What happens when people use TikTok and Instagram to make travel plans

Nearly one in three travelers turn to social media for holiday inspiration, according to a new study.

The figures are even higher for younger travelers. Some 60% of Gen Zs and 40% of millennials use social media for travel purposes, according to an April 2022 report by the travel company Arrivia.

On TikTok alone, the hashtag “travel” boasts 74.4 billion views, while some 624 million Instagram posts are about travel too.

But there’s a darker side to social media’s flawless travel photos. Expectations may not match reality, with many photographs edited to look better than they actually are.

Disappointed travelers are now striking back, using the very mediums that led them astray. They are publishing their own videos that show what immaculate places on social media actually look like in real life.

A town from a Disney movie?

Garcia made a humorous TikTok video documenting her visit to the city, showing a dirty gas station and rundown buildings, though she noted she did focus on the “not so nice” areas of Gastonia.

“You always think like, okay, you see this happen to other people, but it never happens to you — I’m smart enough to know when things are real and when things aren’t real,” she said.

Since her video went viral, Garcia has spoken to the mayor of Gastonia, who offered to take her on a tour of the town if she returns. She also appeared on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” to share her experience.

“Do your research … because you might end up somewhere you don’t want to be,” Garcia said. “[And] don’t believe everything you see on the internet.”

A ‘beautiful, hidden garden pool’

Thirty-year-old travel blogger Lena Tuck also fell victim to a glamourized TikTok video.

While driving from Brisbane to Melbourne, Tuck said, she made an impromptu decision to visit a “beautiful, hidden garden pool” that she had seen on TikTok — the Yarrangobilly Caves thermal pool walk.

“It looked like this out of world place where topless men would be feeding you grapes or something like that,” she said.

But on the drive there, her phone lost reception — which meant she had no directions to guide her — and she had to drive on a rough, unpaved road for 10 minutes before trekking nearly half a mile down a steep hill.

When she reached the pool, she was surprised to find it packed with families and screaming children, much like a public swimming pool, she said.

“All I can think about is how many people have peed in here,” she said in a TikTok video describing the experience.

“It’s … the absolute antithesis of an Instagram experience, and I feel like that’s why the whole experience was just so funny,” she told CNBC.

She said she thinks people should be spontaneous and open-minded, but cautioned travelers to “do more research than I probably did.”

Ethereal waters

Photos of Terme di Saturnia, a group of springs in the Tuscany region of Italy, show beautiful blue water with steam gently rising from it.

But this couldn’t be further from reality, said 28-year-old Ana Mihaljevic.

Her visit was “highly” influenced by social media posts that show an “almost idyllic” scene, the self-employed project manager and digital marketer said.

But the water was green, smelled like rotten eggs because of sulfur, and was filled with visitors posing for photos, presumably for social media, Mihaljevic said.

“It’s most certainly not a place to relax,” she added.

Markus Romischer, a 29-year-old travel filmmaker agreed that the springs looked different on social media. He made a video, tagged “Insta vs. Reality: Europe Edition,” that showed his disappointment in the Tuscan springs, as well as spots in Switzerland, Madeira and Rome.

Once he saw it in real life, he said he could tell online pictures had been heavily photoshopped. The springs are “warm, the color was special, but when you only see those social media pictures” the reality is “a little bit sad,” he said.

Early mornings are far less crowded, said Romischer. When he arrived at 6:00 a.m., there were few people — mostly “grannies” — but the afternoon was a different story, he said.

“At midday, so [many] buses came from everywhere, and it was so full,” he said.

Tourist attractions will always be crowded, said Romischer, who shared one tip for avoiding crowds: “Don’t Google ‘what to do in Tuscany’ and go to the first place on the list.”

Like the others who were duped by social media images, Mihaljevic advises travelers to do their research.

“If you want to travel without research, that’s ok but be prepared that not everything will be as you saw it online,” she said. “Some places will be even better, but some will disappoint.”

