How DMO, Hilton Head Island, Attracts Visitors Through Instagram Stories

February 28, 2019

Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) are constantly challenged with creating a visual identity of a destination that will encourage people to visit. Many DMOs have turned to social media to help inspire people through contextual visual media about their location. According to our latest State of the Industry report, DMOs stated that 29% of all of their digital ad spend in 2018 was allocated towards social media advertising. And, that number will continue to rise as more than half (55%) of DMOs report they plan to spend more on social media this year—with 62% reporting that they plan to spend more specifically on Instagram Stories.

Hilton Head Island Visitor & Convention Bureau is one such DMO that embraces social media to target new users and engage with current in-market travelers. They spent the majority of their social media budget on Facebook and Instagram in 2018 with a plan to increase their social budget this year.


To dive deeper in how they use Instagram to inspire people to visit their beautiful island, we sat down with Lindsy Bentz, Digital Marketing Manager, Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau, the DMO for Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, SC.


What’s the Best Part of Instagram Stories?

Bentz told us that the best part of Instagram Stories is they add context to a photo. If a photo is worth a thousand words, her challenge was with being able to go beyond the words and intrigue people enough that they want to know what happens next—rather it is swiping right or going to Hilton Head Island’s website to learn more. And with people viewing Instagram Stories 50% faster than how they scroll through their feed, she had to repeatedly test how to create Instagram Stories that would not only resonate with Hilton Head Island’s followers but would cause an action.


How Can DMOs Use Instagram Stories To Target New Visitors?

When used as part of a multi-channel approach, social media is a great way to continually engage users while they are dreaming of their next trip. According to Facebook, 96% of travelers turn to Instagram because it encourages them to fantasize about visiting exciting places.

Bentz and her team use Instagram as part of a multi-channel strategy to target new users to come visit Hilton Head Island. Enhanced through SEO (Search Engine Optimization), key topics on the blog first attract users. Then, the content team uses the blog to direct people to follow Hilton Head Island on Instagram. Once they are following Hilton Head Island’s Instagram, the channel is used to continually keep them inspired with beautiful images and engaged through contextual stories about activities and interests. She also promotes posts on Facebook to push more people to the blog, which in turn leads them to Instagram. And the reverse is also true—Instagram can be used to push people back to the website. It’s a continual and well integrated strategy that keeps travelers fully engaged no matter where they are in their buying journey.


“Give your followers actions along the way inside your Stories, instead of just presenting content in a digestible, quick way.”

Lindsy Bentz, Digital Marketing Manager, Hilton Head Island


How Can DMOs Test Instagram Stories?

When Bentz started exploring using Instagram Stories, she first looked at their overall content. What did people want to see? What did people read on the blog? What did people engage with on Facebook—either by liking, commenting, or sharing. And above all, what content didn’t work? This gave her a starting place on what type of stories she could tell on Instagram Stories.

After she had the content topic, Bentz and her team looked deeper into their social media audience, especially on their Facebook followers. According to Hilton Head Island’s Facebook page, their highest engaged audience skewed to the 35-54 year old demographic. The latter half of this demographic may have not yet fully embraced Instagram Stories, so this presents the opportunity for Hilton Head Island to work to engage that audience. However, there is marked overlap in their followers falling in the 35-44 year old demographic on Instagram plus a trend that more users are gravitating to Instagram–hence the strategy to target the overlap and create content appealing to that audience, as well as the very-close-yet-leading audience of 25 to 34 year old followers. Bentz also looked at their website activity—who came to the website, who read the blog, what blogs they read and who came back for more.

The advantage of social media is that you can continually test and learn what resonates with your followers. Bentz and her team do this for Hilton Head Island’s Instagram Stories by looking at the actions viewers take. Did they comment or “love” the story? Did they swipe right, swipe up, or leave? Did they go to the website? Bentz says she knew they had it right when the engagement kept increasing on every Story they produced. In fact, 50% of the sessions from Instagram to Hilton Head Island’s website came from when people swipe up on their Stories.


Top Tips for Increasing Engagement on Instagram Stories


  • First Frames Count: Make sure the first frame has something that captures people’s’ attention in a blink of an eye.
  • Provide an Action: By giving them something to do (tab right, swipe up, ask a question), you can keep your users fully engaged and wanting to know more.
  • Feature Your Stories: By featuring your Stories, you provide your stories a longer lifespan to be found by new followers.
  • Relax Your Tone: Bentz says the best part of social is you can be a little more cheeky and relaxed, yet still on brand.
  • Continually Test and Learn: The flexibility of social means that you can continually test new ways to interact with your audience and optimize along the way.


What Are Some of Hilton Head Island’s Best Instagram Stories?


Create Templates

Bentz uses templates to help give her followers activities to do along the way. Like, creating an out of office message or learning what pairs well with oysters.



Use Quizzes to Provide Interest Over Time

Who doesn’t love turtles? Something magical happens every summer at Hilton Head Island—the endangered loggerhead sea turtles emerge from the Atlantic Ocean to nest and lay their eggs. Bentz uses Instagram Stories to educate Hilton Head Island’s followers about the turtles who call the island home every summer by quizzing their followers with weekly facts.


Interested in more statics on how travel marketers are spending their ad budgets in 2019? Check out our latest State of the Industry, the 2019 Report on Travel Advertising.


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About Amy Higgins

Amy is Sojern's Director of Content Marketing. With over a decade of experience in the tech industry, Amy enjoys crafting memorable content that not only educates but entertains. When she’s not online, you can find her at the opera, hiking the tallest mountain, or on the hunt for the latest foodie craze.

Amy Higgins About the author

Amy is Sojern's Director of Content Marketing. With over a decade of experience in the tech industry, Amy enjoys crafting memorable content that not only educates but entertains. When she’s not online, you can find her at the opera, hiking the tallest mountain, or on the hunt for the latest foodie craze.