to log into your Facebook account.
Getting to know the Instagram app
Once you’ve created an account, you can start browsing around the Instagram app. Now, since your account is brand new and you aren’t following anyone yet, there won’t be much to see in your Instagram feed (where posts shared by others appear). However, you will see the buttons that allow you to take different actions in the app. Let’s take a look at the most important ones.
In the top right corner of the screen, there are three icons: a “plus” sign, a “heart”, and a “paper plane”.
The “plus” sign allows you to share a new Instagram post. When you tap it, a new screen pops up where you can select a photo or video to share from your camera roll. By default, the app shows the most recent pictures that you’ve taken or downloaded to your phone. But if you’d like to pick a photo from an album on your phone, you can tap ‘Recents’ and select an album. Notice that in the bottom right corner of the screen, the app gives you the option to share different kinds of content: Posts, Stories, Reels, and Live. We’ll come back to this later.
The “heart” icon takes you to your Activity page. This is where notifications will appear every time an Instagram user engages with your content. You’ll be notified of new followers, follow requests, likes, comments, and replies to your comments, among other things.
The “paper plane” icon takes you to your inbox. This is where you can view and respond to your direct messages (DMs). You can create a new message by tapping the “pencil” icon in the top right corner and initiate a video chat by tapping the “camera” icon next to it.
Now, let’s move on to the icons at the bottom of the home screen. To return to the home screen from any of the pages you just visited, tap the “X” or the “arrow” icon in the top left corner of the page.
- The “house” icon allows you to return to the top of the page when you’ve scrolled down. It also takes you back to the home screen when you’re viewing a different page.
- The “compass” takes you to the Explore page. This is where you can find new accounts to follow. Instagram’s algorithm gives you suggestions, but you can also search by typing in an Instagram username, the name of a place, or a hashtag (more on hashtags later). You can also browse by categories, which appear below the search bar.
- The “clapperboard” icon in the middle takes you to Instagram Reels. This is a new feature that Instagram launched in August 2020. It’s sort of like an app within an app. It works very similarly to the app called TikTok which is immensely popular among younger generations. We’ll talk more about Instagram Reels later.
- The “shopping bag” icon takes you to a page where you can browse the profiles of shops on Instagram. By tapping on a shop, you can view the items they’re selling and make purchases through links to the shop’s website.
- The icon in the bottom right corner takes you to your Instagram profile. Once you’ve uploaded a profile picture, a miniature version of your avatar will replace the empty icon.
Instagram for vacation rentals: Completing your profile
This is where it gets exciting. Now that you know how to navigate the Instagram app, it’s time to fill out your profile!
When you created your Instagram account, you probably already entered some profile information. You can edit that information whenever you want. All you need to do is go to your profile and click ‘Edit profile’.
Once there, you can add or change your profile picture, name, web address, bio, and username (however, keep in mind that you can only change your username twice in a row, then you need to wait 14 days before you can change it again). And, most importantly, this is where you can switch to a professional account.
The last step is crucial because it will allow you to use Instagram for business reasons, instead of just personal pleasure. Since you’re going to be using Instagram to promote your vacation rental business, you need to have access to features like Instagram Analytics and Promotions. These will allow you to optimize your performance on Instagram and promote your top-performing posts to reach a wider audience.
So before you fill out your profile info, let’s go ahead and turn your Instagram into a Business Account. Here are the steps to take:
In the ‘Edit Profile’ menu, tap ‘Switch to Professional account’.
Follow Instagram’s instructions on how to connect your Instagram Business Account to your business’s Facebook page (if you have one). We recommend that you do this because it will allow you to increase your reach by publishing posts on both platforms at the same time.
Add your company details and contact info, and select your business category: Vacation Home Rental.
Tap ‘Done’ to finalize the switch.
There! Now you have an Instagram Business Account for your vacation rentals. We’ll get into using some of the business features later. Now, for the fun part. Let’s fill out your profile with info that’s unique to your vacation rental business and will appeal to your audience.
Making your profile more attractive
What should you add to your profile to make it more attractive to guests and increase the chances of them following you?
Create a catchy username. Your username, also known as your Instagram handle, is the name that your followers will see every time you share a new post. It should be reflective of your brand. For example, it could be some variation of your business’s name. Or, it could contain the destination where your vacation rental is located.
Add the name of your business. If you don’t have an official business name, use the title of your vacation rental listing on Airbnb. The point is that it should somehow describe your property and, if needed, provide some clarification for the username.
Write a compelling bio. Your Instagram bio is your best opportunity to capture a guest’s attention. You have 150 characters to stand out from the crowd and craft a compelling brand statement that makes guests want to stick around and follow you. First, describe what your rental is like and who it’s for. Use illustrative adjectives – and sprinkle some emojis in there! You can also include one or two of your top USPs (unique selling points). Then, add a call-to-action prompting guests to book your property on Airbnb or your website. If you want, you can also invite guests to send you booking requests via DMs (direct messages on Instagram).