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Instagram team screens, shares funniest TSA stories

When the Transportation Security Administration comes to mind, it’s usually in relation to metal detectors, pat-downs and being told that your bottle of sunscreen has to be trashed because it is larger than 3.4 ounces. Charged with, in its own words, “protecting the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce,” the agency’s officers screen millions of passengers each week and are not known for their sense of humor.

But the TSA’s Instagram account is. The agency’s profile describes itself as the “Princess of Puns,” “Teller of Travel Tips” and “Admirer of Alliteration.” One recent post of a cat inside a traveler’s clear plastic backpack featured the caption, “We let the cat out of the bag … on our Top 10 Catches of 2021!” It went on to explain that TSA officers found some pretty “a-mewsing” items. “We’d call them a-paw-ling if not packed correctly,” it went on.

Who follows the TSA account? More than 1 million people and, according to comments on a recent post about a bazooka rocket launcher found by TSA’s Threat Elimination officers in North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham International Airport, the page is followed by (and receives thousands of comments from) travelers across all races, genders, political persuasions and senses of humor.

In 2021 alone, the page reached 54 million users on Instagram. The “cat out of the bag” post received more than 27,700 likes and 545 comments. Recent TSA posts have been featured on “The Tonight Show” and the “Today” show and shared by well-known leadership expert and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, who has cited the agency “as a great example of how government can have a good relationship with the public on social media.”

According to Daniel Velez, a spokesman for the New England region of TSA’s Media Operations team, the agency’s Instagram page has enjoyed consistent, considerable growth since it began its humor-based approach about two years ago, when Janis Burl took over as the social media branch manager.

Burl started as an airport transportation security officer (TSO) and now oversees the social media team from her home office in the Washington, D.C., area.

According to Burl, her six-person Instagram team “posts odd finds, information about what you can and cannot bring through TSA, and travel-related answers to questions we may get” on a daily basis.

And though Burl no longer works the X-ray machine, when she travels, she said, “all of my senses as a former TSO never turn off.”

This interview is based on two conversations that have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: Why so many puns?

A: Nobody remembers what was on the news in the morning, but they’ll remember the joke you told them. If it takes humor to help you remember what you can and cannot do when traveling through security, then humor is what we will provide. Whatever the public is talking about, we want to talk about, and we want to provide the public with a travel tip in the process.

Q: Where do you get ideas for your posts?

A: My team does their own research, searching hashtags and trolling social media. “Trolling” is a terrible word, but that’s really what they do on any social media platform out there — LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and even apps on their own phones like WhatsApp. I don’t ask them to go to any particular sites to look for anything; I give them freedom to roam. They are often looking on their personal social media accounts to see what’s trending. Ideas are then shared among the team to determine if there is something we can do with it. We are constantly looking for an interesting post that’s trending on any platform, and we also use photos that our followers share. We spend each morning collaborating to determine what is trending and whether there’s an opportunity for an educational moment.

Q: Where do you get the pictures of guns, grenades and rocket launchers travelers have packed in their luggage?

A: If we stop something in the airport, a picture of it is taken because reports have to be filed. When we hear about the incident, either through TSA spokespeople or from the airports themselves, then we ask for the picture. We have a vast network, and many of the members of the TSA social media team have been on the team for years, so we also hear about these incidents directly from TSA officers on the ground.

Q: Are that many people really packing guns in their carry-on luggage?

A: You’d be surprised. When we catch or detect a firearm, we contact local law enforcement, who will determine if the individual has a permit to travel with the gun since rules vary dramatically from state to state. In Connecticut, nine times out of 10, you’ll be arrested if you bring a gun to the airport; but in Texas or Florida, if you have a permit, you may not get through security, but more than likely, you’ll just be asked to give your gun to a friend or asked to secure it in your vehicle.

Q: Do you have a favorite post?

A: One of my favorites is the @dudewithasign guy (7.8 million followers) holding up a sign that says “Let me bring my toothpaste on a flight.” Well, you can bring your toothpaste on a flight, so we answered him with a post in the same manner in which he asked the question. He is not affiliated with the TSA in any way but has made several travel-related posts that have given us an opportunity to respond with signs.

