Monday, February 22nd, 2016 | 8 min read
Increasingly, people are turning to Instagram for its visually-rich and engaging travel content. According to a recent survey from the dating website MissTravel, 48% of Instagrammers use the platform to choose travel destinations, and 35% use it to discover new places. Why? For one, that’s where their friends and co-workers go to share their travel experiences.
And where travelers go, marketers are sure to follow. Advertisers at large brands, niche travel companies, and travel publications are all flocking to Instagram with visually-enticing campaigns that appeal to travelers’ wanderlust. A large community of travel bloggers has also found a welcoming home on the platform, where they share their travel adventures and tips.
In other words, Instagram is the modern-day travel agent. And it’s paying off big-time for marketers. By leveraging tactics like influencer marketing, location tagging, user-generated content, and granular targeting within Instagram, travel marketers can understand what their consumers want and deliver it to them like never before.
Now that Instagram’s API is open for all advertisers—featuring new ad formats like carousel ads, 30-second video ads, and call-to-action buttons—travel businesses big and small can try their hand at reaching the platform’s 400 million monthly users.
Let’s check out how they’re doing it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope isn’t the only one evangelizing the beauty of our national parks. With almost one million followers, the U.S. Department of the Interior‘s Instagram account is a one-stop shop for some of the most breathtaking views across the country.
By using Instagram, the U.S. Department of Interior can provide real-time updates from professional photographers stationed throughout the nation and share them on one of the most popular social networks in the world. It’s found a way to breathe life into images that would otherwise be trapped on a .gov website or brochure. Instead, the organization has a living, breathing digital brochure that’s constantly evolving.
Airbnb’s Instagram page is also expertly populated with content. Most of the company’s posts serve to highlight inviting places to visit across the globe—from a treehouse in Hawaii to an Icelandic getaway straight out of The Hobbit. But the most impressive part of this account is the content you can’t find on the brand’s website: the inspiring stories of Airbnb hosts, like Megumi, a single mom who “worked with a team of people to restore a 120-year-old house into a communal living space.”
To reach audiences outside of their own pages, many travel marketers are collaborating with influencers on Instagram. There are a few key benefits to this strategy:
1. Consumers respond better to content that comes from a relatable personality rather than a brand page.
2. Marketers can get in front of thousands or millions of people who might not follow their brand yet.
3. No T&E. Brands can save big bucks by limiting the number of freelancers or employees they need to send abroad.
As one great example, Bellagio Las Vegas chose 20 influencers to help carry out its #UltimateVegas campaign with the Beautiful Destinations Instagram account. Jack Morris, creator of the Do You Travel Instagram account, shared pics from his experience with almost one million followers.
The eight-week campaign generated over 43,000 mentions of the hashtag according to PaceCo, boosting awareness with first-hand accounts of people staying at the hotel.
If you don’t have the budget to partner with influencers, just check out the content your consumers create organically. Brands can do this by searching relevant geographic areas and browsing their own location tags. For instance, some of the most Instagrammed locations of 2015 are popular vacation and travel destinations, such as Disneyland, Times Square, and the Eiffel Tower.
Brands can also create contests and hashtags, inviting audiences to submit their own posts. Air New Zealand’s Instagram bio asks travelers to tag their pics with #AirNZ or #AirNZShareMe so the airline can follow along. Travel companies can then post these consumer-generated images on their own accounts.
The result is a win-win situation for both the influencer and the brand. The brand gets to spread its message with authentic, high-quality content, and the influencer gains exposure for their work.
One of the most popular examples of a travel brand harnessing user-generated content is Montreal Tourism’s #MTLmoments campaign. In Spring 2013, the organization placed picture frames at popular spots throughout the city, encouraging residents and tourists to take their own photos and share them with the hashtag.
According to Skift, more than 24,000 Instagram photos were posted with the hashtag, and Montreal Tourism saw a 15% increase in web traffic from the year before.
Last Fall, when Instagram opened its API for all advertisers, it also introduced new targeting capabilities, which are tied with those of its parent company, Facebook. While Instagram advertisers have always been able to target consumers by age, location, and gender, it wasn’t until recently that they could narrow down their audiences by interests, behaviors, and connections.
Brands can also copy their Facebook Custom Audience settings onto their Instagram campaigns. Marketers create Custom Audiences by uploading previously collected consumer data, such as email lists and phone numbers.
The point is, while there are plenty of ways to source and create innovative content on Instagram, as shown above, there are also more methods than ever to help travel brands get that content in front of the right people.
The days of solely relying on paper brochures and tough-to-navigate travel sites are over. Travelers are increasingly turning to Instagram to plan their trips and share their experience. As a result, brands have an opportunity to gain a solid understanding of their consumers’ interests and deliver content that reflects their travel behaviors.
In other words, the audience is there. Marketers just have to be ready to meet them with the right messages. Thanks to new ad formats and targeting options, influencers who know the platform, and an abundance of user-generated content, advertisers have a wide range of strategies to choose from.
Now, when your target consumer goes to plan their next trip, you can use these methods to make sure your brand is at the top of their list.
About the Author: Amanda Walgrove writes about content marketing, social media, and online entertainment. She has written for Advertising Week, The Huffington Post, Tablet Magazine, and The Content Strategist, among others.