Instagram is a powerhouse amongst social media platforms. Known for photo sharing, it’s the popular place to drool over an eggs benny or admire a friend’s summit climb. People are drawn to this visually stimulating app — not only to keep updated with their social network— but to discover content that inspires, informs and intrigues them.
But how do they find the right content to follow? Simple. It’s all about the hashtags.
What is an Instagram hashtag and why it’s important for tourism?
Hashtags play a major role of social media in tourism marketing. Similar to a filing system, hashtags are labels used to categorize and organize content. Used across most social media platforms, they’re the perfect tool to drive discovery of your tour business online.
Here is the breakdown of hashtagging in Instagram:
1. A user will assign a hashtag to an image they post.
2. The image will appear on the hashtag’s community page.
3. Another user will search the same hashtag and see this image as a Top or Recent post (options they’re given on the screen).
4. They may choose to follow the account that posted this image.
Hashtags aid users in discovering content that represent their unique set of interests and a user only chooses to follow accounts they’re interested in. This is an opportunity for your tour business to be that account a user follows because you’re easy to find and they’re interested in the content you post.
For example, an Instagrammer who volunteers in marine conservation may click on hashtags like #oceanlove or #whaleofatime to find accounts dedicated to posting marine-related content. Imagine you are whale watching tour operator — any amazing photos taken on tour can be posted with either of these hashtags. The user will then stumble upon your jumping killer whale photo and decide to follow your account.
That’s great! You’ve gained a new follower and a potential new customer! But you’re probably thinking, “what are the chances of this actually happening?” Well, it’s more likely to happen if you use hashtags than if you don’t.
And now with Instagram’s new feature, your chances of reaching your target audience are even better!
That’s right — Instagram now allows users to follow hashtags
Previous to this feature release, users could only find new content by clicking on a hashtag or entering it in the search bar. Now that a user has the option to follow a hashtag of interest, any image posted with that hashtag may show up in their newsfeed.
The first hashtag I decided to follow was #theglobewanderer — because I shouldn’t have to wait until vacations to admire the wonders of this world. As I scroll through my newsfeed on a Monday evening, I’m thrilled to see photos of candy-coloured city streets, and aerial views of rushing rivers.
However, my feed isn’t the only place to see stunning scenery. Since Instagram stories are trending today, hashtags are also assigned a story of their own. I can click on the #theglobewanderer story at the top of the app and see a compilation of travel photos and videos uploaded by different accounts using that hashtag.
Best hashtag practices for tour companies
As tempting as it is to get the most followers, this shouldn’t be your main tourism social media strategy. There is strategy involved with hashtagging and I’ll tell you now — it isn’t to use as many different hashtags as possible.
You want to lead the right users to your account. Just because a business has over 10K followers, it doesn’t mean everyone is actively engaging with their content and interested in their product or service.
To reach your target audience, you must be using hashtags that are relevant to your brand. Think about it: a user interested in budget travel is not likely to follow a luxury cruise line account because it posts with the hashtag #offthebeatenpath. Better hashtag options would be #bestvacations, #couplestravel or #traveldeals.
So how do you go about maximizing your hashtagging efforts? Here are methods to help you out:
1. Research suitable hashtags
Your tour business has a unique brand and there are certainly hashtags out there that’ll match. However, not all hashtags are one word — there are phrases, puns, portmanteaus…millions of made-up variations to describe any topic. This can be overwhelming when trying to find the right hashtags to use.
Start by researching your competition, industry leaders, and travel influencers campaigns — make note of the hashtags they frequently use — because they’re also reaching out to a community interested in your travel niche.
To expand your list further, think of hashtags as keywords. Type relevant keywords into the search bar and Instagram will auto-fill with popular suggestions. Add any of these to your growing collection.
Need a little help coming up with awesome hashtags? Check out our list of 177 popular hashtags for tours and activities!
Finally, make sure to follow hashtags related to the tourism industry. That way, if you are ever stuck coming up with new tags, you can click on Hashtags in the Following item on your profile page and Instagram will suggest additional hashtags that match your interests.
The more hashtags you have on hand, the better.
2. Keep hashtags fresh
The old copy and paste method doesn’t work anymore. You can’t have a go-to list of hashtags and use them for every post. It is believed that this type of behaviour results in a shadowban — where Instagram bans posts from appearing in the community feed if the user continues to ignore the guidelines.
Searchability is part of your online marketing strategy. So don’t let the shadowban anywhere near you. By using fresh hashtags with every new post, you are telling Instagram that you value engagement over traffic.
Besides, using a fresh collection of hashtags every time increases your chances of reaching a new set of eyes.
3. Use more than one
There is no magic number when it comes to the right amount of hashtags. However, statistics reveal that posts receive better engagement when 11 or more hashtags are used. Which makes sense — more hashtags means a greater reach.
The maximum allowance is 30 — but it’s not a carnival game — there isn’t a ding-ding-ding, you win if you hit this number.
Coming up with 30 hashtags for every new post is an unnecessary stress. Aim for 11 as a happy medium and sprinkle in a few more if you are feeling motivated. Though hashtag use improves your searchability, don’t forget your visual presence and storytelling are also factors in user engagement. So don’t place too much focus on the number of hashtags to use.
If you don’t like the look of hashtags filling up your post caption, I’ll let you in on a trick many business accounts use— including Checkfront. Add a comment with your list of hashtags instead. You’ll get the perks of hashtags and increase your engagement score. Don’t worry, your first follower comment will hide your hashtag comment.
4. Consider content hashtags
Up until now, I have been referring to community hashtags — which are a broader scope of hashtag variations — either popular or trending. To narrow in on your target audience, you want to be more specific.
This is where content hashtags come in. A community hashtag represents an overall niche, whereas a content hashtag is used to better describe a single post. These can be in the form of location, product, campaign or event hashtags. Your hashtags for tourism business also fall into this category.
For example, say your tour is located in New Zealand. To promote your tour business to anyone traveling there, you can use location-specific hashtags such as #visitnewzealand or #newzealandguide. A traveler, either en route or planning to make the trip, will use Instagram as inspiration for things to do and places to see. Clicking on these hashtags, they may come across an image from your tour and jot it down as a must-do.
Content hashtags are best reserved for your caption. You can stick them at the end or work them into the sentence.
5. Track and analyze
Since hashtags are one of the key components of marketing your business online, you’ll want insight into whether or not your strategy is working. Using an Instagram analytics tool, you can track hashtags to see how well they are performing. Some will show little to no user engagement, so substitute it out with something better.
Your top performing hashtags also tell you what content to post more often. For example, you’ve been using #wanderlustwednesday and it’s showing high engagement. Now every Wednesday, you can make sure to post an epic scenery shot of your tour with this hashtag attached to it.
You might be shaky starting out with hashtagging and ensure your efforts are achieving ROI. But soon, you’ll become fluent and user engagement will increase.
Remember, hashtagging isn’t the only thing to master on Instagram. Make sure your photos and videos are the main dish, captions are the side and hashtags are the dessert. Great content is made complete with great hashtags.