This is the story of how a vacation rental owner grew the biggest instagram following on his island. When Thibault Masson started his vacation rental business in St Barts 1 year ago, he knew a thing or two about Twitter and Facebook. But when he got into Instagram, bookings started really coming in and in 1 year he grew his portfolio from 2 villas to 4 villas. Here are his tips on making Instragam work for you in your region.
Instagram has been so successful for us because it is a social network where people love sharing photos of their vacations. It is a natural fit for vacation rentals, much more than Twitter which is great to publish news or to reach out to journalists and bloggers. As for Facebook, it has worked for us, but as a paid marketing channel. When it comes to free advertising for vacation rentals, Instagram is king.
Also, Instagram is great because you find out who is in your area right now. In St Barths, which is a small Caribbean, I know what roughly 30% of people come back year after year. So, reaching out in Instagram to people who are there right now makes sense, as they are potential guests for next year. As 75% of tourists in St. Barths stay at a villa (vs a hotel), it means that getting these people to follow our account makes total sense.
It is less true in Bali, where a sizable part of the market comes only once in their lifetime to the island. So, here our strategy is to reach out to “Bali lovers”, people who come frequently to the island, from Australia and Singapore, and who stay outside of hotel-heavy areas like Kuta.
Our one and only goal is to get our Instagram followers to join our emailing list. We measure how our success by our number of email subscribers. It’s great to have followers, but it’s better for business to sign up on our emailing list people who are potential guests.
It is not about being the biggest account around, but about the one, friendly trustable account in the area for our target.
So, every piece of content that we post is related to our goal: Get people to click on the link in our profile, where they can get a free amazing travel guide about the destination, in exchange for their email address.
We post photos of our villas, photos of popular places in St. Barths and in Bali, nice restaurants and bars. We also repost photos from other Instagrammers: This is a social media, it is important to like, comment and interact with others.
Most of our Instagram posts have calls to action. One of them is to tell visitors to use a specific hashtag (e.g. #stbarthstribe or #realbali) to get featured and reposted. People love this, as our account are seen as “destination accounts’”, not purely promo sites for our villas.
I spend a lot of time meeting people all over the world, talking with them, learning from them. So, I give back to others. This is why I created RentalPreneurs, as a way to share my finding with others and get a broader network of professionals from whom I can learn how to make my vacation rental business better.