By The Hospitable Team
If your vacation rental is online, then being on Instagram is a good idea. It’s that simple.
You might hear a ton about TikTok these days, but Instagram is still too big to ignore. More than 60% of users are aged 18-34, and it’s the seventh most-visited website in the world (yes, really!), making it a great platform to attract the Generation Z-Millennials who love travel, are likely to book vacation rentals, and are used to booking things online with their phone.
But it can be tough to know where to start with Instagram, especially when millions of “influencers” make it look so easy, and there are seemingly hundreds of moving parts (photos, Reels, Lives, captions, videos, hashtags…?)
It can be totally overwhelming to consider content, style, and tone, what to post and when, how to get followers, and, crucially, how to ensure all of this work actually works—meaning it gets bookings and boosts revenue!
We get it. That’s why in this post, we’ve asked some successful hosts for their top tips on using Instagram for vacation rentals, so you can hear what really works from people who’ve actually done it. They recommend everything from setting your own posting schedules, to great conversations, to what it really means to be “consistent” and friendly on Instagram.
We’ve also explained, in super-simple terms:
- How to know if Instagram is really for you and your business (and why)
- How to get started with your account
- Our top 18 tips for building a successful account including the best way to create your profile, content, and community
- How to start conversations with guests, answer their questions, showcase your properties on Instagram, and make it super-easy for guests to book through your page
Instagram for vacation rentals: Is it worth your time?
But first, it makes sense to check if spending time building your Instagram is right for your short-term rental business.
Instagram can help you:
- Drive direct bookings and widen your audience – Increase visibility on your brand, reach new guests, scale your business, and enable people to send you direct messages to enquire and book.
- Build “social proof” and authority – In today’s social media-driven world, having a thriving Instagram account boosts respect and improves the perception of your brand.
- Keep in touch with past guests – Encouraging guests to follow you means they’ll see updates even after their stay, keep you at top of mind, and they’ll be more likely to book again
- Offer another way for people to contact you – Adding another channel for communication makes you more accessible to more people, for more bookings.
- Enable people to get to know you and your team – People buy from people. If followers feel they know and like you, they’ll be more likely to book with you.
- Showcase your properties and designs creatively – From images to video to Stories to Reels, there are a whole host of ways to show off your property to new people.
- Support, show off, and collaborate with suppliers – Having an online place to connect and showcase products from local suppliers can help you get more opportunities and share goodwill as you prove you’re a champion of local or worthwhile products.
- Grow your network – Beyond getting in front of more potential guests, building a great Instagram account can help you get to know other business owners in your space, so you can grow your own community, get support, discuss ideas, and even collaborate.
If any or all of the above sounds good to you, then you are almost certainly ready to get started building your Instagram account for social proof and IRL (in real life) bookings and success!
How to get started
Practically, opening an Instagram account couldn’t be simpler.
- Search for the app in your relevant app store (depending on whether you have an Apple or Android phone), and download it.
- Once downloaded, sign up by following the app instructions.
- Choose a name that is as close to your existing STR brand name as possible, with as few symbols or numbers as you can (unless they’re a crucial part of your name). This will make your account name easier to read and find.
As a business, you will almost certainly want to make your account a “professional account,” as opposed to a personal or Creator one (the latter is best for creatives or artists).
This gives you access to useful analytics, so you can see what kind of content works best for you, and offers you functions such as a “Book Now” button on your profile—handy for driving bookings directly from Insta!
It also means you can separate your messages between Primary and Secondary inboxes, and it gives you access to Instagram ads if you choose to run them in the future.
- To set your account to Professional, click the horizontal lines on the top right-hand side
- Click Settings and then Account
- At the bottom of the menu, hit Switch to Professional Account
- Set your details and you’re done
You’re now ready to start posting…well, almost! Follow our tips below to get started successfully.
18 tips for successful vacation rental marketing on Instagram
1. Choose to target a specific niche and style
Credit: @MyMexicoRentals / Instagram
Caption: @MyMexicoRentals shows a clear niche, including tequila and skydiving-related posts
If you try to attract everyone you’ll attract no one. Decide on your ideal guest and who your property is perfect for, and try to speak to that specific kind of person. You’ll inevitably turn some people off, but attract your perfect guests all the more.
