5 tips to make it easy to get started on Instagram

Instagram made easy - fireworks

Events are an easy opportunity for Instagram posts (photo by Leslie McLellan)

Are you rocking your Facebook Page – everyone’s first social media priority, where over one billion people spend their time – and ready to tackle another social media platform?

Consider the photo-sharing app Instagram. Most visitor demographics are on it, and participating is super-easy. There are also analytics available for brand/business accounts through the new Instagram Insights.

Over the past three months, Leslie began using Instagram in earnest for a hotel client and a destination client. Both have seen Instagram take off and become a great marketing tool.

She takes most of the photos; while you might read posts by gurus that talk a lot about getting “just the right shot” with an expensive camera, Leslie has found that photos taken with her phone work perfectly.

Here is our short list of ideas to help you integrate Instagram into your digital destination marketing….

Show what’s going on

Whether you’re a destination, an attraction, a hotel, or a business, let people see what’s happening. Be human and show off what others are doing where you are.  A quick snapshot or a short video of an experience goes a long way.

This photo of Lake Arrowhead [California] Village garnered 90 likes and 5 comments – a photo can be this simple!

Make Instagram easy with photos like this of a busy summer day at Lake Arrowhead Village (photo by Leslie McLellan)

A busy summer day at Lake Arrowhead Village (photo by Leslie McLellan)

Instagram engagement

As with all other social media platforms, it pays to be, well, social.

Be sure to follow others and engage with them. Take two minutes to scroll through your Instagram feed and at least “like” some of your follower’s photos. If you have time, leave a short comment.

Of course, you already knew that, didn’t you?

If a photo is really good, ask the original photographer for permission to re-post it to your followers, using an app like InstaRepost. Most people love to have another account share their work, with credit.

Use hashtags liberally

You can use up to 30 hashtags in conjunction with an Instagram photo.

People use the search function on Instagram to find hashtagged photos related to all sorts of niche topics; that is why hashtags matter and why they can extend your reach beyond your followers.

Instagram #ScenicByways photo taken in North Carolina on Blue Ridge Parkway

This photo taken in North Carolina received 270 likes and 19 comments partly because of good hashtag use (that it’s a wonderful photo is probably the most important reason for its success.)

Besides using your own destination hashtags, here are a few travel-related hashtags that can help you spread your message further:

#travel #instatravel #travelgram #tourism #instago #passportready #wanderlust #ilovetravel #instatravelling #instavacation #postcardsfromtheworld #travelling #trip #traveltheworld #igtravel #getaway #travelpics #tourist #wanderer #wanderlust #travelphoto #mytravelgram #visiting #travels #beauty #amazing #tourist #tourism #worldplaces #traveller #traveler

Now that we’ve shared some travel hashtags with you, have you got some that we could add to this list?  Let us know down below in the comments; we’ll update it as we hear from you, so everyone can benefit!

Hashtag tip – type your hashtags into a note on your phone so you can easily copy and paste them right into the Instagram post. From there you can delete the ones that aren’t appropriate for a particular post – this is so much easier than typing each one in individually.

Remember that people’s Instagram feeds are now driven by an algorithm similar to Facebook’s (Facebook owns Instagram.) Hashtags are one way to ensure that your photos have a better chance of being seen. Social Media Examiner recommends four ways to try to beat the algorithm.

Be consistent, but post only when you have something to show

Instagram consistency is important to building up your following.

Leslie posts twice a week and has good results. The easiest way to be consistent is to plan the types of photos you want to post and then schedule everything in advance.

The planning is the hard part, but if you make a list of the types of photos you want to share that will appeal to your markets – events, attractions, weather, people photos, recreation – it will be easy to plan what photos you need to take or what photos you already have, and fit them into your schedule.

Instagram scheduling & automation

(Update 2020 – Instagram is a lot easier to pre-schedule now, and it continues to be integrated more and more into Facebook’s publishing/creator tools.)

Instagram isn’t as easy to pre-schedule (particularly for free) as other social media programs.

You can automate Instagram via the free version of the Hootsuite social media management dashboard, but really, you are only partially automating it.

With Hootsuite you can load your photo and caption into the program and set the date/time for your photo to post, but when that date and time comes, you’ll receive a message on your phone that it’s time to post. Via several clicks, Hootsuite will get your post up on Instagram, but it’s not like Facebook or Twitter where you can schedule it once and forget it.

On the paid side of things, Leslie uses a program called Grum.

It allows you to schedule your Instagram posts, and also allows you to post your first comment so you can add additional hashtags (seasoned Instagram users put most of their hashtags in a comment rather than in the post description – it looks less cluttered) and have everything done at one time. She recommends it, if your budget allows.

There are other paid options available – is there one you are using that you really like? Let us know down in the comments.

A final tip regarding Instagram posts

Remember to re-purpose those great Facebook, Twitter, or blog post photos on Instagram.

If you post a photo on Facebook on Monday, then use that as your Instagram post on Wednesday and just add the appropriate hashtags.

Think that way with all of your social media – we did a newsletter and blog post awhile back about that very topic and it still rings true today – How chocolate milkshakes give you more content in less time.

Chocolate milkshake content planning featured on Tourism Currents courtesy Danny Huizinga on Flickr Creative Commons

Chocolate milkshake (courtesy Danny Huizinga on Flickr Creative Commons)

And a final, FINAL tip

Want to know more about the “Do’s and Don’ts of Instagram?”  Social Media Today published a great article listing 12 IG Do’s and Don’ts that you can find right here.

If you know that Instagram is a good fit to reach your visitors or hotel guests, but you think you’re “too busy,” then the answer is to consider spending more time on the things that matter more. To succeed in today’s environment, you may have to change habits and do less that is comfortable and familiar.

We’re asked all the time, “how does one find time for social media?” The answer is that you make it a priority and stick to it. End of story.


Leslie & Sheila

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TACVB Annual Conference 2016 in El Paso TX logo.

Learn, grow, and connect with fellow tourism pros (and you do NOT have to be from Texas, either.) 

Tourism Currents is a proud member of several tourism associations. They’re all special, but we particularly like how the TACVB (Texas Association of CVBs) supports even the smallest tourism organizations, including DMOs from rural areas, one-person shops, Chambers of Commerce who also handle tourism, etc.

Because it is such a valuable and well-run professional association, the number of members from outside Texas continues to grow, and we expect that trend to continue.

We have known TACVB Executive Director Sarah Page for years; she partnered with us on a social media education package for state historic sites. Sarah knows her tourism stuff!

If you are looking for an affordable option to connect with CVBs, share ideas, and work through common challenges, we recommend TACVB’s Annual Conference, this year in downtown El Paso, TX, August 15-19.

As proud TACVB Affiliate Members and conference Media Partners, we hope you can join us at the 2016 annual conference next month, and “El Paso Up!”

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