Q: Who is the TSA guy holding up cardboard response signs in your posts?

A: That is a real TSO located down in Houston. We got permission from him and from his federal security director, who is in charge of TSA at that airport. He’s just holding up blank cardboard, and then we will write whatever message we want to get back out. Since they trust that I’m not going to do anything to embarrass TSA, I don’t typically have to get a message preapproved.

Q: Who is on your social media team?

A: We have what I call “two sides of the house” — six people on the proactive side who work on Instagram posts and 12 people on the reactive side who answer questions on Facebook and Twitter.

Q: Can you tell me about Ask TSA?

A: The 12 social media team members on the reactive side work on Ask TSA, answering questions pretty much “Johnny on the spot” on Ask TSA Twitter and Ask TSA Facebook. For instance, if you’re waiting in line at the airport, wondering if you can get through security with a bottle of frozen water that’s beginning to melt, you can send a message to Ask TSA, and they will instantly let you know that you need to drink all the melted water because everything has to be frozen. They typically answer within less than two minutes.

Brooklyn is a freelance writer. This article appeared in The New York Times.

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TikTok and Instagram travel guides add diversity to the business

“I blame the city because we’re terrible with our own message,” Thomas said. “Everything great about America comes from Chicago, and I’m probably the only dude that ever says that.”

As a Black man who has spun his online success into a real-life tour business, Thomas stands out in a travel industry that predominantly centers the White experience. From airline pilots to travel start-ups, tourism authorities, advertising campaigns and influencing marketing, people of color have long been underrepresented. Internet personalities of color interviewed by The Washington Post say they don’t receive the same attention as their White counterparts, and some Black content creators have pointed out that brands have excluded them from trips.

In recent years, police killings, a rise in anti-Asian violence and massive protests have drawn attention to racial injustice in the United States. For aspiring travel experts who feel their communities are ignored by media that covers the industry, social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram have provided a way to wrest control of the travel narrative.

“People are noticing it these last three years,” said Teia Collier, who created the blog Dallas Single Mom and an accompanying DFWSingleMom Instagram account. “It’s America looking at America. Some of it is a response to all the things that have happened, people are ready for something different.”

In Thomas’s case, that means assuming a role people might otherwise associate with wool slacks and tweed blazers.

“I’m aware that it’s shocking to see a dude with an arm full of tattoos and dreadlocks calling himself a historian; that’s not what we’re accustomed to seeing,” he said. “So I think that’s part of the draw. I think what keeps them there is that I actually research.”

Following a TikTok on the history of Lower Wacker Drive that blew up with more than 80,000 views, Thomas became a hit overnight. He has gone on a media blitz, appearing on the “Today” show, “The Kelly Clarkson Show” and Chicago’s PBS station. He has also been pitching a scripted show on Netflix with Oak Park, Ill., native and “Night at the Museum” writer Thomas Lennon, that will follow the story of an illustrious Chicago politician. And those are just side hustles on top of his full-time job as an area operator testing equipment on the downtown power grid for ComEd, not to mention as a father to seven children.

As Thomas wracked his brain for ways to parlay his online celebrity into the real world, he realized he could convert his short history lessons into tours.

“It dawned on me that most Chicagoans are aware that the city exists past Cermak [Road] but they never go see it,” he said of the city’s north-south dividing line. “I thought that would be the way that I could impact my city and help the image by showcasing it.”

Last Juneteenth, he started bus tours of the city’s historically overlooked South and West sides, where he highlighted Provident Hospital, the nation’s first Black-owned hospital and the site of the country’s first open-heart surgery, and the Wabash Avenue YMCA, the birthplace of Black History Month.

Those sites are often unknown to Thomas’s tourists, who he says are mostly White Chicagoans from the North Side, and the places are barely mentioned by the local tourism industry. After returning from a trip to Los Angeles, Thomas noticed that a travel magazine produced by the city only suggested two South Side neighborhoods, Beverly and Pullman, to visit.

“I’m aware that it’s shocking to see a dude with an arm full of tattoos and dreadlocks calling himself a historian; that’s not what we’re accustomed to seeing.”

