The Instagram Experience

    Since Instagram launched in 2010, it has become the go-to platform for visual storytellers around the globe. In April 2017, Instagram announced 700 million monthly active users who share more than 80 million images a day. Nearly half of the users are between the ages of 18–35. It is the social media platform of choice for millennials for both documenting their daily lives and deciding how to live their lives.

    National Geographic reported early last year that people engage with Instagram 10 times more than with Facebook, which is why an estimated 48.8 percent of brands in the United States are on Instagram, with that number predicted to rise to 70.7 percent in 2017.

    Instagram is a strong visual and extremely mobile social media tool. It equips individuals with the fundamentals for successful storytelling, making it easy to spontaneously share their experiences. And, it is profoundly influencing the hospitality and tourism sectors—whether you realize it or not.

    Social media, Instagram in particular, gives users a platform to express themselves, illustrate their lives visually, and engage people worldwide through stories, emotions, and unique insights. With social media, everyone is a potential ambassador of the places and people encountered during a trip or a meal out.


    People love to share what their eating on social media. More and more people are turning to Instagram to decide where to eat and what to order. According to research by independent UK pizza chain Zizzi, 18- to 35-year-olds spend five whole days a year browsing food images on Instagram, and 30 percent would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was weak.

    Instagram has influenced everything from food presentation to décor to creatively branded moments.

    Ben’s Canteen, a South London restaurant with a strong Instagram presence and a photo-friendly menu, founder Ben Walton told The Independent that Instagram is a good way to check whether his business is resonating with its crowd. He told the publication, “If people are posting lots of pictures, I know we’re doing something right.”

    Now some entrepreneurs are taking the idea a step further, designing their physical spaces in the hopes of inspiring the maximum number of photos.

    When it came time to design their first restaurant, Media Noche, San Francisco entrepreneurs Madelyn Markoe and Jessie Barker told the that they gave their designer a single instruction, “Make it Instagrammable.”

    And, according to, while Media Noche’s food gets plenty of attention from Instagram users, it’s the physical space that seems to inspire most of the geotagged posts.

    People expect your cocktail napkin and coaster will be printed with your establishment’s name and logo, but these days the food is getting the same treatment…from ice cubes to burger buns and more. As Naren Young, owner of New York City’s Dante, told Bloomberg last summer, “Competition is hotter than ever, and each place needs a way to captivate people and get them talking about you. It is, after all, free publicity.”

    Get in the Game! Fool-Proof Food Photo Tips

    With food competing with pets and ourselves as the most photographed subject on Instagram, restaurants would be foolish to ignore the free marketing. Check out these six fool-proof tips from to up your Instagram game:

    • Lighting
      When showing off your entrees, the last thing you want is a pale, washed-out image of your pièce de résistance. Avoid using flash and harsh overhead lights. Instead, snap photos near a window or softer light source for a more natural-looking appearance.
    • Create action with simple kitchen props
      Like fashion, food lends itself to accessories! Place chopsticks by sushi, or a spoon resting in a bowl of soup. Add a piece of silverware to a plated dish. Enhance the drama of a wine glass by showing the wine cork and bottle, or add flair to a mixed drink by placing ice cubes and splashes of water around the serving glass.
    • Add texture
      When photographing food with a “mushy” texture (such as soup, stew, or ice cream), add a garnish that contrasts in color and texture from the dish to add more defined dimension to the photo. Bright berries are a great accent for ice cream and sorbet, while rich green garnishes like parsley add dimension to soup.
    • Filter images with easy-to-use apps
      A little filtering goes a long way to enhance the quality of your images. Applications like VSCO and Camera Plus are a great platform for edits like cropping and modifying color. PicFrame and A Beautiful Mess allow you to add frames and clip art, while Whitagram adds a crisp white outline to photos. Pic Stitch and Diptic allow you to create collage-type pictures.
    • Branch out
      Don’t just show off your menu items! Snap a warm, inviting image of your restaurant’s interior. Capture photos of your staff working, or guests enjoying their food (with their permission, of course). Please note—if you show staff, make sure they’re practicing food-safe procedures (such as wearing gloves) to avoid negative feedback for unsafe food handling captured via image.
    • Stick to the rule of thirds
      Break away from front-and-center pics and use the rule of thirds to create intriguing images. As shown in the diagram at left, imagine your photo being broken down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically), so that you have nine total parts. Place points of interest at intersection points (shown in red) for a more balanced image—for example, the steaming mug of coffee shown at left.



    4 Tips for Hospitality and Travel to Win on Instagram

    1. Tell your story
      Stay true and genuine to your values and personality to create a travel experience for your guests.

    Highlight your amenities—anything that will make a guest wish they were there—and encourage guests to use them. Give guests a glimpse of the inner workings of your hotel to humanize your brand and make your staff seem more approachable.

    1. Hashtags, Geotags
      Hashtags help photos gain more exposure and awareness on Instagram. Mix of branded and non-branded hashtags into your content mix to increase awareness and engagement. Popular travel hashtags include: #travel, #travelgram, #wanderlust, #instapassport, #instatravel, #traveler, #travelphoto, #travelbug, #traveladdict, #TravelTuesday, #hotel, #hotels. Geotags help photos show up in Instagram’s location feed, which allows them to appear in local search results within the app.
    2. User-generated content
      User generated content is a great way to tell your hotel’s story through the eyes of actual guests. Encourage travelers to share their experiences using a specified hashtag and then repost those images tagging the traveler to increase engagement.
    3. User-generated content
      User generated content is a great way to tell your hotel’s story through the eyes of actual guests. Encourage travelers to share their experiences using a specified hashtag and then repost those images tagging the traveler to increase engagement.


    Hotels, Travel, and Tourism

    A 2016 study by Curulate found that 48 percent of Instagram users use the app to choose travel destinations for vacations. That’s almost 350 million people deciding where to travel based on images they see on Instagram! (For reference, the U.S. Census estimated our population to be 326 million in 2016.) If your property or destination is not on the platform, you are missing countless opportunities to find and delight potential guests and visitors. noted that while destinations have not changed and neither has the concept of hospitality, the modern traveler has definitely changed. The perspective from which travelers want to explore a destination, and the tools used to share the experiences have changed considerably.

    The modern (or millennial) traveler wants to dive into a destination, be a part of it, and experience it like the locals. Instagram gives us a preview of the experiences we may live out in on our next getaway.

    Whether it’s through your posts or user-generated content, you have the power to help shape the narrative by embracing the power of Instagram.