10 Best Practices for Tourism Marketing with Instagram

Posted by Alex Ditty on Mar 19, 2015 6:30:00 AM

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Follow these tips from top Destination Marketing Organizations to grow your Instagram marketing.

Instagram provides great opportunities for people to share the things they love and a snapshot of their daily activities. This makes it the perfect match for Destination Marketing Organizations who are trying to showcase authentic perspectives of the destinations they represent. There are many great examples of DMOs who have found success by adding Instagram to their social media marketing promotions. We’ve shown you the ten best practices that you should follow for your next Instagram campaign, and now we outline tips which are designed for those of you who are specifically trying to use Instagram for your tourism marketing.

Increase user-generated content creation

The biggest benefit that Instagram provides DMOs is the opportunity to build content that shows the destination through the perspective of the residents who are enjoying it everyday. Instagrammers are sharing photos and videos of the things they love about your destination and this gives you an opportunity to leverage this user-generated content to showcase an authentic view of your destination and all the great things it has to offer.

Visit Omaha took advantage of this opportunity with their #OmahaWeekend campaign. The DMO encouraged their community to share their favorite moments of Omaha for a chance to win great Omaha specific prize packages and used the UGC shared with the contest as a way to authentically promote the destination.

To build UGC promoting your destination, create contest concepts that encourage your community to share the things they love about your destination.


Establish a hashtag

To maximize the effectiveness of this content it’s best to concentrate the UGC creation around a single hashtag. Since your community is already sharing, bring all those efforts together centered on a community-focused hashtag. Whether for a specific contest or general sharing, the hashtag will help your community explore content from other ‘grammers and will build your user generated content efforts in a meaningful way.

The City of El Paso had great results with this by establishing the #itsallgoodep tag for their community’s sharing. They recognized that user-generated content is one of the most powerful forms of visual marketing and wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to highlight the Sun City’s “it’s all good” state of mind in an authentic way. They encouraged their community to share visual content on Instagram and Twitter showing how they enjoy El Paso with the tag #itsallgoodep. This tag grew across the El Paso community with residents and businesses alike creating content which has reached over 56 million people.

Build all of your Instagram marketing efforts around specific hashtags to focus all of the UGC sharing. Whether for a single contest or your general tourism marketing, hashtags should always be a piece of your social media marketing.


Take the UGC outside of Instagram

When your community is sharing around a single hashtag, use that tag as the basis for displaying this content. Driving user-generated content on Instagram is terrific and when you can take that UGC beyond Instagram to the rest of your community you’ll see incredible results. Feature the Instagram content that’s being shared on your website as well as contest specific landing pages to put the spotlight on this authentic view of your destination.

The Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau displays the best photography that their community shares of the Pocono Mountains with their #TakeOnPocono Instagram contest. By using the SEEN Campaigns Platform, PMVB is able to highlight 16,000+ Instagram photos and videos shared with their community on their website and other social networks.

Expand the reach of your content by considering how you can display it in other ways. When featuring this content be sure to always follow Instagram’s display guidelines.


Promote events with UGC from Instagram

When your destination is hosting live events, the need to display the content being shared is even more critical. Simply by creating displays for the content, Instagram can help promote your destination’s campaigns as well as expand the reach of your events beyond just those guests in attendance. Instagram displays at events can be used to encourage attendees to share by showing them the photos and videos already being shared from other guests at the event.

Visit Rochester takes advantage of this opportunity with their annual #SocialICE event. Each winter downtown Rochester gets transformed into an outdoor ice bar for their #SocialICE party. At the event they invite everyone in attendance to share photos of the fun and the ice bars.This content is displayed on both a custom landing page for the event as well as with live projectors, which further encouraged people to share content about the Rochester, MN lifestyle.

Find ways to display content from your live events to increase your sharing and expand the reach of your events.


Create moments that create content

To kick-start this visual content creation, you may need to create moments to inspire your community to action. ‘Creating moments’ for your community can be thought of as anything that compels them to share and makes the process of sharing simpler for them. Whether it’s with framed signs around the city or any other call-to-action, you need to create a simple path that inspires content creation. The moments that you create should both feature the best aspects of your destination while also making it easy to for people to share (with your establishing hashtag). These moments that you build should fit your destination and provide an authentic look into your experiences. They are the drivers that get your community sharing about your destination.

The Montreal Tourism team is a great example of creating these moments to inspire content creation with their #MTLmoments campaign. They placed picture frames at interesting vantage points around the city to encourage people to share photos of the framed shot with the #MTLmoments hashtag. This simplified the content sharing and showcased an authentic experience of Montreal from the photographer’s perspective.

To inspire content creation for your destination think of the moments that you'd want to be shown from your destination and how you can inspire that content creation from your community.

