Instagram For Travel Bloggers & Digital Nomads

Instagram For Travel Bloggers & Digital Nomads

With over 2 billion active users worldwide, the visual platforms of social media has become a terrific channel for bloggers of all types to connect with their readers – and no more so than with travel bloggers.

And, if your target audience loves visuals, then you cannot afford to ignore the platform that sees 70 million photo updates everyday…


In particular, businesses belonging to the fashion, travel or food industry have a terrific opportunity to engage with their audience on Instagram. And let me tell you, that’s a real shame because I have by far and away seen the best interaction levels for Wealth In Memories on Instagram – even though the profile is in its infancy.

Across 70 posts I have seen 60+ “likes” on average with the highest (at time of writing) topping out at 163 likes.

Yet some travel bloggers and digital nomads are still shunning Instagram for more comfortable platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Given that Instagram as a ridiculously high social engagement/per follower rate, for newer bloggers like myself looking to make a splash early on and quickly build an audience, Instagram should be front and center of your content promotion efforts.

Forrester, in its 2015 analysis of top 50 global brands, found that Instagram remains the undisputed king of per-follower interaction rate.

Forrester, in its 2015 analysis of top 50 global brands, found that Instagram remains the undisputed king of per-follower interaction rate.

[Source] Forrester, 2015 analysis of top 50 global brands.

The bad news is that this interaction has fallen to half of its 2014 per-follower engagement rate of 4.213%. This signals that many brands and content creators have joined the visual platform for promoting their businesses and are regularly post updates.  More content means a lower engagement rate.

With the increase in frequency of updates, an Instagram user misses 70% of posts from the accounts they follow.

To solve the issue, Instagram recently announced that they’ll use an algorithm to show users the posts that interest them. They’ll also use your “relationship with the person and the timeliness of the post” for filling your feed.

Deja vu?

Yep, Instagram is following Facebook’s suite.

This means that you can’t simply rely on real-time industry updates or increase your posting frequency to get real estate in more of your follower feeds. You’ve got to focus more on your audience preferences and use innovative techniques to engage with them.

Here are 5 tips to help you amplify your Instagram following, increase your engagement rate with your target audience and drive readership.

1. Load up your updates with relevant hashtags

You might already know the effectiveness of hashtags in reaching a targeted audience on Twitter, but how important are they on Instagram?

You’ll notice that many of my Instagram posts contain 20-25 hashtags (the maximum currently is 30) and while many might consider this spamming, there is a very good reason for it. If the “decay” rate of Instagram posts is quick enough for followers to miss 70% of your posts, being visible in search is critical – particularly if you are just starting out and the likelihood is that with a handful of followers, only a a fraction will even see the posts anyway.

Having posts seen by your current followers will not increase your following – but being findable by non-followers in search will!

Secondly, these hashtags needn’t appear in the main post description – they work just as well posted in a follow-up comment. Next time you post on Instagram try it -immediately after publishing, hit the comment button a load it up with relevant hashtags (note: I’ll be showing you how to find popular hashtags in a moment),

TrackMaven found that posts with 11+ hashtags get the maximum engagement.


So, how do you find relevant hashtags to add to every post?

The process is similar to performing keyword research – Record relevant hashtags that other bloggers and travellers are using in their updates.

You can also scroll through the 100 most popular hashtags compiled by Webstagram here. I’ve included the top 20 in the screenshot below.


Adding popular hashtags will expand your post’s reach, but make sure that you use only the ones that are relevant to your products and suit your blog & personality.

You can scout for relevant hashtags by your travel style and locations and then group them in Evernote (or Google Docs as I do). Richard runs an eCommerce business and he uses this technique to efficiently derive more engagement from Instagram.


#ProTip:  Have you not been previously using relevant hashtags in your Instagram posts? No worries.

Revisit your older updates and add relevant hashtags in the comments. Your post will start showing up in the search feed for your added hashtags. You’ll see a bump in your engagement as well as new followers rolling in.

2. Host a photo contest to engage your followers and expand your brand’s reach

Broadly there are 3 kinds of Instagram contests. “Like to win” and “email gated” are less participative. I recommend that you to launch the third type, a hashtag UGC (user-generated content) contest.

Inviting and encouraging your audience to create visual content will deepen your relationship with them, besides significantly increase your brand visibility.

Deftones conducted a photo contest that resulted in 20,000 new followers and 1,300 new Instagram posts tagged #deftones within 3 months.

So, how do you launch your first contest?

Pick a goal and define the metrics for evaluation of your contest’s performance. It can read like “increasing my followers by 25%” or “create 300 posts with @YourInstagramHandle”.

You can conveniently collect relevant posts around a theme, by requesting submissions with a contest-specific hashtag. Esprit launched this type of photo contest, asking their customers to upload their submissions with #everydayamazing.


Next, pick a subject that will indulge your audience and create a shareable experience for them. If you are looking for inspiration you can check out the previous contests launched by others at Iconosquare. Search for hashtags like #contest and #photocontest.

