Instagram and Pinterest may not be the first social media channels professionals think of for marketing their travel business, but these image-focused sites are some of the most important for a number of sectors – especially those in the travel industry.
Online audiences nowadays are interested in shareable content – they want to be able to share visuals, whether a still image or video, of their experiences with a brand. This is where the popularity of Instagram and Pinterest stems from; and this is where travel companies need to focus.
The visual social networks
Both Instagram and Pinterest have been slowly climbing up the chart of most popular travel marketing channels over the years. Instagram is now fifth according to EyeforTravel, and is used by 62% of travel marketers; Pinterest follows in seventh place with 43%.
Both sites have been hailed for their engagement rates, with branded posts on Instagram performing 300-500% better than branded Facebook posts, and 87% of Pinterest users saying engaging on the site helped them make a purchasing decision.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an Instagram post is worth a thousand double-taps (if not more). 2016 has seamlessly merged the real world with the digital, and families or individuals going on holiday are as keen to enjoy their experience in reality as they are to share it online with friends, family and followers.
Instagram boasts a community of 300 million active users – a huge figure considering it only launched in 2010. From these users, more than 300 billion photos have been posted, at an average of 70 million every day.
The Millennial generation (those aged 18 to 29) are the biggest users of the site, with 53% using an Instagram account. This generation represent a significant opportunity for travel businesses; agents, accommodation providers and those selling experiences need to adapt to the 'Insta-trend'.
Some companies managing to do just this include Virgin America and Southwest Airlines – both these airlines post on Instagram in reaction to relevant, breaking news stories.
Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean also use Instagram to great effect, showcasing their fleet of ships and snaps from shore excursions that tempt users into booking. Norwegian Cruise Lines even created their own hashtag – #cruiselikeanorwegian – that garnered over 20,000 responses.
It is a unique, free, visual marketing platform that can perfectly capture the feel of travel, increase brand awareness and engage a wider customer base.
Pinterest offers a slightly different experience to users. While Instagram focusses on photos of events and experiences that have been taken by users, Pinterest works more as an ideas board for users looking to create an experience in the future. Because of this, travel businesses can use the site to inspire users and move them further along the path to purchase.
What makes the site effective for businesses is that all pins carry a link to the website an image originates from; and since the average post sees twice as much engagement on Pinterest compared to Twitter, and the average order value of sales from the site is $50 (higher than any other major social platform), it's clearly a very valuable site.
The site itself also offers valuable insights to travel companies. At the end of last year a list of the top 20 most lusted-after travel locations pinned on the site was published, with New York coming in at number 19 all the way down to Hanoi, Vietnam at number three, Musha Cay Island in the Bahamas at number two, and Positano, Campania, Italy taking the top spot.
The hotel brand Four Seasons uses Pinterest to showcase its immersive and memorable travel services to users all over the world and has experienced a 1700% increase in daily average clicks to its website from the social site... Quite the return!
Pinterest vs. Instagram: Which is right for my business?
There are many things to consider when looking to utilise either site for a travel business:
Instagram is mainly used to showcase a particular image using different filters and hashtags, and is therefore more personal to brands and customers. Pinterest is used to curate other users' content and create inspirational boards; users make collections rather than focusing on one image at a time.
Pinterest is much better for SEO as every pin is a link to the source of the image – usually an external site. It is therefore highly effective at generating website traffic.
Instagram is more conversational than Pinterest, with comments and tags actively encouraged. It is a great site for creating a personal experience that is engaging and informative whilst remaining snappy, with quick single pics and short videos. Pinterest requires more investment; themed boards evoke a particular mood or feel and creates more sustained story than single Instagram posts.
Both sites offer unique opportunities for travel businesses to engage with a swiftly growing online audience. Whether your audience are more creators (Instagram) or curators (Pinterest), both sites are capable of elevating the online presence of travel businesses. And, with significantly higher engagement rates than Facebook and Twitter, it's a no-brainer that if you haver stunning imagery to post, the visual social networks are perfect for your business.