4 Creative Uses of Instagram in Destination Marketing

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Frederic Gonzalo Owner/Partner, Gonzo Marketing

Posted on February 23rd 2014

4 Creative Uses of Instagram in Destination Marketing

For marketers working in the travel and hospitality vertical, it’s an ongoing challenge to find the right tools to reach out to digital nomads and the always-on traveler generation. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, podcasts, mobile-optimized sites, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google+… not to mention newer kids on the block, such as Snapchat, Vine, WeChat or WhatsApp. It ain’t easy to figure which one to prioritize, in terms of time and money, even if and when you have a proper strategy in place, linked to overarching business objectives. Yet, there is one tool that has become a weapon of mass seduction in travel marketing, in particular at the destination level: Instagram.

Brand engagement on Instagram, 15 times higher than on Facebook!When the mobile application was acquired by Facebook less than two years ago, in April 2012, Instagram had an estimated 25 million users. Today? Over 150 million users, active and growing! The popular picture-taking-and-sharing application also added its video functionality, allowing users to capture brief moments (maximum 15 seconds) and share away, competing head-on against the rising popularity of Twitter’s Vine application. Users are thus very active and engaged on Instagram – in fact, a recent study conducted by L2 Think Tank found that brands get 15 times more engagement on Instagram than on Facebook, with nine out of ten brands now active on this platform!

Let’s take a look at four creative examples of destinations embracing the potential of Instagram and integrating it into their digital strategy.

1. Visit Philly

In April 2013, the folks at Visit Philadelphia, formerly known as Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. (GPTMC), took somewhat of a leap-of-faith on Instagram by handing over their account to a local photographer for a whole weekend as the destination was launching its “neighborhoods” campaign, highlighting 14 of its better known downtown areas. Various local instagramers, or #igers, were then called upon to take over the account on various occasions, showcasing the city in a different light, through insiders’ views of things to see and do in their own neighborhoods.

“A main goal with our social media initiatives revolves around image-building”, says Caroline Bean, Director of Social Media, at Visit Philadelphia. “So Instagram makes total sense, as we can then repurpose the visual contents on other platforms, i.e. web, Facebook and other social media accounts. The Instagramers we choose to take-over our Instagram account don’t necessarily have the biggest audiences, but they truly have a sense of place. And, they do have a following of their own, distinctive perhaps of our following as a brand”.

Click here to view the embedded video.

2. #MTLmoments

Canada is known for its French-speaking province, Quebec, along with its biggest and most vibrant city, Montreal. The marketing folks at Tourism Montreal, early adopters with online strategies including avid blogging and dynamic social media accounts, wanted to go beyond beautiful skyline images in order to showcase unique moments that define the city and its local residents. Thus, the #MTLmoments campaign was born.

Launched during the Spring of 2013, the concept was meant to cross online sharing with offline behaviors, during real-life events happening around town. Local influential bloggers and journalists were invited to use the hashtag, meant to motivate locals to share “everyday moments that make Montreal the city it is”. It could be a walk in the park, a BBQ grill in the back-yard with friends on hot summer night, attending a musical show or dancing outdoors during a festival. In order to “help” people share moments via the campaign hashtag, paper frames were also distributed to tourists in hotels and information kiosks across the city. Full-blown, real-size wooden frames were also positioned strategically across various popular spots, showcasing clearly the #MTLmoments hashtag.

Improvised #MTLmoments include weddings!

As of today, more than 27,000 photos were taken using the hashtag, and this campaign is said to have contributed to a 15% increase in web traffic in 2013 versus 2012. Other social media accounts also benefited from the buzz, as their Facebook page saw an increase of 26% in its fan base while both Twitter accounts (French & English) saw increases of more than 33% in followership during the past year.

3. OnlyinSF

San Francisco is known for its landmark visuals, from the Golden Gate to Alcatraz or the picturesque mansions of Knob Hill. But is that all we want to see when seeking inspiration for an upcoming trip to the city? For Dan Rosenbaum, Manager, Digital & Social Media at San Francisco Travel, “Instagram is a great channel to inspire. We see it at a window into a brand, a destination.” The destination was an early adopter of Instagram, back in 2011, which also explains how they achieved to reach close to 40,000 followers on this platform.

San Francisco Travel on Instagram

Along with its ubiquitous #onlyinsf, which has been tagged on nearly 20,000 pictures, the destination also uses hashtags along with specific campaigns. For example #dineabouttown is used in conjunction with the Restaurant Week, held twice yearly, collecting more than 1,440 mentions so far, or #sfoutdoors inviting locals and visitors alike to share their best pics of San Francisco’s hidden gems or known landmarks. Either way, every Tuesday a photo gets highlighted on the official SFO accounts, such as here on their Facebook page, which is followed by more than a half-million fans!

#sfoutdoors photo of the day on Facebook

4. #LA365

Last but not least, The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board recently launched its #LA365 campaign on Instagram, meant to inspire locals and visitors alike to discover and rediscover all that Los Angeles has to offer every day of the year. The creative part here comes from this campaign’s integration across all accounts managed by @discoverLA, in particular on its website, but also Facebook and Twitter accounts. The campaign asks fans to submit their own ideas of iconic spots or lesser-known locales by hashtagging their photos with #LA365. In the first month of the campaign, #LA365 had garnered over 400,000 Instagram impressions, spreading to an additional 935,000 impressions via shares on Twitter!

Instagram Photo of the Day on Discover LA site

Which one of these four initiatives is your favorite? Have you come across other destinations making good use of Instagram? Do let me know in the comment section below.

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Frederic Gonzalo

Owner/Partner, Gonzo Marketing

For the past 19 years, Frederic has been in key marketing, sales & communications roles in the Canadian travel industry. He is now consultant and speaker, specializing in marketing, social media & mobile strategies. Visit his blog for more info at www.fredericgonzalo.com

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