In our last post we talked about Facebook's recent record in which it logged a billion users in a single day, plus co-founder Mark Zuckerberg's plans to 'connect the whole world' – and how travel firms must ride on the coattails of the social networking site's success by investing in marketing campaigns on the platform.

Today we'll turn our attention to popular photo-sharing site Instagram – another channel that's worthy of our attention in the view of social media expert Carrie Finley-Bajak.

Writing for Travel Weekly, Finley-Bajak urges travel retailers to recognise the importance of both Facebook and Instagram for building brand awareness, connecting with clients or reaching prospects.

Instagram, like Facebook (which acquired the photo filter app back in 2012), is thriving. It now boasts around 300 million users each month.

In fact, Instagram is so popular for people wanting to share their holiday snaps that one travel company has taken things a step further.

El Camino Travel includes as part of its package a personal photographer for small group tours in Colombia and Nicaragua, ready to deliver Instagram-friendly images for travellers who like to document their trip in pictures, The Guardian reported recently.

The photographer will deliver dozens of images daily that "you can immediately share on social media", says the travel firm.

And it's not the only firm that's attempting to get a piece of the photo-sharing action. Companies such as Flytographer and Shoot My Travel, for example, connect travellers with local photographers to show them around the city and share tips, while "discreetly" taking holiday shots.

Miami-based photographer and Shoot My Travel founder Valerie Lopez commented: "Nowadays, if we don't document it and put it online it's like it didn't happen."

And according to a Facebook survey released in January, says The Guardian, 83% of us now use the internet while on holiday with almost half of us posting our snaps to the site when we get home.

Meanwhile, statistics from visual media consultancy getchute.com suggest that in June alone, more than 3.8 million travel-related photos were posted to Instagram.

With such a powerful tool at their fingertips, the question is: how do travel marketers leverage the platform?

Carrie Finley-Bajak has a few suggestions:

  • Start by finding out what other people are doing within your niche by finding trending tags or exploring popular posts.

  • A good way in is to use hashtags. Trending topics such as Throwback Thursday (#TBT) offer a great opportunity for sharing travel-related pictures. Or find out the theme of the Weekend Hashtag Project, and post relevant pictures or videos.

  • Ensure consistency by matching your Instagram site branding with your other social channels.

  • Engage. Don't just post and go – gain influence by liking and commenting on other people's shares.

  • Tag people, brands and preferred suppliers: ask your reps if they have an account and work together to maximise interactions and increase engagement.

  • Finally, experiment with Instagram Direct, the Snapchat-like feature, that allows users to send photos or videos to a specific user or group of users.

Travel sellers can build a following on Instagram or use the platform to target their existing user base, Finley-Bajak adds.