Instagram is by far my favorite social media platform. I use it both personally and professionally, and have not one but 4 accounts. Too many? You’re right, but because I have more than one brand ( and have co-founded different blogs with my husband) it’s just the way it is.
On top of that, I’m a digital strategist that works with major brands in both the wellness & travel industries, on top of being a writer myself. I therefore get what businesses are looking for when it comes to collaborating with travel bloggers, which is what I want to share with you today.
Most brands and destinations love partnering with travel bloggers that have a professional presence and community on Instagram. Why is that? When travel bloggers create a carefully crafted travel brand, they tend to have an engaged community of travelers that love to follow their adventures.
In today’s post, we’re going to delve into how you can use Instagram to grow your brand and as travel blogger, as well as:
- How to connect with travel Influencers & brands
- Grow your Instagram following ( in a non-sleezy way)
- Create images that resonate with your Ideal Readers
- Learn how I got over 8K followers on @epicwanderings and 5K on @elizabethkbradley
Why travel bloggers need to create a cohesive feel on Instagram
The most important thing travel bloggers, creatives, and freelancers can do is create a consistent presence in their blogs & social media.
Why is that?
If you look at brands, you’ll see that they have a very specific focus when it comes to everything they do. From their site’s design to their products, they keep things consistent and in alignment with what their Ideal Customers like.
The same goes for successful travel bloggers: their photography on Instagram is in alignment with what they stand for as a travel blogger, which is why their audience resonates so much with their posts.
How do you create a consistent feeling and impression around your Instagram feed?
Spend some time thinking about your Ideal Blog Reader, or the person you think would LOVE what you write about, and where you visit. Are you and your Ideal Reader into wellness? Concerts? Art? Architecture? What colours best reflect your travel brand values?
An example of two different brands are my main accounts. Epic Wanderings is very vivid, colour wise, which best represents Thailand ( where I live), and @ElizabethKBradley ( my consulting site) has a more holistic, organic feel to it as my clients there are Health & Life Coaches.
Traveling photographer & scuba instructor @robynaroundtheworld ( a good friend of mine) has numerous sea-related photos and underwater pics, as well as photos she’s taken from various islands in South East Asia. You can tell she loves nature just by looking at her Instagram feed.
Kimwa is a freelance travel writer based in Hong Kong. He writes for the local newspaper, which sends him around the world to write about various destinations that Chinese travelers would be interested in visiting. His Instagram feed is unique in that every photo he posts is of him sleeping/pretending to sleep. Whether he’s in the Swiss mountains or in Hokkaido, you’ll always see a pic of him lounging around. It’s so cute! He especially loves Japan, and regularly posts photos from his travels there.
How Travel Bloggers Can Get More Followers & Engagement
If you post it, they will come…right? Wrong. But chances are you know that already. We all seem to find out the hard way. We start an Instagram account to promote our travel blog or biz and start posting photos we’ve taken. The best photos we’ve taken. We use a few hashtags fellow travelers are using, and get a like/comment/follower or two.
And that’s about it.
What most Instagram users don’t realize is that you need to market yourself in order to get more followers.
You can do this in various ways. Travel bloggers usually hope that they’ll be featured or shared ( reposted) by a larger travel blog or brand, but this isn’t a very proactive strategy. Instead, bloggers have turned to using software like Instagress and Sogro to get in front of their Ideal Blog Readers/followers and to start engaging with them.
All forms of social media-growing software can be abused, particularly by bloggers that essentially use people. How do they do that? They or their software follow a user and after the user follows them, they promptly unfollow. I had a popular lifestyle blogger do that to me years ago, and when I unfollowed her, she refollowed me and started liking my photos in an attempt to get me to refollow her. And she would then proceed to probably unfollow me again.
While you are by no means required to follow everyone who follows you, as a digital strategist, I think that by following back most of the people following you, it builds rapport.
I had never used software before, but when I had clients interested in using it for their accounts I knew I had to test it on mine, so started with Sogro. I actually like their service a lot because they find & engage with very targeted users. You tell them what type of travel blog or brand you have and what type of hashtags you’re Ideal Followers are using, and they do the rest.
In the case of Instagress, you are in charge of the software and settings. You can choose to unfollow only users that don’t follow you back, and have a ton of options with regards to what kinds of users you/it engages with.
Using some form of software is generally the fastest way to grow your following, but if you’re going to use it, make sure to think about how it reflects your brand and blog, and never automate comments. They almost always turn out to be laughable and unrelated to the photos. I can always tell who has automated comments on my pics. 😉
If you’re going to go the organic, slow-growth route, start by researching niche hashtags related to your travel blog.
