Pictures from Visit Wiltshire's Instagram account

Guest blog: Instagram success by VisitWiltshire

Instagram recently announced it now has 300 million active daily users, 80% of which are outside of the US. The platform hosts a highly engaged, inclusive and supportive community of people who enjoy seeing and sharing the world through photos and video. With it recently announcing the roll out of business accounts, analytics and a new algorithm, we asked the team at VisitWiltshire, who have built a community of over 3,500  if they’d tell us about why the platform is such a good fit for tourism and how others can be successful using it.  

Written by Emma Kirkup, Digital and Online Executive, VisitWiltshire.

We first started to get on board with Instagram after a tourism conference in early 2015 where we saw the power it could have, particularly for tourism businesses. It had always been one of those social networks that we were aware of but were unsure whether it was worth our time and efforts into dedicating resource to, having traditionally used Facebook and Twitter.

When I think back to some of our initial posts, I’m a bit embarrassed as they were quite corporate and not really selling the destination. We were using hashtags cautiously and probably weren’t engaging as much as we could have been. It was after a chat with a colleague in a different Destination Management Organisation that I got more of a feel for what worked well for them on Instagram and how we could bring these ideas into VisitWiltshire.

From our humble beginnings, we quickly gained followers as people began to see some of the posts we were sharing. We developed relationships with the social media teams at VisitBritain and VisitEngland which also got the message out that we were on Instagram. As I write this, we currently have over 3,500 followers.

As part of our general social media strategy, we try to keep our posts chatty and informal and try to showcase not just the big names in Wiltshire like Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral but some of the hidden gems around the county that quite often people don’t know exist. I’m always badgering my colleagues to send me photos when they are out and about across Wiltshire, the quirkier the better as these go down well on Instagram. What’s lovely to see is when you get comments such as ‘I never knew this existed’ or ‘l’ll have to make a visit there’ as it shows we are engaging with our followers in the way we set out to.

In addition to showcasing hidden areas of the county, we use Instagram to show immediacy of visit. A lot of people know about Stonehenge and other key attractions but think there’s no rush to visit these places as they aren’t going anywhere. By taking photos out and about in the county we can show why you should come now rather than later. Whether that is the bluebells out in woodlands through to temporary sculpture exhibitions or events in the Cathedral Close, there’s a reason to come now.

In the early part of 2015, VisitWiltshire conducted a brand positioning exercise which highlighted the reasons to emphasise the immediacy of visit. Our marketing channels were updated to have a new tone of voice and we adopted a new hashtag of #timeforwiltshire which we’ve implemented across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We always use #timeforwiltshire in our posts on Instagram and encourage our followers to do so too by reposting those who use it where we can. We have also engaged with our local ‘Igers’ (Instagrammers) community, Igerswiltshire and have run several joint-instameets across the county including a dawn visit to Stonehenge, a trip to a little known aviation museum and a walk around Bowood House and Gardens. Future meets are planned for 2016/2017 too.

By working alongside Igerswiltshire, we have developed relationships with local ambassadors across the county who share their photos when out and about and use our hashtag. It works twofold as they also get increased use of their hashtag too and they also get access to places sometimes with behind the scenes tours.

It can sometimes be hard to measure the true value of Instagram as you don’t get click through to the website. The way we view it is by engagement with our followers. We realise it’s not all about following numbers but about engagement with our posts and increased use of our hashtag. It will be good though when Instagram releases their analytics tools before too long.

As a partnership organisation, it’s great to see more of our local businesses also adopting Instagram as part of their social media strategies too. It all helps to show off what a beautiful county we have and to help encourage visitors from outside of Wiltshire to come here.

We were delighted in 2015 to have been named Best Tourist Board in the English Tourism Social Media Index for our efforts in social media and are always looking for ways to continue this legacy. The increased use of video will play more of a part in our future posts on Instagram as will continued engagement with the igers community and key stakeholders such as VisitBritain.

Find out more about VisitWiltshire’s Instagram activity by visiting www.instagram.com/visitwiltshire or searching #timeforwiltshire

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