Have you ever scrolled through your Instagram feed and seen an image that makes you stop in your tracks?
I know I have. Many times, actually.
Sometimes a picture demands you pause to appreciate its beauty. Or demands that you take a moment to appreciate how incredibly unique it is.
More times than not, this emotional reaction is caused by is from one of my favorite travel photographers, Ben Brown. Like this photo:
This photo was taken while he was on a trip to Ottawa…it was sponsored by the Ottawa Tourism board. They wanted to have him show how great Canada is, and he did. That photo gained 30k more likes than any other image at the same location.
That was one of my first introductions to the popularity of the tourism and travel industry on Instagram. Now, almost every location has a dedicated account, with hundreds of thousands of followers in some cases.
And unlike other types of accounts, they are able to get people to visit and spend money!
The tourism industry has pretty much mastered using Instagram for business growth and brand awareness.
So I decided to take a closer look at what made these tourism Instagram accounts so successful. I looked at about 20 different official tourism accounts, with destinations ranging from Germany to Australia and even South Dakota.
From these tourism accounts, I was able to glean ten pro tips for how to use Instagram for business.
1. Keep Image Design Consistent
Want to know one of the biggest problems I have noticed new marketers fall victim to? (Well, other than using hashtags wrong.)
It is that many marketers do not keep their styles consistent.
Your Instagram should feel like a curated gallery of the best images that represent your brand’s ideas or values.
Your Instagram account lives and dies on stylistic consistency. And it is something that I, who have been in marketing way too long, only just realized a few months ago on my personal account.
Not only should the types of images you post be consistent, but also to the feeling and mood you wish to evoke.
One of the best examples of consistent imagery I have seen is the New Zealand Tourism account.
Take a look at a few of the examples of their posts below and see if you can spot what I am talking about:
See what I mean?
In each of their posts, they are able to create a feeling that New Zealand is a vast land, waiting to be explored. Also with the distinct lack of people in the images, they are able to make the case that you are seeing or could be seeing this image first-hand.
And it doesn’t hurt that New Zealand is incredibly beautiful.
That is some next-level visual branding right there. Their consistent messaging helped them gain 557k followers–or about 13% of New Zealand’s total population.
But what if you want to post pictures of that are not landscapes?
Here’s another approach that has worked really well for companies:
Create a regular lineup of great images that follow a particular editing style or color scheme.
For example, the Tourism Ireland account regularly posts pictures that use a green color scheme.
Take a look at a few of the most recent examples below:
Not only does the color green illustrate the natural and peaceful aspects of the country’s scenery, it is also Ireland’s national color.
So they are able to kill two birds with one colorful stone.
Here is another example, this time from Tourism Fiji. They use vibrant blues as their account’s main color scheme:
Who would NOT want to go there?
If you are interested in learning more about using color correctly I would recommend starting here!
2. Use High-Resolution Images
Another thing that rookie Instagram for business users seem to forget is to pick only high-quality, high-resolution images.
Seems fairly obvious, right?
Using high-quality images is extremely important, as Instagram massively compresses your images before posting to optimize delivery.
The experts outside of Instagram recommended that the width and height of your images should be at least 1080px for maximum quality. (For more information on Instagram image dimensions, check out our Ultimate Guide to Designing Epic Social Media Graphics eBook.)
Honestly, all of these tourism accounts that I have looked at post amazingly beautiful and high quality pictures. So I will just show one of my favorite examples.
It is incredibly beautiful and really projects the spirit of travel or adventure that their brand is trying to cultivate.
Additionally, there has been a lot of debate around whether or not your picture should be square, and if the shape of the picture affects your Instagram engagement or not.
It doesn’t matter.
Here are a few examples of rectangular pictures on the Indonesia.Travel account:
Still pretty stunning, right?
Some people may insist that one is better than they other but based on the examples above, I really don’t see how it matters. And according to the experts, it is a toss up on which one receives more likes when using Instagram for business pursuits.
Honestly, I recommend using the option that makes your photo look the best!
3. Don’t Overwhelm Followers With Too Many Posts
As an avid Instagram user, I used to believe that the more often you posted, the more interactions your post would receive.
And guess what I found out:
That was very true for most accounts! Until last year, that is, when Instagram did away with the chronological timeline.
Now, just like Facebook, an algorithm determines which posts you can see, the aim being to “show the moments we believe you will care about the most.”