Super popular hashtags like #travel are vague and chances are no one will see your photo as the feed is so jam packed with a never-ending stream of photos constantly being posted with that hashtag that it’s almost pointless to ever use it.
Niche hashtags are what savvy travel bloggers use on Instagram. They aren’t that competitive and are easy to rank ( show up in the top photos) for.
I like to use niche hashtags that have between 1K and 300K images having used them.
A few niche hashtags travel bloggers on Instagam use:
#digitalnomadgirls #dametravelerfoodie #natgeotravelpics #travelmassive #foodtravel #girlgoneinternational #vagabonding #sheisnotlost #bkkfatty #iamatraveler #tbex
How to use Instagram stories as a travel blogger
I may do a whole post on Instagram stories at some point, either here or on my consulting site, but let me sum up my thoughts for sec.
Being the social media
junkie professional that I am, I look for trends that my wellness & travel clients can use to their advantage when growing their online platforms. I wrote a post last year about the future of livestreaming, and assumed that while it would grow in popularity, it wasn’t as refined as it could be. Apps like Periscope for example were new and had issues, ie it was easy to attract trolls and spammers when streaming. Facebook must have seen this and of course had to compete, and did so by creating it’s own livestreaming capability.
Despite livestreaming being a trend, not all of us want to watch someone either A.) go on tangent after tangent or B.) create basically a webinar. Don’t get me wrong: some people ROCK IT when they livestream. Others don’t excel at it or aren’t as interested in it.
That’s where Snapchat and Instagram stories comes into play.
For travel bloggers who aren’t feeling the livestreaming vibe, you can create mini videos that are essentially edited into a ‘story’ you’re followers can watch. It gives them a glimpse into your daily life & travels.
This is sooooo useful because travel bloggers are personal brands. Aka, you are the face of your business. And if you know a thing or two about sales, you’ll know that people buy from businesses they know, like, and trust.
Well, it’s easier to trust a personal brand than a logo or corporation X. It just is. People start following your travel blog and feel they get to know you. I’ve had not one but four readers fly over to Thailand to meet us, or because they’ve read one of my travel blogs and my posts helped them decide that this is a good home base for them.
What’s my point? If you get clear on your travel brand as a blogger and who your Ideal Blog Reader is, you can then use Instagram stories ( or Snapchat) to show them:
- Behind the scenes of your travel blog/freelancing biz
- Give them unique and uber helpful travel tips
- Show them what a particular airport looks like
- Review travel books and products via video ( which travel brands would LOVE)
- Give them a glimpse into how you renew your passport abroad
- Show them what Tbex is like ( I actually livestreamed via Periscope when I went in ’15)
- Give them packing tips
Why not just do all of this in a blog post? Because video connects extremely well, and in a unique way that written content just can’t do. It let’s your followers see & hear you.
And because of how short Instagram stories are, travel bloggers can crank them out on a daily basis. No complex editing skills needed, no trolls on Youtube.
How to connect with Influencers on Instagram
One of the awesome things about social media in general is that it gives travel bloggers the ability to connect with just about anyone. I connected with Lonely Planet through Pinterest and it led to me be hired to run one of their boards and I became a Pathfinder blogger. And I can’t even count how many bloggers & brands I’ve been able to connect with on Twitter.
Instagram is another fantastic way to connect with travel publications and brands, as well as the bloggers you admire. I prefer to use it to connect with the latter, personally.
One great way to get on the radar of someone you admire is to review their product ( book, travel bag, etc) on Instagram and tag them, plus review the product in the comment below the photo and mention them. People really appreciate getting reviews and being featured on your Instagram account, even if your platform is small ( but after reading this post you’ll be growing it in no time).
Related Post: Pinterest tips for travel bloggers & brands
Before you begin crafting your Instagram strategy, remember to take a moment and think about what you do to make an income as a travel blogger. Are you looking to partner with brands? Create & sell eBooks? Make a living from affiliate sales? I’m a freelance writer & consultant so I make sure my overall social media strategy helps me connect with travel publications and my Ideal Clients, and I use my Instagram accounts to showcase my area of expertise as both a writer & digital strategist.
If you’re looking to self publish, you may want to use your Instagram account to promote your upcoming books, and if that’s the case, you need to have a posting schedule that both shows your travels and books, while not overwhelming your followers. The 80/20 rule is good to follow, ie post travel/personal pics 80 percent of the time and promotional content 20 percent of the time.
What are your Instagram goals for 2017? Share with us in the comments below!