Are you in the destination marketing game? Maybe you’re the head marketer for a swanky ski resort in the Rocky Mountains, or the content creator for your home town’s tourism committee.
Whatever situation you might find yourself in, if you’re in the travel industry, you need to market your destination and attract more visitors. Fortunately, Instagram is a fantastic platform to do so!
In this post we’ll discuss nine Instagram strategies for DMOs that you can use to market your location successfully. Let’s get started.
First, let’s cover the reasons Instagram should most definitely be a part of your destination marketing strategy — whether you’re on the tourism board for your charming, little mountain town; or manage the PR and marketing teams for one of the biggest cities in your country:
Instagram has experienced incredible growth since it burst onto the scene back in 2010. It now boasts one billion daily active users, up 200 million from last September. That’s an incredible amount of people!
And you know what? Many of them love to travel and are looking for their next destination, their next adventure. Which leads us to…
In days gone by, those looking to travel would flock to the local travel agent’s office and seek advice on where in the world they should venture to next. Not any more. These days, people just hop on their phones and scroll through Instagram.
In fact, nearly half of Instagram’s users (that’s 500 million people for whoever’s counting) use the network when choosing their next destination. Your organization needs to capitalize on this growing trend. It needs to invest in Instagram.
Before we dive into the list of nine Instagram strategies for DMOs, we should quickly note that, since you’ll be using the platform for business purposes, it’s important that you have a business account. This will allow you to access all the strategies we list below.
Our List of Top Instagram Strategies for DMOs
So, can we agree that Instagram is a viable destination marketing channel and every city’s tourism organization should incorporate the platform into its promotion efforts? Great, now let’s get to those nine strategies we promised you:
1: Promote Your Organization’s Instagram
Instagram won’t be of any benefit to your organization if nobody knows you’re on there. You need to tell people!
Start with those you already know — employees, family and friends, local business owners, your best customers, etc. — and ask them to follow you on the network. This should net you a solid starter following to interact with.
But you should also be promoting your Instagram via a link on your organization’s website and other social media profiles. Consider publishing a blog notifying website viewers that they can now connect with you on Instagram. Post updates on Facebook, Twitter, etc. with the same info.
We’d even recommend signage in and around your office. A simple poster in the lobby or flyers on the front desk will help ensure that every visitor knows about your organization’s profile.
2: Inspire Your Following
Instagram is very much about inspiring people. This is especially true in the travel industry. So really make sure the pictures you post are high quality. And use the network to promote unique or signature qualities about your destination.
This could include its beautiful scenery, thriving food scene, or a few under the radar tourist attractions. Whenever possible, post content that makes viewers say, “Wow, I want to go there!”
If you can make them say that, then you just might turn them into paying vacationers. And that’s the result we want for your destination marketing efforts.
3: Focus On Customer Support
According to Lithium, one of the main reasons a tourist visits a travel brand’s social media page is to get answers. They need help of some kind of help and, most likely, they need it now.
So don’t neglect the customer service opportunity that social media sites, like Instagram, give your company. When people comment on your pictures, respond as soon as possible. The same goes for direct messages and replies to stories (we’ll talk more about stories soon).
4: Make Use of Hashtags
Hashtags aren’t just for teenagers. They’re actually a pretty amazing marketing tool. Especially on Instagram.
If you aren’t familiar with hashtags or how they work, they can be thought of as keywords for social media and are signified by the pound sign (e.g. #DAMbycleanpix). When a post includes a hashtag on Instagram, it will then be included in the search results for that phrase.
This is one of our favorite Instagram strategies for DMOs!
Tag each of your pictures with hashtags that relate to your post and are searched for by your target audience. Instagram let’s you include as many as 30 per photo and studies show that engagement increases when at least 11 are used. So use them freely.
5: Leverage User Generated Content
User generated content is content that’s generated by, you guessed it, users. In the case of DMOs, that would be the guests who visit your city. Studies show that 76% of Instagram users like to share photos of their vacation on social media.
So why not take advantage of this? Not only will it help you reach new potential travelers, but it’s basically free advertising. It’s content promoting your city that you didn’t have to create.
And because your organization didn’t create it, many people will find this kind of content more trustworthy and enticing. Double win!
To help inspire your city’s visitors to post about their vacation and reap the many benefits, develop a unique, branded hashtag and ask travelers to use it on social media. Many brands have used this tactic to perfection. Why shouldn’t your organization use it too?
6: Use Instagram Stories
An Instagram story is a collection of pictures and/or videos that disappears 24 hours after posting. They don’t have a public “like” count or viewable comments, and they appear at the top of the Instagram feed in a horizontal, rather than vertical, feed.
Instagram stories are almost like another social network inside Instagram. Because of the ephemeral nature of these types of posts, they often see a higher level of engagement and fan interaction.
Stories gives you many customization features including different shooting modes and editing options. And popular content themes range from behind the scenes stories to special announcements, and even limited time offers.
If you create a story that does especially well, save it to your profile as a highlight. There’s a lot of destination marketing potential with Instagram stories and we encourage you to start using them today!
7: Experiment With Advertising
Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn and many other social networks, Instagram allows business accounts to post sponsored content on Instagram. When used correctly “Insta Ads” can greatly increase your city’s exposure and help to market it as a top travel spot.
Why? Because users of this platform actually take action on the ads that they find moving! 75% of them according to the folks at Instagram.
How to use Instagram ads effectively is a post unto itself. But for now, just know that understanding your marketing objectives and your target audience are essential to seeing success with this marketing technique.
8: Consider Partnering with Influencers
Influencer marketing is a growing trend and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. In a nutshell, IM is when brands pay influential people money to promote their services and/or products via specific channels like Instagram.
This marketing tactic can be very successful, but it must be approached and handled appropriately. Contacting the biggest Instagram celebrity you can find won’t necessarily benefit your business.
Instead, look for influencers that have carefully cultivated an audience that will find what you offer appealing. Then respectfully contact them and ask to work together.
The topic of influencer marketing also deserves an entire post. But we encourage you to investigate this tactic — it has amazing potential to be one of the most effective Instagram strategies for DMOs. The few quick tips we mentioned here will get you started.
9: Make Use of Analytics
This one isn’t so much a strategy as it is just a really good idea. Marketing in general relies on the consistent use of analytics. So if you’re using Instagram in your destination marketing strategy, you need to be familiar with the numbers.
Fortunately, Instagram offers insights to business account users. From these you can learn demographic information — like gender, age and location — of each of your followers; post and stories data like views, likes and comments; and the success (or not) of your ads.
Definitely take advantage of these insights and use them to inform your marketing strategy on Instagram.
Make Instagram a Part of Your Destination Marketing Strategy
There you have it: nine Instagram strategies for DMOs. These tips will help you cut through the noise and assist you in your destination marketing efforts.
Instagram is a massive (and growing) platform and it’s perfectly suited for those operating in the travel industry. So go ahead and create your organization’s profile today. Then use the tactics discussed in this post to attract more travelers and promote your city.
Just remember, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, Instagram is a social network. Which means your organization needs to be social and interact with your followers.
Whether you’re working on your next inspirational post or story, planning out hashtag strategies, or contacting influencers about potential partnerships, your audience comes first. Connect with them and show them what your city has to offer. We’re sure you’ll do just fine!– Jacob Thomas