Travelers are turning to social media for inspiration – to get ideas for where to travel, where to stay and where to eat. If you want to build a cutting edge social media strategy and make sure your channels are sources of inspiration for your customers, you’re going to need fresh sources of inspiration, too.
As we conducted research for our report, The Lifecycle of Visual Assets in Hospitality and Travel, we asked hundreds of hospitality and travel professionals from hotels, destinations, suppliers, agencies and travel organizations which brands they follow on social media to inspire their visual storytelling.
Some brands were mentioned over and over. These brands are catching eyes with powerful visual content, using innovative content formats, and setting a strong example for other social media teams in the industry.
The Ultimate List of Travel Brands to Follow on Social Media
— Expedia (@Expedia) November 26, 2016
Expedia’s social media channels are packed with stunning photos and videos from a wide variety of destinations, making them a fantastic source of inspiration. The tweet above not only has gorgeous photos, but the link also takes you to a stunning visual landing page, drawing you further into the content.
Las Vegas is one of the most recognizable destinations in the world, and its cutting-edge social media channels are consistent with the brand’s powerhouse reputation. Las Vegas is using 360 degree video to give viewers a sense of what it feels like to cruise the boulevard, zip line down the strip and party at the Marquee at the Cosmopolitan.
California has a look and feel that’s all its own, and the state does a fantastic job of highlighting its unique mix of palm trees, mountains and wine country on social media. On Instagram, the brand always credits the photographer, reinforcing the authenticity of the feed.
— Booking.com (@bookingcom) November 3, 2016
Booking.com packs its social media channels with playful gifs, snackable videos and colorful photos. When you scroll through the visuals on Booking.com’s feeds, you immediately think “fun” – just what you want when you’re planning your vacation.
— Marriott Hotels (@Marriott) November 17, 2016
Marriott uses its social channels to build a personal connection with followers. The brand partners with brands and influencers like TED Talks, VSCO and Humans of New York to create compelling visual content. The link in the tweet above leads you to the brand’s online publication, Travel Brilliantly, a sleek online magazine that puts photos in the spotlight.
Kimpton not only uses social media to connect with guests online, but also to connect in person. You can see the brand’s personal touch in the video about Kimpton’s Twitter-driven loyalty program above, or as you scroll through photos posted by delighted guests on the hashtag, #KimptonKarma.
Bonus, Kimpton’s Instagram looks like it’s run by a lifestyle blogger, not a hotel chain.
Destination British Columbia
Photo by BC #guestagrammer @aratson: The Sea to Sky Gondola offers easy access to some great climbs with some jaw dropping entrances for onlookers. Rappelling below The Spirit Platform onto A Scottish Tale is sure to garner you a few curious looks, and grabbing a drink at the bar after is never a bad way to end your day. #exploreBC #exploreCanada #exploreSquamish
Destination British Columbia has a strong visual identity. If you scroll through the destination’s Instagram, you get a consistent look and feel, even though the team often works with “#guestagrammers” and influencers. This means the team is choosing the right photographers and influencers – creators who fit perfectly with their visual brand.
Starwood paints a picture of serenity on its social channels. As you scroll through the brand’s Instagram, you can’t help but feel relaxed. One tool the brand uses effectively is the cinemagraph – a format that combines a still photo and a video so only a portion of the image is moving. The format is clean and simple – a perfect fit for the relaxed feel of Starwood’s feed.
— Four Seasons Hotels (@FourSeasons) May 2, 2016
The Four Seasons Twitter and Instagram accounts are filled with polished photos consistent with the luxury brand, but now Four Seasons is giving followers a new perspective on Snapchat. The brand’s snaps give followers a behind-the-scenes look at Four Seasons hotels, introducing staff members and showing off how they make cocktails.
Airbnb pairs user-generated content and influencer content with playful captions that put you in the moment. Once the photo catches your eye, the caption makes you imagine you’re the one staying in the photo – a much better tactic than trying to sell you a package outright.
— Airbnb (@Airbnb) January 6, 2017
Now, Airbnb is experimenting with live video on Periscope so you don’t just have to imagine yourself in the moment, you can actually be a part of it in real time.
Disney knows a thing or two about storytelling, so it’s no surprise Disney Parks made our list of brands to watch. Just try to watch the video above without getting a little teary! Like any great story, the video has a strong plot, endearing characters and gorgeous visuals. Plus, Disney seized an opportunity to tell a real family’s story. Because the brand takes a backseat, the video highlights Disney’s values, products and services in a much more powerful way.
San Francisco has a strong social presence across channels, and the brand is doing a fantastic job of using its established accounts to drive followers on Snapchat. The video above is a string of snaps from an interactive Q&A that the San Francisco team promoted on both Twitter and Snapchat. They saved the story and added it to YouTube, then embedded it on their blog with a transcript. The CTA? Follow us on Snapchat, of course!
If adorable animals are part of the draw of your destination, you should highlight them on social media every chance you get. Tourism Australia knows its audience. The destination’s social media accounts are packed with photos and videos of wombats, kangaroos and koalas. Bring on the cuteness!
Virgin Hotels is using a number of cutting edge tactics from cinemagraphs to video content marketing. The video above is part of a series called “Vanity at the Vanity,” where the brand invites influencers to a hotel to share tips in fast-paced video clips. The videos are running across Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.
Like many travel brands, Hilton is experimenting with influencer marketing. But with the video above, Hilton takes influencer marketing a step further. Content creator Ben Brown made a 15 minute video about his trip with Hilton for his own YouTube channel that got thousands of views, but Hilton also got to share the short trailer above as native video on its own feed to catch followers’ attention.
National Geographic is a juggernaut in travel storytelling, and the brand continues to innovate with fresh content and formats on social media. One of the best examples of this is #SafariLive, NatGeo’s new Facebook Live series that lets you can watch an elephant graze at sunset in real time as you’re sitting at your desk halfway across the world. The series gets thousands of views, comments and live questions, and shows the power of live video for travel brands.
Cover photo by Can Balcioglu courtesy of San Francisco Travel.