The Do’s & Don’ts of Instagram in Destination Marketing

Let’s start with the facts. Instagram has over 200 million active users, 20 billion photos have been shared on the platform in total, and 1.6 billion likes and 60 million photos are shared every day. It’s no secret that Instagram is one of the fastest growing channels in social media today.

Instagram can be a powerful marketing tool for most organizations. If used correctly that is. This especially rings true for tourism organizations. In destination marketing, you want people to see your destination. To see everything it has to offer, and from different perspectives – the locals, the tourists, the assorted generations. Instagram provides the ideal platform to do this. Plus, visual content is one of the most effective tools to break through the online clutter (read Why Visual Content Rules It All).

An Instagram photo isn’t as easy as taking a stroll through the city and posting it (although it can be). Your photos need to be thoughtful and enticing, and the written captions need to be relevant and informative. Remember 60 million photos are posted to Instagram each day. You not only need to put your destinations best foot forward, but all of the hidden gems as well. On top of this, you need to understand the intricacies of Instagram – the hashtags, the followers, the filters. Sure there’s a lot to take in, but do it right, and your destination will get noticed. Let’s start with the basis – the do’s and don’ts of Instagram in destination marketing:


DO Get Creative With Your Photos

Typical landscape shots are always great, but take photos from unique perspectives. We’re not talking just camera angles; try to capture the true essence of your destination by posting photos that tell a story. Find a way to connect with your audience. It’s the creative and out-of-the-box photos that generate the most engagement.

DO Encourage User-Generated Content

User-generated content is one of the best ways to produce genuine and quality content to your social media channels, especially Instagram. It’s not always easy, but create a strategy to get your followers excited about posting photos of your destination. Create a hashtag or develop a campaign (also, our next two do’s). Some of the best photos come from the people who are experiencing your destination first-hand or are local ambassadors.

DO Use & Create Hashtags

Love them or hate them, hashtags are one of the key ingredients of Instagram. Use hashtags for key words in your posts for searching purposes. But don’t hashtag every relevant word under the sun; no one appreciates a hashtag stuffer. Use clever hashtags to add humour to a post; everyone loves a witty hashtag (#true).

Create a hashtag specific to your destination or for a specific marketing campaign. This is helpful for a number of reasons – when users post their own photos, they will be easy to find from your end so you can interact with the user or ask to repost. It will also create exposure for your destination, and can be tied into a marketing campaign to encourage users to post their own photos creating more user-generated content.

DO Develop Instagram Campaigns

Instagram campaigns are a great way to gain more followers, generate more engagement, and of course, create more user-generated content. Here are some examples of excellent destination marketing Instagram campaigns:

Tourism Whistler’s #WhistlerUnfiltered Campaign

Tourism Montreal’s #MTLmoments Campaign

San Francisco Travel’s #onlyinsf Campaign


DON’T Use Poor Quality Photos

Instagram users appreciate quality photos. Represent your destination with photos that are the best of the best. Don’t use blurry shots or the one with your finger grazing the edge. They don’t all have to be shot by a professional lens, but take pride in the photos you post. Also remember, filters can’t cover up a bad photo.

DON’T Follow Users to Gain More Followers

A classic tactic to raise your number of followers, but in this case quality trumps quantity. You want followers who will engage with your content, not just follow you for following them. Although it may be tempting, use better strategies to increase your followers.

DON’T Post Too Often

There is no magic number for how often your organization should be posting each day. It really comes down to how much quality content you can produce. Don’t post just for the sake of posting 2 times a day. Post because you have a great photo to share. If that’s only once a day, that’s great. If it’s three times a day, that’s great too. Be consistent, and once again, quality trumps quantity.

DON’T Primarily Self Promote

Sure, the point of your Instagram page is to promote your destination, but no one likes a showoff. Show your followers what you’ve got, but be humble. Use the platform to communicate appreciation to your loyal followers and to highlight, not only your destination itself, but all of the important partners, people, and places that make your destination what it is.