Once you’ve finalized the contest details and chosen a prize (such as your favourite travel book, iTunes/Amazon vouchers or something unique such as a night couch surfing on your sofa!), take ample time to promote it. Start with a Facebook event (like below),  guest posting about the contest on other travel blogs, send email announcements and use Facebook Ads to create a buzz.


Once the contest ends, you should announce the winners on your Facebook page or in a blog post.

#ProTip: For more established bloggers, if you’re launching a contest on a large scale, then apps like Wishpond can help you with easy contest management.

3. Express yourself with the fastest growing language in history…

This language can help you in humanizing your communications, thereby increasing your email open rates, engagement and conversions. And, it has seen an unprecedented adoption in UK.

I am talking about emoticons.


With the launch of the emoji keyboard on iOS, emoji use has exploded on Instagram.


Nearly 50% of all captions and comments on Instagram have at least one emoji. So, it’s a no-brainer to integrate them in your updates to express yourself.

So,what are the emojis that Instagram users like the most?

Simply Measured, in its analysis of 2500 Instagram posts, found that “love hearts” receive the maximum engagement per post. “Sparkles” and “artist palette” are the next two most engaging emojis on the list.

Here is the graph with analysis of the top 10 emojis vs. the engagement they get.



If you’re a newbie to emoticons, HubSpot’s Emoji Guide is a good place to start.

Once you’re familiar, here are 3 tips to extract maximum value from emojis and increase your following.

  1. Your CTAs – Emojis can be used to stimulate the click of a link, subscribe to your newsletter or check out a new venture.
  2. Comments – Make yours stand out from the noise with carefully selected emojis.
  3. Your Bio -Use emojis to illustrate what your Instagram page is all about (see below).


Don’t forget that engaging with your audience is a two-way street and Instagrammers who interact and respond are not only more likely to receive more comments but will become memorable to those they interacted with. Just look at how @arnoldgrape comments…




4. Use the right filters and post high-quality content regularly

With algorithmic changes hitting Instagram feeds, posting quality images has become even more important. Indeed, Instagram accounts that post superior graphics have been found to get away with higher frequency.


Moreover, Instagramers respond favorably to a select few filters. As per research done at Georgia Tech and Yahoo Labs, filtered photos are 21% more likely to get viewed and 45% more likely to get comments.

So, which filters work the best?

Track Maven found that using “no filter” and “Inkwell” in your photos will drive the most interaction.


While the above filters are good starting points for experimentation, your audience might have a different favorite filter. You need to dig into your own account’s performance, using a tool like Iconosquare.

Once you get your own graphs correlating engagement with filters, you’ll be able to judge your audience preferences.  If you are just starting out with Instagram and don’t have a large following, study your competitors to see what’s working for them.

#ProTip: Do you know that Instagram also allows users to post up to 60 seconds of video content? But, as per April 2015 research by Locowise, only 10.81% of Instagram posts are in video format.  Yet, they get 17.51% of all comments.

This is an untapped opportunity for you to increase engagement. Get started with Instagram video here.

5. Shell out some dollars on Instagram celebrities for getting sponsored placements

Traditional advertising on Instagram is lucrative, but it will have a learning curve. That’s why ego-baiting or better still, leveraging influencer marketing tactics like Neil Patel that helped him generate $332,640 in 3 months can be very powerful.

The method involves reaching out to Instagram users with a large following (20k – 200k) and requesting that they promote your product/post/brand.

There are two strategies for doing this.

1. You pay them upwards of $20 per sponsored post (cost is dependent on the influencer’s size of following). Look at how Maxim model Ashley Sky promotes Your Tea in the post below and it gets incredible engagement from her followers.


2. The more natural (non-salesy) way is sending your product to the user and asking them to review it. Remember authenticity helps in increasing engagement.

Neil himself, managed to get 2,570 email optins by spending $75,000 (woah!) on such Instagram placements and Men’s fashion startup, Bachelr paid $50 per image to tastefully promote their products through large men’s fashion Instagram accounts.

The result? A flood of traffic that crashed their servers.

So, how do you find Instagram celebrities with a massive following?

Take out your list of popular industry hashtags (that you created in strategy 1) and search for them in Webstagram. You’ll find the top Instagram users that feature these keywords.

This strategy is not dependent on a big budget.  You can look lower on the celebrity list and find the ones that might have a smaller following, but are still within your budget. Failing that, I’ve had some success with Fiverr.com which is great for bloggers just starting out and will next-to-no-budget. David Koop has listed 5 of the better traffic-generating “gigs” here but have a look yourself to find others that are in line with what you want to achieve.


Among all social media platforms, Instagram still generates the highest user engagement for individuals and brands alike. It is fertile for building deep relationships with your customers and generating sales if done in the right way.

I would like to wrap up with this brilliant infographic by Made Freshly that summarizes a perfect Instagram post.