— Shermann “Dilla” Thomas

“While Pullman is very historically significant, so is Bridgeport, so is Roseland. Why aren’t you telling people to go visit the Stockyards Gate?” he said of the last vestige of the Union Stock Yard, the sprawling slaughterhouse that inspired Chicago’s bloody moniker, “Hog Butcher for the World.” “It’s for those reasons I continue to advocate for the South Side because I think tourism is a great way to bolster the overall economy of the space.”

Across the country, other social media entrepreneurs are generating likes with personal brands that represent their own communities.

Rory Lassanke, an influencer from South Lake, Tex., has curated her Instagram for a Hispanic and bilingual audience. Lassanke, whose mother is Chinese and Dutch and whose father is from Venezuela, identifies as Latina. About 70 percent of her blog is written in Spanish but she’s planning to write more English content in the coming year.

“Latinos, we travel big: with grandmas, uncles and cousins,” she said. “So when you plan a trip for Latinas, you have to travel with everybody in mind.”

“There’s something comforting about following someone online who reminds you of yourself,” O’Heron said. “It allows you the space to imagine yourself in their shoes and recreate their experiences, which feels so profound.”

Yatzuri Thomas, a D.C.-area mom who started the Instagram account kidsquarantineandme, found it took extra effort to find a person of color while she researched travel destinations. With a little digging, she discovered the Facebook group for Black Kids Travel and a Black Moms Who Travel page.

Her own guides to day trips around the D.C. area do not cater to one specific audience, though she believes it’s important to highlight Black businesses. In the fall, she searched for a Black-owned farm near her home and landed on Hidden Gems Farm in Centreville, Va. Her challenge for winter sent her on an adventure scouring for Black Santas across the region.

“The issue with the Black Santa is where do we find them?” she said. “I was getting a lot of people reaching out, and I did a lot of research, a lot of phone calls. It was a nightmare because I was trying to confirm; I drove to every single mall.”

“There’s something comforting about following someone online who reminds you of yourself.”

— Kathleen O’Heron

That hard work has paid off. The popularity of the Instagram account — and the income it generated from sponsored posts from local companies — allowed Thomas to quit her corporate job in November and pursue travel blogging full-time. The shift also came after a pandemic-era realization: She was missing quality time with her children.

“One of the things my daughter shared with me is that she never got to spend time with me because I’m never home,” she said. “So it had me taking a look at my job and what I do for a living. I wasn’t there for little things, I missed my son’s third birthday, so this page gave me the opportunity to bond with my children and be more present with my parenting.”

Though many full-time influencers build their business on sponsored posts and branded partnerships, others are pursuing revenue streams they believe could be more sustainable in the long run.

Anela Malik, who started the blog and Instagram account FeedtheMalik, now produces subscriber-only content for a community she calls Magic at the Margins. On her ad-free platform, Malik organizes meet-ups for members and posts articles and videos that draw context from history, politics and her personal life.

“I lived in D.C. for a long time and [it] was not accurately represented in local media,” said Malik, who referenced the lack of Black-owned businesses recommended by metro-area outlets, including The Post. She has since relocated to Northwest Arkansas.

Malik’s subscriber-based business model, which includes virtual and in-person events, has fostered a supportive network that helps her to dodge some Internet trolls that plague social media accounts. But many of the same pitfalls of traditional media, including lower pay for non-White creators, can be found in the influencer world too.

“The travel influencer space … is a space I’m still breaking into because it’s very expensive to make that content,” Malik said. “A lot of those partners want a demonstrated track record to show you’re ready for a partnership. The cost to do a piece of content about a trip is significantly higher. You do it at first on your own and then you can start to take on partnerships.”

The Black Travel Alliance, formed in 2020 to support Black travel professionals, launched an online campaign called #PullUpForTravel with the goal of holding travel brands accountable after they posted social media messages support #BlackLivesMatter or #BlackoutTuesday. By using the hashtag to solicit answers, BTA obtained diversity data from 67 of the 121 organizations it tagged.

