Previously written for Newton O’Neil Communications by Pigtail Media founder, Cierra Savatgy-King.
Instagram is one of the most powerful marketing tools for keeping your travel brand top of mind for your customers. Naturally, people want to see wanderlust photos. Photos of beautiful scenery. They want to daydream about experiences they wish to have. And your brand can be a part of their online daydreaming and planning experience.
However, no longer are the days when all of your Instagram followers actually saw your posts. The smart Facebook algorithm (Instagram is owned by Facebook) is now a huge portion of how your photos are discovered.
This means that you may be posting photos, but those photos may not be seen by many people and engagement may be low.
You may be putting in a lot of work, but very few people are actually seeing what you’re posting.
Here are 3 tips to help get your photos seen, increase engagement, and increase followers.
1) Using high quality photos by searching user-generated content
High-quality unique photos naturally receive higher engagement. Instagram is all about the image, and you want to be sure you’re using photos that showcase your travel (or restaurant, retail, beauty, etc) brand professionally – and consistently.
That doesn’t mean every photo should be photoshopped and looking like a sleek magazine ad. In fact, you very well may not want to use those, depending on your brand. The nature of social media is to be real. But, you do want to be real and professional.
A bad image that has low resolution and is grainy or a promotional image with text that is not to correct dimensions can give a very unprofessional feel.
Revisit the photos you have on file and see what you already have to work with from prior trip photos, campaigns or maybe when you paid a professional photographer for an event. Don’t reinvent the wheel where you don’t need to.
Don’t have many high quality photos? User generated content (UGC) is also a great way to gather high quality photos that may be at a perspective you hadn’t yet thought of. By using the Instagram search queries, you can find a plethora of travel and destination photos.
Let’s say you’re a hotel in Telluride, CO.
Search “#Telluride” as a hashtag and then search “Telluride” as a location. Skip past the top posts to get to the most recent photos.
Once you find a photo that sparks an interest or a clever caption, save the photo by clicking the button on the bottom right of the photo and then ping the user with a comment similar to this: “Really great photo! May we use on social media with your credit?”
*For efficiencies, spend some time doing this in one sitting and then return a few days later to the photos you’ve favorited to see who has given permission.
Once you’ve received permission to use (most of the time people are actually excited to be featured), schedule your post using a tool like Planoly to keep the integrity of the quality of the photo.
Stay away from using reshare tools where the text overlay says “Reshared” on top of the photo. This gives an unprofessional feel. Also stay away from screenshotting the image and then resharing. This loses the quality of the photo.
Planoly let’s you select the photo you want to share, give the person credit, add your copy and hashtags, and then plan for another time to share.
2) Using catchy captions.
We have become skimmers. We digest news in bite-sized pieces and scan articles. Even major news sites are now including articles in bullet formats to get the main points of a topic across quickly. For good or for bad, that’s where we are.
Your social media posts should create an emotion (happy, excited, touched, etc) in less than a second. You must still plan for quality copy while keeping in mind that people will only read a small portion of your text.
This is how lots of ‘likes’ happen: people skim their feed, and when they feel something, they take action. It happens so fast people don’t even realize why they are doing it.
And more organic “likes” put you higher in algorithms, thus delivering to more people and providing higher reach.
Since you’re likely skimming this article as well – hey, no hard feelings! – here are some quick examples of how to do this:
Get people to imagine they are there. People respond better to something that is about them.
Keep it as absolutely short as possible, removing every unnecessary character. The details make a difference in how quickly somehow can feel something.
If you have a lot to say that’s important, start with the catchy one liner. Then separate out the copy in 1-2 sentences at a time with line breaks.
3) Use hashtags for discoverability
It’s not enough just to post beautiful photos with catchy captions. If you don’t already have a large follower base, your posts are likely not being seen by many people.
Hashtags are used for discoverability. People frequently search hashtags – especially if they are researching their travels!
Get your brand into the conversation by adding relevant hashtags.
We recommend using the 2:10 rule: using two (or three) brand-specific hashtags and about 10 or more related hashtags.
For example, if you were a female travel blogger with the blog, Her Life Adventure and you were sharing about a trip to Yellowstone National Park and including a photo with buffaloes, you may include these hashtags: #HerLifeAdventure #HerLifeAdventureBlog #Tetons #YellowstoneNationalPark #Yellowstone #GetOutdoors #NationalParks #Montanta #Wyoming #Buffalos #BabyBuffalo #TravelBlogger #AdventureTravelBlog #LifeOutside #NaturalBeauty
Tip: To keep from looking cluttered, use spacing between your copy and your hashtags or include your hashtags in your comments.
These tips will help your content be discovered by users and increase the amount of engagement you get on each post. Remember, higher engagement signals to Instagram that your content is valuable, thus it will feed into the algorithm more, compounding the number of people who see your posts and the enhanced engagement.
About Cierra Savatgy-King: Cierra is founder of Pigtail Media, a boutique social media marketing firm for hospitality, travel and entertainment brands. She helps build strategies, manage content and train teams, helping clients tame the massive beast of social media. See what clients have said.