Support Skift’s Independent JournalismMake a Contribution Now
Jeremy Jauncey will speak about why visuals are the new language of engagement for consumers at the Skift Global Forum on October 14 and 15 in Brooklyn, New York. See the complete list of amazing speakers and topics at the Skift Global Forum.
We recently caught up with Jauncey to get the big picture on what is emerging from visual-based communities, especially Instagram, where his company Beautiful Destinations is a leader.
Images are coined as today’s social media currency and brands are desperately trying to mint them into real dollars, but don’t yet know how. With most campaigns, measuring impact has been by and large quantified by impressions on print and digital. It has been difficult to really measure whether or not a person who saw an ad later bought a plane ticket or booked a hotel or experience.
As visual expression is pushed to new heights by influencers who inspire millions of followers, iit couldn’t be a more opportune time to figure out new ways to integrate data with interactions from highly engaged communities on Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat.
Jauncey is the founder of Beautiful Destinations, and since 2012 his company has matured quickly to be an influential account on Instagram. With @beautifuldestinations’ 3.7 million followers and a combined following of 5.9 million followers thanks to three other verticals — Beautiful Hotels, Beautiful Cuisines, and Beautiful Matters — its massive and engaged following puts it in a unique position where it acts as a publisher, distribution channel, influencer agency, and advertising agency for travel and lifestyle brands.
The company has paired brands like Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Plaza Hotel, and The Bellagio with huge influencers that include photographer Murad Osmann @muradosmann who, along with girlfriend-turned-wife Natalia Zakharova @yourleo have become famous for their iconic couple shot; fashionista vloggger Jenn Im @ImJennIm, and YouTube gamer/comedian Mark Fischbach @Markipliergram, to name a few.
An edited version of the conversation follows.
Skift: With the proliferation of digital visual content, what direction do you see visual-based marketing heading towards?
Jeremy Jauncey: We have a massive archive of images and interactions. Not only that, we have a real-time archive in that within 24 hours the content is posted, there are over 100,000 people liking the content at a different rate. When we post an image that really nails it, it just explodes. You can just see it. We track it minute by minute, hour by hour. For us we can track the social metrics — likes, follows, comments, and tags — that drive the data along with the composition of that image.
There are real variables to what makes a successful image: the hue, the color, what percentage is a person versus an image, how big they are against the waterfall — whatever it is. We haven’t cracked the code. We’re trying to work out what the different elements that will tell you if an image is going to be successful. At the moment there are social services that can tell you the best time of the day, where your followers are, relatively standard stuff. If we can use that as a base and then build on this image prediction, this visual analytic ability, that’s where we’re really trying to get to.
I believe that the right brands will move away from the traditional way they created content and will be partnering with people who are experts in social context creation.
Skift: We’re overload with images that come at us these days from our smartphones, laptops, large video billboards to digital screens on sides of buses, where do you think visual images will have the most impact?
Jauncey: We’re biased because we’re mobile first but I strongly feel that mobile and optimizing mobile content will be where brands go and where they should go. Brands are starting to see dollars. The stats are 25% of travel bookings are now happening on mobile. They’re growing at such a rapid rate. That will only continue. If you look at the growth of social networks where people go to discover this content first, it makes sense to us that brands should optimize images for mobile. They need to work out what it is that works out for their audience and drives their reaction, then double down.
This is not to say that social media doesn’t have a role but increasingly it has more and more of a role. These things are in our pockets, in our hands all day, every day. We’re browsing through millions of pieces of content the whole time. That’s where we think brands should be spending their money.
Skift: How do you see new devices like drones and virtual reality headsets impacting travel?
Jauncey: We’re very, very heavy into drones. We think drone content is going to be a massive part in the market. It’s such a completely unique perspective on a travel experience. From innovative tourism boards that are just looking sharing content about their location in a different way to hotel properties that maybe never had that aerial perspective of their property or traditionally have used big choppers to actually get that shot where now they can actually have drones do that.
I do think that the stuff that they consume on their mobiles, of which drone content will be huge, is probably where we’ll start. Drone content and these drone devices are just getting better at such a fast speed. Recently we saw a company that has a prototype for a selfiegram. Where basically you have a sling that you throw it up in the air and it follows you. These guys have a drone that has a static stop. You throw it up in the air and it stops at a perfect distance from where you are to get the ideal photo of you with the background behind you. Tons innovation is happening there.
The travel industry should be embracing it. There are privacy laws to think about. There are commercialization laws that brands need to think about paying to use that drone content, that we’re very mindful of. At the moment we think it’s going to be huge.
To be honest, we are less familiar with virtual reality. I know brands have been experimenting with re-creating a hotel room so travelers can actually go in and see the room and experience the room before they go and try it out. There is some innovation happening there. I think it’s a series of steps. I’m not sure the consumer is fully ready yet for a fully immersive virtual reality experience that will drive them to booking. I may be wrong. I’m not sure we’re quite there.
Skift: Massive amounts of content are created with new devices that’s published on these visual-based communities, what will the next breed of influencers look like and do?
Jauncey: I don’t know if the travel industry would agree with me but as an outsider, it’s actually about being less of a travel influencer. There’s an amazing tourism boards doing amazing stuff with influencers. They are very siloed. They are saying who is that travel influencer? Who is that travel photographer? Then they’re going okay, well this travel photographer has more followers than this travel photographer so he or she is going to be right for my brand. I actually think the innovation will happen when brands realize that they are just people who live their lives who are influential, who are far more powerful brand than just being a travel influencer.
Skift: What are some of the challenges with having influencer campaigns on Instagram?
Jauncey: Instagram’s exciting because people are starting to now realize within travel that they should be doing something. Brands just don’t know what they’re doing. Brands are just look blindly going oh, here’s ten influencers. Right. Just come to our place and shoot it. There’s no data; there’s no strategy; there’s no way to amplify that content. Then once it’s done there’s no way to track the success. Someone is saying well, we gave you five influencers and we paid an agency $10,000 to $100,000 and we got no impact. We got no followers, no increase in engagement. Why did we bother? If brands look at that in a slightly different way, they should use the data. Track everything.
Skift: Instagram’s latest update on its Discover tab allows people to see what’s going on nearby in real-time through geo-tagged images. Do you see this as a marketing opportunity?
Jauncey: Definitely, yeah. I don’t know where Instagram is going to go with that. It’s incredibly exciting. From our own data we see that people at an anecdotal level — we haven’t drawn a concrete conclusion — we’d be looking at when a person has liked or commented on a destination that we posted. Then say within the next six months they post a photo of themselves at that destination. We’re trying to find a way to draw the line from the point that they actually saw our image or location to that was the inspiration for them to go there and create their own content. It’s a massive discovery and inspiration tool. They are making it easier to discover content that is relevant and engaging for users. That is incredibly valuable.
Skift: How are messaging apps that allow a one-to-one and one-to-many communication impacting visual based marketing?
Jauncey: I think group messaging will play a large role going forward. We see it every single post we make on Beautiful Destinations as users always @mention friends, family and loved ones on images that inspire them. We analyze our comments and note that the majority are individuals suggest their friends visit the place, ask where to stay or how to get there and our feeling is that group messaging will be a way for people to share the images they see on social media to start their discussion about where to travel. We feel that Instagram is driving the inspiration/discovery stage of travel and group messaging apps are deepening that discussion.
See the complete list of speakers and topics at the Skift Global Forum.