Warning, do NOT read this post unless you want to use your Instagram Travel Blog to travel the world for free.
Normally I’d be travelling the world, documenting and photographing my adventures.
But this post is going to be a little different.
The year is 2020, all major sporting events are cancelled, curfews are in effect across the globe and planes are grounded, (wow, that is something I never thought I’d write).
As I haven’t been able to travel recently I wanted to talk about another interest of mine. Travel blogging on Instagram. Instagram is where I got my first break and I’m sure that many other travel bloggers started out using Instagram.
I still remember landing my first Instagram brand deal. $100 from the Hawaii tourism board to post a photo on their behalf. That got me hungry, it was a taste of success, albeit small, it left me wanting more.
I was running travel theme pages for years before I’d even set foot outside of the UK. The first-ever Instagram travel page I created hit 1.2 million followers in under a year- I later sold the page for $13,500. You could say social media is a speciality of mine. In this post, I’m going to share with you the methods I’ve used to grow my Instagram travel pages over the years. And a word of warning before we get started. Instagram isn’t the innocent, pretty-pictures, photo-sharing app that it appears to be on the surface. You won’t like what you’re about to read, and It can be difficult for people to accept the dark truths about how travel bloggers make money from Instagram travel pages. But In this post I’m not holding back, I’m letting it all slip.
I’ll break it down step-by-step and share with you how I got started on the ‘gram, and how you can too. I’ll share with you the dirty tricks, the filthy secrets, and the dark side of Instagram that no one is willing to talk about. Learn the methods used by Instagram travel bloggers to gain thousands of followers in a matter of weeks, and how you can apply the same proven methods to your account. But most importantly, I’ll teach you how to monetise your Instagram Travel Blog, so you can start earning some of that sweet-sweet Insta money, and fund your travels. After all what use is an Instagram page with a fuck load of followers, but no monetisation? A quick ego boost, I guess.
How To Start A Travel Blog On Instagram
On the surface Instagram is the innocent social media platform, there are no politics, no debates, no heated arguments, no horrific or brutal content and no hate.
But the platform is riddled with dirty little secrets that your average user wouldn’t even know existed. I’m going to share everything I’ve learned and spilt the beans on how you can ‘hack’ your way to the top of the explore page. Let’s start with setting up your profile.
Setting Up Your Profile
Day one, step one. You want your travel page to be looking as attractive as possible, you want to lure people over to your page, and once they’re there, you want to make it as attractive as possible so the hit that follow button.
Choosing Your Instagram Handle
Now, having a catchy handle for your Instagram travel blog is important, you want to attract attention to your profile and if your handle blends in with the others you’ll never have anyone check out your profile. Keep it short, snappy, inspire curiosity and tell people who you are- all in your handle. Anything over three syllables is too long.
As important as a catchy IG handle is, don’t sweat it too much when you’re starting out. Instagram is lenient when it comes to switching handles, you handle can be changed at any time right from the mobile app.
Set Your Profile Picture
For anyone finding your profile in the wild, your picture is the first thing they’ll see. Ideally, you want this to be a picture of yourself in an awesome Instagram friendly location.
A full body shot of you on top of a mountain is going to be a better choice than a selfie, no matter how dope you’re looking.
But if you aren’t yet ready to put yourself out there on Insta. You can instead use a landscape photo you’ve taken- or even have a custom logo designed for your page. One of the biggest mistakes I see out there is people setting their profile to one of those ‘classic Instagram travel shots’ something that looks incredible, yes, but it’s has been doing the rounds for years. That photo of a boat in the clear water at Phi Phi Islands springs to mind, you probably know which photo I’m referring to. Everyone’s seen it, it’s not something new and it’s not sparking curiosity to learn more. Always use your own photography as your profile picture.
Set Your Bio
If you plan to monetise your Instagram Travel Blog down the line, your followers need to know who YOU are. There aren’t many places to express yourself on Instagram so having a catchy bio works wonders.
Keep it short and to the point, let people know who you are, where you are and what you’re up to.
Do you have your own website? Plugging your link in the bio will give your page extra credibility. If you don’t have a website, instead, plug your YouTube Channel or your Snapchat.
