Sarah Orchard shares her top 10 tips for using Instagram to market your outdoor business.
Facebook’s little brother is growing up and now boasts 1 billion users globally (as of June 2018). The popularity of Instagram is incredible and a fact that simply cannot be ignored.
But the trouble with a platform that has so many active users is making sure your posts are found and seen by people who are interested in what you offer – needles and haystacks comes to mind! The days of adding a handful of random images and a few hashtags to a post are well and truly over – you need a plan.
Instagram has a younger profile than Facebook and is popular with the millennial generation – the place where 30 somethings go to find inspiration and brands to love. So if you are running an experience-based business – festival, outdoor event, glampsite, wedding venue or any other outdoor-based business – Instagram could be just the platform for you.
1 Getting started
Set up your profile properly and make sure you select a business account in settings. Use a great profile image, make sure your Instagram handle instantly conveys what you do (be consistent with your other social platforms if possible), and write a good bio. Ideally include two to five hashtags (#) in the bio line (a hash tag is simply a way for people to search for posts that have a common topic). And don’t forget to include your website address!
2 Be stylish!
Instagram is a visuals-led platform, so you’re going to need great images. Don’t worry, your smartphone images can be good enough, especially if you always use the same camera angles and signature filter. Make sure the images mirror your brand’s visual identity – adopting the same colours, fonts and image style used on your website – so that the experience of your brand is consistent from one communication channel to another.
Keep things simple and shoot square from your smartphone for ease of posting. The Instagram Layout app is really good for creating interesting montages, especially if you want to post a sequence of images, say for an event set-up or lighting a wood burner at your glampsite. CANVA (drag and drop graphic design website) is a great free tool as well.
3 Finding your audience
Liking random posts isn’t likely to achieve a great deal. Start by doing your research – you can make likes and follows work really well for your business. What are your competitors doing on Instagram? More importantly, check out who is commenting and liking their posts – they are probably your target market too. So it makes sense to engage with and follow them. This way, you’ll start to build an audience that is actively interested in what your outdoor business has to offer.
4 Signpost your content
Instagram uses hashtags, very much like Twitter, and these help people filter through millions of posts to find what’s of interest to them. Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags, but don’t go mad. Research has shown that using five to 10 hashtags per post is good.
How do you know which ones to use? Hashtags should describe the content of the image post. To get started, I’d suggest typing in a popular search terms, like #glamping, #smallfestival or #woodlandweddings, and seeing what posts come up top. Then look at the top 10 posts (shown as most popular) and see what hashtags they have used. Make a list.
Instagram will also auto-suggest hashtags as you start to type your chosen hashtag into the search bar at the top of the screen. It’s worth checking out popular hashtags using http://hashtagify.me too. I’d recommend using your type of business, brand name and location in every post and you can even add some personality with some humour hashtags. Check out what others do for some hashtag inspiration.
As loads of hashtags can look very messy, I’d recommend putting them at the end of your post to keep things tidy, or better still keep your post clean with just two to three hashtags and post them immediately into the first comment instead. You must get them into the first comment and then you still get the visibility benefits of the hashtag when people are searching.
5 Make posting a breeze!
Save the common hashtags you are going to use on your smartphone using Notes or similar. It makes it so much easier to prepare your hashtags and post them easily and consistently every time.
You can also share other people’s Instagram images using reposting apps like Repost or Regrammer. These mean that you can acknowledge the original source and add some nice content. It can help build Instagram partnerships to grow your following too.
6 Captions for personality
As I said earlier, you are trying to build interest and engagement with your potential audience so think about what you can add that will encourage people to like, comment or hopefully repost your content. Growth can happen incredibly quickly if your followers like what they see and want to see more by following your account. Emojis are often used to add a bit of personality to posts. Have a play and see which captions work best. Instagram analytics show you how your posts did so you can refine what you do.
7 Share the Instagram love
Growth on Instagram depends to an extent on demonstrating that you are engaged with your particular Instagram community and know what they want to see. So look at what competitors are posting and what gets high number of Likes and Comments. It’s well worth tagging other local businesses, relevant industry associations or tourism boards (use any regional hashtags they use, for example #visitwales, #deanwye, #lovecornwalluk), or look for influencer accounts you want to nurture a relationship with to help you grow.
You can also use a few special hashtags to encourage a bigger following. For instance, #L4L means ‘like for like’ i.e. if you like me I’ll reciprocate and like your posts. #follow and #followme are an obvious and transparent request for some Instagram love.
8 Use Instagram Stories to share more
Instagram Stories mirrors the popularity of Snapchat and it allows you to share images or videos to only appear for 24 hours. Great for posting more frequently or adding something in from a live event, that is more ‘fly on the wall’ and you don’t want to permanently appear in the main Instagram feed or your profile grid.
You can have some fun with it too – add hashtags, filters, overlay text, drop in stylish graphics and stickers, add your location, a poll, and add a web page link (for accounts with 10K+ followers).
Once you’ve created and posted your Instagram Stories, you can download individual posts, or even entire Stories if you want to use them again, for example on Facebook or your website.
Stories are great for seasonal messages, glampsite activities, or live events. Find out more on using Stories at https://business.instagram.com/blog/introducing-instagram-stories
9 Instagram allows only one web link, but…
When someone sees your posts, you ideally want your audience to do something. Visit your website and book or buy a ticket, enter a competition, read a blog post, or sign up to your email list – so make sure you have an appropriate landing page on your website that will enable them to complete the action you want. As you can only have one link in your bio, and it is a pain to keep changing it, there is a great tool called Linktree (https://linktr.ee), which enables you to create a landing page with multiple web links. Bingo!
10 Plan and schedule
Just like a blog, it makes sense to plan your Instagram activity. Set up a rolling three month content plan for all your social media and allocate time to prepare and collate images and graphics, creating great captions and researching hashtags.
As you can only use Instagram on your smartphone it can be a pain to remember to post regularly so there are some scheduling tools you can use including Hootsuite, Buffer, Schedugram and Later. They all have their pros and cons, so it’s a case of choosing the one that feels right for you.
About the Author
Sarah Orchard helps owners of glamping and other hospitality businesses get their marketing approach spot on to get more bookings without using expensive online agents. She is a professionally qualified Chartered Marketer, with over 25 years’ of hands-on marketing experience in travel and tourism. Sarah is also currently developing and launching her own glampsite with her husband – an exciting new venture and a big learning curve too!
Sarah has two websites www.get-fully-booked.com and www.orchardmarketingassociates.co.uk