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Jumping on the food porn trend is more than just a modern quotidian act, it’s big business.
Data show that people spend a quarter of their money on food while traveling. For example, according to the University of Florida’s “A Flash of Culinary Tourism” report, tourism expenditures on food services in the U.S. in 2012 topped $201 billion, nearly a quarter of all travel income.
Explore Georgia partnered with chef Hugh Acheson for its first Instagram takeover, which is part of a year-long initiative to showcase Georgia’s edible bounty. This tourism board chose to work with him because he’s passionate about food, has invested in the state and local producers, and has an Instagram following of more than 20,000.
Acheson earned his respect in the culinary community when the James Beard Foundation named him Best Chef Southeast and he was a winner-turned-judge on Food Network’s Top Chef. He also owns four restaurants in Georgia — Five & Ten and The National in Athens; Empire State South in Atlanta, and The Florence in Savannah.
Explore Georgia’s 2015 campaign focuses on culinary tourism to highlight notable chefs, the farm-to-table movement, and agritourism. The tourism board worked closely with the chef to come up with a daily story to represent the state. The posts are not instantaneous but it works out because Acheson is on the road a lot. Carefully planning the posts also helps manage the risk from turning over the keys to Explore Georgia’s Instagram account to someone outside the tourism board.
What’s most important to Cleland is maintaining the authenticity of the content, which revolves around Acheson’s life in the state. Acheson creates all of the photos and copy, although he gets some guidance on optimizing it for discovery on Instagram, including the use of the #GeorgiaEats hashtag.
“We asked him what his favorite things to do in Georgia, and he loves going to Jekyll Island, Golden Isles, hiking Blood Mountain and watching football in Athens. Photos [as part of the Instagram takeover] from these places are locations that he actually visited before,” she said.
Their partnership goes beyond creating content to community management. Cleland claimed that she has access to two people from the chef’s staff who will be alerted should a question related to Acheson arise so they can respond accordingly on Instagram. In addition, Cleland will also be monitoring the posts to address any comments or questions about Georgia tourism.
“As a consumer, I don’t really trust what brands write, and it was important that Hugh [Acheson] responds from his account. There has to be a level of trustworthiness,” Cleland said.
Since Instagram has limited analytics, Cleland is monitoring the performance of the takeover more or less manually and through Tweet Reach to see actual impressions. From there she will also gauge sentiment and whether the content is achieving Explore Georgia’s goals. Based on the results, the tourism will decide whether to continue the Instagram takeover with another guest who is influential in Georgia’s culinary world.