Deciding on your ideal target audience will inform everything from your design, colors, style and tone of voice, including the topics or items you focus on, and how you write your captions or narrate your videos
Establishing good, consistent, recognizable communication with your guests starts here—when you message your guests later (such as through a communication platform such as Hospitable.com), they’ll want to feel as though it’s the same brand talking to them as they first discovered on Instagram.
2. Clarify your name and bio, and add your contact details
Credit: @arubahappyrentals / Instagram
Caption: @ArubaHappyRentals makes their business clear in their name and bio
Your bio area on Instagram is short, so it’s super-important to capture ideal followers and guests as quickly as possible. You need to show them what you do, your style and personality, and why they should follow you, in a few short lines and one small photo.
- Username – Keep it simple, clear, as easy to read and share, and as descriptive to your vacation rentals as possible (see the Aruba Happy Rentals account, above!)
- Your name – This doesn’t have to be your actual name. It can be your company name or descriptor of what you are, e.g. “Luxury Vacation Rentals in Miami”.
- Description – Make sure this sentence says what you do, where you’re based, what makes you different, that you’re open for bookings, and that people can direct message (DM) you. Keep it short and sweet.
- Contact details – Make it easy for people to contact you. Add your email and phone number on your page. Add an Email, Contact or Book Now button too.
- Profile picture – Choose a profile picture that is easy to see and recognizable. If possible use bold colors that stand out or fit your brand. You can use a logo, but if possible make it a real human photo. People like to connect with real people, so emphasize your photo (or your team) as the face of the rental operation.
3. Include a link to your direct bookings website in your bio
Credit: @TinosHost / Instagram
Caption: @TinosHost has a simple, clear, direct website link in its bio
Instagram only allows one link in your bio, so make it count! Your main goal here is to make it super easy for people to head to your calendar and book their stay easily online.
- Have your link go to your direct booking page, including a calendar for availability.
- Signpost your link with a simple “call to action,” which means you show people what happens if you click on the link. Something like “Book Here” “Check availability” or “Contact us” above the link is great (see the screenshot above).
- Include a Book Now website button too, or at the very least, a “Contact” button.
Of course, to take direct bookings, you’ll need a great website that makes it easy to do that. Platforms such as Hospitable.com help you build a website that’s specially designed to let guests check availability, book, and pay online. This enables you to add another booking channel that isn’t dependent on OTA algorithms or terms.
Get a direct booking website within minutes!
4. Include a location in your bio
Credit: @Happyhouseonhaight / Instagram
Caption: This page clearly states that the house is in Ludington, MI
Adding a location in your bio helps your page to become more visible to people searching for that particular place. You can be as general or as specific as you want, but the more specific you are the more likely you might be to attract people ready to hit “book”.
You can also geolocate your images so they come up under the location hashtag as well. As well as adding relevant hashtags, such as #vacationrentalslakecomo, you can also pick “Varenna, Lake Como” or similar to show up above your content. People can search this way too, which helps to boost your visibility further.
5. Keep photos consistent, and include real people
Credit: @Baak_co / Instagram
Caption: @Baak_co has a clear style, with whites and neutrals, plus pops of turquoise and blue
Now people know who and where you are, and how they can contact you, you want to make sure they stick around (hit follow), get to know you properly (see more of your content), and see themselves as the kind of person who’d love your property (enjoy your content and design).
- Keep your page content consistent, and choose to focus on only 1-3 colors, fonts, and styles. You might even focus on only a few types of shots, such as rooms and beaches.
- You can use the same filter or tweaks on each post, upload cover shots to videos that use the same color or template each time, and make sure each piece of content has a cohesive look and feel overall.
Here’s when you want guests to look at your page and think: “Wow, and I can really see myself staying there,” and a great way to do this is to use real people in your photos.
Beautiful room and landscape shots are nice, but photos with people in them—enjoying your property or exploring the local area—often attract more interest and help guests really imagine themselves in your property. You could use others’ photos, or stage natural shots yourself.
As Daniella Morganelli who manages a two-bedroom vacation rental by a golf course in Bartlett, New Hampshire, says: “Make sure your Instagram flows and has a theme to it. Also, we partner with a lot of content creators and influencers and love using their photos.”
