Owned by Facebook, Instagram Stories launched in August 2016 and has had huge success – the feature is often what users navigate to first, before looking at their own Instagram feed. Today, Instagram Stories is watched by 400 million people a day, meaning it has huge marketing sway.
The feature allows users to take photos and videos, enhance them with notes, gifs and stickers, and upload them to their Instagram Stories, which then expire after 24 hours.
Travel brands and influencers are able to share temporary, live, real and experiential content, offering consumers an experience that can influence their decision-making during the travel-booking journey.
Oli Yeates, chief executive of digital marketing agency Clicky Media, believes the influence of Instagram Stories is set to rise this year.
“We work with a number of big players in the travel industry, including Global Travel Group and Elegant Resorts,” he says.
“Compared with 2018, Instagram Stories is on everyone’s marketing agenda this year. The travel sector is such an experiential sell. Using Instagram Stories to connect people with a more detailed and daily insight into their desired holiday destination has become a priority.”
Compared with a static image on an Instagram feed, Stories has the power to provide a more immersive, immediate experience. A story can incorporate numerous images as well as video, both live and recorded.
Yeates believes that Stories involves the user more, allowing potential clients to experience a company’s travel proposition before they’ve arrived, and from the first-person point of view.
“Some of our clients have used Instagram Stories to [showcase the] launch of a new hotel or resort, which built an incredible buzz around the new site and attracted an engaged audience,” explains Yeates.
Stories can also be used to highlight travel experiences in a way that makes users feel involved, from riding an elephant in India to looking out across Machu Picchu.
Yeates adds that the real-time element of Stories brings it further selling potential: “The live nature of posting on Instagram Stories encourages people to access the Instagram platform more frequently.
“If brands post regularly on Stories, they’re more likely to see their story appear on their customer’s feed – consistency really is key to putting yourself in front of other brands.”
Stories aren’t just about making a travel sale, though. Frequent posting can also nurture your audience’s interests, build brand recognition and provide travel inspiration.
Yeates and his team advise posting videos on Stories, as they trigger “desire emotions and lust to experience what the user is viewing”.
As well as video, agents can include added-value content on Stories, such as bucket lists and travel checklists, to keep followers engaged during their planning journey.
Stories can also be used as part of your wider marketing strategy – for example, to announce the launch of a new trip, product or experience. Brands have used Stories to share behind-the-scenes content, providing an exclusive offering to their followers.
If your agency is struggling for ideas, Clicky Media suggests asking your followers what they want to see by using the question sticker.
If you are an Instagram business user, you can then use the Instagram Insights app to find out which Stories generate the most interest from your followers.
Darren Morris, co-founder of online travel agency Travel Buddy UK, has managed to tap into the potential of Instagram Stories.
In October, he attended a Funway and AMResorts fam trip to the Dominican Republic, which included a tour of Secrets and Dreams resorts.
“I used Instagram Stories to promote the trip on Travel Buddy’s Instagram page, taking photos and videos of the beach, the hotel rooms and grounds,” he explains.
“I tagged the location of the resorts so that clients would know where I was.”
Travel Buddy UK received more than 20 enquiries from Instagram users who saw the story.
“We got lots of messages to our Instagram account from people asking questions about the trip and for a quote. We also got lots of new followers – we have just under 17,000 on Instagram at the moment,” says Morris.
He adds that the agency still receives enquiries off the back of the story and that it resulted in two bookings including a recent sale of Dreams Punta Cana. The agency has since created UK stories for other recent fam trips including Mauritius and Jamaica.
Morris says the advantage of Stories over a conventional Instagram post is the ability to bring a destination to life: “One photo doesn’t do it justice. [Stories] is a handy selling tool – it allows clients to see the beach and restaurants in a resort. If it’s a video, they can hear music and the sound of the waves, bringing more atmosphere.”
Morris believes Stories from fam trips can enhance a brand’s reputation. “It gives our brand more recognition when clients see us out and about at resorts getting first-hand experience.”
As well as using Stories on fam trips, the agency uses it to promote offers.
“When you have more than 10,000 followers on Instagram, it allows you to include a link, so clients can swipe up on the story to click through to our website. We used it recently for a Sandals sale and got lots of enquiries.”
The agency also uses Facebook to promote its Instagram Stories.
“We put pictures from fam trips on Facebook. When people comment, we’ll direct them to our Instagram page and our Stories,” says Morris.
Bruce Martin, social media consultant at Ginger Juice, shares his tips
It’s for everyone: Everyone now uses Instagram – not just young people – and Stories is a great way to reach thousands of potential customers quickly and cheaply.
Sell better: Avoid using Stories to just promote offers, as people will get turned off. Instead, create a few slides in your story to showcase a holiday or destination, then include the offer details.
Get personal: People turn to Stories to be amused, so entertain them. Post fun and personal posts from your agency, updates from ship visits and trips. Better still, use video to tell your story and go live if you’re feeling brave!
Have fun: Instagram Stories has lots of fun “bells and whistles” to help you engage with your followers such as polls, sliders, locations, weather, gifs and stickers.
Pay to play: Promote your offers directly into the story feed of thousands of potential customers via social media advertising. It’s still a relatively cheap way of reaching people and is massively under-used by travel agents.
Mention it: Mention people by using @ in your Stories – this will increase the likelihood of them including your story in theirs.
Double up on Facebook Stories: Facebook is really pushing Facebook Stories. They work in a similar way, and the two functions are now linked, making it easy to populate both channels at the same time.