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How #MontanaMoment Is Capturing Instagram’s Heart (And Engagement)

Montana_blogThe #MontanaMoment hashtag, which started in June 2013, has transformed into an iconic long-tail tourism campaign run by Visit Montana, taking on a life of its own with an active presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even this interactive Tumblr page where folks can upload their own pictures and peruse content like Trip Kits and History.

But I’d like us to focus on #MontanaMoment’s Instagram presence, where this hashtag is killing right now.

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As summer heats up and people begin to dream about vacation time, I decided to look at the last two weeks (June 17 – July 1) and  glean some insights that your own tourism brand can learn from.

Make Sure They Know About Your Hashtag

The top four posts by total engagement (Likes and comments) which used the #MontanaMoment hashtag all came from the @natgeotravel account, where photojournalist @lynn_donaldson was ‘gramming her shots as she explored a small Montana town.

Photo by @lynn_donaldson #onassignment for @natgeotravel in beautiful Butte America//I love this town. It’s so full of grit & character & so much texture. I always feel like I’ve entered a David Lynch movie when I’m shooting here. It’s the only town in #montana where you could be a street photographer; you should see the faces here! Uptown’s steep streets are dotted with headframes, Queen Anne-style mansions and miner’s cottages. The city runs right to the edge of Berkeley Pit. July brings two festivals Uptown: The @montanafolkfest (July 10-12) presents free concerts at the foot of The Original mine’s headframe, and on July-23-25 @evelknieveldays (it’s the daredevil’s hometown)draws thousands. To “celebrate sobriety” this year, Knievel’s son Robbie plans a motorcycle jump over an Uptown bar. They don’t do anything halfway here. #montanafolkfest #visitmontana #montanamoment #evelknieveldays

A post shared by National Geographic Travel (@natgeotravel) on

There’s no point in building your social efforts around a hashtag if no one knows that’s what they should be using when they talk about your location and/or brand.

Photo by @lynn_donaldson #onassignment for @natgeotravel // Greetings from Butte America! Spent this long, gorgeous summer evening Uptown on a "Headframe Tour" with Mark Revis of Butte Urban Safari Tours (B.U.S.T) zipping around the mining city's steep streets and alleys in an electric golf cart. We visited the lit up headframes of the Anselmo Mine (pictured here), the Original, the Mountain Con, the Bell Diamond, etc. About a dozen headframes have been preserved and still stand over the Richest Hill on Earth's now-silent underground copper mineyards amid homes, businesses and baseball parks. (We watched a little league game at the foot of the Anselmo for awhile.) Jack Kerouac was a fan of Butte, and whenever I see the M lit up behind these towering structures at dusk, I can't help but think of 1st Chorus Mexico City Blues: Butte Magic of Ignorance // Butte Magic // Is the same as no-Butte // All one light // Old Rough Roads // One High Iron // Mainway. I felt the magic tonight, Butte! #montanamoment #visitmontana #thelastbestplates

A post shared by National Geographic Travel (@natgeotravel) on

Making sure your hashtag is clear and known to the press will also be incredibly helpful when it comes to measuring the success of your campaign and identifying key contributors to that success later down the line.

Now is a good time to tell you that only one of the top posts using the #MontanaMoment hashtag during this time period came from the @visitmontana Instagram account.

instagram engagement

This is patent proof that building a strong network of hashtag-users is way more effective than just trying to own it yourself — and gets your campaign on the radar of people who otherwise might never be aware of it.

Tell a Story

Especially for a location-based tourism campaign, the photo is important. But Instagram posts which tell the story of the user’s experience and emotional connection with that place are the ones that really hit home for Instagram users.

This photo was from a sunrise at Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park. I was the only person on the shore to witness this peaceful display of color. – – – † Looking at this photo reminds me of an analogy @christinaadelephoto told me about in Grand Teton NP. She picked up a dust covered rock from the shore and dipped it in the lake which revealed the rock's true, bright, color (much like the color of the rocks in this photo). When our lives are saturated with things of God (the water) our true selves are revealed but when we stray outside of that water, we are not who we were meant to be. I know I find that to be true in my own life. The times when I'm pursuing God the most, saturating my mind with things of God, I am who I want to be. It's in the times I become complacent and do my own thing that I'm least satisfied with my life and am less of what I desire to be. #faithfilledcaptions #SaintMaryLake #GlacierNationalPark

A post shared by Michael Matti (@michaelmatti) on

There are a plethora of beautiful pictures on Instagram which exhibit mother nature’s grandeur, but when you look at the comments section of a post like this one, you’ll find that it’s the combination of the poster’s words and the picture that create the engagement-generating collages which have made #MontanaMoment so successful.

Timing Is Everything

The old adage applies on Instagram, too.

Montana’s a spectacularly gorgeous place. There is no shortage of appealing pics of the Big Sky state.

But the post below drove more engagement than any other @visitmontana post using the #MontanaMoment within our time frame.

It's time for a #MontanaMoment. #Montana #Summer

A post shared by visitmontana (@visitmontana) on

Why is that? I believe it is because this post went up on a Monday, and what are many of us dreaming about on summer Mondays?

The weekend, of course.

This on-point timing is especially relevant for travel and tourism brands who make their money off these dreams.

Key Takeaways

1. Influencers can get you far on Instagram.  They can expand your hashtag’s reach farther than it would otherwise go. Reach out to users who have a lot of followers, drive worthwhile engagement, and are associated with your region or would be willing to travel there and use your hashtag on their pics.

2. Get the word out. Choose a unique, brand-focused hashtag and stick with it. Stop using a different hashtag every month. Once you have your brand-associated hashtag, use it on all your promotional materials and make sure our PR team is getting the word out to their media contacts as much as possible.

3.  People love storiesDon’t just bank on the power of a pretty picture. Instead, tell a story in your captions and encourage your influencers to do the same.

4. Experiment with timingRun some tests on when people respond to your content best and post during those times.

How will you implement Visit Montana’s Instagram  lessons in your own strategy? Let me know in the comments below, and download our compete Instagram Strategy Kit to learn more.

Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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