How Instagram Breathed New Life into Destination Marketing

Nearly 96% of travelers use Instagram to get their dose of travel inspo.

June 26, 2019

This article originally appeared on Phocuswire.

When planning a trip, many travelers turn towards social media for inspiration – this we all know.

From what to do and where to go, Facebook IQ notes that nearly 96% of travelers explore Instagram to get their dose of daily travel inspiration. And that inspiration translates directly to revenue.

That’s a massive opportunity for travel marketers, which is why many are focusing their advertising efforts on visual storytelling with Instagram.

According to our State of the Travel Advertising Industry 2019 report, travel marketers are hedging their bets that social media spend will pay off: not only do they report spending 23% of their digital ad budget on Facebook and Instagram, 55% plan to increase their social ad spend this year.

As travel marketers look to social advertising deliver inspiration to potential customers, one particular group is poised to net big results: Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs).

A few years ago, DMOs where just dipping their toe in the digital advertising water. Now, more DMOs are embracing social advertising to not just engage new travelers, but drive them through to visitation.

Inspiration that drives sales

Providing inspiration has always been a key goal for many DMOs, and they’re in a unique position to spark a traveler’s dream to a particular destination. But that’s not all.

DMOs are poised to fuel a traveler’s passion through all stages of the customer journey.

As consumers have adopted social media to fuel their travel desires, the mechanics of how a DMO provides inspiration has changed. Prospective travelers are no longer wooed by a generic image of a location – they want an experience.

For DMOs, Instagram and Facebook have the power to create dynamic experiences that engage with travelers by telling the visual story of a destination using photos and video.

Social advertising platforms add context to images through Instagram Stories, video, or even geo-tagging locations—providing a more unique, inspirational experience for the traveler as they dream.

In response, many DMOs are shifting budgets away from offline advertising to focus on digital.

In 2018, 48% of all ad spend was digital, and 73% of DMOs plan to increase spend in 2019.

Targeting new audiences with Instagram

To be successful, DMOs must continue to target new audiences, and Instagram is proving to be an effective platform to reach those goals.

In fact, one in four DMOs report that Instagram is most effective tool to target new audiences, followed by driving reach and brand awareness.

Through social advertising, DMOs can engage consumers where they are are likely to explore trip ideas – and catch them in a moment where they’re looking for inspiration.

Then, by using audience data-rich insights to highly target people who display travel intent, DMOs can not only increase interest, they can influence those same people to choose their destination — showcasing return on ad spend (ROAS) through the economic impact of those travelers.

For example, Lindsy Bentz and her team at Hilton Head Island spent the majority of their social media budget on Facebook and Instagram in 2018 with a plan to increase their social budget this year.

With that budget, they’re using Instagram as part of a multi-channel strategy to target new users and continually keep them engaged and excited using beautiful images and contextual stories about activities and interests.

And, they’re not alone: 55% of DMOs surveyed report that they plan to increase digital ad spend on Facebook and Instagram.

Driving engagement using Instagram Stories

DMOs understand the impact Instagram has on social advertising efforts. Last year, 66% of DMOs surveyed cited using Instagram Ads and 53% cited using Instagram Stories.

We have seen that more and more DMOs are embracing advertising on Instagram, specifically Instagram Stories —with 65% reporting to use Instagram Ads this year and 62 percent planning to use Instagram Stories.

Since users are exposed to travel-related Instagram Stories on a daily basis, marketers can leverage the format by delivering eye-catching creatives for destinations and attractions helping to spark trip ideas.

Going beyond a single photo, Instagram Stories have the power to intrigue and engage consumers.

Not only do users view Instagram Stories 50% faster than images in their newsfeed, stories drive them to swipe right or even visit a brand’s website to find out what happens next.

Given consumer tendencies, DMOs can repeatedly test how to create Instagram Stories that would not only resonate with their followers but what makes them take action.

Since users are quickly exposed to travel-related Instagram Stories on a daily basis, travel marketers can leverage the format by delivering eye-catching creatives for destinations and attractions helping to spark trip ideas.

However, providing travel inspiration is only one way travel marketers are using Instagram Stories.

As travelers start comparing hotels, flights, and activities, they can use the context-rich format of Instagram Stories to entice them with a special discount or a limited time offer to expedite their planning process.

Travel advertisers can also convert their audiences with customized messaging and strong CTAs that incentivize travelers to swipe up on an Instagram Story and book their next destination.

With one billion active users every month and a four percent annual growth rate, Instagram’s dominance in the social media market gives DMOs a direct line into consumers across all demographics.

Not only that, as Instagram continues to innovate, more robust functionality will allow prospective travelers to book their next adventures directly through Instagram Stories.

For DMOs, the combination of adoption growth and in-platform bookings presents a massive opportunity, setting up social media advertising as the tool of choice in the travel industry for the foreseeable future.

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