Instagram Takeovers

Maui Sunset

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a brand and resort that has the amenities that showcase well via photography. Guests follow along for the latest images to help plan their upcoming vacation, visualize their dream trip, or remember their past stay.

One strategy I’ve utilized on our Instagram account over the past year has been Instagram Takeovers. During an Instagram Takeover, a photographer or social media personality takes over our account for 5 – 7 days and posts images from their stay, in their voice.

Luckily, the past few takeovers have been mostly done one trade – room, F&B credit, access to amenities (spa, pool, paddleboarding, luau, and more) – in exchange for the photography captured throughout the week and producing high quality content on our Instagram account.

Some of the lessons I’ve learned from managing the last few takeovers on our account:

1. Always have a contract

Make sure that both parties understand what is expected of them. The resort wants high quality images, an engaging voice, timely and consistent posting, and a natural yet positive perspective of the property. Should the person taking over the account respond to questions from guests? Should they comment as the hotel or sign out and comment/respond as themselves when asked questions? What hashtags can be used or not be used? Can you tag certain people, places, or products? Is there a theme to follow for the week? What are the goals of the takeover?

After every takeover is completed, I review the contracts to see how it might be able to be edited for the next takeover.

2. Don’t make the takeover too specific

After a few generic takeovers, we started working with personalities that were more targeted in what they would be focusing on: weddings, families, underwater beach activities. In the end, for our audience, we found that becoming too focused had a negative impact on our engagement. Unless you’re a resort that has a highly targeted audience (honeymooners, family waterpark, scuba diving aficionados), your social media following may become disengaged when your photos focus on something that they can’t relate to.

3. Don’t do takeovers too often

As nice as it is for your guests to see the resort from a different perspective than yours, we found doing the takeovers too frequently (once every other month) was too much for our audience. Our sweet spot seems to be one takeover a quarter or less, 2 – 4 takeovers a year total.

6 Months of Resort Life on Maui

Maui Marketing

palm tree shadowStarting a new position is always a whirlwind, but throw in relocation, learning a new market, and moving from casino marketing to resort marketing and I’d think you were crazy if you stayed somewhat sane.

On Moving to Maui

The first few months of relocation were rough. I’ve relocated for hospitality positions a few times now, however this was the first time moving with my husband and two dogs. The logistics were rough in getting our dogs to Maui — a 5 month quarantine process, flying them over, and getting them acclimated to the weather took some time, but it was nice to finally have them out here and settle in. Housing was difficult as well — I had a negative experience with a local landlord that was subletting an apartment through AirBNB. It wasn’t his to sublet, so when the original owner found out, things went downhill fast. As a businessman who is respected in the community, he handled (didn’t handle) the situation horribly. AirBNB handled the situation amazingly and assisted with getting me in a new place and removing the person I rented from from their site, but I learned a lot about the rental market here through that situation. We ended up buying a condo and now Maui feels like home. For those moving to Maui with animals, it’s tough here. Rentals aren’t dog friendly for the most part, so unless you’re in a position to buy, finding a home for your family might be your toughest obstacle.

On Maui Community

One of the most important things for me to do once I got here was to become involved in the community, and Maui has made that easy. There’s a great local group, Maui SMUG (social media users group) that has welcomed me to their meetings and gives me a chance to talk tech and strategy with some great minds. Through Grand Wailea, I’ve also had the chance to be involved and attend some amazing events, including the Maui Film Festival, Ka’anapali Fresh, TedxMaui, and the Maui Visitors Bureau Annual Marketing Meeting where I heard some insightful presentations from speakers like Jay Talwar of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

On Resort Marketing

I’ve always been on both sides of casino and resort marketing having worked in Vegas, so this new position is the first time in my career that I’m at a non-casino and focusing purely on resort and destination marketing. I’ve been able to learn new international markets, with Maui’s target audiences being in the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, China, and throughout certain European countries. I’m more aware of how flights and airline prices affect destination markets and how to always be prepared for anything to occur — a direct flight dropped from an airline, seasonal flights, increase in costs, airline mergers, and even airline bankruptcies. I work more closely than I ever have with our Revenue Management team, and previously where I focused mostly on a casino database and marketing to them, I am now responsible for bringing in the resort’s share of the leisure market (with the other share being divided by our group sales).  I’m still focused on growing a database of loyal guests, including our membership like loyalty program, and utilizing social media to help guests visualize themselves on Maui and at Grand Wailea, however now my online advertising focus has grown quite a bit and I’m always looking for new strategies to test to drive bookings.