Or, in other words:
The followers that interact with your posts will see them the most.
This means that you should not spam your followers with multiple daily posts because it may cause them to unfollow.
And pissing off your most excited or vocal followers is never good.
After looking at all of the tourism accounts in this study, I found that most stick to one post a day, with many only posting a few times a week.
In fact, if my memory is correct, not one account posted more than once a day.
Take a look at a few of the examples from the Visit Japan account below:
They have kept at least a day between posts.
But that being said:
A constant stream of posts should be coming from your account throughout the week.
Whether it be once a day or a few times a week, consistently posting is just as important as the number of posts.
4. Use the right hashtags
Instagram allows users to explore topics based on hashtags that they are interested in. For instance, a user interested in traveling to India might follow the hashtag #incredibleindia to get a steady stream of posts related to travel in India.
This feature presents a great opportunity for businesses looking to expand their reach through Instagram (and can be particularly useful for businesses that are just starting out). If you know what hashtags your target users follow actively, you may instantly reach a wide pool of target users who may not necessarily be your followers.
To target an even wider audience, consider using a couple of the most popular hashtags for likes even if they are more general rather than focused on your niche.
Check out how TripAdvisor reaches out to travelers interested in France with hashtags like #EiffelTower and #Paris.
A word of caution here – although Instagram permits users to include as many as 30 hashtags per post, it is good practice to not include anything more than 3 to 5 hashtags. This way, you can keep your hashtags highly relevant to the topic and thus reach the highly targeted Instagram user.
5. Feature Follower Content On Your Brand Account
Back when I ran a few brand-focused Instagram accounts, a challenge that I ran into almost every week was creating unique content.
It was almost impossible to create unique and beautiful content each day, on top of doing a hundred other things.
I am guessing that many marketers find or have found themselves in this predicament before.
Thankfully, your followers can help pick up the slack by submitting follower generated content.
This could be as simple as asking your followers to submit a picture of your product and featuring those. Or it could mean something a little more complicated, like running a photo contest.
This approach is great if you’re looking to really grow your following and keep it fresh for the long term. You are giving the photographer an opportunity to show off their picture, and they are repaying that favor by letting you use their content.
It’s a win-win situation!
The social media managers in the tourism industry are already old pros when it comes to using follower content.
Almost every one of the accounts I looked at for this article accepted user submissions. And to make it even easier to evaluate all the submission they asked the users to tag it with a hashtag, like #TravelFrance, for example.
Speaking of travelling to France:
The Visit France account uses follower content almost exclusively, to great success. All of their recent posts have been submitted by their followers, including some from accounts with even larger followings.
While their account only has around 31k followers, re-posted this photo from the account @diografic, which has 106k followers:
Not too shabby, right?
And keep this in mind:
The images you repost don’t have to come from pro level photographers–most can come from ordinary users.
See how many interactions it got?
I would recommend not always posting pictures from the people who have the most followers, if you want to keep the stream of great and free content coming your way.
For example, the German Tourism account uses a Feature Friday hashtag to encourage their followers to submit images:
But if you still want to create your own content, I recommend reading our guide to creating Instagram content.
6. Encourage Interaction Between Posters and Commenters
If interacting with people in the comments of your posts isn’t already part of your Instagram strategy, it should be.
Because in this new world where algorithms rule everything, these interactions can also determine who sees your posts.
And best of all?
Interacting with commenters shows that a real person is posting these pictures instead of just a faceless brand.
You can also encourage the photographer to interact with commenters on their picture on your account.
Encouraging the photographer to interact with commenters will also help the photographers feel more appreciated. Then your account will seem like a great place to submit their photos to in the future.
And it will also encourage your followers to comment on future posts too!
Here is a little secret that you may already know:
Instagram is infested with comment bots.
These bots comment with a simple phrase or emoticon on photos that use a specific hashtag. I get them all the time on my account and it drives me crazy.
If you have been on Instagram for a long time, this may have happened to you as well. This could cause you to disregard most comments like I have.
But bots should not stop you from commenting back a simple message because to Instagram, it does not matter that you may be responding to bots.
Engagement is engagement and the more you have, the better your standing in the algorithm.
7. Do Not Follow Fast Fads Or Clichés
I know it sounds like a great idea to post the newest trending memes and topics, but most times it makes you look awkward. Or, even worse, it makes you look out of touch and like you’re trying too hard to be hip.
