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DMOs & Travel Marketers: How To Get Followers On Instagram

Instagram is so much more than a place where people share videos of cute cats. 

When we talked to travel marketers for our 2024 Trends Report, the majority told us it wasn’t TikTok or Twitter (X) they were focusing on for travel content—it was Instagram

There’s only one barrier… getting followers 🤳

Whether you’re just starting out or looking to refresh your Instagram strategy, it can be tough to get more users to follow your account. The good news is there are ways to get noticed on Instagram—even with a small team and a tight budget. 

Here are some simple, actionable tips for travel marketers to get noticed, grow their audience, and boost engagement on Instagram 👇

Table of contents

  • Why Are Instagram Followers Important For Travel Brands?
  • Why Is Getting Followers On Instagram So Hard?
  • How To Get Followers On Instagram: 6 Content Tips & Tricks
  • Getting More Instagram Followers: Strategies To Avoid

Why Are Instagram Followers Important For Travel Brands

Instagram is important for travel marketers and DMOs for one reason: reach 🔊

The platform is still the best way to get on visitors’ radars, either through images, short-form travel videos or Reels. According to our 2024 Trends Report, 60% of travel marketers believe Instagram Reels will have the most buzz in 2024, and 78% destination marketers will prioritize the channel this year. 

What’s more interesting is travel marketers are putting their money where their mouth is—nearly 100% of DMOs in every budget bracket plan to distribute influencer and creator content through Instagram ads.

There’s a reason DMOs are willing to invest in Instagram. 

When we see other people doing fun stuff (whether they’re a friend or an influencer), it gives us FOMO. And FOMO pushes us to book a vacay. Simple. 

But, getting your Instagram page noticed is… not so simple. 

Let us explain.

Why Is Getting Followers On Instagram So Hard?

You know how hard it is to find that needle in a haystack? 🤔

Yeah… it’s harder trying to get noticed on Instagram. As I write this, there are two billion (yes, billion) monthly active Instagram accounts worldwide. That’s a heck of a lot of content on people’s feeds, so it’s hard to stand out and get folks to follow you. 

A lot of accounts also just have bad strategies behind them. They may schedule Instagram posts when their target audience is fast asleep, or they may not post consistently enough. The content being posted also matters: if it’s boring, too generic, or not using hashtags in the right way, Instagram users may scroll right past it. 

Instagram’s algorithm also won’t like it—making it an uphill battle to get noticed. 

With that said, DMOs can grow their follower count with the right content. Let’s dig a little deeper into how to do it.

How To Get Followers On Instagram: 6 Content Tips & Tricks

1. Let real travelers tell your destination’s story

Travelers are built different these days. A polished tourism brochure or travel agent pitch ain’t going to convince them to book a vacation. 

What they want is real content from real people. 

The way to give them what they want is to leverage user-generated content (UGC). When we asked destination marketers how effective UGC has been in their campaigns, 81% said they had seen an increase in engagement on social media by using it. That’s because UGC can help travel marketers: 

  • Create conversations about your destination from a real traveler’s POV
  • Show a more authentic side of your destination (the opposite of a traditional, polished Instagram marketing campaign)
  • Tap into new Instagram audiences through traveler accounts

However, the most underrated part about leaning on UGC for Instagram growth is other people are creating high-quality content for you. This is a gamechanger for the 20% of DMOs who work with a team of just two people, or the marketing teams who are juggling a content budget of under $200k a year. 

A small team and budget were just some of the constraints North Carolina DMO Visit High Point faced when it wanted to boost its online presence.

It turned to UGC to help tell High Points’ story and highlight local attractions like museums, markets, and a vibrant food scene. The DMO’s small (but mighty) Instagram account now recycled UGC to celebrate local businesses and drive potential visitors to its website:

The results speak for themselves: within 90 days of using UGC to tell its story, Visit High Point racked up 40,000 impressions and a 51% engagement rate across Instagram and its website 🔥

2. Show off the best parts of your destination with Reels

Most of us—77% of us to be exact—start our trip planning using social media platforms. DMOs should use this as a chance to drive people to the best parts of their destination. 

Use Instagram Reels to show, not tell. 

In our 2024 Trends Report, the impact of Reels was overwhelmingly positive for destination marketers. Not only does this type of Instagram content have the highest reach rate, 60% of destination marketers think it will be this year’s biggest social media channel. 

Remember, Instagram Reels can be 90 seconds long, so there’s enough time to add in your fav spots. They can also be short and sweet. Just look at Travel Oregon’s best performing Reel of 2023, which was only 6 seconds long. Here’s how they put it together: 

Reels are also the perfect place to break down super shareable travel tips. Think about topics like “The 10 best lunch eats” or “Want to see 5 secret spots for your next vacation?”—to give people even more ideas about what they should see.  

Or… go one step further and get locals to share tips and suggestions of a destination. 

Visit Scotland regularly uses UGC to promote niche travel goals, like spotting Puffins in the Scottish Highlands. Instead of traveling around to snap a pic of the birds themselves, they use high-quality images from local creators to tell a story: 

Not only does this save the DMO (a ton) of time, it gives the image carousel a unique look at where real locals find these fluffy tourist attractions 🐦

💡CrowdRiff tip: Always ask for permission before you repost someone’s Instagram content. It can be as simple as commenting on a pic or video and asking if you can share it on your business profile. Then, just wait for the green light. 

3. Post consistently. Post often. 

Consistency is key to growing your Instagram profile. 

It doesn’t just help feed Instagram’s algorithm, but it also gives travelers a reason to follow you. If there’s a promise of interesting and engaging content on a regular basis, it’s much easier to convince people to subscribe to your feed. 