The campaign found that 18 percent of respondents could demonstrate they included Black representation in TV, radio, print, and digital advertising or marketing campaigns in 2019. Among U.S. tourism authorities that responded, only six indicated they ensured Black representation while organizing press trips. Only five companies polled could show they made financial contributions to Black charities or community efforts.

Another front-facing job in the travel world faces a diversity problem: tour guides. According to 2019 numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 82.3 percent of tour or travel guides identified as White.

In August, the tour operating giant the Travel Corporation, which operates 40 brands and employs more than 10,000 people, and its nonprofit, TreadRight Foundation, began the Pathways Project, a program that recruits people from underrepresented communities into the guided travel profession.

Leon Burnette, CEO of Civil Rights Trail Tours and the managing director of the Pathways Project, has worked as a professional tour director for over 45 years, with 35 years of experience on tour with recording artists such as Rick James and Quincy Jones. Though some tourism groups will hire a personable candidate with basic skills such as CPR and train them on the job, other professional groups expect tour operators to come equipped as storytellers with logistical and safety experience.

“When I first tried to get into the business, I was denied because they weren’t sure I could handle the job, even though I was a concert tour manager for 30 years,” said Burnette, who is Black. “But after I got the certification, they felt more comfortable with me leading one of their premium tour products. And in getting the certification, I also learned more about the business of group travel experiences and how the industry worked.”

The Pathways Project provides a scholarship for professional tour courses from TripSchool, as well as professional mentoring and job placement.

“It was after the George Floyd incident, and a lot of companies didn’t realize they had unconscious bias,” he said. “Many organizations are getting on board because it’s important that we have authentic voices not just for civil rights tours but all kinds of tours, and that we provide decent economic opportunities in an industry that didn’t mean to turn out as lily white as it is.”

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5 Clever Ways Brands Are Using Instagram Live

In March of 2020, the unimaginable took place – Instagram Live really took off for the first time in its history.

A feature that had long been forgotten was finally being used regularly by A-listers, influencers, content creators, brands, non-profits, and everyday users.

The world has clearly made some major changes since then. The way people consume content and the types of content they prefer to consume has also changed, thanks in large part to the global pandemic.

In fact, 82% of people want to see brands go live as opposed to simply posting another feed post.

5 Clever Ways Brands Are Using Instagram Live

Throughout the pandemic, people have been looking for more meaningful ways to connect with one another. One of the most popular ways has been through video.


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And now, thanks to the Instagram Live resurgence at the early stages of quarantine, we are able to connect with our favorite brands and influencers in real-time.

We can discover what they’re doing in that exact moment simply by tuning into Instagram.

This is a major win from a brand’s perspective.

Instagram Live offers the opportunity to strengthen audience relations, create true bonds with followers, and showcase a true behind-the-scenes feel for your brand – all at a low to no-cost content creation strategy.

Bonus: Instagram favors brands that use all of their features. This means it’s safe to say that posting a feed post, a story, a reel, and going live on Instagram might just be the secret recipe to success for a brand on Instagram.

Plus, you can save your Live and add the content as an IGTV once you’re done.

Helloooo content creation hack!

When you’re done filming your Live video, simply click on “End” in the top right corner and click save the video to your camera roll. Upload as an IGTV.


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We’ll get to more strategy hacks like this in a moment but first, let’s cover a few things you need to know before you even think about testing your first Instagram Live.

Instagram Live Best Practices

As with anything, there are best practices to follow before you go Live on Instagram.

Make Sure Your Account Is Public

Brands should never have a private account, to begin with. But in the rare case your brand account is private, change that setting to Public before going live in order to get the maximum reach.

Have Your Phone in a Vertical Position

This way you take up the entire live screen and it’s easier for users to follow along.

Lighting Is Everything!

Make sure you have the right lighting before you go live.

I highly recommend that you get a ring light to help you look your best and take care of any glare, dark lighting, etc.

Set up a Tripod or Phone Stand

Holding your phone during an entire Instagram Live is a big no-no!