You want to include your email address in your bio from day one, if you plan on earning an income from Instagram you’ll want to give brands an easy way to contact you outside of DM’s. And you won’t know when it will happen until it does. Make it easy for brands to reach you and don’t worry about getting your email spammed. Everyone gets their email spammed and there is nothing you can do about that.
Let’s talk emojis in your bio, love them or hate them, they’re here to stay, they’re ingrained in the Instagram culture. So make use of them, including some in your bio will lighten it up a little- but don’t go overboard.
Niche Down From Day One
Another big mistake I see is Instagram Travel Pages not hunkering down on a particular niche.
What are you on about, Robb? “Travel” is my niche. *blank confused stare*
I hate to break it too you, but it’s not. Travel is a broad niche. If you are travelling the world and uploading nothing but original content you’ve created you’ll find that your followers are there for YOU more than they are the travel. You become your own niche.
But if you’re uploading reposted images onto a ‘theme page’ in the travel niche, you won’t have the same loyalty and if you want to build up any kind of loyal following, holming in on one specific aspect of the travel niece is essential.
If one day you’re posting shots in the Maldives and the next you’re posting shots in London, your followers are going to quickly unsubscribe and you’ll stand no chance at growing your Instagram travel page.
Instead narrow it down.
Perhaps your niche is going to be budget travel, sound good on paper, easy to build a following for. But when it comes to monetising the page, later on, you might run into some hurdles and find your following isn’t worth as much as you’d expected.
But if your travel page was all around, say, luxury hotel’s or luxury cruises instead, you’d be able to earn far more from those pages.
Choose your niche from day one. Tropical Islands, European City Breaks, Snorkelling Vacations, Family Friendly Travel, Theme Parks, Outdoor Exploration.
Don’t choose the “travel niche”. It doesn’t exist. The more specific your niche is, the more money you can make.
How To Get Instagram Followers For A Travel Account
Ok so you’ve set your profile up to draw maximum attention, but without any followers it’s a ghost town.
Now I’m going to let you in n a dirty secret used by successful Instagramers. I didn’t start with zero followers.
Think about it, if someone lands on your page, no matter how attractive your profile is looking if you have no followers, it’s unlikely anyone will actually hit that follow button. You need proof of social concept, you need followers to get the ball rolling.
So how do you get your first bunch of followers? You could let your friends and family know about your page, and you might be lucky to get a few hundred followers. But that’s how everyone starts and more often than not these pages don’t ever make it to anything more than a hobby.
But here’s the secret, you can buy your way to fame. Now I’m not talking about buying a bunch of fake Instagram followers, If you do, you’ll end up with a bunch of inactive bots that will do your Instagram travel blog more harm than good. I don’t recommend it, (and yes I have tried it). I’m talking about buying an entire profile.
The long term goal of setting up an Instagram Travel Blog is to earn money, get free shit and travel the globe with a passive income, right? Well to make you money, you have to spend money. The quicker you can grow your page to 100k followers, the quicker you can start earning an income.
It can take months, even years to hit your first 1,000 followers organically.
But you can skip the first few months and fast-track your way to success by buying a profile that is already established. You can buy an Instagram travel account with around 5k – 10k REAL followers for under $150.
Re-brand that sucker as your own, add your own profile picture, bio and change the username, and you’re set.
You will lose a few followers as you rebrand, but as long as the page was from a related niche, you’ll find most of your followers stick around for the long run.
This is a tactic I’ve used time and time again, and let me tell you, it works.
Keep It Growing
Organic, natural growth is the long term goal. But until your Instagram Travel Blog has earned a reputation, proved credible and has engagement from other users. Your posts just aren’t going to show up on the explore page. Let’s talk about Instagram’s next dark and dirty secret, the ‘follow-unfollow’ method.
The easiest and quickest way that you can gain followers is to follow a bunch of accounts, wait for a few to follow you back, unfollow them all, rinse and repeat. And you don’t even need to do this yourself. You can automate it for free with no coding knowledge. Take a look on the App Store, and you will find there are countless free apps that will automate following and unfollowing random Instagram accounts for you, and it can run in the background, from your phone!
With little to no work, you can grow you Instagram Travel Blog like crazy.
