This is a post I thought I would write once we hit 100K followers on our Instagram account but it made sense to post it now. Like many of you, we’ve searched, what it feels like, the entire interwebs for tips on growing our travel couple account. We’ve tested various hashtags, feature accounts, our own giveaway and even recently paid for content promotion within facebook/instagram. Below, you will find our little story and experiences but also a comprehensive list of travel hashtags you can use on your next posts. We will be updating this post as we climb the insta-ladder and try and be as open about it as possible. WANT TO JUMP STRAIGHT TO OUR LIST OF HASHTAGS? SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM.
The story starts here – We’ve always loved traveling and, for many years now, have organized for ourselves some pretty amazing trips. Michelle is not only a wiz at finding the best routes and airfare (we often fly first class at very reasonable rates), she is spontaneous and adventurous when it comes to planning trips. I can’t count how often she has called me with a grin on her face (I imagine), a finger on the purchase button (I’m pretty sure) and our passports in her other hand – telling me, “Guess where we’re going this week-end babe?”
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE INDEED
We entered the Instagram game very late. It was only in March 2017 that I posted a few pictures, not knowing what I was doing, and then proceeded to forget about it. We are based out of St. Maarten and are lucky enough to enjoy a very idyllic Caribbean life, so our pictures often look like a perpetual vacation.
I started listening to podcasts on Instagram and reading a few books on the subject. Our summer vacation was approaching and Michelle stumbled on our GominPlanet account and was intrigued. We talked for a few hours about trying it out – the plan was never to become “insta-famous” or make loads of money. It was, and still is, about showcasing our travels, finding new things to jot down on our bucket list and be a part of a fun travel community. If brands wanted to work with us for various little project – Bonus!
By May 2017, we were both posting pictures of our surroundings and our past vacations, experimenting with hashtags and travel pods for the first time. We grew to 1,000 followers within 10 days of Michelle posting her first picture. We grew steadily to 2,500 followers by the time we flew out in June for our crazy summer vacation.
Between the month of May and July, we were posting between 10 and 15 pictures a day. Yes a DAY! It was nuts. We were churning out content like crazy and trying our best to comment, like and follow. Our rapid start from a few months ago slowed down. Based on what other accounts are saying, the first 10,000 followers is the hardest hurdle and we were trying our best to keep pumping the content. O n the positive: our engagement was roughly at 4-5% which is decent but we still wanted more. It felt like a game to beat – level after level, one big boss after another. We kept on trying to figure out how to successfully play this insta-game.
The climb between 2,500 and 4,000 was a slow one. It sometimes felt that every step forward we took, our account would over night take three steps back.
BOTS & GIVEAWAYS
We have never gone the “bot” route and it seems like counterproductive to do so. There are many sites that have tried to sell us 10,000 follower packages for $69 but who wants to have the majority of their followers be inactive/fake accounts? Every like, follow or comment we have ever made has been from the tips of our fingers alone. That’s not something that is going to change.
Last June, we held our first giveaway and it ended up costing us $180 (with products & shipping). We didn’t know what we were doing but we still managed about 200 entries who all had to share, tag and follow. From the contest alone, we managed to gain an estimated 600 followers. That’s 30 cents per account that directly followed us which is not a bad return. The only issue with giveaways like these is that you will see a spike in new followers and then a slew of them unfollow you when the giveaway is over. That’s normal behavior. This is where you should focus on your content in general and try and retain these new followers with your own added value, i.e. travel tips, blog posts about a new restaurant, hotel reviews. The big accounts all do it – they show you a gorgeous image along with a fun or dreamy caption and then they seal the deal with added value through their blog or website. There is, most of the time, no selling involved and just content and gratitude. (Hint-hint, this is what this post is all about)
TESTING INSTAGRAM PAID BOOSTS
I had experience with Facebook targeted ads having promoted a few brick and mortar businesses in the past. Facebook/Instagram ads are incredibly powerful when used properly. Your boosted post could be targeted to users interested in travel, vacations, hotels and air travel – people often overlook this very important feature. Facebook, and its impressive reach over billions of people, has virtually amassed a wealth of information that can be used for “small potatoes” marketing. The BIG brands no longer have access alone – the only thing that now separates us and the Coca Colas of the world is: budget!