Invest in a phone stand to help you focus on the task at hand – talking and engaging with your live audience.

Look Good, Sound Good

Invest in a microphone to help you sound your best. Rode microphones are amazing for stationary live videos and AirPods work great when you go live on the move.

Now, let’s cover how you can implement Instagram Live into your marketing strategy with some strategies and examples to help you get started.

Note: Keep in mind that it’s best to pilot a few Live runs before making Instagram Live a part of your permanent marketing strategy.

Take time to play around, testing the different methods, and get comfortable with the many features that come with going Live before launching your next campaign.

There is so much room for creativity here!

1. Live Q&A with the Leadership Team

You can do an Instagram Live Q&A with your leadership team, founders, or team members from specific departments of your company to provide transparency and address questions your fans/customers/followers have.


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Think Fireside chat, Live style.

5 Clever Ways Brands Are Using Instagram Live

Specific members of your team will be best for addressing specific topics. For example, the product development and customer success teams are going to be the best departments to host Q&As related to product and service topics.

The leadership team and/or founder of the company make a great host for topics that cover why a significant change was made in the brand.


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I highly recommend having two people on the Live, one person who can ask the questions while your guest (internal team member) can answer the questions.

A big part of doing an Instagram Live is having interaction with your followers, so make sure the interviewer is asking questions from viewers who are tuning in and commenting in real-time.

Make sure to state the handle of the user asking questions – it’s like a radio shout-out, and your users will love it.

Taking the extra second to announce the name associated with the question or comment is another way of making your followers feel like they are actually a part of the conversation.

Ex: “Runswithwolves is asking when the pink purps eye shadow will be restocked?”

Ex: “PattiLaB is wondering when our new accounting software is launching?”

This Q&A-style interview is great for both B2B and B2C brands. Chat about the company culture, talk about your growth plans, dive into product launches, and more.


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Pro Tip: If you’re a software brand, whenever you do a big product launch or update make sure to schedule a Live to announce it to corporate clients (you can also go Live on LinkedIn!).

2. Product Launch Live on Instagram

Releasing a new product or service for your tech startup or corporate clients? Build up the hype by inviting your clients to join you for an exclusive Instagram Live event.

This is a great way to meet your clients where they are and to reach them on another platform other than email.

Bring in your product team to do a demo of the product, talk about the building process, and really go into detail covering everything there is to know about the product.

Fast does an incredible job of creating hype on Instagram as a B2B business. When they launched their product in 2020, they invited followers, newsletter subscribers, and clients to join them for an Instagram Live, where they introduced and demoed how to use their new product.


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They also do “Ask My Anything” with their CEO on a monthly basis, which makes for amazing Live content and reusable IGTV content. Check them out here.

Pro Tip: Instagram Lives can only be an hour long. That doesn’t mean you need to use the whole hour, though! Try to find a sweet point between 20-40 minutes, but don’t feel like you need to stay on forever.

Most Lives are approximately 30 minutes in length, so A/B test to see how long followers tune in to your first few Live events.

3. Behind the Scenes Experience for Followers

Across B2B and B2C, giving your followers a behind the scenes experience is one of the best marketing hacks in the book. It creates a layer of exclusivity and engages clients.

Plus, after followers seeing all the work that goes on behind the scenes, it builds value for your brand.

Kylie Jenner does a great job of showcasing her brand with regular behind the scenes looks for her followers.


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From her Forbes shoot to her makeup launch, she saves her Instagram Lives as IGTVs to leverage them as even more content while giving followers a true behind-the-scenes in real-time.

Not every brand is a Kardashian brand, though.

Have a direct-to-consumer brand? Host a behind-the-scenes Instagram Live of how the product is made.

You could even go Live with a customer showcasing the product, whether it’s a new spring line of clothing that is tried on, that season’s meat specials made into dishes, or your newest and greatest vacuum line actually vacuuming a shag carpet.

  • Creating a content plan for a restaurant? Host a behind-the-scenes video where the chef cooks their most popular recipe.
  • Creating content for a personal blog? Showcase your home office and then talk about your agenda for the week, the goals you have, and how you’re organizing it all.
  • Creating B2B content? Do an employee Lunch & Learn with 1-2 other employees and then give a tour of your warehouse, regardless of how not-pretty it is.

