This is a guest blog from Darren Cronian of Travel Rants and My Life in Leeds on behalf of Social Travel Market
It’s clear Instagram has become one of the fastest growing social networks with more than 50 million users; five million photos are now added per day. The app is available on Android and Apple phones and tablets and was recently acquired by Facebook for $1bn. The concept is simple; you take a photo, use one of the digital filters and share it with people who are following you. You can also share your photos on other social sites like Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.
The future is social and mobile
While searching Instagram I could not find an account for VisitBritain, EnjoyEngland or VisitLondon and that surprises me. Photos, I think, inspire people to travel to a destination more than any other type of media.
When I am not writing about consumer issues on Travel Rants, I am promoting my home city on My Life in Leeds and I love using Instagram to show off where I live. What I like about Instagram is its simplicity, in that you can be going about your day, walking to and from work, sat on a bus, or, waiting for a train and you can take a photo and publish it to your social networks on your mobile phone.
Discovering new places
Next week, I am visiting New York, so off I went to Instagram and searched for photos that have been tagged #NYC and found more than 1.1million photos. Amongst those photos were a few of a public park built on an historic rail line elevated above the streets of Manhattan, called the High Line. This park is now on my list of places to visit and I probably would not have discovered it if I had not searched Instagram.
The great thing about social networks such as Instagram for small publishers and bloggers is that they give us the opportunity to promote destinations on a level playing field with the tourist boards, who have an unlimited amount of money to spend on television, radio and print advertisements.
Instagram has taken the best parts of other social networks like Facebook and Twitter and mixed it together with photography. You can create a profile, which includes an avatar, space to tell people who you are, and a link to your website.
What I love about the app though is that you can search using a #hashtag, ‘like’ photos and interact with people by leaving comments. This helps you make people aware of your brand and destination. To give you an example, I recently ‘liked’ a few photos of Sydney Harbour Bridge. The person who had taken them replied to a photo I had taken of Leeds, and commented that she had never heard of the city and asked would I recommended it as a place to visit as she is planning to visit England later this year.
No one knows if my photos have inspired her to travel to Leeds, but the app is a great tool to help me promote the city and refer visitors to my website, who could sign up to my newsletter, book a hotel room, or become a regular reader.
The future of Instagram
Instagram also has an API so I’ve noticed a growing number of apps and websites that make use of the photos like Printstagram where you can print your photos on t-shirts, Followgram which allows you to create a vanity URL to share your Instagram photos outside of the mobile app and Statigram which lets you track various metrics related to your Instagram account.
Are you a tourist board, blogger, airline or travel company using this app to promote your destination or business? What are your experiences using Instagram? What are your thoughts on the future of Instagram?