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Ramona Wagner

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Instagram has more than 300 million Instagrammers sharing real moments on a daily basis. Of course it is not a surprise that Instagram as a social sharing channel is big -  the other day I was reading on Mashable that

"more parents are now naming their kids after Instagram filters"

and Instagram now being a primary source of inspiration to name children. App filter names such as Lux, Ludwig and Valencia are rising in popularity amongst, even overtaking names based on the solar system. This sums up pretty well the changes that Instagram is bringing. On a more serious note, Instagram is considered by many tourism marketers as a mainstream social sharing channel which is particularly important when reaching out to the Millennial traveller. So how are DMOs using Instagram? What approaches have we seen in different parts of the world and what can those DMOs learn that have not taken the brave step of adding yet another social channel to their long list of responsibilities?

Instagram and its community

Instagram has a big community, 300 million users that are passionate about capturing Insta moments and sharing them with the huge community. The main age group of users on Instagram is between 18 and 29, this Millennial generation is driving the popularity of Instagram as a social network. In comparison to other networks, Instagram has the most engaged users. According to insights from Sprout Social, user interactions with brands’ posts is higher than on other networks with 4.21%. Over the last two years, the average engagement of posts on Instagram has increased by 416%. These numbers really speak for themselves, so it is not a surprise that for many DMOs, the focus is on ensuring to trigger real engagement with their followers and increase their existing community further.

Instagram Approaches

For destinations, we can see a number of approaches. To make sure this article stays concise, I will focus on three major approaches that we have seen among DMOs on Instagram:

  • Ambassador approach
  • Community engagement approach
  • Community content approach

Each of the above approaches meant for the DMO to think quite carefully about the reason for creating an Instagram account in the first place and dedicating resources to delivering regular content. Depending on their overall digital strategy, they are then actively utilising the account and its community to deliver strategic goals that were set internally. Unfortunately, for DMOs social accounts are never just fun but are often tied to numbers, KPIs, measuring activities, as dedicating a person to produce, post and engage with content means that this time invested needs to be productive and have a desired outcome.

The Ambassador Approach

For some DMOs, Instagram is all about engaging different ambassadors to post stunning and authentic content through the destination’s Instagram account. Tourism Australia with around 1.9 million followers is a prime example for that. Each of their images posted is taken by different Instagrammers who often promote the destination for the DMO. With an average of more than 30,000 likes and hundreds of comments per post, Tourism Australia is certainly one of the biggest DMO accounts on Instagram and are successful in this approach. For DMOs engaging key ambassadors in their Instagram activities, this can be a great opportunity to feature Instagram appropriate content. Being authentic and sharing a range of perspectives on a DMOs account is absolutely crucial.

The Estonian Tourism Board, feature 99.9% of ambassador content on their Instagram account. For them, this is a fitting approach, as they encourage ambassadors of the country to share their epic pictures through their account. When a picture is shared, this is naturally a proud moment for any Instagrammer and worth sharing with their own communities.

This multiplier effect means a broader exposure of their content but also making sure that they maintain a very high quality standard when it comes to posting these epic pics. A win-win situation for them.

For 2016, we see many DMOs are planning to organise more Instawalks with bloggers or great Instagrammers to produce new content worth sharing and many are also planning Takeovers of their Instagram accounts to showcase different perspectives.

Community Engagement Approach

Engaging different communities on Instagram is another approach, focusing on the power of communities. With Instagram being the ideal channel to reach Millennials, this also means thinking quite carefully about new approaches to content. What is your Instagram community interested in? The behind the scenes perspective? Experiencing what your destination is like? Never seen places to go to? Local cuisine and traditions? All of these need to be considered when producing, posting and engaging with your community in view of growing it.

Due to the nature of Instagram, it is important to deliver content that your community is generally interested in which might not work on any other social channels or your website. Destinations following this approach are thinking quite carefully about the type of content, both images and videos they are posting and when. The Wonderful Copenhagen team have worked for a number of years on building up a strong and engaged community. This means to think and plan quite strategically which content to snap and when in view of sharing this with their community. Posting about quirky places in Copenhagen that are in line with their strategic focus on key themes such as gastronomy, royal/historic, architecture, green, design/fashion and tradition, is key for them.

A successful community engagement approach is to make sure each post matters and also to be actively part in the conversation that others have about your destination.

Community Content Approach

Making sure the community you build on Instagram is helping you in producing content is another approach that a range of DMOs are taking.

Through handing over your account to key individuals that are part of your community to organising Instawalks, the sky is the limit.

The core thought behind this approach is to make sure authentic and powerful content is produced that can be posted on the Instagram account. Doing so in a very open approach, actively involving the community, means building a strong community that can be essential to tap into when planning or delivering campaigns aimed to target different interest groups.

A strong community also means being able to test content and research interests and topics that they engage with and would be interested in. Understanding how a DMO can market its destination to different communities is essential in view of growing the community further and thinking about long-term strategies when working with key individuals.

Some useful Learnings for DMOs

After speaking to a range of DMOs during #DTIC2015, there are some key learnings to consider for those destinations already running an Instagram account and for those planning to start one in 2016.

  • Dedicate resources to run your Instagram account: To make sure your Instagram account is not just running on the side but is doing well, you have to dedicate resources to it. However, this does not necessarily mean a full time dedicated Instagrammer but planning and delivering your activities on Instagram strategically and efficiently.
  • Be smart when producing content: Producing content can sometimes be considered a difficult task. However, Thomas Christensen from Wonderful Copenhagen has proven this does not have to be the case. Walking to and from work with the 'production truck’, a backpack full of equipment used to produce content, means being more proactive on a day to day basis when you are out and about in your destination. Collecting lots and lots of great content throughout the year, means having plenty to share on Instagram. Sharing a list of the type of images you need with your team members also means that they can snap some useful content which you can post on Instagram. It does not have to be so much work, so be smart when producing content.
  • Think long-term strategy: As a DMO, what is your long-term goal to be on Instagram? The answer here should probably not be to gain lots of followers but to reach different target groups and build up a community of great content creators that can help you produce content for other purposes than using them on Instagram. Imagine a range of authentic/great and shareable content for your next campaign being produced entirely by your community. This means a lot of time and resources can actually be spend on promoting the campaign through investing into advertising, which is often something that a DMO does not have enough budget for or did not actually budget anything at all in for paid advertising.
  • The more you do it, the better you get at it: During #DTIC2015, Tord Baklund from Visit Oslo was talking about their Instagram account which has been running for quite some time. His words of wisdom was to stick it out, as the more you do on Instagram, the better you get. With each post and looking at its analytics, you can learn about which content your followers respond to better and through hashtags you can identify exactly who to engage with in view of being able to share great content from different Instagrammers.

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