It’s no secret that people are increasingly basing their travel decisions around Instagram. As the Facebook-owned app connects the world, we are increasingly exposed to exotic destinations throughout our daily lives.
This has naturally led to an increased appetite for adventure and in turn to some exciting opportunities for travel marketers. With 700 million monthly users, the app has fast become home to a vast network of travel enthusiasts who use the platform to share their travel tips, experiences, and stories with like-minded people around the world. Understanding the motivations and behaviours of this community not only enables marketers to drive the travel trends of 2017 but also offers a window into the future of travel marketing.
As this community grows, so too do the tools on offer to marketers. With the addition of Instagram Stories in August 2016 came a wealth of new story-telling possibilities. The opportunity to share less polished, more real time content allows travel brands and destinations alike to add a genuine depth to their narrative, enabling a deeper connection with their followers. While savvy brands are creatively capitalising on this new opportunity to engage consumers, we still see many brands investing little time and effort into Stories, often leaving them unpopulated – an oversight that could be costly. In April 2017, Instagram Story usage surpassed all Snapchat activity, and by June, Facebook’s global head of sales Carolyn Everson told CNBC “Today on the platform, we not only have 250 million people using it, but actually a third (of the most viewed stories) are businesses using Instagram Stories and one million are advertisers.”
If that’s not an incentive for travel brands to up their Story game, then we don’t know what is!
Since then, Instagram has continued to evolve its functionality, adding a host of new features such as hashtag and geotag search within Stories. These improvements in Instagram’s targeting capabilities further support branded content and provide travel marketers with a diverse and powerful tool kit to connect with their followers.
With such a wealth of options, smart travel brands are looking to influencers to help them continue to innovate, tapping into their knowledge of the platform and opening up conversations within new communities. A carefully crafted influencer campaign can hugely increase reach at a fraction of the price of traditional advertising.
So what’s next?
What does the future hold for Instagram and how will this affect the travel industry? Being keen travellers and fans of Instagram, last year we asked ourselves these exact questions. We predicted an increasingly rapid shift from a basic photo sharing app to a tool for travel connectivity.
With this in mind, we decided to conduct an experiment, and in October 2016 we embarked on The Travel Project. The aim was simple:
To discover what would happen if we attempted to travel the world guided solely by the Instagram community?
The results were incredible as people opened up their homes, welcomed us into their communities and shared their local knowledge. This changed our approach to travel and gave us a unique insight into the potential Instagram has in shaping the future of the industry. It proved that, used correctly, Instagram can create connections and relationships around the world, merging digital/physical worlds and unlocking new experiences in the process.
This switch from a passive to more active use of the app is something we are likely to see from users as time goes on and undoubtedly Instagram will continue to develop features to support this. The significance of this to the travel industry is absolutely huge as Instagram continues to evolve into a one stop shop for planning, buying and enjoying your holiday.
Taking our learnings from the project, here are three features that we believe could realistically be introduced to aid Instagram as a travel tool:
1. Introducing geo-tagging to the save functionality
Imagine the simple introduction of geo-tagging to the save functionality; this would allow you to produce your own Insta itinerary packed with location-based inspiration. Now imagine if you could share this with your friends in app and continue to use it as an interactive map during your travels. The location-based marketing opportunities for brands would be huge.
2. ‘Experience’ tab
With the rise of experiential travel and Insta meets becoming increasingly common, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to imagine the introduction of an ‘Experience’ tab allowing people to share their crafts and expertise with their followers who could then ‘buy’ the experience within Instagram. This could be a city tour with a local photographer or learning to cook traditional cuisine with a local chef. Brands, such as AirBnB are already offering these types of experiences, yet an appetite for genuine authenticity and bespoke experiences means people may start to look directly to Instagram’s vast creative community to find this. Brands need not be cut out of these transactions however, they just need to work and think on a more local level to capitalise on this trend.
3. Real time targeting
As Instagram works to monetise the platform we will see specific developments for brands and advertisers. Access to more granular user data will offer the ability to deliver highly-targeted, real time ads. For example; when the weather is miserable in London, but a sunny 29 degrees in Barcelona (just a 2 hour flight away), brands could target users who have already searched the destination with images of the city, highlighting the excellent weather forecast and giving them the option to ‘Buy’ the deal immediately.
While no one knows exactly what’s in store, there is one thing we can be sure of. As the connectivity of Instagram’s global community increases, so to will its influence on future travel tastes and decisions. By understanding this ever-growing community and utilising the features available, Instagram can be used as an incredibly powerful marketing tool, offering unrivalled ROI for today’s travel brands.
Charlie & Jess make up The Travel Project on Instagram – the world’s first Instagram powered adventure.
In 2016 the couple quit their London advertising jobs to travel the world guided solely by the Instagram community. This enables them to unearth local tips and unusual experiences everywhere they go.
Find out more on their website: the-travelproject.com