The growing popularity of Instagram has taken it beyond being a virtual place to see and be seen – it’s also a place to buy and sell.

Here are some stats to amaze you: two million businesses are connecting with people on Instagram, while 90% of people on the social media platform follow a business. This means Instagram could become the new go-to online marketing and sales channel for travel.

Is Instagram the new Google?

There’s nothing new about Instagram showcasing travel. But news of a Chicago startup, Tripscout, launching the first hotel-booking platform for Instagram made us curious about Insta’s marketing and sales potential. Tripscout seems to have it worked out – it’s about leveraging Instagram’s reach and tools to suit your business needs.

Instagram has passed Google to become the number 1 place where consumers begin to research travel – Konrad Waliszewski, Tripscout CEO 

Tripscout is the biggest travel agency on Instagram, offering its 30 million-strong following access to competitive discounted rates from the tens of thousands of partner hotel chains and independent hotel brand. According to SKIFT, Tripscout is able to do “closed user group pricing at scale through private booking links” to its followers, who then access those otherwise unadvertised deals by sending a direct message to its Instagram account.

Not only has the company made good returns, but it’s also been able to boost its partners’ occupancy rates during a sluggish time for the industry. It’s a potentially inexpensive route for travel brands to promote unsold inventory. In fact, Tripscout built momentum during the pandemic, using its Instagram page to feed followers’ travel nostalgia – it focused heavily on posting inspiring video media and Instagram Reels, priming the travel dreamers for the moment when they would be ready to act.

The concept is simple: post the inspiration, then (while they’re scrolling and dreaming), provide easy access to a booking option without diverting them to a website – an annoyance we take for granted as part of the buyer journey.

Linktree is another tool that helps guide browsers to book directly with you. If you’re running specials, for example, you could upload assets such as digital itineraries or brochures with their own enquiry or booking URLs. Brazilian tour operator, Venturas Viagens, uses their Linktree on Instagram to provide multiple touchpoints with their brand.

Then there’s the Instagram in-app purchase functionality – travel brands like Ryan Air have started using it to drive direct sales via their Insta account. Of course, to make that work for you, your content must be on point and you need to show you’re Insta-savvy.

Insta savvy marketing

So, who are your followers? They live (and love) to pose, click and post for the ‘Gram. They want to travel to ‘Instagrammable’ destinations. It’s a lifestyle extension – they use the social media platform to show off what they’ve done, where they’ve been, and with whom, as well as posting what they aspire to. They seek out content that resonates with their experiences and aspirations, getting most of their trusted recommendations from peers and other travellers.

To play up to that, you have to be as savvy in your use of the platform as they are.

Your savvy checklist:

  • Get into a regular rhythm – post once or a couple of times daily, but be consistent, and pick your times for maximum engagement. Sproutsocial says Tuesdays and Wednesdays are optimal for Instagram, between 10am and 2pm (in the time zone of your target audience).
  • Ensure your content reflects the mood of the time – travel dreamers emerging from their pandemic slumber are yearning for outdoor experiences, road trips, cultural discovery, and social connection. There’s a strong desire for ‘reunion’ travel as people hope to reconnect with loved ones they’ve missed. Images of people rather than pretty sunsets will resonate more with them, and where you feature people, make sure you show diversity.
  • Rock the popular tools – you’re competing for the attention of a highly visual audience that knows all Instagram’s sophisticated tricks (so, don’t be the guy who doesn’t know what a Reel is). Stories and Reels are wildly popular and can gain more traction than posts on your feed. You can upload live links to them too.
  • Put quality first – focus on lifestyle, amenities, destinations, real guest experiences, the humanity behind your brand (your staff), and food. Check out these post suggestions from Trivago.
  • Capitalise on UGC – share your existing or past customers’ posts or re-post their content on your own page. Combine these with reviews and link up their experiences with matching videos, photos and collateral samples.
  • Collaborate with other brands and partners – pool resources with destination marketing organisations, travel bloggers, vloggers and influencers that promote your destination. If you’ve found and vetted a reliable influencer or brand ambassador to work with, engage them to promote your product on their Instagram account. Some travel brands are wary of them though, and if that’s you, consider offering them referral rewards instead of freebies.
  • Engage with your competitors’ followers – they need to know you exist before you can successfully lure them to your page.
  • Target your tagging – broad hashtags can get your content lost in the Insta noise; so, focus on your target audience if you want to get noticed. Use brand hashtags and your profile bio section to alert your community to special campaigns.
  • Use your partners’ handles – add them to posts to demonstrate to your community how connected you are. This gives credibility to your brand, especially if there’s cross-engagement.

Customer service closes the loop. Ideally, your travel buyer will have all the information they need to make a decision right there on your page. But if they have a question, they will either DM you or use the comments section on a post. Your response and resolution times must be quick, so that your potential customer and the whole world can see your service in action, and that there are humans behind your brand who care.

Care to share your Instagram handle with us and show us your savvy?

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