6. Be consistent
Credit: @Sofias_lake_como_rentals / Instagram
Caption: Sofia says that having a plan for your Instagram helps keep consistent
Consistency is key on Instagram—and not just when it comes to style or look. It’s also about giving your followers what they expect and showing up regularly. That doesn’t mean posting all day every day, it just means choosing a schedule that works for you, and sticking to it.
- Stick to a posting schedule and find the kinds of posts that work best for you. Do static, beautiful photos feel best, or are funny Reels more your vibe?
- You might post two static photos per week, two Reels videos using trending audio, and one Carousel (multiple images in one post) with top tips for visiting your area.
- Plan ahead for special days that are relevant to your audience or type of rental, such as the first day of summer, local events, and awareness days.
“I think that what has worked for me on Instagram is consistency,” says Sofia, a host who manages 15 vacation rentals in the Lake Como region in Italy. “Trying to keep my profile updated has been a challenge sometimes as I have two jobs, so it’s important to set up a plan, even if it’s just a weekly one, to organize your contents and your pictures and keep them going.”
7. Showcase your reviews
Credit: @Airstreambythesea / Instagram
Caption: @Airstreambythesea regularly shares reviews from happy guests in its captions
Business owners can feel shy or awkward about sharing praise or good reviews, but Instagram can help great feedback shine. They let your previous guests do the talking, without you needing to go for the hard sell!
- Every so often, highlight a recent good review or positive ratings, whether in video format, a photo with a review underneath, or simply a bit of text on a color image.
- This helps to build trust and shows that other people love your property too. Other potential guests will see that others enjoy your space, increasing the chance that they will too.
Jack Phillips, a host of two vintage Airstreams in Costa Rica, explains that Instagram is a key place to share his review quotes, so potential guests see them when doing research before booking.
8. Repost user-generated content
Credit: @Rosealldaysav / Instagram
Caption: Rose All Day shares content from its guests and credits the user in their captions
User-generated content is content that your existing guests have created, such as a photo of drinks during their stay, or a cute couple’s selfie next to your pool, which mentions your Instagram name or specific hashtag (for example, #waterbayrentals).
Saying thank you for their post, and then reposting it, either on your main page or in your Stories, and then tagging them back, helps to build rapport with guests and makes them feel special.
It also shows how guests are enjoying your place, again without you having to be too salesy yourself.
You can also create your own hashtag (such as the example above!) and ask guests to use it when they post, to create your own bank of content, build your brand, and make it easier to find user-generated content. Make sure it hasn’t been used by someone else, isn’t a trademark, or leads to inappropriate content first. If not—post away, it’s yours!
“I ask guests to tag Casa Costa Sayulita whenever possible on their Instagram if they feel comfortable doing so, so I can repost,” explains Kasia Brodka, a host who manages a vacation rental in Sayulita, Mexico.
9. Add an FAQ to your Highlights
Credit: @vacavibesin5 / Instagram
Caption: This rental has useful info in its Highlights, including the House Manual
“Highlights” on Instagram are evergreen Stories that appear under your bio section, and never expire. They enable you to “pin” important information to the top of your page.
It can be helpful to think of your Highlights as your website navigation buttons, such as About, Gallery, Book, or FAQs, to help guests decide to book. This includes answering the most common questions that come up about your place or destination.
The more guests can find out about your place from your page without needing to go anywhere else, the more likely they are to book.
10. Include photos and videos of each room in your Highlights
Credit: @Rosealldaysav / Instagram
Caption: Rose All Day has labeled its Highlights “Bedroom” “Entryway” and “Kitchen” etc, so people can have a good look around
Again, think of Highlights as the navigation bar that you might have on your website. People always like to see a Gallery of images before they book, so they can have a proper look around and check if your place is right for them.
Make it easy for people to imagine themselves in your place and show off your selection of properties and rooms via an easy-to-see highlight that always sits under your bio.
“It’s good to show your place and make followers imagine themselves here,” explains Sofia from Lake Como. “I think it’s important to share the places you’ve really experienced.”
11. Post Stories about the local destination
Credit: @Sofias_Lake_Como_Rentals / Instagram
Caption: Sofia in Lake Como has a Highlight called What to Do to help people learn more about the destination
Part of selling a vacation rental on Instagram is also about selling the destination, and the vacation itself.
Sharing snippets of the destination, such as popular restaurants, areas, or other must-see or must-do things helps guests to see themselves at your place and shows them why it’s a great place to visit.
