Getting Social Is The Key To Engaging The Connected Consumer

16 Apr 2019
Words ResortBrokers Informer Issue 93

Getting Social Is The Key To Engaging The Connected Consumer

Social media has transformed the way Australians discover, consume and share experiences, particularly travel destinations, accommodation and hospitality venues. It is reshaping how businesses trade. These days, to reach and stay in touch with customers, you really need to join the conversation.

Only five years ago, the world’s first “Instagram hotel” was heralded, Sydney’s 1888 Hotel (now Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour), inspired by the photo-sharing app.

The architecture, interior detail and furnishings were all conceived to satisfy travelling Instagrammers. Screens at reception displayed a constantly updated feed of photos uploaded with the #1888hotel hashtag, while guests were directed to the specially designed ‘selfie space’.

By 2017, research revealed that an Australian hotel, bar or restaurant was being tagged on Instagram every 28 seconds.

More recent statistics compiled by for January 2019 (Source: Vivid Social – Social Media Agency) show social users in Australia are some of the most active in the world.

As at the end of January, Australia has 15 million monthly active users of Facebook, with the same number of unique Australian visitors per month to YouTube. Instagram ranks as our third most used platform, with nine million monthly active users in Australia.

One in two Australians use Facebook on a daily basis, while one in three use Instagram. And, now boasting over a billion monthly active users worldwide, Instagram is one of the most successful and fastest growing social networks.

If your business is a ‘visual’ kind of business – and most certainly tourism, leisure and accommodation are – then Instagram is a vital platform to showcase your destination and develop and nurture relationships with your market.

These days, for much of the travelling public, everything on every trip, whether for business or leisure, is documented with the tap of a phone camera. Social media management experts say tourism and hospitality operators who are not yet actively using social media are missing out on lucrative marketing opportunities.

By engaging social media users, operators have the ability to share moments, experiences and user-generated content, make local recommendations and foster deeper connections and on-going relationships with customers.

Those who make the effort to understand what motivates their market and appreciate the advantages social media engagement offers, find potential for business growth is literally at their fingertips.

Tourism Australia has invested heavily in its social media program, stimulating conversations about Australia through key platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. They mainly post user-generated content, which encourages fans to continue sharing their own stories and experiences.

TA’s Instagram profile showcases the best shots from around Australia on a daily basis, chosen from followers who upload and tag their photos with #seeaustralia. At last look, they had 3.4 million followers.

Of course, some properties are so visually stunning, they’re pure Instagram gold.

Take Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas, located in the Baa Atoll archipelago. Recently it was voted Most Instagrammable Hotel in the World by Luxury Travel Advisor. Let’s face it, who hasn’t gazed longingly at those amazing over-water villas?

In Australia, ‘wow’ factor properties like Hotel Hotel in Canberra, The Treehouse, Blue Mountains, Saffire Freycinet in Tasmania, and retro design triumph Halcyon House on NSW’s Cabarita Beach are absolute Insta-darlings.

Equally, more modest retro motels have rocketed back into vogue and captured the imagination of the Instagram crowd too.

Just look at the Gold Coast’s La Costa Motel, a pastel homage to the 1950s on the highway opposite the airport, and Byron Bay’s Hibiscus Motel, a traditional motel in the heart of town that has undergone a contemporary facelift.

So, a gob-smacking location or mega-million dollar makeover isn’t necessarily vital to achieve social media success.

All it takes is an understanding of what gives your property its X-factor and developing the ability to communicate those messages effectively via social channels.

Hibiscus Motel, for example, has done it with some success by repeating a limited collection of motel and room snaps amidst regular posts of images showcasing alluring aspects of the famed Byron Bay location and lifestyle – azure sea views from the cliff top, secluded beach scenes, endless ocean vistas, sun, surf, sand and sexy people at play.

Technically, for a small but digital-savvy operator, exploiting the opportunities held out by social media is something that can be achieved in-house for little cost.

But those who have successfully ventured into the social space do warn that it requires a significant investment, be that in time, or budget, or both. The approach needs to be well-considered, strategic and consistent.

Michelle Bishop is the owner-operator of Bangalay Luxury Villas on the NSW South Coast, a collection of upscale self-contained villas opened in September last year. Already with some 2,600 followers and the number climbing steadily, Michelle has made social media engagement a very important part of her marketing mix.

Working with her ‘client experience manager’ to develop the social space, they started building the Bangalay profile up to four months before opening.

“People will often look for inspiration for their travel options and Instagram, being predominately photographic, is a perfect platform for this,” she said.

“We always ask how people heard about us and, for about 70 per cent, it is via a long tail (very specific, less popular words) Google search, the remaining is a combination of booking platforms, social media and word of mouth.”

Some properties go out of their way to woo people considered ‘influencers’ – social media users with 10,000-plus of followers – but Michelle prefers to make such PR decisions on a case-by-case basis.

“We work closely with Shoalhaven Tourism and Destination NSW. They have sent a few journalists and provided some other opportunities for PR, which has had a positive impact on our social media,” she said.

“We have had a few influencers stay with us. Alanna Smit, who is a well-known interior designer from Foxtel’s Love It Or List It program, stayed and took some amazing photos, which led to a number of bookings.

“When a few other guests with large followings have stayed, our audience increased with their stay, however we have not seen a direct increase in bookings.

“A benefit of influencers is that they can provide a lot of great content for you to use across all your marketing. People will always respond well to photos of people enjoying the resort.

“We get approached constantly by people with large followings for contra arrangements, we consider each proposal on its merits.”

There is no doubt, social media is going to become an increasingly important string to the accommodation industry’s marketing bow. So, for anyone who is only now considering joining the social set, Michelle has a few final helpful pointers.

“If you’re not sure where to start, consider your existing guests and what they enjoy about your property and the location.

“You could focus on marketing the destination you are part of, rather than just focussing on your own property – scenery, beaches, bushwalks, vineyards, local attractions, etc.

“And don’t try to sell on every post via social media. You are looking for engagement. It should be considered a PR tool.”




 Luxury self-contained, fully-serviced holiday villas and restaurant on Seven Mile Beach at Shoalhaven on the NSW South Coast, two hours from Sydney.


At Bangalay, you can return to nature and nostalgic beach holidays without compromising on comfort and style


2,600 since pre-opening in 2018


Total marketing budget 4% of revenue, including Client Experience Manager’s time and any promotion costs


Planned marketing strategy before property launch, identified target markets for social media, created graphic and photographic style guide to keep brand distinct

Most Insta-worthy:

Photos of the pool always attract most likes, impressions and comments

Post frequency:

Daily + adding other people’s stories to our stories as they come through

Hashtag approach:

Use a number of hashtags and mix them up depending on the post. Unique tag is #bangalayluxe

Business impact:

Estimate 10% of guests discovered the property via social media

Top Tip:

Create a comprehensive marketing plan before you start, plan how social media will be part of it, think about your audience and the content you will require to resonate with them.

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