But what does a consistent posting schedule actually look like? 🤔

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri recommends accounts post two posts on their feed per week, plus two stories a day to keep people engaged. Mosseri has also said each part of Instagram’s app uses its own algorithm to rank posts, but most of the criteria was the same: 

✅ Information. Factors like how many people have liked a post and how quickly they like, comment, share, or save it. This tells Instagram if your audience loves the content you produce, or if they are scrolling past. Other information on a post, like when it was posted and what location was attached to it, along with your Instagram bio can also impact how the algorithm shares it. 

✅ Signals. Instagram tracks popularity signals like the number of followers an account has or how much engagement content gets. More = better. 

✅ Activity. The platform looks at Reels your account has recently liked, saved, reshared, commented on, and engaged with. This activity tells Instagram what content is relevant to your account and your followers. 

The message is clear: keep posting consistent, but also focus on real and engaging content. 

💡CrowdRiff tip: Consider sharing content across multiple channels if you have active accounts. Nearly 84% of TikTok users also have an Instagram account. If you can grab their attention on TikTok, you just might be able to snag a follow on Instagram as well 👌

4. Take a shortcut with a contest or giveaway

Let’s face it: we all love free stuff. And if you dangle a freebie or giveaway on your Instagram account in exchange for a follow, there’s a good chance a lot of people will take you up on your offer. 

It’s also a great way to put the spotlight on your destination. 

Think about it. Although the overall goal here might be to use Instagram to attract more visitors or increase sales, your first followers will likely be locals and existing fans. Use this to your advantage and get them involved. Reach out to local businesses or attractions in your area to see if they are interested in swapping some goodies for free exposure. 

We are loving this collaborative giveaway campaign by DMO Visit Temecula

Not only is the giveaway prize amazing (a massage and wine tour?! Yes please!), but it also celebrates three local businesses. The competition T&Cs also state people must follow the Instagram accounts of companies giving away prizes to enter. The competition was huge and every business involved racked up thousands of new followers in exchange for participating. 

Can you see why we call this travel marketing strategy a shortcut to boosting your follower account? 😏

5. Find relevant hashtags that resonate with your audience

Branded hashtags can drive campaigns and uncover UGC for you to use on your Instagram feed to get more eyes on your content. 

However, picking the right Instagram hashtag for content is key. Your account should have an official hashtag to attach to campaigns and encourage people to engage with your destination, but you should also check it fits with your goals: 

  • Include a verb like explore or visit in the hashtag to tap into your visitor’s curiosity for finding new places.
  • If your destination goes by a well-known acronym (think New York City -> NYC), use it in your hashtag to save space.
  • Think about how it will be used in conversation. For example, Destination Toronto uses #SeeTorontoNow to tag pics of the city to get future travelers to dream about what their visit will look like. 

The Yarmouth & Acadian Shores Tourism Association (YASTA) is a great example of how picking the right hashtag can pay off. The DMO uses an account-specific hashtag, #VisitYAS, to encourage travelers to upload UGC, tag its account, and share images. 

The hashtag has been used in 14,750 posts and now helps the DMO fill its photo gallery on its homepage.  

CEO Neil MacKenzie says the hashtag (and the huge number of images it has generated) has helped the DMO see the destination from a different perspective. 

“You can discover more places around your own backyard, and things you haven’t necessarily seen before. It also helps us really get a feel for what’s around us, and what’s happening.”

💡CrowdRiff tip: Worried your hashtags are cluttering up your Instagram captions? Put them in a comment underneath your photo instead. Instagram’s algorithm will still pick up your hashtag, but it will be hidden in the caption. Voilà! 👌

6. Partner with influencers who match your vibe

Want to get your Instagram account in front of a new audience? Think about tapping into someone else’s.

Partner with an influencer and hand over the keys to your Instagram account. Known as a “takeover”, this content strategy works when you give your Instagram account to an influencer for a set amount of time (usually a day or a week) to post about your destination. The influencer will also post on their account at the same time to expose their audience to your account. 

Just look at how DMO Destination British Columbia used partnerships to power its (very) successful Instagram takeover series called #guestagrammer
The campaign involved influencers posting pictures of their favorite spots around BC (which were geotagged so people could check them out) and explaining what made it special. Here’s one post from adventure photographer Brayden Hall which got a lot of traffic:

Before the DMO started the takeover series, its #ExploreBC hashtag had just 10,000 images. Now, it has nearly 7 million 🤯

Getting More Instagram Followers: Strategies To Avoid

In the race to get Instagram followers, don’t be tempted to game the system. We’re talking about tactics like: 

❌ Buying followers. Don’t ever buy fake followers or use bots to trick Instagram’s algorithm into thinking your account is more popular than it is. At the very least, it can harm your account’s reach. At worst, your account can be banned. 

❌ Using content without permission. Always get the green light to share someone else’s content before you post it on your account. Despite what you think, UGC shared on Instagram isn’t public property or covered under the Fair Use law. Learn more about UGC rights management here 📖 

❌ Overposting to get noticed. Posting consistently is great. Posting content 20 times a day is borderline spamming. Quality > quantity is always a winning Instagram marketing strategy. 

Keep it simple. Post often. Produce engaging content. And real followers (who want to learn more about your destination) will come. 

More Instagram followers = more eyes on your destination 👀

For DMOs, Instagram is a great way to introduce potential followers to a destination and get them to put it on their list. 

Instagram Stories and Reels are a great way to show off local restaurants, activities and even hidden gems to catch people’s attention. With the right strategy and approach, DMOs can stand out from the (huge) crowd on Instagram and engage ideal travelers who will love their destination. 

To help you kickstart your Instagram strategy, we created a guide on how to drive conversions, add UGC to campaigns and ultimately—get more followers. Grab it for free here 👇

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