Resort marketing moves at a much quicker pace than casino marketing, as well. Whereas in casino marketing there were a number of laws and regulations you had to abide by, resort marketing is based on guests booking rooms. I’ve learned that as much as you try to plan ahead, trying to look at driving bookings 3 – 6 months out, little things can happen unexpectedly that have you shuffling to fill rooms for the next few upcoming weeks. A hurricane scare saw a large amount of same-week cancellations within my first few months on Maui (the hurricane didn’t end up hitting Maui), a spike in summer airline prices saw the resorts on Maui adjusting rates down on their end, and a last minute group cancellation had us scrambling to fill leisure rooms two weeks out. Things happen fast and there’s no time to procrastinate when goals are based on the upcoming week.

In my six months on Maui, I’ve relaunched a website, welcomed a blogger FAM trip, held a guest Instagram takeover (with a few more discussions with local photographers to continue the series), helped to host a few large events on property, launched an iPad app for the sales team, and created the processes for a new position.

It’s been a crazy few months, but I chose to work in the hospitality industry for my passion for travel and the non-stop energy and wouldn’t have it any other way.


30 Days on Maui

Move to Maui

Maui Marketing I have now been on Maui for just over 30 days, and it’s been a whirlwind.

Back in December, I started interviewing for a job with Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort. The process started with a video interview with Hilton which I was sure I didn’t pass — being a quiet and shy person anyways, the video interview where I wasn’t behind the camera but instead was the subject kind of freaked me out and I saw first hand all my weird faces and awkward pauses. But – they called me back and I went through a few rounds of phone calls and finally flew out to Maui in February for an in-person interview.

Flash forward to March 2, 2014 when I flew out to Maui to live here. A few high and low moments, but it’s been a positive experience overall. The low moments are the housing market. I’m currently in an Air BnB rental through the end of May, and while that has been a life-saver having not known much about Maui or where to live, I’m excited to have our own place so that my husband, Mike, and our two dogs can finally come out. Turns out Maui isn’t very dog friendly when it comes to rentals, and unfortunately there isn’t much inventory on the market for buying either.

The residents of Maui have been extremely welcoming and helpful, though, and that has made my short time here the most enjoyable. Coming from Detroit, I was a little bit shocked at how welcoming and eager to meet you people have been here.

The past month has been filled with getting acquainted to my new position and coworkers, attending community events, and discovering Maui. Once I’m done freaking out over the fact that I live on Maui and have been able to stay in the hospitality industry doing what I love, I look forward to discovering the rest of Hawai’i.


Highlights of the first 30 days on Maui

Starting my new job at Grand Wailea

Visiting Oahu

Getting to focus on hotel marketing and making memorable moments for guests

Maui Ag Fest at Maui Tropical Plantation

Watching the Maui Sunset Every Night

Using Animated Gifs and Cinemagraphs in Email Marketing

As an email marketer, I’m constantly opening personal emails I receive to see what other companies are experimenting with in email marketing.

While animated gifs aren’t new, I love when I see companies experimenting with gifs in their emails. Does the click thru rate increase with the addition of a carefully placed animated gif? Does it capture the readers’ attention more so than a static image? What is the percentage of viewers that can’t see the gif at all due to browser issues or slow loading times? Are there higher rates of deliverability issues to any of the email providers with the introduction of gifs?

