Every day, people are constantly being bombarded with the (seemingly) hundreds of photos their friends take in every place they visit.
Whether it’s from the Facebook friend who’s sunbathing in Hawaii, or the Instagrammer that’s coffee-shop hopping all over the city — these are visual stories of experiences.
People love and seek experiences. And to find them, they’re following visuals.
People are already making decisions based on visuals.
Consider: When was the last time you made a purchase from a Craigslist or eBay ad that didn’t show photos? When was the last time you went to a restaurant you found on Yelp that didn’t have any photos of their food?
Chances are, not lately. Or at least not as recently as when a photo compelled you to do something.
Social photos, from Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, are particularly influential.
You might see a photo on Instagram of a particularly intricate work of latte art, for example — and that cafe is now on your list of spots to visit on the weekend.
And when you decide to take your next holiday in Hawaii — due to that travelling Facebook friend of yours — that’s visual influence at work.
At its core, visual influence is tied to the way people take action based on the images they see of places, products, and experiences.
For marketers, the pursuit of visual influence holds an opportunity to captivate and attract more tourists and customers, as well as being the go-to authority of your brand story.
That means showcasing all the great things you have to offer a visitor, and inspiring them.
If you ignore visual influence, other people will tell your story for you.
Sometimes, that’s a good thing — like when your happy visitors are sharing their photos with their friends and networks. But because there are so many photos that exist out there, your main story can get diluted.
People are bound to share photos that are unrelated to your destination’s travel potential — things that aren’t going to particularly attract people to come. That’s why it’s the DMO’s job to rise above as the main visual influencer.
For example, Waterloo is a region in Ontario, Canada that’s home to the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. So it goes without saying that a lot of the photos tagged in Waterloo depict student life.
You made it #UWaterloo! Happy last day of exams. This student looks like he was ready for a break from studying back in 1959. Pic from KW Record Collection #TBT #UWSCA #uwaterloolibrary #uwaterloo #studytime #studentlife #exams #almostdone #holidaytime #uwawesome #kwawesome #blackandwhitephoto #archivesofinstagram #librariesofinstagram
The thing is… exam stress “studying-in-the-library” photos aren’t exactly catalysts for travel inspiration. Nor are house party photos.
Knowing this, the DMO Explore Waterloo Region has honed in on their visual influence strategy. On their website and Instagram, they’ve curated specific photos people are sharing in their location, that tell a story of their destination that goes so much further than “university town”.
Because Explore Waterloo Region has positioned itself as the main storyteller — or visual influencer — of their destination, interested visitors go to their website or Instagram account to investigate what Waterloo has to offer.
So in addition to its bustling student activity, visitors can see the local cafes, farmers market, and small town charm that defines Waterloo.
Taking hold of your visual influence puts you back in the driver’s seat of your reputation and story.
You are your brand’s curator.
Along with to your own branded photos (aspirational visuals), showcase the authentic (user-generated) photos that other people have taken about you.
As a marketer, you can’t control everything about your brand’s image. But you can curate the visuals that are out there, to tell your story and share your culture.
Visuals are influential. And when you take hold of your visual influence, that’s the best way to inspire more visitors and travelers to come see what you can offer.