First and foremost, whether you have an Instagram marketing strategy depends on who your ideal audience is. If your business targets the grey nomad audience, then Instagram might miss the mark slightly. However, an Instagram marketing strategy could be really effective at reaching the 25-55 market that most tour and activity operators want to reach. If this is the age bracket you want to reach, particularly females, then Instagram performs very strongly.
A comparison between platforms to be aware of is between Instagram and Snapchat. Snapchat performs quite strongly among the younger end of that age bracket and, especially in the United States, represents quite a significant opportunity.
How big is the audience on Instagram? As of December 2016, Instagram has 600 million active monthly users, with about 26% of those being in the 25-34 age bracket, 23% being in the 18-24 age bracket and 19% in the 35-44 age bracket. That gives you a very large number of users to potentially reach, as well as very engaged users. This audience by and large loves travel and the rise of the selfie means that Instagram is extremely popular with them.
Typically when looking at social media from a marketing perspective, we look at the target audience in terms of the size, the reach and also the engagement. Engagement refers to what someone does with a post when they see it. If it appears on their feed but they scroll straight past it, they have not engaged with it, but if they see it, like it, comment on it or share it with others, then they have engaged with it and they are more likely to remember it and take action because of it. Instagram performs very strongly with engagement – people engage 10x more on average with Instagram posts than they do with Facebook posts.
Instagram performs better in terms of engagement because it is so visual – people engage more with pictures and videos than they do with text posts like you so often find on Facebook. However, as shown in the webinar the average engagement on posts by businesses on Instagram is dropping because of a change in the algorithm that prioritizes posts on users’ feeds based on their connections with the person who posted it. This means that on top of ensuring that your pictures and videos are top quality, it is a good idea to invest in some paid media to make sure that your posts get some visibility.
Despite the change in algorithm and the drop in engagement for businesses, there are still a lot of opportunities for an effective Instagram marketing strategy. Tourism Australia is the most successful tourism brand in the world on Instagram with 2.4 million followers and an average of 56,000 likes per post. They enjoy significant engagement with every post they make because their content is top quality so look to them for ideas on how to run an Instagram account.
Another example of a successfully implemented Instagram marketing strategy on a slightly smaller scale is LivItaly Tours. They focus on out-of-the-ordinary tours in Italy and they have a smaller Instagram presence with only about 5,000 followers, but they still manage an average of nearly 300 likes per post which is very strong engagement. They really capture the unique feel of their brand in their communications with distinctive and uniquely Italian-looking images on their account that show off what their brand has to offer.
So what is it that these business do that make their Instagram marketing strategy so successful?
There are several techniques to make your Instagram posts more visible and perform better.
Hashtags are essentially the way to filter content by topic and they are how people navigate Instagram and discover new content. The first thing element of a successful Instagram marketing strategy is to include a lot of hashtags on posts and to repost users’ posts with a lot of hashtags. This works because, given that hashtags are essentially topic labels, the more hashtags on a post, the more topics a post will appear under when someone searches.
As a tour guide, what you can do is ask your users to include a certain hashtag that you use very often on their posts when they share an experience they had with you. Tourism Australia’s Instagram marketing strategy has used this tactic very successfully. Fans and photography professionals who want exposure for their photos are willing to share them and let you use them. This lets you crowdsource content for your posts which means you have access to a wider pool of talent and a far greater amount of content than you could create on your own. 93% of the content that Tourism Australia posts is created by their fans – take a look at their page and see what you think of it. Think about looking into your local tourism agency to see if they would be willing to share some of your content – it could boost your exposure quite significantly.
Another benefit of getting your users to generate your content for you, and the reason why it works so well for these other companies, is because it is more authentic. People like to share experiences that they enjoyed and if someone browsing Instagram sees a user saying positive things about your business, it is much more believable than seeing a business promoting itself.
As we’ve said, hashtags are basically topic headings for certain posts, so the more hashtags a post has, the more topic searches it will appear under. It makes sense then that the more hashtags a post has, the more engagement it will receive simply because more people will see it.
Having said that, however, there are limits to what can be reasonably done using hashtags – don’t go overboard. If you post a photo with one line worth of description and 10 lines of hashtags, it looks stupid. But if you include a few more than you might have normally, you can reach people in new areas and boost your exposure.
The whole point of tourism is that it is location-based, so these geotags are absolutely essential. They boost engagement because people like to see where something is located. People like to search for locations on platforms like Instagram – for example if you run a walking tour in Paris, tag your posts as being located in Paris because people like to search for Paris as a location on Instagram. Similarly, if your guests make posts about their experience with you and tag the location as Paris, these posts will appear when someone searches for Paris as a location. To put a number on it, posts tagged with a location enjoy 79% higher engagement than those without. An Instagram marketing strategy is based on putting your posts in front of people who will be interested in them, and people searching for travel-related content almost always start their search by looking for a particular location.
There is no real answer to that purely in terms of a number of posts per day. Tourism Australia posts on average three times per day, but this is huge and they also have a dedicated team of people working on their Instagram page, as well as a massive pool of content to draw from as we said earlier. What it boils down to is quality control. Your Instagram account is where you should project a very polished, glamorous image of yourself, so if you happen to not get any really good photos from a particular day’s worth of activities, posting nothing is better than posting something substandard. There is no real change in the level of engagement if you post once per day compared to twice or more.
Different sources have different answers for this. Adobe says you should post in time for people to see it when they wake up because browsing social media is what most people do first thing in the morning. If you want to subscribe to this mentality, then schedule your posts to be at about 6:00am in the region of the world inhabited by the group you most want to reach. If you are focused on your home market, then 6:00am in your local region, but if a large part of your audience is overseas somewhere and you want to grow your international audience, consider posting at that time in their region.
