If you’re thinking, “Oh great, another post about Instagram,” stay with us! I promise this is information you want to hear. I don’t doubt that you know how to use it (and if it’s still new to you, you can read our guide to getting started here). I’m not here to tell you what to post or to remind you to post, since there’s plenty of material on that subject already. I’m here to tell you about a new way you can add Instagram to your business strategy: by incorporating it into your tours.
You might be thinking, “But my tours aren’t Instagram tours!” Don’t worry! I’m not asking you to create new tours; I’m going to show you ways to make your existing tours more Insta-friendly.
There’s a few different ways to do this that don’t involve overhauling your existing structure, so let’s tackle them one by one.
1. Take More Unique Photos of Your Guests
Many of the world’s monuments are so widely photographed for a good reason: sights like the Colosseum and the Great Wall of China have a fantastic, rich history that makes them popular tourist destinations. Anyone offering a Hollywood tour can’t skip over the Walk of Fame, just as a trip to Brussels isn’t complete without a photograph of Manneken Pis, despite the fact that these spots often don’t live up to their reputation. John Urry, author of The Tourist Gaze, provides an explanation for this behavior: “What is sought for in a holiday is a set of photography images, which have already been seen in tour company brochures or on TV programmes. [It] ends up with travellers demonstrating that they really have been there by showing their version of the images that they had seen before they set off.” In this sense, the photographs aren’t meant to be reminders of our trip: they’re proof that we were there.
For this reason, many of our photographs can look similar, if not identical, to those of our peers. Check out the account @insta_repeat, which posts collages made up of photos taken by different photographers on the same subject matter. Rarely is it merely the backdrop itself that is replicated by many users but rather the exact same pose.
What this means is that very few of us actually stand out from the crowd on Instagram. Those artsy photos that everyone else is taking won’t differentiate you from your competitors. If anything, they serve as photographic proof that your tours are interchangeable with any others in the area. And while you know that this isn’t true and that your tours are unique, your potential customers don’t. So how do you separate yourself from the rest of the pack?
One way to spice up your photos is by trying a different angle. Do a little research on the monument you’re photographing, and check the location’s geotag on Instagram to see what people are already posting. This is something Laura Mallonee, author of the article “Why We All Take the Same Travel Photos“, noticed on a trip to the Louvre Museum. As she put it, “I knew it was silly to join the crowd of tourists clicking away at the Mona Lisa when I visited the Louvre a couple years ago — geotagging has made it all too clear how unoriginal those photos are.”
To see this in action, check out the geotag for the Leaning Tower of Pisa. One person had the idea to pretend that it was an ice cream cone, and now other users have recreated their own version. What once was a quirky new way to photograph an already highly visible spot has since become the norm.
Snapping a truly unique photo of a highly popular destination requires some planning ahead. Go to the destination that everyone wants to photograph, and look around. Is there anything unique about the area that others are missing? Can you photograph it from a different spot? How about you invite your guest to strike a unique pose that will make their photo stand out from the others?
Disney photographers are famous for this. They often ask the party being photographed to do some kind of quirky pose that makes for a great final photograph, especially with a little editing. Disney PhotoPass Service’s Instagram account offers a lot of examples, such as the one below:
While these examples rely on Photoshop, extra editing isn’t always necessary to capture that perfect shot. Take this photo from our Marketing Manager, Stephanie:
The tour guide captured this cool photo of her through a decorative facade on the side of the Taj Mahal.
The goal of this different angle is not to stop your guests from taking the photo that everyone else does. Let them pretend to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and then offer a different, less common approach to the photograph. Chances are that unique photo is the one they remember.
2. Use Downtime Between Destinations To Your Advantage
Getting your tour group from one sightseeing spot to another means that there are moments when your guest doesn’t have anything specific to capture their attention, except perhaps the sound of the tour guide’s voice. How can you use this downtime to your advantage?
If you’re providing tours that use a vehicle to get from place to place, be sure to adequately prepare your guests for photo opportunities along the way. Alert them to the exciting sights that they will be able to see, and give them ample time to get their cameras out and in position. And, if possible, make additional stops for really cool spots. I still remember stopping by the side of the road to get a family photo with the Belize sign, despite it only being a quick 2-minute stop on an otherwise full-day tour.
For those offering walking tours, you can get an interesting new perspective just by slightly modifying your route. Try taking a different path than usual from point A to point B, and see if you notice anything particularly different or unique that could be worth photographing. I recommend that you test this by yourself before taking an actual tour group in case anything goes awry, but you should be able to find neat photo opportunities that others miss if you deviate from your standard route.
3. Invite Your Customers To Tag You on Instagram
While the satisfaction of your guests should be the main reason for making your tours more Insta-friendly, it doesn’t hurt your marketing approach either. One of the best parts of Instagram is that it’s social, so it’s completely normal to ask tourgoers to tag you in their photos. Make this easy by providing a little slip of paper at the end with your social media details, or send the info in a follow-up email, along with any other photos you’ve taken of them during the tour. The better and more unique the photo opportunity that you’ve provided your tour guests with, the more likely they are to share it all over social media.
You can take advantage of their posts, even if you don’t use Instagram, by requesting that they use a hashtag related for your company (we would use #TourismTiger, for example). By having all your guests use the same hashtag, other Instagram users will be able to see everyone’s pictures from your tours in the same place.
And don’t feel as if you have to rely on what others post to build your brand! If you get a really great photo of one of your guests, ask them for permission to post it to your own Instagram page, and tag them in it. Use it as an opportunity to spread the word that your tour is different from that of your competitors and that you offer photo opportunities others don’t match. Then, when competitors start copying your idea, you can prove that you were the first.
Integrating Instagram into your tour doesn’t have to mean overhauling your existing structure. If you have an itinerary that works, you can simply incorporate a few of our tips to make it a paradise for the social media-obsessed. At the very least, these unique photo opportunities will leave you with some great new photos for your website.
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