This is a translation of the original Italian guest post from Cinzia di Martino.
Have you noticed how Instagram has become a place to share more emotional travel experiences? Say you have dinner at a local restaurant and are impressed and surprised by what you're served. You try to immortalise your experience in a photograph by sharing it with a larger audience via social media.
Sharing travel experiences today is a lot more sophisticated than old paper guidebooks we could only buy in bookstores some twenty years ago. With social media, everyone is a potential ambassador of the places and people encountered during a trip.
In a survey conducted on Instagram, the platform is the go-to social network for 48% of people who want to choose destinations to visit on their next getaway. 35% of them use Instagram to get inspired and discover new places.
Instagram is built on interactions and inspiration from family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances: people you know, you trust, and whose opinion you are more likely to take into account when it comes to making a travel decision.
The influence of Instagram is leveraged by brands as well, who have moved towards campaigns and content that is "more human" and visual. Such content is more captivating and connects to our innate desire to travel and discover.
There is no more space for paper leaflets and cold encyclopedic language: tourism has become too human for that. Instagram started as a social media channel, but over time has become a personal tour guide, like a special tourist office or even a new travel agent.
With around 400 million active users on Instagram, companies strive to win consumer interest by using Instagram as a visual tool. But for you to beat the competition, you need to exceed expectations and meet customers' needs. Do this by showing the most attractive and appealing content.
What would make you post content on Instagram?
Would you use a hashtag created by other people, or a brand?
Would you prefer something to be easy to remember or to find suggestions everywhere about it?
Now, think about the power and potential of word-of-mouth recommendations and user-generated content, and multiply this effect on a worldwide scale made possible by social media.
Many destination brands start by simply enhancing and promoting the destination itself, just like a person who's proud of their own homeland would do. The U.S. Department of the Interior shares the most spectacular views of its landscape on Instagram, featuring its natural beauty to an international audience.
Located on the southwest coast of #Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Kalaloch is one of the most visited areas of #Olympic #NationalPark (@olympicnationalpark) and features year-round camping. A few miles up Highway 101, Ruby Beach offers a spectacular spot to watch the #sunset and marine wildlife such as seastars and anemones. Of the moment captured here photographer Doug Day says, “The water was freezing and everyone was wearing pants and jackets -- I was the only crazy person in swimming trunks with my camera.” Photo courtesy of Doug Day (@ddayphotography_official). #usinterior #findyourpark
Una foto pubblicata da U.S. Department of the Interior (@usinterior) in data:
By publishing this on Instagram, the Department maximized the visibility of the American landscape and shared real-time information that cannot be conveyed in a brochure. At the same time, it gave visibility to the photographer, which in turn attracts more skillful photographers to collaborate with in the future.
Airbnb does this too, by sharing experiences from the most beautiful places in the world, ranging from natural attractions in Chile, to the fjords of Norway, to real and inspiring stories from their guests. The stories, embellished with the brand's touch of empathy, inspire their audience to dream about their next getaway.
The toughest decision you’ll face here is whether to explore the fjord by rowboat or motorboat. When you come home to your waterfront apartment at the end of the day, don’t be surprised if your host, Gunvor, has left you fresh apple juice from her orchard. For a look inside, click the link in our bio. Photo cred: @haileydevine
Una foto pubblicata da Airbnb (@airbnb) in data:
Inspire through collaboration
To achieve marketing targets and expand its online presence, a destination should pull the collective strengths of individual providers and collaborate. Brands are already collaborating with influencers with a lot of followers, but many have yet to tap into their destination's own potential, through the local network.
Working with influencers is a strategy typically embraced by accommodation providers because it's easier to get results with tight deadlines. Waiting for a customer to start a conversation online and share user-generated content might be as effective, but it tends to take more time and results are often inconsistent.
Here's an example from the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, who invited 20 well-known Instagrammers to stay. The campaign generated almost 50,000 positive mentions in less than two months, improving turnover during the low season.
Good afternoon from Vegas! This is the view from my suite at the Bellagio. Thanks to @bellagio and @beautifuldestinations for hooking me up! Now that the jet lag is wearing off I'm looking forward to the next few days! 😉
Una foto pubblicata da JACK MORRIS (@doyoutravel) in data:
A good example of a collaborative network among providers from an entire destination, still at an embryonic level, is in Tivoli, Italy. About 50 local municipalities next to the 98 km long river Aniene, worked together to showcase the image and brand of the entire destination. Alongside the "water route," they highlight biking experiences, spiritual paths, captivating culinary experiences and many other activities in the region.
With a common vision to market the destination and focusing on the uniqueness of the destination as a whole, they've not misrepresented the identity of any single municipality. Each of them still offers its own top product and share it in the best way possible.
Inspire with engaging stories
Let's not forget the main strength of Instagram: it is a strong visual and extremely mobile social media tool. It equips travelers with the fundamentals for successful storytelling, making it easy to spontaneously share about a destination's tradition and culture.
Why do spontaneous interactions on Instagram attract users? Because we are more likely to talk about people who can express themselves, illustrate their lives visually and engage people through stories, emotions and unique insights. This is the real treasure and strength of Instagram.
We want to dive into a destination, be a part of it, to confuse ourselves with locals. We are citizens of the world and Instagram gives us a preview of the experiences we may live out in on our next getaway.
To develop an appealing and engaging brand image on Instagram, tour and activity operators should:
Step into the shoes of travellers and consider the content and hashtags users might find appealing. Also think about how to make your content memorable for your users.
Inspire travellers by showing off the best side of your destination.
Collaborate with your local operator network - create an overarching vision and allow individual operators to adapt it to their services and target market.
Inspire travellers by creating engaging stories. Remember that travellers want to explore a destination in a deep, personal and meaningful way. Use Instagram to share these experiences.