At the other end of the spectrum, SumAll says that you should post between 5:00 and 6:00pm. This is because that is when people finish work for the day and look at social media on the way home for ideas of where to travel and what to do next.
What do we suggest? It depends entirely on your brand. Our recommendation is to use your own metrics to find out when users engage with you the most. Try posting for the morning crowd for a week and then switch to the evening crowd for a week and see which posts perform better. Once you can identify a pattern of what works, incorporate it into your Instagram marketing strategy and go with it.
How important are the captions? It varies by platform. On a standard blog post the caption is usually the second most read item after the title. However, on Instagram there is no real correlation between the engagement on a post and the words in the caption. This is because Instagram is and always has been all about the photos. What this means is don’t sweat too much over coming up with the snappiest, punniest caption you can think of.
Photos still perform better on Instagram than videos, despite the success of Instagram’s new ‘Snapshots’ feature. This means that you can still focus on photos, largely because they are much easier from a production perspective. Having said that, don’t disregard videos entirely. If you are able to, it’s certainly worth trying to get some videos onto your account.
As Instagram is such a visual platform, your Instagram marketing strategy rests entirely on the quality of the content you post. Tourism Australia says the best camera is the one you have with you (your phone), and if you want to capture the moments that happen on your tour with your guests, then they are probably right. It is too much of a hassle to set up a tripod and a big DSLR camera to capture moments like those. However, your photos still need to be top quality. If you take the sort of photos, such as landscape shots, that would make a DSLR camera worthwhile, then by all means invest in one, but think about the nature of your desired content when deciding what sort of camera to use.
Our recommendation if you use your phone is not to use the Instagram app to take the photos because it doesn’t have many editing features. Use an app such as VSCO to edit your photos before you post them. If you’re not sure about our recommendation, just Google ‘best app for high-quality photos on iPhone/Android/Samsung’ (or whatever type of phone you have).
Editing your photos is very important – don’t just post them straight from your phone. Make sure the photo is cropped and you have the right composition. Go onto YouTube and watch videos about finding the right composition and dimensions for your photos on Instagram.
Take multiple photos, see which one looks the best and filter them out that way. When you post the photo to Instagram, a lot of people recommend using the same filter each time because it creates a sense of consistency. If your photos include distinctive landscapes, try using a filter that enhances the contrast in the colours. If your photos include distinctive landmarks or buildings, try filters that increase the intensity of warmer colours – urban landscapes can be flatter in terms of colour so these filters can make the photos more exciting. Once again, there is any number of blogs online about which filter is best for which sort of picture, so just Google it.
Influencers are a key part of any Instagram marketing strategy. By using influencers who have built up a following, it gives your brand a more organic feel. Rather than trying to reach people with standard advertisements, using influencers makes your brand feel more personal. This is especially important because promotion-style ads on Instagram do not work very well because Instagram is where people often go to avoid ads like that, so they do not engage with them when they appear.
Using influencers also adds a layer of interest – influencers on Instagram are often aspirational figures who their followers want to emulate. If you can leverage influencers to promote your brand, it can put you in front of thousands of new people without needing to pay for ad placements. Posts by influencers also tend to generate more engagement because these influencers know how to get people to engage – it is what they do.
Influencers charge different rates depending on how many followers they have. There is an app called Tribe that connects influencers with brands looking to use them.
We recommend using a series of influencers with a smaller number of followers (between 5,000 and 20,000) who are more concentrated to a particular area than going for the one influencer with the huge following. This will likely make your Instagram marketing strategy more successful because engagement with a post comes from its relevance to the people who see it. If you have the Kim Kardashian influencer with the huge following promoting your product, a large number of those followers will likely be irrelevant to your brand and you are wasting your money trying to reach them.
Instagram, just like Facebook, lets you pay them for sponsored posts. This is a worthwhile inclusion in your Instagram marketing strategy if you want to boost the exposure of your posts because sponsored posts on Instagram generate 58x more engagement per follower than sponsored posts on Facebook.
Instagram is owned by Facebook which gives them access to Facebook’s targeting capabilities. Facebook has probably one of the most advanced demographic targeting algorithms in the world which lets you target users based on age, gender, location, interests, behaviours and connections. If you have done any Facebook advertising, you can transfer your existing custom audiences from Facebook into your Instagram account and create further custom audiences based on previously collected customer information.
This means that if you have collected the email address of previous customers and you want to target them and people like them, you can thanks to Facebook’s advanced targeting. You can enter the email addresses of the people who are representative of the group you want to reach and Facebook’s system can target people of a similar age, the same gender, the same location and, most powerfully, similar interests and behaviours.
Reporting on a paid platform is quite easy – you just use the platform and you have access to the reporting that it includes with the ad placements. Facebook has reporting in-built with its advertising and targeting mechanism.
If you want to focus on tracking your organic growth, you can use tracking tools to put a trackable link onto your Instagram profile – once again there are plenty of posts online about how to do that. Once the tracking is set up, you want to track your progress on a daily or weekly basis in terms of the number of likes your posts receive, the number of comments they receive and the number of brand mentions you receive in user-generated content.
For more information, we have included the slides used in the presentation here for you as well.
Frederic Chanut has earned his stripes in online marketing for travel. After being the head of SEO at Orbitz he started In Marketing We Trust.
IMWT is a renowned marketing agency helping the biggest brands in travel. With a strong focus on sales instead of traffic they have successfully worked with brands like Expedia, Club Med, YHA Australia, Makemytrip and Columbus Direct.
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