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Use Case: How we used Instagram marketing to generate 500+ leads for our vacation rental business

using instagram to generate qualified leads for vacation rentals
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Instagram is a powerful marketing channel for travel brands. But when you get started, you are faced with a unique challenge – how do I get more qualified leads? How can I reach my target audience and convert them into actual qualified leads?

Let’s begin with what a qualified lead is in this context. A qualified lead refers to someone interested in your destination who has been introduced to your business, has shared contact info such as their email address and name with you, and has fully opted into receiving email updates from your business.

saintbarth.com luxury vacation rentals instagram page
The Saintbarth.com Instagram account

You may not believe that social media, especially Instagram can help you acquire more leads. You may even have tried and spent time with little results. Yet, in our free live workshop on August 5, 2021, we demonstrated the success we got using our exclusive Instagram marketing strategy framework, and how you can replicate it for your business. Below you will see highlights from this workshop that showcase a use case for Instagram for our luxury property management brand Saintbarth.com. We created these so you can follow along with our journey, understand the potential Instagram has to grow your vacation rental business and that you can get the same kind of results. Here is a video recording of the live workshop for your benefit:

The extended version of this framework, complete with our pre-planning work, content creation process, insights into what worked well and not so much during this campaign, will be available in our Instagram Framework Course for Property Managers that starts on September 20, 2021. There are only 10 spots available, so enroll quickly!

Identifying challenges and opportunities in using Instagram for vacation rentals

rental scale-up instagram strategy for vacation rental property managers
The results we achieved using our Instagram framework for vacation rental businesses

In 2020, travel restrictions were put in place, removed, and then reapplied due to Covid-19 on the island of St Barth with the rest of the world, and it became clear to us that bookings for our villas located in St Barth will suffer. To complicate things further, we were also in the process of launching a brand new villa with zero bookings in the middle of that pandemic. At this time, our Instagram had remained largely defunct for three months, and prior to that, it hadn’t been running with any consistency in content OR cadence.

We realised since keeping up with the restrictions could be difficult for us, it must be the same, if not worse, for those planning travel to St Barth. We understood that it was not only important for us to stay on top of this info consistently, but to also be of help to those planning travel to St Barth. Within that was the opportunity for us to build an identity that all potential travelers to St Barth could rely on for essential information, allowing us to:

  • Get potential clients
  • Grow our email list and
  • Build authority by cultivating trust

In order to do this, we developed a framework we focused on leading from ‘Inspire’ to ‘Book’ by driving Instagram engagement, attracting followers and non-followers alike to our email list, and creating consistent opportunities to book via email broadcasts.

Rental Scale-Up Instagram Funnel for vacation rentals

Developing a consistent social media marketing strategy to meet your business goals

instagram marketing strategy to generate leads for vacation rental businesses

The precursor to setting up a funnel is a strategy designed to meet your Instagram goals. For us it meant that we had to:

  1. Identify audience: At first we positioned ourselves as a travel guide to those planning a trip to St Barth. We defiend the personas and this decision came with the presumption that those interacting with our Instagram account would be new to St Barth. This hypothesis was quickly disproved as we realised a lot our audience actually knew the island fairly well, which meant that a larger segment of our audience was not first-time travelers but repeat travelers. Also, even though St Barth is a French-speaking island, we kept all our communication in English since the majority of its visitors are from the United States and Canada.
  2. Define messaging: Once you have identified your audience correctly, you know who you are talking to. This makes it easier to know what to say to them. In our case this meant educating our audience on how to get to St Barth, sharing insiders tips and recommendations, and other details that would make their trip planning easier.
  3. Create a hook: After defining our messaging, we created a PDF guide gathered all the above information in one place. This guide acted as our lead magnet, giving our audience a reason to sign up for our list in order to have access to the guide for free.
  4. Convert leads: Let’s not forget that your primary goal as a vacation rental owner is to drive bookings. Sharing tips, tricks, and insider info helps you engage your existing audience as well as reach a brand new audience that was not previously yours. When planning content or responding to queries, it is important to consistently drive this newfound or newly engaged audience deeper into the marketing funnel by creating offers, promoting your mailing list via the lead magnet, and driving website traffic.

How to measure the performance of the Instagram marketing strategy for your vacation rental business

how to measure performance of your social media strategy for vacation rentals
  1. Tracking performance metrics: There’s not much point in using Instagram, much like any other marketing channel, if you’re not actively tracking performance and seeing results. Utilise analytics data embedded within the Instagram app to measure how your content is performing. Not every metric will apply to your business goals, so know which ones are pertinent to your objectives. The key is doing that is know the function of each metric.
  2. Sentiment analysis: Assessing the tone of the comments, reactions, and private messages you receive is key to understanding how they perceive you. Are your followers and non-followers alike looking to you for information about your area? Do you receive positive feedback for your efforts? Since of our primary goals was to become a trusted authority on travel to St Barth, we looked for queries that supported this. As more potential travelers reached out to us for info, we realised that this transformation of our perception was already taking place. This meant:
    1. Travelers who had never booked with us and had been booking our competitors were now in our influence sphere, and even in our mailing list.
    2. Travelers did not restrict themselves to asking only about travel restrictions, which meant that they began to see us a source of info on all things St Barth.
  3. Lead conversion: It is important to remember that Instagram helps foster both long and short-term guest relationships, and it is simple enough to see if it is proving to be a viable source of leads for you as long as you clearly define a lead. Any inquiries you get in direct relation about your properties is a lead, of course. However, email registrations are arguably just as much if not more important, as they allow you more time and opportunities to turn a subscriber to a guest.

