Pure Michigan Shares Its Secret for Instagram Success

Skift Take

The focus on visually pleasing scenes works on a platform like Instagram, but destinations are at risk of ignoring their diverse culture and events by focusing on pretty pictures alone.

— Samantha Shankman

Michigan’s state tourism board has found that its social media fans flock to gorgeous scenery, but who takes the photo also makes a difference.

“What we find today is that people are trusting organizations less and less and governments less and less. Who do they trust more than ever?” asks Chad Wiebesick, Pure Michigan’s director of social media marketing. “They trust their friends and families.”

Pure Michigan has an impressive social media presence that exceeds the state’s reputation as a destination and recently wrapped up a crowdsourcing campaign that was an exercise in answering the problem outlined above.

The organization ran a 10-day Instagram contest asking locals and visitors to upload their best beach photos with the hashtags #puremichigan and #beachchallenge. The goal was to crowdsource original content, something other successful destinations like Australia believe in, and highlight summer hotspots.

The Instagram account was filled with stunning sunsets and bright water shots for two weeks; however, a quick scan through Pure Michigan’s Instagram feed suggests that scenery is the only visual it is interested in sharing on the platform.

“What inspires you to visit a place for the first time? What emotionally connects to you as a traveler? We find that scenes work the best.”

This focus is intentional and tied to the tourism board’s business objectives.

Every post must, in some way, market Michigan as magical and mystical, explains Wiebesick.

“We are judicious in the photos that we select.”

Instagram, which Pure Michigan launched two years ago, is the destination’s second most popular social media channel after Twitter. The accounts posts one photo a day resulting in almost 200 new followers a day.

The photos attract an average 3,489 “Likes” per photo — far more than the average, 510 “Likes,” for all destinations.

According to SkiftIQ, Pure Michigan does not use a filter on 92 percent of its uploads. This is likely because it reposts already filtered photos that include the #PureMichigan hashtag.

At just over 104,000 followers, Pure Michigan has a larger following than any other U.S. destination. It is the fourth most followed destination tracked by SkiftIQ, coming in after Tourism Australia (738,635), Walt Disney World Resorts (383,934), and the U.S. Department of the Interior (283,256).

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