It’s human nature to enjoy seeing what’s behind the scenes and how things are really done. Don’t be afraid to get creative with what behind-the-scenes can mean for your brand.


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Pro Tip: Invite your followers to join the Live with you! Followers can request to join – accept their request and then you’re having a Live 1:1 conversation while you go behind the scenes!

Here’s a breakdown of how to let your followers join.

4. Collaborate With an Expert on the Topic

Airbnb is killing the game with this Instagram Live strategy. After the pandemic, Airbnb took their Experiences business virtual.

If you haven’t tried one yet, Airbnb experiences are curated experiences (often similar to a tour) that you can book with locals from around the world and attend either in-person or now, virtually.

The travel company amplified their Experience business when they made the decision to go virtual and bring these to people worldwide despite quarantine.

In order to promote these Experiences, they turned to Instagram Live to show people how to take part in these now virtual tours with Hosts from around the world.

Simply pop onto Instagram, visit Airbnb’s Instagram, and check out Experiences from all over the world.


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From Q&A sessions with Olympians, wine tasting in Italy, to live pumpkin carving – they’re providing something for everyone utilizing Hosts that usually would be hosting a tour, or a section of their home.

Aside from shifting gears and adapting to a new climate (quarantine), what made this strategy work so well for Airbnb is that they leverage outside guests for their Experiences, their Hosts.

Since booking traditional Airbnb tours in new cities wasn’t realistic at the height of the pandemic, Airbnb tapped into virtual experiences that can be enjoyed from your own home and used their Hosts, the experts in each area of the world, to help make that a reality.

Brands can leverage this by bringing a guest to talk about something relevant to their brand. For example, if you’re a makeup brand you can bring in a makeup artist. A food brand can bring in a cooking expert.

Collaborate with either an expert on the topic or a similar brand.


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5. Expose Your Brand’s Day-to-Day

Remember that consistency is key. Make it a habit for your followers to pop into your Live feed as part of their day. This gives you the ability to make a schedule and stick to it.

Equinox taps into this by doing a daily yoga session on Instagram Live. It has created a digital community for this in-person brand and further positioned Equinox as a leader in the fitness industry.

Looking for something on a smaller scale?

Fitness Influencer Jessica Olie has done a fantastic job of Instagram Live by hosting yoga sessions to connect with her followers, invites people to engage during the Live event, and shows a behind the scenes day in her life.

She hits the nail on the head by planning daily workouts and showing them on Instagram Live each day.

This keeps her audience engaged daily and provides a clear expectation that followers can come to her page for daily workouts.


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Pro Tip: Jessica is so successful on Instagram because she is authentic! She is upfront about who she is.

When you go Live, you’re as transparent as it gets. Don’t be afraid to showcase your brand’s true personality, whether that’s silly, fun, honest, raw, corporate, etc.

What Does Success on Instagram Live Look Like?

When it comes to metrics, remember that Instagram Live has limited support in the metrics screen. Because of this, you want to make sure that you keep track of how many viewers you have tuned into your Live.

Have an assistant or another team member assist with looking at the metrics during and after you go Live. Once you wrap up your Live, you’ll be able to see how many total viewers you had — but make sure to jot that down, because it won’t be saved.

Basically, we are early in the Instagram Live game. Don’t be too hard on yourself when it comes to the metrics.


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Getting a few hundred or a few thousand people tuning in to your Instagram Live is a huge win. It all depends on your current follower count and how many of those followers are tuning in.

Instagram Live is still a fairly new form of content creation and as marketers and brands, we need to be open to taking the leap without getting stuck in the ROI of it initially.

It’s unlikely that you are going to go viral on Instagram Live, so instead focus on connecting with your direct audience.

Listen to your audience in the comments section and see what they liked about the Live (and what they didn’t). You can even post an Instagram Question in your Stories after the fact to gain feedback to help you continuously improve.

