Instagram and travel brands are the perfect soulmates. In fact, the picture-based social media site is the perfect soulmate to a number of experience-led and image-focused industries – travel, fashion, cooking, art... the list goes on.

For travel, it is a great platform. Instagram allows users to create the most visually stunning images from truly breath-taking locations. For users looking to escape, Instagram has a wealth of travel brands and frequent travellers active on the site, constantly posting pictures and looking to inspire.

But with so much competition on the site, what can travel brands do to stand out?

1. Think about the audience

It can be tempting to post everything and anything about travelling, with multiple hashtags to try and get engagement on Instagram - but this is poor practice. Travel brands need to truly consider who their target audience is and the kind of travelling or travel experience they specialise in and stick to creating good quality posts relating to these.

If your brand specialises in luxury accommodation, for example, don't post images relating to camping (unless it's glamping). If your brand specialises in high-adrenalin activities for holiday makers, maybe steer clear of posting about relaxing spa weekends and Zen retreats. Focus in on exactly what an audience wants to look at and stick to producing content related to their preferences.

2. Piggyback on trending hashtags

That being said, it is also important to look at what is trending on social media and see if there is a way of cashing in on the popularity of a hashtag. This will ensure your brand gets more exposure thanks to already existing popular topics and the ability of certain hashtags to go viral.

However, it is important not to force it – if a particular hashtag is really popular but doesn't connect with your brand, don't try and find a convoluted way to connect the two; this will appear desperate and irrelevant. It's best to only use hashtags that can be adequately related to a brand and, if a few popular words or phrases happen to be trending, then definitely jump on board.

3. Keep it real and connect

Travellers are constantly posting shots of their antics on Instagram, and some may even be tagging your brand, too. Be sure to include a good mix of posts from real consumers and share their shots, tagging them in any images you post to maximise on engagement, as well as posting professional images.

This is also a fantastic source of content; rather than coming up with original shots and captions to post every day, take advantage of what users are posting and saying every once in a while.

One of the most important aspects of Instagram is that it is a site designed to inspire first, and sell second. Your brand therefore needs to keep this in mind and not focus on selling a destination or experience, but first and foremost capturing and promoting it in stunning detail. The selling comes second.