Everyone knows the fastest way for brands to engage customers and prospects is through visual content. With more than 200 million monthly users, Instagram has taken the social media world by storm and created the perfect platform for travel companies, agents and destinations to showcase their offerings in a unique way to attract new customers.
Because Instagram is such an ideal setting for new engagement, it’s surprising that more brands aren’t better leveraging this medium with more effective hashtags to encourage more user generated content and increase targeted engagement.
Chances are you can think of at least one or two brand accounts that use lines upon lines of over generalized hashtags, which can be the digital equivalent of throwing mud at the wall to see what sticks. Thankfully, there is a way to strategically use hashtags and contribute to the conversation across platforms without annoying your followers.
To start, take a brief audit of your current presence on Instagram. In looking at the hashtags you use most frequently, personally and on your company’s brand pages, do you notice any trends? Are you double checking for relevancy?
Create a list of your go-to hashtags and run a quick search to see if they’re as relevant as you think. If there are too many or too few results, you may want to reevaluate your messaging strategy.
Here are four buckets to classify your hashtags that will help identify what you might be relying on, what you could try and how to maximize engagement with each.
Branded hashtags are ones that you would create for your brand’s own event, milestone, or campaign. This enables you to track the reach and efficacy of the conversation surrounding a specific message you are trying to communicate.
Examples: #IWannaGo, #CruiselikeaNorwegian
NOTE: This does not include simply putting your brand in a hashtag: #CarnivalCruise, #VirginAmerica
In order to gain traction with a branded tag, it’s important to remember that you will need to support it with relevant content and frequency, and, of course, ambassadors to embrace the message. Try to leverage these on your other social pages to help increase adoption and associate them with other tags that your potential followers would also be using.
2) Ongoing Conversations
These are happening whether you elect to participate or not. These tend to be more ritualistic, but present an opportunity to share your brand’s history and personality, while engaging with a wide variety of fans.
Examples: #tbt, #MotivationMonday, #TravelTuesday or #SelfieSunday
Find a conversation that best aligns to your audience, and embrace it with relevant content. Be respectful of the conversation that’s happening and don’t try to shift it to heavy-handed branding. If done correctly, this could be a great opportunity for you to connect with customers on the periphery of your brand targeting.
Current events will always be trending.
Examples: World Cup, Olympics, newsworthy events, celebrity gossip
If you’re not directly a sponsor or affected by said events, tread lightly and have a concrete vision of how the content you’re putting out ties back to your brand pillars. Be aware that if done improperly, this “newsjacking” can incur a backlash.
4) Junk / Miscellaneous
This is the bucket in which I like to lump general descriptors such as emotions, weather, places etc. This is also the bucket for hashtags so specific that there isn’t a conversation.
Best used for: Killer photography, recipes
While technically this definition would put cities in this category, which can sometimes be helpful, as a best practice it’s always better to be more specific. For example: #Cincytravel would be preferred to #Cincinnati #travel as when they are separated, they are both lost in a sea of unrelated and general posts.
General best practice: the more directed you can be with your hashtags, the better you will connect with your followers. Instead of overloading your posts with tags, try to selectively add one from each of these four buckets and your own company hashtag. Don’t forget to promote any branded or campaign hashtags via other outlets and share that great user generated content you are curating!