You don’t have to be a full-on tour guide—even a few photos of your favorite places or local meals can help, and staying on top of local events and new openings is a good tip.
It also helps guests to get to know and like you—as it’s a bit like you’re giving them a personal guided tour—so they’re more likely to want to book your place specifically. This can work even if you’re not always on-site.
As Kasia, the host who manages a vacation rental in Sayulita, Mexico, says: “Even though I live full time in Baltimore, I stay current on what’s happening in Sayulita and try to post it all on my Stories.”
12. Show yourself, your team, and behind-the-scenes
Credit: @Airstreambythesea / Instagram
Caption: This post starts “Meet Jack…” and shows the human behind the brand
As we’ve already said (but it bears repeating!), the more your followers get to know you, the more likely they are to book with YOU, rather than another rental in the same place.
This is because people buy from people, not faceless businesses.
Many struggle with this, but Instagram is also about showing the real person behind the account, so don’t forget to come out from behind the camera every now and again (even if your gallery shots are truly stunning!).
Even if your page isn’t about you, or you have a team, it makes sense to build rapport with your followers and show the human or humans behind the account.
Reels (quick, short, often humorous videos) are being pushed by Insta a lot right now, and they can be easy ways to tap into trends and show off your humor and personality while also being relevant to your niche.
You can also take your own photos, and share your own process for sharing content on your page, as a kind of “behind the scenes,” to break down the barrier between your picture-perfect photos or videos, and the real-life person taking them.
Sofia may have rentals in one of the most picturesque regions in Italy (Lake Como), but she still says: “Sometimes it’s nice to show myself so people can see who’s behind the profile to gain trust.”
13. Use hashtags and get into your ideal guest’s head
Credit: @Sofias_Lake_Como_Rentals / Instagram
Caption: This post clearly shows the hashtags being used for maximum visibility
Hashtags are the classic Instagram tool, and despite constant rumors and second-guessing, social media experts still reckon they work when it comes to getting your content in front of more eyeballs.
They work as links and “groups” so that people can search within them, and find your content even if they don’t follow you. They help you be seen and improve visibility in your space.
- Change them regularly and don’t use the same group over and over, as this can cause your content to be marked as spam. Try four-to-five different groups and attach them to different types of content, e.g. one group for landscape shots and another for food Reels.
- Imagine what your ideal guest will be searching for and use a mix of generic to more specific, to capture different audiences and increase your chance of being seen.
- Do your own hashtag research right within the Instagram app. Type a hashtag into the search bar and see what comes up. If it’s not too big (less than 1m uses) and seems to be your kind of content, add it to your list, and repeat!
14. Ask questions and invite people to DM you
Credit: @Airstreambythesea / Instagram
Caption: This post caption asks followers a friendly question: “What do you have planned this week?” to get easy conversation flowing
Starting conversations is a great way to build community and get guests to talk to you as a human (even if the initial topic isn’t about booking your place immediately).
Once someone is in your DMs, it’s easier to strike up a conversation as a real person, check what they want, and what their situation is.
This means you can get talking, share more information about your rentals and find out more about what they’re looking for, and only then ask if they would like you to send them more details if or when they’re ready to book. Only then, send your direct booking link.
Sofia in Lake Como says that “social interaction” has been one reason that her Instagram has been successful in bringing in bookings. And Jack, the manager of the Costa Rica Airstreams, says that part of his success has been tapping into the real people already in the space, and leaning on that community to build his own page in turn.
He says: “Our page began as an Airstream renovation account, sharing the process with other people who are renovating RVs or are interested in the process. There is a huge community there, so we already had a pretty substantial following from the start.
“Once the Airstreams were done, we did trades with a few photographers who came to stay and provided content for us to use, one of which ran a giveaway contest that generated tons of new interaction and followers.”
15. Set up quick replies
Credit: Instagram / Screenshot
Caption: Setting up quick replies is easy in the Settings tab of your Instagram account
Once you’ve got people messaging you, it’s important to reply! But rather than staying attached to your phone, or leaving people hanging while you find time to compose a message from scratch, setting up quick replies can be a good stopgap.
Setting up quick replies means that whenever you receive a DM, you can reply promptly, and followers know you’ll get back to them ASAP. Keep your replies friendly and helpful to build rapport, but not too generic, so followers know you’re a real human and not a bot.
You can also use the Instagram messaging feature to set up “suggested questions”. For example, as shown below, Airstream by the Sea suggests “What are your nightly rates?” and Aruba Happy Rentals suggests “I’m looking for a vacation rental or housing in Aruba.”
Caption: You can set up suggested questions on Instagram messaging too, to encourage guests to start a conversation
Establishing this kind of communication on your Instagram page is a great first start when it comes to communicating with potential guests, because setting up automated, friendly, and prompt communication after they book, such as via a platform like Hospitable.com, should be a key part of your guest messaging process.
Have conversations with your guests even when you sleep.
This is where you can refer back to your niche and tone of voice we mentioned earlier, and make sure everything is aligned, for a professional-yet-friendly style.
Kasia, the manager of a vacation rental in Sayulita, Mexico, summarizes the process: “The key to converting followers into bookers would be: honesty, quick responses, and providing an easy booking process.”
16. Let your followers know about last-minute discounts and offers
Credit: @oak_and_violet / Instagram
Caption: This winter lodge account shared a winter giveaway with followers
Instagram can also be a great way to establish direct communication with potential guests, and let them know about last-minute offers, discounts, and even giveaways.
After all—think about why your followers are following you; what’s in it for them? Great photos and getting to know you is good, but being the first to know about money-saving offers or new deals is great!
- Time your offers with related days, such as guests’ birthdays, Mother’s Day, or Thanksgiving—depending on your rental style and location.
- Plan in advance and give your guests enough time to plan and book ahead for special days or discounts.
17. Get social and interact with others (especially locally)
Credit: @airstreambythesea / Instagram
Caption: Shouting out other accounts and featuring their products can help build your network, such as Airstream By The Sea featuring Slothy Summer Wear here
With all the focus on content, it can be easy to forget that social media is about just that, being social! The days of just posting on Insta and hoping someone sees your page are long gone.
Building up a great page and community is also about going out in the space and finding complementary or similar accounts to yours (as well as accounts of your ideal guest).
Engaging with them, saying hello and cheering on their content gives them a real reason to interact with you and come back to your page, too.
You can also benefit from others’ audiences by collaborating with similar pages, or shouting out to local suppliers you like and/or use, by mentioning them in posts. For example, you might share the eco-friendly toiletries made by a local company, or the coffee that’s roasted right around the corner (don’t forget to mention their account or hashtag when posting!)
“Sharing the love” in this way will encourage them to come back to your page and support you too. Becoming known and liked in the space will also increase trust and respect among guests and boost your authority.
18. Collaborate with influencers to build your audience
Credit: @Vacavibesind5 / Instagram
Caption: This image tags both @heympancakes and @dirtandglass, who have almost 400,000 followers between them
Influencers get a bad rep, but anyone can be an “influencer” if they are relatively well-known in the space, and have an engaged, positive community. “Influencer” is just a fancy name for someone that a large group of people like and trust!
Collaborating with influencers or simply popular figures in your niche can help you get in front of their existing, highly-engaged audiences, and benefit from that to boost your own following, trust, and respect.
After all, people are more likely to take recommendations from people they already know and like, rather than coming to you cold. You can reach out to influencers across different niches, such as local tour guides, restaurateurs, or vacation rental specialists.
As Daniella Morganelli, manager of a rental in New Hampshire, explains: “We’ve tried to get a variety of influencers to broaden our audience. It’s mostly content creators, some that specialize in cabins/vacation homes, and some that specialize in adventures/travel/family travel.”
Instagram for vacation rentals: The bottom line
Ultimately, success on Instagram isn’t down to one single thing; it’s a few key actions across your profile, content, and community that slowly work together to build real momentum.
The real goal when using Instagram for vacation rentals is to enable people to imagine themselves happily staying in your place, with all their worries or questions answered, and trust that the host is a helpful professional—and to do that, establishing great communication is key.
Remember that social media is truly about being social, building community, and enabling messaging, and you won’t go far wrong. Ask questions, share details about yourself, and showcase your rental and area, to encourage people to message you.
Once people know you’re consistent, friendly, and open to DMs, they’ll be more likely to book. Instagram lets you start as you mean to go on, with great guest communication and easy messaging, to build rapport with your guests and get them booking!
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