Some of my favorite animated gifs from the past few years are below. Some of the companies that have been actively experimenting with animated gifs in their email marketing include Best Buy, Caesars Entertainment, and Benefit Cosmetics.

Ways to Incorporate Animated Gifs in your Email Marketing


  • Subtle introductions such as waves crashing or a flag blowing in the wind that can help invoke an emotion in  your reader
  • Subtle Call to Action button – limited time offer blinking stripe across the corner of the page, a peel back that says view more
  • Action shots of people walking in to a destination, eating, dancing, a child jumping into a pool and making a splash
  • A menu flipping open, a door opening up (perhaps for home rental emails like airbnb or homeaway or a hotel email), a light turning on, someone falling onto a comfortable bed
  • Holiday inspired animated gifs — blinking Christmas lights framing a page, snow falling down the page, champagne glasses toasting for New Years Eve, or a heart being drawn/appearing for Valentine’s Day

Making Gifs for Email Marketing

While the standard rules apply for making animated gifs for email marketing purposes, there are also a few apps that may allow you to capture a moment – such as a glass of wine being poured – via your phone and export as a gif for use in your loyalty marketing efforts. One of the apps that can be used is GifBoom, an app that takes a short video of an action and saves it as a gif, or flixel, an app that allows you take a video and turn it into a partially animated gif, an easy way to introduce cinemagraph elements into your marketing.

**Cinemagraphs are animated gifs that are combined in a way to look like the viewer is watching a movie. In the case of someo of the above examples, such as a glass of wine being poured or a person falling into a bed, those would be examples of cinemagraphs.

On to the Examples of Animated Gifs and Cinemagraphs

Animated Gif Header in Email by Benefit Cosmetics

Full Email Image (static)

New York and Company

Appearing Images Gif

*Gif image only rotates once, so you may need to refresh to see full image cycle

Best Buy Animated Email
Subtle Header Movement
Animated Gif Image

Full Email (Static)

Caesars Entertainment

Animated Fireworks

4th of JulyEmail Offer Animated Email

Use of animated gif: Flashing call to action (Enter the Sale)

Static Email Image

Honorary mentions:
Here are a few more sites to take a look at for some examples of cinemagraphs and animated gifs used for marketing purposes:

Beer making process

My Favorite Things: Hotel Marketing

This post is actually for myself. I use a combination of Evernote, Google Drive, and bookmarks to remember all my favorite sites, but with new favorite sites being found every day, they sometimes gets lost.

As of December 2012, here are a few of my favorite things that help me make my job easier:


SnagIt is still one of my favorite purchases ever. Makes it easier to edit images quickly for banner resizes, send cropped and edited screenshots, and create quick mock wireframes.


A new find via the Google Chrome store, PicMonkey makes it easy to create photo collages for email templates (new slots, round-up of Instagram photos for a newsletter), header images (as seen on my site), Facebook cover photos, and more.

Evernote and/or Google Drive

I used to be a die-hard Evernote fan for keeping my Standard Operating Procedures, passwords, and notes in one place, but Google Drive is slowly becoming my go-to.


I just became a Dropbox fan recently. My personal site crashed and I didn’t have a back-up, so I’m starting over. Lesson learned, though I should have known better, and I do back up all my other business sites. I use the WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin which has worked out great.


Hello, lifesaver. I started using Asana when I was a team of one at MGM Grand Detroit and my moleskin notebook organizational skills were being tested, along with my memory. I started using Asana as my project management tool, and it’s come in handy as my team has grown and “memory” is no longer an acceptable method of keeping track of tasks and longer term projects. It’s a site I log on to Sunday nights and QA for deadlines, then update daily as new tasks come up. Assigning tasks and due dates and the capability to order by project, assignee, or due date make this app one of my favorite things.

iPhone Apps:


Thanks to @hmacdonald for pointing this app out to me. It’s a bit nicer than PicStitch and has font editing capabilities and some of the same features as PicMonkey.


An amazing photo editing app. Use this before posting to Instagram to give iPhone images an extra pop.