Travel agents can tap into Instagram’s photo-sharing feature and steadily growing user base to increase business. // © 2015 Thinkstock
There’s no doubt about it: We live in an era where the fine line between the real world and the digital world gets hazier each day. This is especially clear on vacation, when families, friends, solo travelers and couples share the highlights of their getaways in near-real time through social media.
But the savviest travel agents don’t stop at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn or even blogging: Instagram, an app for sharing photos and videos, should also own a top spot in their arsenal of social media tools for the following reasons.
To Reach Millennials (and the Rest of the World)
Despite only having launched in October 2010, Instagram’s company website says the social-sharing platform has more than 300 million active users. These individuals are active, too: More than 30 billion photos have been posted, at an average rate of 70 million photos per day.
But the impressive statistics don’t stop there. According to a September 2014 survey conducted by Pew Research Center, about half of all Instagram users use the platform daily, and 53 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 — also known as millennials — have an Instagram account.
Considering that millennials are anticipated to exceed baby boomers in the U.S. this year (75.3 million versus 74.9 million, according to Pew), travel agents would be wise to adapt to the trend. By honing their own Instagram skills, agents can successfully appeal to this young, travel-hungry generation.
To Market Travel-Planning Services
If the sheer enormity of Instagram users (read: prospective clients) isn’t substantial enough to inspire active use of Instagram, consider the impact and influence of beautiful imagery in general. As soon as a striking sunset graces the sky, it’s only a matter of time before various interpretations — some with a Valencia filter, others with a "#nofilter" hashtag — appear one by one on your Instagram feed. Though the sight may look pretty on a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 screen, what these photos do is inspire others to go outside and see the sunset for themselves.
For those lucky enough to see impressive scenes, Instagram is great — and free — visual marketing. For agents, that can apply to the private white-sand beach of an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta or a famous museum in Italy that offers exclusive behind-the-scenes tours.
That said, personal travel and fam trips are golden opportunities. Capture and share the trip’s selling points on Instagram via pictures or short video clips — above all, aspects that are not as easily attainable without the help of a travel agent. Show clients how you see and experience the world, and, more importantly, how they can do the same with your assistance.
To Increase Brand Awareness
With Instagram’s accessibility, travel agents can effortlessly address the need of producing fresh, compelling content on a consistent basis — one of the key elements of successful self-branding.
As soon as clients click “follow,” all of your Instagram posts (which are only a quick snap away) will show up their feed. Each Instagram can remind clients of your travel-planning services as well as inspire clients to request a similar trip to the Bahamas, India or wherever else you excel at planning.
To Maintain Clientele and Share Your Work
Particularly when clients go on a trip that you planned, be sure to follow them on Instagram. They will almost certainly be posting away — as soon as they return to their hotel’s complimentary Wi-Fi access, that is — and you get to see and “like” the fun you helped to make possible.
You can also repost some of the best ‘grams that your clients post while on such a trip. Not only will those "regrammed" posts serve as a portfolio demonstrating your travel-planning distinction, your clients will most likely appreciate and be excited that you have shared their photography.
Tips on How to Master Instagram:
- Be authentic. Instagram posts are meant to be organic and capture what is truly happening at real time. An occasional styled photo or "#latergram" (a photo that was taken at an earlier time) can fare well on Instagram, but avoid posting stock images or studio shots on your Instagram account.
- Stay true to your brand. Consider your travel agency’s niche and what interests your core customer. Then, convey that throughout your Instagram feed. Do you specialize in adventure travel? Include thrilling action shots. If luxury is your agency’s focus, majestic panoramas from a recent river cruise sailing may be more applicable.
Furthermore, Instagram followers respond well to consistency: If they enjoy your aesthetic or type of subject, they will want to see more of it.
- Participate in the Instagram community. In addition to clients, you can follow and engage with hotel and resort brands, specific properties, tour operators, travel agent consortia, tourism companies and us (@TravelAgeWest). Leave comments when you have something positive to say, and give “likes” when an Instagram strikes your fancy. The favor will probably be returned.
Also, contribute to social media campaigns held by the travel industry. For example, The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) recently launched the campaign #LetHawaiiHappen. By adding that hashtag to their Instagram photos and videos, travelers can publicly share special moments from their Hawaii vacations and spread awareness of the destination, as well their own Instagram feeds.