Add a link pointing to your listing. Whether you have listings on platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo or your vacation rental website, don’t forget to add a link that takes your guests to a page where they can book your rental. If you have both, adding your website is better since it’ll get you commission-free direct bookings.
Add a location. If you go to ‘Edit Profile’ and select ‘Contact options’, you can add a business address to your Instagram profile. This is a good way to let guests know where you – and your rental – are located. The location will be displayed in blue as a link that guests can tap to see on a map.
Examples of great vacation rental Instagram profiles
To illustrate the points above, let’s take a look at some examples of great vacation rental Instagram profiles:
- @whispervalleyranch: Whisper Valley Ranch is a 5-bedroom cabin in Santa Margarita, California. The owners have done a great job of weaving their USP into their Instagram bio by describing its surroundings and repeatedly using the pine tree emoji (the rental’s proximity to nature and outdoor activities is the main reason why guests book it). They’re also prompting guests to send them inquiries via email, and have a link to their Airbnb listing to capture bookings. Finally, they’ve added the location so guests tap the link and see where the property is on the map.
- @thesouthernhost: The couple behind The Southern Host Alyssa and Brian have three Airbnb listings in North Carolina: a treehouse, a log cabin, and a mountain-view home. They use their Instagram bio to highlight their hosting experience and the badges they’ve received from Airbnb as a reward for providing an outstanding experience. Mentioning their status as Superhosts is a clever way to appeal to guests who value professionalism and excellence. Lastly, the simple phrase “creating beautiful homes” alludes to the fact that there’s a design element to their properties (which is also evident from the photos they share) and attracts guests who like unique, well-designed homes.
You may have noticed that all of the above profiles have a row of circular images under the ‘Follow’, ‘Message’, and ‘Email’ buttons. Those are Instagram Story Highlights. We’ll explain what those are in the next section where we discuss the different types of content you can share on Instagram.
Step 2: Start Creating and Sharing Instagram Posts
Once you’ve filled out your Instagram profile, you’ll be ready to start sharing content. For that, it’s important to know what kinds of content Instagram allows you to publish. Spoiler: it’s not just photos!
Types of content you can share on Instagram
- Posts: Instagram Posts appear in your followers’ Instagram feeds. In the early days of Instagram, they used to be in reverse chronological order (the freshest posts on top). However, Instagram now uses a complex algorithm to determine which posts appear on top of users’ feeds. It takes into consideration factors like interest, relationship, timeliness, and more (here’s a great article about how the Instagram algorithm works in 2023). Posts can be individual images, carousels (posts with multiple photos that can be viewed by swiping left), or short videos.
- Stories: Stories are ephemeral photos that disappear after 24 hours of posting them. They can be found at the top of the Instagram feed, in a row of circles. Stories are a quicker, less curated, and more spontaneous way of sharing content than using Instagram Posts. If you want to share something with your followers but don’t want it to remain on your Instagram profile forever, use Stories. And remember, there is a way to make Stories sticky: you can save them to your Instagram profile by creating Story Highlights, or collections of Stories that you can group by theme or category. Read this article to learn more about using Instagram Stories.
- Reels: Instagram Reels have only been around since the summer of 2020. The feature was created to mimic yet another popular social media network, TikTok. Reels are quick 15-30-second videos edited to music or other sound clips. They are short, fun, engaging pieces of content designed to entertain viewers. Instagram is currently favoring Reels over other types of content. This means that Reels are more likely to appear on the Explore page and attract new followers. Here’s an article about Instagram Reels with a tutorial on how to create one.
- Live: If Stories are more spontaneous than Posts, Instagram Live is even more so. This feature allows you to stream a completely unedited, live broadcast to your followers. People can also send you comments and questions in real-time – popular for Q&A sessions. Because of Instagram Live’s casual directness, it can help build a stronger and more personal connection between you and your followers. You can find a guide to using Instagram Live for businesses here.
- Instagram Guides: Last but not least, Instagram Guides is yet another new feature that was introduced in 2020. It allows you to share tips and recommendations in a scrollable guide format. You can recommend places, products, or posts that you created or saved. For vacation rental owners, creating a guide to your destination can be an excellent way to attract guests. Learn more about using Instagram Guides in this article.
We would love to give you a step-by-step walkthrough of all these features with examples, but that would exceed the scope of this article. Plus, you don’t need to be using all of them to have success on Instagram. You can get started with the most basic type of content: Instagram Posts. Let’s take a closer look!
Instagram for vacation rentals: sharing your first Post
There’s a lot that goes into creating engaging content that your followers love and also attracts new ones. And it all starts with: what should you post?
Here are a few ideas of content to share on your vacation rental Instagram page:
- Photos of your rental. This is the most obvious way to showcase your rental and attract new guests. Take well-staged pictures of your rental that really convey the atmosphere of the place and help guests imagine themselves staying there. You don’t have to take photos of entire rooms: you can focus on the little details – a stack of books, a vase of fresh flowers, an armchair with a blanket – that make your home unique.
