What started out as a quirky, iPhone-only app has grown to a massively influential media network with over 400 million users. No longer just a grid of photos, Instagram is a huge business with very real use cases for brands.
The most affected here are industries apt to tell their stories with visuals. That’s one of the reasons why Instagram is such a big deal for the travel industry.
But it’s not just a medium for brands to post content to and hope to reach consumers. It’s also an ecosystem in its own right with a lot of potential to change how people think about and interact with travel.
So what’s happening on Instagram that’s changing things up?
Among other social networks, Instagram has really capitalized on location features and geographical search. This means when users click on a post’s location tag, they can see all the other public posts that appeared and were tagged at that location. It’s a simple feature, but it has big implications for a brand’s image. For hotels, airlines, and travel destinations, this feature can give onlookers access to many more visuals than even those company websites. In essence, it’s becoming a repository for travel imagery. Take a look at airlines like Emirates, that are documenting the flight experience and destination visuals on their profiles, for example.
The most important part of this trend is that the Instagram content is overwhelmingly coming from users. In this way, it has the capacity to be a huge word-of-mouth channel (especially if travel marketers are capitalizing on it in the right ways). We all know people are more likely to listen to suggestions from those they trust rather than from foreign advertisements.
A recent survey by MissTravel found that 48% of Instagram users use the app to help them choose travel destinations for vacations. The survey also found that 35% of users use it to discover new places. With half of users using Instagram to choose vacation spots, it’s clear that the network is a ripe place for travel companies to be. And with this big of a use case, it’s vital that travel marketers are encouraging customers and fans to share content on the platform.
To this end, it’s important to make sure the platform retains the genuine feel of user content, especially when it comes to travel brands engaging with influencers for partnerships. Eelco Roos, a travel photographer with a following of nearly half a million under the username @croyable, tells me that it’s in the best interest for both the brand and the influencer to make sure the planned content is in line with what users want to see. “Give the [influencers] the freedom they need to work,” Roos says. “Sit down with them, share your brand story, and let the photographer translate into content for Instagram.”
Instagram is an amazing and exciting place for users to engage with travel content. Travel marketers would do well to recognize its value as an influential platform that can impact consumer behavior. The key, though, is activating the platform and its influencers in a way that keeps it genuine. People love to share their travel experiences on Instagram, and it’s a great space for marketers to tap into.