Instagram Live won’t be for everyone, so don’t try to please your entire audience. So far, I’ve seen success with Instagram Live across numerous different markets with different niches.


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My best suggestion is to play around and see what feedback you get (refer to Pro Tip #1).

From there, you can hone in on what works and what doesn’t. Remember, consistency is key!

Don’t expect to go Live once and have huge success – consistency, connecting with your audience, and listening to feedback will help you grow.


Instagram Live gives you the ability to reach your current audience, increase your reach, there is a low-to-no-start-up cost, and it is a fun new way for brands to create engaging content.

What are you waiting for? Start creating!

Looking for more resources? Check out Instagram’s guide on going live.

More Resources:

Image Credits

Image 1: Instagram
Image 2: Instagram
All screenshots taken by author, April 2021

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Instagram Travel Influencer Lee MacMillan, 28, Killed by Train in Noleta

Santa Barbara Police confirmed that highly followed Instagram personality and world traveler Lee MacMillan, 28, was hit and killed by a train last Friday by the intersection of State and Hollister roads in Noleta. 

Police had issued an alert that week asking members of the public for any information on MacMillan’s disappearance, noting she had left her home without car, keys, wallet, or cell phone. Although there was no suicide note, police expressed concern that MacMillan’s death had been self-inflicted. 

On December 5 last year, she discussed her struggles with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts at some length on an Instagram video post. In the post, she linked her mental health struggles to putting her own needs last and those of others first. 

From the outside, MacMillan’s life would have seemed one of adventure, health, beauty, freedom, and romance. Since 2016, MacMilllan had been an accomplished globe trotter, traveling from Canada — where she was born —to the tip of South America in a Dodge Sprinter with her then-boyfriend and fellow traveler, Max Bidstrup, and their Australian shepherd, Occy. Together they — Max & Lee — enjoyed a following of 495,000 subscribers on their YouTube channel

They would announce the parting of their ways late in 2019, and in early 2020 MacMillan set out on a Sprinter Tour of Morocco with two other social-media-savvy road warriors. COVID, however, would bring that trek to an abrupt halt after three months, and starting about six months ago, MacMillan settled into Santa Barbara. 

In the wake of MacMillan’s death, friends have expressed shock at her loss while praising her for coming out as a mental health advocate. 

If you or someone you know is thinking about hurting themselves, call 9-1-1 or the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255. A list of regional resources can be found at countyofsb.org/admhs

Every day, the staff of the Santa Barbara Independent works hard to sort out truth from rumor and keep you informed of what’s happening across the entire Santa Barbara community. Now there’s a way to directly enable these efforts. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.

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African Travel Influencers You Should Follow on Instagram

Visiting West Africa? Zainob Fashola can help you start your journey at Zee Goes, a comprehensive travel blog with information on flights, destinations, visas, deals, and food. Her blog also publishes the latest news on African travel, including information on how politics abroad is affecting travel for Africans. Zainob writes out of Lagos, Nigeria, so her experience backpacking her home country, Africa, and the rest of the world is a great resource to people visiting Africa and Africans touring the world.

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Black Travel Influencers to Follow on Instagram

The world is experiencing a major moment of social change right now in the fight against racial injustice, and many industries are realizing that there’s much more work to be done to amplify Black voices. Historically, the travel industry has been dominated by the perspectives of white males. In March 2018, National Geographic issued an apology for the way they had covered people of color in the United States and abroad since the publication’s founding, titled, “For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It.” But with more people turning to the digital world and away from the printed one, apps like Instagram have given us a platform to share our voices and reflect our travel styles.

Women’s solo travel is one niche that we’ve seen greatly empowered by social media. But while Black travelers generate over $63 billion yearly for the travel industry, their voices are hardly reflected in marketing campaigns, press trips, bylines, or even social feeds. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you love travel content, you should be diversifying your feeds with more Black content creators, and if you’re not sure where to start, here are 50 writers, poets, entrepreneurs, marketing gurus, and more who are changing the travel industry one country at a time. Hit follow and let these ladies show you the world.

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