- Photos of your destination and your rental’s surroundings. Guests usually don’t choose a rental for the property itself but for the location. Use Instagram to share photos of beautiful spots and fun things to do in the area. This will inspire your guests to travel there and see it for themselves.
- User-generated content. UGC is a fancy term for content that other people share about you or your business. Whenever you’re short on content ideas, you can repost an image that your guests have shared on Instagram of themselves staying at your rental. Having people in photos helps future guests visualize themselves staying there, too. Just make sure you credit the owner of the photo by including their Instagram handle in the caption.
Here’s how to create your first Instagram Post step-by-step:
Step 1: Stage your rental. Before you snap a photo, make sure that your rental is camera-ready. That means choosing the room and the spot that you want to take a photo of, tidying up, and arranging the furniture and accessories into a harmonious composition.
Step 2: Take your photos. Make sure there’s lots of natural light. Ideally, you should have your back to the light source. Try a few different angles to see what works best. Move decor items around or switch them out until you manage to capture the vibe you’re going for. Check out this article for tips on taking amazing short-term rental photos.
Step 3: Edit your photos. If you used your phone to take photos, you can edit them very easily using apps like VSCO or Lightroom. You don’t need to do too much – just play around with the brightness, saturation, and shadows to give your photos a sophisticated, finished look. You can also use Instagram to edit your photos before you post them. Just make sure not to overuse the filters. A natural look is always better.
Step 4: Write a caption. Crafting a meaningful caption to go with your photo is important. You can use it to include additional information about the image, add call-to-actions (for example, “Book my rental now to enjoy this view!”), and connect with your audience on a deeper level.
Step 5: Add hashtags. Using hashtags is one of the best ways to get new people to discover your Instagram page. They help to organize posts that relate to each other in some way – like having the same topic or theme. For example, you can add #vacationrental or #Airbnb to your captions. This way, when someone searches the hashtag on Instagram, your post will show up among other posts that use the same hashtag. To discover what hashtags would work best for you, try finding other vacation rental Instagrammers and see what hashtags they use.
Step 6: Share your post. Once you’ve added your caption and hashtags, you’re ready to share your post. Just tap “Share” and you’ll see your post appear on your Instagram profile.
Step 7: Respond to comments. If you want to get results from your Instagram marketing, tapping the “Share” button isn’t the last step in publishing a new post. Make sure you monitor your notifications in the next couple of hours to see if anyone has commented on your photo and respond to them. This will help boost your engagement and maybe you’ll even get a few inquiries in the comments.
Step 3: Grow Your Following and Get Bookings from Instagram with these Effective Tactics
The tricks you learned above will be enough to get you started on Instagram. You can start sharing your first posts and experiment with different types of content to see what works best for you.
However, if you’re serious about using Instagram for your vacation rental business, there’s more you can do to make sure you’re getting returns on your time investment. Here are three advanced tactics to use to step up your Instagram marketing.
Interacting with guests
A powerful way to grow your following and boost your engagement is to interact with guests on Instagram. Follow them, like their photos, and comment on what they share. The more love you show them, the more likely they’ll be to reciprocate it.
Follow-for-follow and like-for-like really does work. To help you attract attention, follow:
- Everyone who follows you
- The users Instagram suggest you should follow
- Your phone contacts
- Your Facebook friends
- The users who follow your competitors
This will help you build a following base that you can grow from as you share more and more content.
Taking advantage of Instagram Analytics
One of the benefits of having an Instagram Business Account is that it allows you to access data insights about your audience.
If you go to your Instagram profile and tap ‘Insights’, you’ll see information such as:
- Your total number of followers
- Follows and unfollows
- Top locations your followers are located in
- The age range of your followers
- The gender split of your followers
- The times when you’re followers are active on Instagram
Knowing your audience better helps you improve the content that you’re producing which translates into more engagement and ultimately more new followers.
You can also get insights about the content you’ve shared and see which posts have performed the best, so you can discover the recipe for success.
Using Instagram ads to give yourself a boost
If you post on Instagram consistently, you can garner a following and receive likes and comments without investing any money.
However, if you want to speed up your growth, reach new audiences and drive traffic to your website, you can allocate some of your marketing budget to Instagram ads.
Instagram Advertising is a large topic that we can’t get into in this blog post. If you’d like to learn more about it, check out this article about paid ads on Instagram.
To sum up, Instagram ad campaigns allow you to target specific audiences based on how they’ve interacted with your website or your Facebook page, as well as demographic data like age, gender, and location.
Instagram ads – which can appear as Posts or Stories – look natural and feel like organic content, almost completely seamlessly blending into the stream of posts that users see. That’s why they’re so effective. By implementing a strong Instagram Ads strategy, you can generate new leads and convert them.
Host Tools provides an automated, unified calendar for short-term rental hosts, allowing you to seamlessly list on all major channels. Start your free trial today!