But be careful, unsurprisingly, Instagram doesn’t particularly like it when you try to hack your way to the top. And if you get caught out by the algorithm you could be facing an action block, temporary ban or a shadow-ban. It is extremely rare you’ll get your profile suspended, instead, if you’re caught, Instagram likes to fuck with you by handing down a shadow-ban. A shadow-ban it where your account is blocked from growing organically, only they don’t tell you about it. Driving you insane, wondering what’s going on is a fun little game for Instagram to get back at you, once you get caught out trying to cheat the system.
But don’t let that put you off, because this method does work. You just have to be smart about it. Stick to a small number of follows, to begin with, and work your way up to bigger numbers. Choose an app to automate the following throughout the day so it doesn’t look like a bot is just following a bunch of accounts. Stick to 50ish each day for the first week or two. And slowly work your way into the higher numbers after you’ve gained Instagram’s trust.
If you want a step-by-step breakdown on how to use this method to its full potential, I’d recommend checking out the content by Biahezza, on YouTube.
After starting out with a few thousand followers and spending a couple of months playing around with the follow-unfollow method, your Instagram Travel Blog should be comfortably sitting somewhere around 50k followers. It’s usually around this point that your posts will start to hit Instagram’s explore page. Your account can begin to grow organically and you’ll start drawing in the attention of marketers and brands where you can start earning money from your Instagram travel page.
When it comes to organic growth there are a few tools you can use to expand your reach.
Hashtags become more important once you have gained a bigger following, save a list of 30 hashtags and add them as a comment on each of your posts. Don’t worry about using different hashtags for each post, save a generic set and use the same tags on every post. If people see your account showing up for the same hashtag time and time again, there is a much higher chance and more opportunities for them to get to know your account and to follow your account if they like what they see.
An engagement ‘pod’ is another tool which Instagrammers use to grow their travel pages. A quick search on Facebook Groups will find you some IG pods. So what is an Instagram Travel Pod? essentially is a small community, usually, a group of around ten to twenty people, when one of the group posts on Instagram, the rest of the users will like the post and leave a comment.
Getting engagement on posts early on can prove to Instagram that your content is of high quality, resulting in your posts being shown to a larger audience. Now this isn’t a long term solution by any means, but if you’re engagement is low, its a quick and free method to boost that until you start growing organically.
Engage In The Instagram Community
Now some of the tips I’ve shared in this post might come across as a little unethical. But unfortunately, that’s how Instagram works. You have to earn a reputation somehow and using these methods will get you to where you want to be, and it will get you there quickly. But being social is still one of the best ways to get your account noticed, engage in communities, comment on other people photos, like the posts shown in your feed- after all, every action you take on the platforms results in your username flashing in another user notifications.
What To Post On Your Instagram Travel Blog
Content, Stories and Captions. Arguably the three most important things to focus on when you’re starting a travel Instagram. Without quality content, no one is going to stick around on your page for long.
Instagram Travel Stories
It’s important to post an Instagram Story at least every 24 hours. Have you noticed that glowing ring you get around your profile picture once you have a story live? That ring lets people know that you have been active in the last 24 hours. And it is much more likely that someone will follow your page if they know the account is active. After all, no one wants to be following a bunch of dead pages, right.
Content is king, it’s a phrase we hear so often. But what does it mean?
Let’s talk about the posts themselves. Probably the most vital thing that you can attribute to your success on Instagram, and the reason why people are going to be following your page are your photos.
The entire point of Instagram is to share your pictures, you could disregard everything which I’ve mentioned so far and still make it big on Instagram with quality content and nothing else. (Although it will take much longer, to grow, often years. And there is no guarantee that you’ll actually grow your page to where you want it to be).
The most important piece of advice I could give for posting content on Instagram is to keep it related to your niche, post-high-quality photos and don’t go over the top on the editing.
Focus on curating high-quality captions that tell your story, this is one of the only places you have on Instagram to express yourself and users are much more likely to engage with your content if they feel like they’re getting to know you on a personal level.
You can also spark controversy in you photo captions to boost engagement, if your page in the foodie’s travel niche, then posting a shot of yourself eating a pizza with pineapple as a topping will get people riled up and your engagement rate is bound to be higher, (I’ve tried it, it worked, people went bat shit crazy about it, and if you are curious, I like pineapple on pizza).
Adding a call to action is another proven method to boost engagement, If you post a shot of yourself reading a book on the beach, then ask your followers what their favourite books are. People can’t resist, the comments will come flooding in and push your post higher and higher in Instagram’s algorithm.