Learn from the content

The content that your residents and visitors are sharing is great for promotion but for effective tourism marketing on Instagram, it’s important to also use this content for your marketing research and knowledge acquisition. You can learn a lot about your community from the content that they’re sharing. Use your Instagram marketing programs to understand who your most passionate fans in your community are and what their interests are. This will show you who you should be engaging and how. This will help plan future campaigns that are even more successful.

To understand how you can apply this learning, look no further than the Atlantis Resorts and their #AtlantisResort Instagram campaign. Their guests shared their favorite moments from the resort and by analyzing this content the Atlantis team was able to get a better picture of who their audience was and apply this data to future campaign planning.

Run campaigns for more than just the promotional gains and use them as an opportunity to learn about your community. Learn how you can apply these insights by downloading our guide to using Instagram data and determine the metrics that will teach you about your community and what they’re interacting with on Instagram.


Measure contest success

You and your team will know your marketing on Instagram is successful when you're able to track the results against measurable goals. Each of your contests needs goals for their reach and engagement to understand where your marketing efforts worked. Measuring against these goals will define the success of these initiatives and help you track your community participation to guide your strategy for future engagements.

To get the full picture of their Instagram marketing success, the #TruckeeMoments campaign is regularly measured against monthly benchmarks. Their campaign is designed to maintain a Relative Engagement above the Instagram standard rate of 3.5% while increasing their posts, reach and interactions by over 25% each month.

Track your engagement to predict content success and understand what you can do to increase your performance with your Instagram campaigns.



Engage potential visitors

Aside from the benefits that the content generation provides, Instagram also gives DMOs a great opportunity to interact with their current and potential visitors. When people are posting content related to interest areas represented by your destination you can interact with those individuals and devise contest concepts that will enable you to better engage them. You know your destination and all the great things it has to offer so use Instagram as the conduit to build relationships with the people who are sharing about similar interests that your destination offers. For example, if your destination has a great live music scene, then create a campaign to engage live music fans and attract them to your destination.

Visit Austin did just that when they launched their #ATXairstream campaign the summer of 2013. They took a custom-fitted airstream on the road to the country’s top music festivals Instagramming the whole way to introduce music fans to Austin’s live music scene. People who came to the airstream at events like Lollapalooza shared photos and videos on Instagram for a chance to win free tickets to the Austin City Limits music festival.

Create campaigns and concepts that give you the ability to use Instagram to engage people who would love your destination and may not even know it yet!


Engage your residents

Along with your destination’s visitors, Instagram also creates the opportunity to engage your residents to build their passion and sharing. No one knows your city better than the people who live and love it everyday. These are the individuals who should be your ambassadors doing your destination marketing on Instagram. Interacting with them and building their sharing can help you show the world your destination’s true voice. There are perceptions that exist about every destination and whether these are positive or negative perceptions, they can be molded by the residents and how they’re sharing about the destination. Use this to your advantage and engage residents so that you can shape opportunities for them to share about your destination and tell your story.

During the winter, the City of Buffalo is no stranger to the snow. This can be discouraging to some potential visitors to the upstate New York destination but Buffalo set out to show people how fun their city was during the frigid months. And what better way to do this than to have their residents tell the story? They created the #WinterBuf Instagram contest which encouraged the citizens of buffalo to share how they were enjoying winter in Buffalo. Nearly 3,000 posts were shared from Buffalo residents showing how they were enjoying the city, which helped shape the perception of Buffalo in the winter enough for the New York Times to write about it!

Enlist your destination’s residents as an army of ambassadors to tell the true story of what your destination has to offer. You can plan smart ways to drive this participation from your community with Instagram contests by downloading this free Instagram campaign planning template.


Inspire travel 

At the end of the day the goal of all of your efforts is to inspire travel to your destination. All of the content that is generated, the hashtags aggregating the content, the displays highlighting the content and the visitors and residents sharing the content are all a piece of your overall efforts to encourage more people to visit your destination. Your content efforts on Instagram should work towards the goals of this inspiration and focus on driving people to check out your destination.

Aruba Tourism set out to capture this inspiration with their #1happysnap contest on Instagram and Twitter. They encouraged their community to share their travel inspirations for a chance to win a trip to the happy island as well as other great prizes from Nikon to capture your future travel inspirations. This campaign gave their fans an outlet to share their love of traveling and Aruba a chance to give them more reasons to feel inspired to travel.

All of your tourism marketing efforts on Instagram should focus on the main goal of inspiring travel to your destination. Keep that focus in mind to create contests on Instagram that help satisfy that goal.


Growing your social media marketing with Instagram campaigns is something that every DMO can find success with. With these tips you’ll be able to grow your destination marketing and build your relationships with your residents, increase your visitors all through smart UGC.


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Topics: Planning Campaigns, Campaign Best Practices, Moment Marketing, Case Studies, Tourism Marketing

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