We are presently running a test with $50 over 10 days on a single boosted post. I just changed the post this morning after watching the previous one over the last 20 hours and seeing 10 clicks for $4.53 spent. This means we were spending over 40 cents per click. My goal with the boost is to get close to the 4 or 5 cents per click.
How you ask? Simple, the link click is a simple clickthrough to our Instagram account, it doesn’t guarantee someone hitting the follow button. With that said, we need volume. Let’s look at the numbers:
The boosted post has been running for less than 20 hours and reached 2,405 users. Out of those 2,405 users, 137 liked the post and 11 clicked on our Instagram profile link. The post was of an image of a beautiful mountain range in Canada. It is well known that pictures with people fair better than without. I simply changed the post to a picture of Michelle and I sitting in front of the Caribbean ocean in Anguilla. My bet: this picture will be our first picture with over 500 likes (and up) within the next few days, hopefully
adding new followers and comments. Which one of those two gets you more involved?
WRITING A CAPTION & USING HASHTAGS
The hashtags game is a fun one. There are so many different views on hashtags and how to use them. From the “5 dots on the 1st comment” system to use as few as possible or all 30 available. Here is our ever-changing technique:
1 – Search for your “competition”.
2 – Make a list of 20 accounts you aspire yours to be more like.
3 – Check their top 15 posts and write down all of the hashtags they utilize.
4 – Look at their account tags and see who they tag to.
5 – Check those tagged account and understand what their purpose is and if it beneficial for you to tag as well.
Once you have a list of hashtags and accounts, start drafting your caption. Something like this:
We had the chance of checking out the gorgeous #fourseasons hotel in Anguilla for some #oceantherapy. After #hurricaneirma, this amazing hotel is no longer operational with over $20 Million in damages. We will keep you posted on any hotel development in #Anguilla.
The views were ? #viewsfordays
The food was ? #travelfood
The rooms were ? #besthotel
Check out our #travelblog for more amazing escapades and #traveltips – gominplanet.com
#poolchillin #luxurytravelblogger #insidertravel #wanderlustvibes #thattravelblog #luxuryexperience #luxurydestination #islandgetaway #couplesession #travelwithus #passportexpress #travelbloggerlife #trip✈️
On this particular post, I added the hashtags at the very bottom of the caption. It is clear and well spaced out. A nice way to tell your story is to add those hashtags within your post instead of simply lining them all up at the end of your post. If your hashtags are part of your caption, they become more relevant and seem less spammy.
Of course, there is no clear cut rule on hashtags. We tend to use close to 30 on every post and we are changing our ways for the next few weeks. We are taking a break from these way too popular tags like #travel and #passionpassport, focusing on more promising hashtags that have less than 500,000 posts (some of our experiments will be even more focused with only hashtags under 50,000).
This way, your post has more chances of getting top billing and less chances of getting knocked off. Below, we’ve compiled travel focused hashtags that you can start using right away. If you have any suggestions of want to be featured on this list, drop us a line here.
The following numbers were taken on October 29th, 2017
130 TRAVEL HASHTAGS YOU SHOULD USE
|#||Number of Posts|
|#GOMINPLANET||For fun and support 😉|
KEEP EXPERIMENTING AND TRAVELING
The game is ever-changing and everyone is trying to get ahead whether its with hashtags, feature accounts, IG pods, WhatsApp pod like groups or paid promotion. Most of you won’t ever want to throw money at Instagram and that’s fine. The goal for us is to eventually not spend money and maybe even make a few bucks or get some swag along the way. Regardless of what happens, we’ll never stop traveling and sharing pictures for whoever wants to see.
HELP US OUT IF YOU CAN
Share this article if you found it useful. Follow our account if you like what you see there. Share your stories with us – we’d love to update this post with relevant information as we all learn.
Seb & Michelle