7 Things We Wish the Tourism Industry Knew About Instagram

It’s no secret Instagram is a powerful social media tool for destination marketers. With over 600 million Instagrammers, the possibilities to create a massive audience are endless.

Whether you are just getting started on Instagram, or you consider yourself an expert – we hope this blog will provide insight on current Instagram trends, and how it relates to the travel and tourism industry.

Let’s get started.

1. How to leverage location tags

Instagram is a great way to inspire travel decisions and itineraries. As destination marketers, the location tag on Instagram may be your most valuable tool. Tagging the location can help a potential visitor find your account and/or additional photos about your destination. Seriously, every post should have a location tag! If you do not tag a specific location within your destination, simply tag the city or state your DMO represents.

Additionally, location tags can provide a wealth of inspiration for travel marketers. If you are struggling for blog content, or ways to describe a specific partner – search location tags for photos that may provoke ideas.

2. How to take a decent photo

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds

Beautifully composed photos must be a part of your Instagram strategy. When snapping a picture, try using the rule of thirds. How does this work? Imagine your photo divided into three sections, and place the subject of your photo along the lines on the sides. Avoid placing the subject of your photo directly in the center of the image. Utilizing the rule of thirds adds more negative space to your photos, and is naturally pleasing to the eye.

Vanishing Point

Instagram-viewers also love vanishing points. See how in the image above, it looks as though the path keeps going and going. It’s like staring out into the ocean, or down a long and winding road. The majority of posts we have seen using vanishing posts perform extremely well.

Another thing these photos have in common is nature! Instagram photos of nature perform very well. Try and grab an outdoor photo of your destination at least once a week. Be careful, though. It’s easy to get addicted to the engagement that comes with a beautiful lake, or park. Make sure you are sharing foodie pics, architectural marvels, and events in addition to nature.

If you have too many amazing photos to share, and you simply can’t choose – Instagram recently released albums. Now you can share up to 10 photos in a single post! This will be great for event recaps and/or partner features.

3. How to utilize UGC without forgetting about original content

It's a beautiful day in Riverside Park for the Michigan Vintage Volkswagen Club to strut their stuff!

A post shared by Ypsi Real (@ypsireal) on

We are sorry to have to be the ones to say it, but… We have to do a better job of taking our own photos, instead of constantly re-sharing. What value does your account provide if it’s just a cleaned up version of your destination’s location tag? Other industries would kill for all of the content and creative opportunities DMO’s have at their finger tips. Take time to grab a photo while you are out and about the area. Snap a picture of your lunch from a local partner. HAVE FUN! Aim to have a balance of user generated content and original photos. You can do it!

4. How to properly use hashtags

Couldn't resist sharing this awesome shot by @mushlik 🙌🏼 #chicagonorthshore #winnetka

A post shared by chicagonorthshore (@chicagonorthshore) on

    1. Do your research: Make sure you check a hashtag before using it for the first time. A hashtag may have no presence at all, or it could mean something completely different (or offensive) than what you are trying to portray.
    2. Hide it if you’re going ham: If you are going to use every hashtag known to all of mankind, do so discreetly. Make sure your official hashtag is showcased in your photo’s caption, and put the rest of your hashtags in the comments section. Click the photo above to see how Chicago’s North Shore does this like a pro!
    3. Encourage other people to use your hashtag: If you find a photo of your destination that does not utilize your hashtag, leave a comment for the user and say, “Wow! Awesome pic. We would love if you included #OurOfficialHashtag on photos like this in the future!” Over time, this will help build awareness and usage around your hashtag.
    4. Take hashtags out to the real world: Your hashtag deserves to be featured on the front cover of your visitor guide. It deserves to be on billboards, postcards, t-shirts, keychains, coasters, and any other traditional marketing effort your CVB is working on. Let people know you take your hashtag seriously by printing it on important pieces!

5. How to use third party apps

Instagram has made it easy to create engaging content with their apps, Boomerang, Hyperlapse, and Layout.

  • Boomerang allows you to make looping gifs/videos. They’re very short, and keep playing until the user scrolls past your post. This is a great tool to capture waves of the ocean, beer mugs clinging, or funky dance moves. The secret to this tool is in the name itself. Check out the Boomerang page to see awesome examples.
  • Hyperlapse is a video editing tool that make time lapse videos a breeze. Now you can capture that perfect sunset, and share the view with your followers! Check out these examples of Hyperlapse videos for ideas.
  • Layout came around quite a while ago, and allows users to arrange multiple photos onto one image. You can even get creative by using the mirror-imaging tool. Check out Layout’s Instagram page for inspiration.

6. How to run an Instagram ad (and why it matters)

Instagram ads are an effective way to raise brand awareness, according to the recent Nanigans report on Instagram Advertising. Although the average CPC is higher than we would like ($1.08 vs. $0.33 on Facebook), the CPM is slightly less expensive for Instagram and Facebook ($5.41 vs. $5.92). Facebook reps recently stated that Instagram Ads will become a prime product for travel marketing.

Setting up Instagram Ads is fairly easy if you are familiar with Facebook Ads manager. It’s exactly like setting up a photo ad, with a few extra steps. Click here to watch a video on how to set up an Instagram ad, and stay up to date with new advertising features by following Instagram’s advertising blog.

You can also reach out to TwoSix Digital to talk about your next Integrated Digital Campaign.

7. How to create content opportunities with Instagram

An Instagram photo can take on many forms in your content marketing. Schedule out your Instagram photos into Twitter (but please make sure you have more content than just Instagram pics on Twitter). Create a Pinterest board of your Instagram photos (but please make sure you have more content than just Instagram pics on Pinterest).

As opposed to constantly reposting photos on Instagram, gather the best photos of the week, month, or year, and feature them in a blog. Visit Stockton does an awesome job of this!

Next time you share a photo on Instagram, try to come up with three other uses of the photo before you consider your work complete.

8. Additional resources worth checking out

A post shared by Instagram (@instagram) on

There are so many articles on Instagram, it’s hard to decipher which are quality sources of information. We took some time to sift through the noise, and select some of the most important reads.

Basic Instagram Tips

Advanced Instagram Tips

Instagram Advertising Tips

Regularly check Instagram’s Business Blog for new features and tips!

Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on our 7 best practices? Let us know by reaching out to us on Twitter or Facebook. Now get out there, and take some awesome photos!