Hash Tags and Tagging Others. This an easy method to get your posts in front of more eyes. You add twenty profile tags and thirty hashtags in each post and you should use them all. Asides from getting the attention of bigger pages, there are more places which your post can show up. You even can get your posts seen by and featured on some of the bigger travel pages which will send a flurry of followers your way.
You should play around with profile tags and hashtags to find out what’s going to work best for growing your Instagram travel blog. If you use broad tags such as ‘travel’ your post will be buried almost instantaneously, but using a long tail hashtag like ‘traveltheworldwithkids’ will take much longer to get buried, but, on the other hand, there will be far fewer people checking it out.
If you want to learn more about using hashtags to grow your Instagram Travel Blog then Eli ‘The Partying Traveler’ has some great advice on the topic.
How To Monetize Your Instagram Travel Account
Having a fuck ton of Instagram followers might feel fantastic for your ego, but you were growing your travel Instagram to earn a passive income, and probably enjoy some complimentary hotel nights along the way, remember?
So let’s look at how much money you can actually earn from an Instagram Travel Blog and all the different methods that I have used to monetize my travel content on Instagram.
If you’re lucky you might check your DM’s or your email one morning and find an invite from a brand seeking to collaborate with you and your travel page. Which is why it is so important that you include your email in your bio. These deals can be lucrative and easy money, but you’ll get a lot of shitty offers coming your way too. If a product doesn’t align well with your audience, promoting it anyway for a quick buck will harm your page in the long run. So pick the deals you take carefully.
And you don’t want to be sitting around waiting for an offer to land in your inbox either, you want to be pro-active about it, put yourself out there and start outreaching. Let’s look at how you can find companies with services to promote on Instagram in the travel niche.
A side note on why it is so important to have your email address in the bio of your Instagram travel page: I’ve worked for travel marketing companies in the past and have been on the flip side. I was the one buying ads on Instagram. I’d have a quota of around 100 profiles to track down that would be suitable for a campaign. When I found a page that fitted the criteria I’d note down their email address in a spreadsheet and later email all the candidates with my offer, at once. I wouldn’t bother to send individual DM’s. If there was no email, I’d move on. There are millions of Instagram out there and I wasn’t going to waste my time trying to hunt the email address of a page owner unless their page offered something really unique or they had an extremely loyal following. Make it easy for brands to contact you. Will you get spam? Yes. Does everyone get spam? Yes.
Agency Sponsored Posts
You should register with an agent as soon as possible, usually, after you hit around 10,000 followers, agencies will consider your travel page. This is how I landed my first ever sponsored post on Instagram, I was paid $100 from the Hawaii tourism board to post a photo they’d supplied me with. And I was ecstatic. It was proof of concept and that small taste got me hungry for more.
Using an agent isn’t as difficult as it sounds, head on over to the App Store and download an app called TRIBE. This is a company I work with to connect with brands. Once you’ve registered and been accepted into the platform and apply to brand deals posted directly in the app.
There is no fixed price when you submit your post to a brand, you submit your price as well. The more followers you have and the higher your engagement rate is, the more you can charge.
I got my first gig and earned $100 with just 3,000 followers. And I’ve charged much more than that since.
Outreached Sponsored Posts
You need to put yourself out there if you want to those lucrative free hotel stays and free experience. Do your research on the places you’ll be visiting, select a few hotels or tour companies that are active on Instagram, find their contact details and shoot them a message.
If you aren’t sure how to compose an outreach email, our boy Johnny Mellon has your back, you can use his template emails to reach out to brands and get positive results. Keep it short, polite and friendly and actually do enough research on the company you’re targeting to personalise each email.
Don’t bulk email a load of companies at once, because if your email doesn’t stand out, it is going to get ignored and deleted.
This might be something you hadn’t even considered but think about it. When a brand pays you to put an ad out for their product, they get sales in return. So if you already have your own audience, why not sell your own products, and put your own ads out on your page?
Have you seen a product you like on Amazon which ties in to your travel page? Why not drop shop that product from your own online store?
Even if you don’t have too much technical knowledge it relatively easy to create an eCommerce website and then promote that site to your followers. And if you aren’t sure how to go about doing so, check out Biahezza’s Instagram Drop-shipping course for free on YouTube.