So no memes that you found on Reddit. Remember that you are using Instagram for business, not for laughs.
Got it? OK.
Instead, create and cultivate a certain idea throughout all of your posts, just like the U.S. Department of the Interior has done so masterfully:
In each of their posts, they show off pictures from the National Parks that make the US so great. And when you follow them, you know they will keep doing this indefinitely.
Like this one from the Rocky Mountain National Park:
They know who their followers are–people who love the outdoors–and give them exactly what they want. And instead of trying to tell them how great the national parks are, they show them.
8. Keep Your Posts Relevant
Ensuring that your posts are relevant and timely should be a box that you check before you post anything.
Relevant photos are those that are in tune with the world around you and the happenings in your niche. This could mean keeping up with the relevant holidays, changing seasons, trending news, or important days in your niche. But no memes!
Again, this shows that a real person is running the account.
Another example comes from the Germany Tourism account, who posted a picture showing how springtime is right around the corner for them. And they took it a step further by encouraging their followers to talk about spring in the comments:
It looks almost too picturesque to be real, doesn’t it?
9. Use The Right Influencers
Influencers are generally people that are well known in your niche and have a large following.
But that is not all there is to it.
I think many people fall into the trap that a big influencer equals success for your brand. But that’s not the case.
Instead of just picking a popular influencer, it needs to be the right influencer.
The wrong influencer will cause your efforts to be ignored and a ton of work will be wasted.
So what makes an influencer the right influencer?
Well, it’s not an exact science. But there are a few characteristics that will help you identify the right one for your brand:
- First, they should have a following that overlaps with your following in some way.
- Next, the pictures that they post should look right at home on your account.
- And finally, they should be respected in their field.
Just remember that someone who has a ton of followers is not necessarily the perfect influencer.
The best example I’ve come across is Brandon Eckroth working with the South Dakota Dept. of Tourism. They teamed up for an account takeover, where Brandon posted photos he took while visiting South Dakota.
Take a look:
And if you jump over to Brandon’s personal account, all of his photos look like they would fit nicely on the South Dakota account as well. Including photos that were not taken on his trip to South Dakota:
So I would say that this was an almost perfect influencer matchup, especially because his posts received about double the likes of the surrounding images on the South Dakota account!
10. Cross-Post Pictures On Other Social Networks
Growing your Instagram account should not be limited to just posting images.
You should use other social networks, and even other marketing channels, to drive people to your Instagram page.
This could include using an email campaign to direct people to your Instagram page, or sharing the link to your Instagram posts across your other social accounts.
The people who run the Inside Vancouver account use this approach and it seems to be working.
They use their Twitter account to promote not only their Instagram posts, but also calls for submissions, effectively doubling their reach of potential content creators with just a simple tweet:
Then they cross-post the same pictures from their Instagram account on Facebook.
Again, this increases the amount of follower-sourced pictures they can choose from. People see that their own pictures could be featured across multiple sites accounts and are more tempted to submit.
Like this Instagram picture that was cross-posted on Facebook:
They are actually using some of the same content across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to great success.
Plus, brands can stagger the posts by a few days or weeks on each network, and increase the lifespan of each picture they post.
I would recommend reading our Ultimate Guide to Designing Epic Social Media Graphics if you want to learn more about creating images that will work on all social networks.
The Core Tip You Should Take Away
If there is only one thing that you take from this study let it be this:
- The best Instagram accounts are consistent.
- They are consistent in the frequency of their posts
- They are consistent in the style and color palette of their pictures.
- And, most of all, they are consistent in only posting the best images they can.
So if you can just keep things consistent across all parts of your Instagram account, I guarantee you will see growth.
It may sound boring, but with this type of consistent posting you can find a pocket of great followers that love your niche.
Also, remember to not discouraged–in the case of Instagram, slow and steady wins the race! Even if the experts say it can be done overnight, they are the exception, not the rule.
In fact, you may want to perform an Instagram audit of your current content, to see how you can refine your content strategy.
Whether your niche be photos of tech, landscapes, graffiti, or food, there is an audience out there for it on Instagram. And by keeping everything consistent, you will not only attract but delight those people.
If you are still not sure where to begin, we have a ton of FREE Instagram templates for you to get started with!
Or I recommend reading some of the articles that we have created about social media graphics like: