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Is your venue Insta-worthy? How Instagram and social media is shaping entertainment and lifestyle design

By Becci Finn & Marc Nicholas

In our article THINK_2019 we discussed the year ahead for hospitality and entertainment design. We looked at what’s in and what’s out in 2019, and how to position yourself to be relevant without being a victim of design trend-setters.

In an earlier article, Pubs vs Clubs, we looked at the recent strength of the Pub and Hotel industry. In that article, we suggested that to appeal to a broader demographic Club’s must begin to take the Instagram-effect seriously!

Unlike design trends which come and go, the age of the Instagram-effect is more than a trend… it’s a cultural shift. As foreign as it may feel, you need to embrace it or be left behind.

When we refer to the Instagram-effect we’re talking about more than just Instagram, we’re talking about all forms of ‘social media’ and ‘social networking’.

In this article, however, we’ll focus on Instagram due to its positioning in the social media landscape as a platform that’s driven by image and visuals and is currently at the pointy end of marketing for entertainment and lifestyle venues. But other forms of social media can be leveraged equally as effectively depending on the situation.

We’ll dive deeper into the Insta-world and hopefully leave you with a firmer grip on the impact and possibilities created using Instagram and other forms of social media. Or at the very least, enough info to satisfy a water-cooler-chat with the Insta-savvy members of your team.

To be ‘Instagram ready’, or creating ‘Instagrammable moments’, can be done in a variety of ways, but the main thing is that it’s done with a style and approach that is tailored to showcase your message and brand.

But why…

The buzz and hoopla around Instagram influencers, Instagrammable moments and what look like culinary magazine shoots unfolding at dining tables as the food gets cold, can be a puzzling phenomenon.

However, when you strip back the hype and look beyond the generic phrase ‘social media’ and ‘social networking’, what is really happening is direct, targeted and clever marketing.

There are over 25 Million active business profiles on Instagram, and the content they’re posting on Instagram is not just silly memes or who they hung out with on the weekend. It’s about what they’re consuming, what’s cool, what’s desirable, where they’re going, why they’re going there, what they ate there and how it made them feel.

Traditional is media has become less relevant…

Millennials, Gen Z (and a good chunk of the rest of us) are no longer being reached by traditional TV commercials. Print media is not considered cost-effective when compared with social media advertising reach.

Some would argue traditional media is already irrelevant.

Do you want a shock to your system? Follow Gary Vaynerchuck on Instagram or Facebook to get his take on the social media landscape. He’s almost a walking embodiment of social media…. although he comes across as brash and egotistical, and it takes a while to ‘get’ him, he’s genuinely passionate and empathetic about helping people and businesses to leverage the power of social media.

Like social media, he’s uncensored and fanatical with language to match (be prepared for a barrage of ‘expressive’ language). But he and the companies he’s built epitomise what can be achieved with well-executed social media strategies.

Our phones…

These genius, intoxicating pieces of technology sit neatly in our palms, ready for action at the slightest sign of boredom.

Our phones have redefined consumerism.

More than 60% of adults online use Instagram. 70% of those users have actively spent time looking up a brand on the platform (Hubspot, Instagram Marketing, October 2018).

The infusion of Instagram into both business and personal use is well established and growing. Venues that respond, accommodate and harness this are setting themselves up to thrive.

The Basics…

Thinking practically for your venue, the starting point is to understand that the basic principle of Instagram is about great visuals.

Businesses that make the mistake of starting an Instagram account and pumping it full of notices about upcoming events, photos of staff members receiving awards, or general community announcements have all the right intentions…. but, but they’ve missed the mark.

The genius of Instagram is both the ‘word of mouth’ style marketing and the fact that once set in motion, others do it for you!

Where to start…

Imagine you are tasked to walk the street near your venue at a busy lunchtime, or during the after-work drinks slot, armed with nothing but one photo to convince a total stranger to come to your business.

To achieve that the photo needs to introduce your product in a way that excites, entices and is memorable.

Information overload means that images that inspire, surprise and delight are the minimum needed to cut through the chaos and drive interest.

Getting your business to the starting line can be simple. Do you have any Millennials working at your venue? Chances are the answer is ‘yes’… and it’d be a short-priced bet that being a Millennial, this person is also an Instagram expert.

A great place to start would be tasking some of your Insta-expert-millennials to capture something at the venue that could be Instagrammable. Who knows what retro-chic treasure you may have lying around that appeals to the visual language of the coming generations.

The alternative, of course, is designing spaces, elements or experiences into your venue that are specifically intended to be Instagrammed.

The key approach…

The introduction of building elements, spaces or experiences that exude personality and spunk is a key approach to capturing the benefits of Instagram, and it’s not necessarily a big-ticket solution!

  • An audacious mural on an underutilised wall
  • An intense pocket of planting
  • Oversize bold signage advertising your wares – maybe with a provocative message

Matched with the right lighting, these can be cost-effective approaches to help your venue become Insta-friendly.

One new venue that comes to mind is The Governor Hotel in Macquarie Park. It has a rooftop terrace that’s separated from the main trading floor with a long internal staircase… long enough to dampen one’s mood when moving between the two areas.

While the interiors of the hotel are Insta-worthy in themselves, we love the way they introduced a series of graffiti style artworks at the various levels of the staircase which are perfect for Insta-moments. A large scale cherry-red-lipped smile; a pair of cartoon muscled arms at shoulder height ready for a pose and post to Instagram.

This thinking perfectly demonstrates an appreciation for grabbing an opportunity. Now patrons leave with smiles and memories instead of what could have otherwise been a negative experience of a long staircase.

Providing a backdrop for beautiful pictures is often best paired with re-imagining signature menu items in a Willy-Wonker-esque fashion. We’re certainly not suggesting style should trump substance – flavour and freshness in a dining experience is still essential.

However, some thoughtful presentation and styling should see your patrons snapping pictures. When added to their Instagram accounts these images can beat the drum for your venue and attract more customers organically.

This overview barely scratches the surface, and we are already framing out the content for more pieces on this topic.

The flip side…

As powerful as social media is to promote positively, it can also be detrimental if your product or service is not up to scratch.

Although it can take quite a bit of friction for disgruntled customers to post negative comments or reviews on social media, as the propensity for social-media-minded customers grows to post positively, so to will the propensity for certain types of people to go on an online rant if they feel they’ve been wronged.

This video published to Youtube features a fountain at one of our client’s venues being used in a way that wasn’t part of the vision! Jump to 0.30 to be entertained. While this example is highly comical and certainly not detrimental to the venue, it goes to show that you can influence, but can’t control, what gets posted about you and your venue on social media!

So where to from here….

The key takeaway is that marketing has traditionally been a process of spending big to try and get the message out.

The ‘Instagram effect’ now gives venue operators the opportunity to put those dollars back into the venue itself, to help build a quality experience where customers can share their memories, on Instagram or other forms of social media, and get the message out about what a fantastic venue you have.

Social media is the new word of mouth, and a venue that has been carefully considered for Instagram and social media can market itself with shares and likes!


Marc Nicholas is Managing Director at GROUPN 

THINK_LIFESTYLE is a weekly newsletter published by GROUPN discussing directions in hospitality design


Click to get in touch with Marc or drop us line at GROUPN  +61 2 9369 3546

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