Instagram’s simplicity is a disadvantage for travel brands that want a bit more flexibility in visual storytelling.
Since the photo sharing site caters to curating of-the-moment photos and videos, the collection of images may appear random, at first look.
Travel Alberta has created a new digital experience to connect with its hiker community on Instagram with six new accounts. One main account, @instahikes indexes the five most popular trails — that also have separate accounts — Johnston Canyon, Larch Meadows, Cavell Meadows, Sulphur Skyline, and Maligne Canyon.
Each hike has local photographers who are avid trekkers and Instagrammers who document their experiences flush with official information from the parks about the trail, tips from parking to what gear to wear, and natural markers found along the way.
It was important for the tourism board to share these experiences from a first-person perspective. The two local explorers who participated are both professional photographers, Callum Snape who lives in Banff with over 125,000 followers and Taylor Michael Burk with over 71,000 followers on Instagram.
For Travel Alberta, packaging this content served a new purpose aside from inspiration in attracting visitors. “It was intended for utility and information,” said Nancy Smith, social media manager at Travel Alberta. She added, “We don’t always know what the KPI (key performance indicator) is, but in this case it was to tell a new story in a new visual way.”
In a sense, these six accounts are less visible than other Instagram accounts. Smith mentioned that they are countering this ‘blind-spot’ by marketing the accounts and content across its social media platforms and answering queries via @travelalberta.
Smith touched on incorporating user-generated content to make the account more dynamic, but the fact that it would disrupt the visual story as shown is a challenge. She said, “We will profile people’s pictures to show that it’s real people’s experiences not just our brand. [But] We’re exploring opportunities.”
At this point, the metric that is being used to gauge the activity is followers. The @instahikes account rose from 57 followers to 3,234 followers in the last five days. Upon taking a closer look, the comments on posts from @Instahikes indicate appreciation and word of mouth interactions — comments even lesser on the hike-specific accounts — but the volume is too low to determine the return or success of this evergreen initiative on Instagram.
Despite Travel Alberta’s move to be innovative, dedicating rows to direct users to another Instagram account may backfire because it’s dependent on users who will continue to click through. In addition, Instagram’s latest app, Layout connects moments together with multiple photos in one post, and will change how brands tell their story visually while it levels the third-party apps that provide the same service.