Adapting your Instagram marketing strategy for the pandemic

developing an instagram strategy for vacation rentals businesses during the pandemic

We realised since keeping up with the restrictions could be difficult for us, it must be the same, if not worse, for those planning travel to St Barth. Within this was an opportunity for us to solidify our status as an authority on traveling to St Barth while growing our email list. We did this by:

  • Providing assistance: Each month, Thibault would pore over sources containing information pertinent to travel restrictions for St Barth and include it in a neat wrap up on the saintbarth.com blog. This blog would also then be included in the monthly saintbarth.com newsletter that had nearly 1600 subscribers at the time.
  • Building trust: In order to be considered the go-to guide for the highly competitive luxury vacation rental market of St Barth that future travelers could readily turn to, we had to establish ourselves as a trusted source of information. Doing this involved:
    • Identifying our audience – Something we had already established while developing our overall strategy
    • Being accurate – Where you get your information will define how reliable this information is. Using local news guides or global government-backed tracking tools is a good idea. Hearsay is not. If possible, try to make sure that you compare given information with at least one other source to eliminate the possibility of errors. And finally, think about what you are sharing before you share it. It can be tempting to be the first one to break an important piece of news, but our job is not to be the first, it is to the most reliable. That is what builds trust.
    • Being consistent – Consistency plays a big role in building trust with your audience because by sharing important information on a regular basis you are signaling to them that you can be relied upon for any updates that may affect their travel plans. Ask yourself: How often can I afford to dedicate time to research this information? What is the best possible cadence for sharing this type of information? And then, deliver.
    • Being responsive – Once you begin to share any type of information regularly, at some point your audience existing and new will come to have this expectation of you that they can seek your guidance on that subject. Aside from that, any social network, without exception, rewards you for the time you spend on that network interacting, engaging, and sharing. To ensure that you are fulfilling both of these needs, it is important to set aside some daily for engaging on Instagram, anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes per day based on the volume of inquiries you get. As you respond to these inquiries, it is recommended that you document what you are doing on a regular basis to be able to delegate these tasks to someone else seamlessly.

Things to watch out for:

  • Know when to not participate: The most innocuous topics invite contradictory opinions. It is important to know when your contribution is helpful and when it might instigate an off-topic debate.
  • Avoid speculation: As an insider in a given area, you are bound to have access to more information faster. It is important, therefore, to know what is okay to share and when.
  • Own your mistakes: When interacting with numerous personalities online, you are bound to encounter some that don’t have the sunniest disposition. It is easy to be reactive and say the wrong thing when it happens. Be quick to accept when you are in the wrong, and work to understand an opposing viewpoint.

Instagram as a way to generate leads without the high advertising cost and large time commitment

If you don’t have the right Instagram content and strategy in place, you’ll end up burning through your followers without making any meaningful connections or building trust. This means that at the end of the day, people will stop following you because they are not getting value from your posts, or they will see no value in following you in the first place.

By intentionally developing a marketing funnel that used resources we already had at our disposal, we were able to get impressive results from Instagram. We made sure to document our findings every step of the way and one of the results of that is our Instagram Framework Course. We created it so you can learn how to use the same proven framework we used to get 500+ high-quality leads from Instagram in the past seven months and implement it live with us.

The course is also designed to help you understand Instagram strategy specifically in the context of vacation rental property management, so you know what kind of results to expect when outsourcing or delegating your social media marketing efforts.

Whether you are a vacation rental property manager, a listing site operator, or even an industry vendor, you will find that these lessons all apply to your business on Instagram, as long as you have a website, an IG account, and an emailing list.

What you can expect from this course:

  • Weekly modules delivered via email, detailing the Rental Scale-Up Method: How we gathered over 500+ qualified leads during the pandemic, specifically February-July 2021 amid lockdowns and travel restrictions
  • Weekly live workshops covering the modules to help you become a local authority and beat your competitors by becoming a trusted source of data
  • Session recordings to help you stay on top of weekly workshop agenda
  • Free templates and resources designed to save you time
  • Weekly office hours for 1-1 consults
  • Access to a private, ad-free community of like-minded peers to share progress and feedback with

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Uvika is a Content Editor at Rental Scale-Up. She uses her experience as a digital nomad and a social media expert to reveal and share vacation rental industry trends.

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