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Instagram is growing in influence and reach, and travel brands are continuously experimenting ways to gain both followers and new sources of revenue from the photo-sharing service.
Some brands have grown impatient with Instagram’s limitations — especially when it comes to driving sales — and are looking for ways to game the platform to make users’ snapshots shoppable.
Luxury hotel brand Conrad Hotels and Resorts recently implemented technology from Curalate to connect Instagram photos with booking technology, becoming the first hospitality brand to join the likes of retailers Nordstrom and Target looking for an alternative clickthrough solution.
“For us, the real tipping point [for participating in the program] is that Instagram has dramatically surged forward as a preferred platform,” said Stuart Foster, Vice President of Marketing at Conrad Hotels and Resorts. “We can put up pictures and engage our guests, but how can we bring this full circle, motivate potential guests, ‘provide the dream’ and facilitate an exchange to excite them to think about booking at one of our properties.”
Users who end up on Conrad’s Instagram profile on either mobile or desktop can click a link to view a microsite filled with a curated gallery of existing Instagram photos that lead to information about the property, TripAdvisor reviews, and a booking widget. All the user activity takes place outside of Instagram, creating a large gulf between an image a user likes on the sharing service and any booking ability.
If it sounds complicated and disjointed, it’s because it is. Success is dependent upon user finding one link on Conrad’s user profile, or discovering it through Facebook, where the hotel brand has promoted it. And the lack of integration with Conrad Hotels’ existing app doesn’t make the process easy either.
Conrad is rolling the dice here, considering its current lackluster performance on Instagram: On SkiftIQ, it ranks 28 out of 50 hotel brands in terms of followers. Currently, the account has roughly 4,550 followers, about 30 percent of the hotel brand average of 13,150 followers. As of February 20, 2015, average engagement on their content is 92 likes and comments per post.
If users do make it to the microsite, Conrad says there is an 85 percent clickthrough rate to the property pages. They compare that to the 2.92 percent Facebook Ad clickthrough rates they saw in 2014.
Although Conrad has yet to close on any sales, Foster was bullish about this endeavor and mentioned that the program will be extended to other Hilton brands including Waldorf Astoria and Canopy.