The blogger vs Instagrammer debate is becoming stronger and louder with each side making strong points for their respective sides. We didn’t know travel blogging had become synonymous to Instagram until we were asked by a young guy atop the Sajjangarh fort in Udaipur, ” So where do you blog? On Instagram or YouTube?” We were a little stunned and replied, “website”. We got an, “you are ancient”, look. We returned a, “maybe, but we are wise” look.
A senior photographer we had the privilege to meet once was asked what he thought of photography changing drastically in these times. To which he had replied that nothing had changed. People, places – everything was just the same. Only the medium has changed.
A blog or a website and Instagram or any other social media are just that – media, to express ourselves. We do consider ourselves travel bloggers and our website is our primary platform for sharing our thoughts. However, a ready-made and vibrant platform like Instagram can be used in interesting ways to create the kind of content not possible on a more traditional platform like a blog.
These are some of the ways in which we think travel bloggers can use Instagram to add value to their readers. (Our focus while sharing these tips for using Instagram is not on the numbers but on the kind of content.)
1. Expressing raw emotions on Instagram vs introspective posts on the blog
Emotions are high when you’re in the middle of a travel experience. A brilliant sunset, a challenging trek, an unknown local cuisine or a warm reception from a family of strangers. All of these experiences are memories of a lifetime. They answer the “why” of travel more than the “how” and the “what”.
Instagram lends itself perfectly for expressing these raw emotions while you’re still in the moment.
Our first sunset on the Majuli island was one such moment that’ll stay with us forever. We were cycling back to our homestay when we happened to turn behind and see the sky on fire. Everyone else was going about their evening chores, but our feet were glued to the ground and we couldn’t take our eyes off the sky. We stood there for a long time, one, clicking, the other, observing. We had just experienced overwhelming beauty.
A strong mobile network even on this remote island meant that we could share exactly what we were feeling with our community instantly, without spending much time looking into the screen. The fact that we could instantly share such a special experience with our community is something that you can’t get used to as a blogger, and we must say Airtel 4G worked like a charm. When we shared this one Facebook and Instagram, many readers connected with not just the sunset and the place, but also our emotions.
View this post on Instagram
What’s not to fall in love? By the bank of the river Luhit. Lined with palms. Surrounded by banana trees. Littered with bright yellow mustard flowers. Flocks of ibis returning home. Faraway, there are rice fields. Cows are being driven out of fields. By the people blessed enough to call this place home. And in the midst of it all it’s just the two of us. Imagining a life here. With fresh air. Quiet. Peace. Beauty. Can we ever call a place like that home? Who cares, when at this moment, this is where we are. Together. Privileged. #ig_masterpiece #visualsofearth #landscape_captures #earthlandscape #awesome_earthpix #lovetotravel #bestdiscovery #areyouawake #wonderful_vacations #bestdiscovery #earthfever #worldbestgram #travelrack #discoverglobe #awesomeglobe #LiveTravelChannel #IAmATraveler #HolidayScout #GoNEIndia #SCinNE #roam247 #passionpassport
Contrary to this, I wrote about Majuli a few months later on our blog. Time had helped us look beyond the obvious beauty of our experience. Looking back at our travels on the Majuli island, what struck us most was the strength of the people there and how they had put technology to good use to overcome their inherent challenges. We wrote a detailed post about the people on the Majuli island. This time the brilliant sunset was just a part of the detail, not the main focus.
2. Chronological posts on Instagram vs all-round travel stories on the blog
The blog posts we write are usually at least 2000 words long. These go under the long reads category for most readers. We talk about our entire travel experience, share practical information about visiting the place, there are reference links to read more on the topic. Which means even when we are writing about a topic extensively, like long term travel, it is written over a period of time. Not at one go.
Instagram, on the other hand, can be used to talk about one single topic for a few days/weeks at a stretch. You can easily do multiple bite-sized posts daily about this topic. Or you could give a chronological snapshot of what happened BTS (behind the scenes) of the detailed travel stories that you write. You could club a series like this under one hashtag and make it easily searchable within Instagram.
We have written extensively about Kashmir in the form of detailed blog posts. However, we had never written a chronological account of how our first long-term trip actually happened. So on Instagram, we did a series and called it #LongtermTravelWithSandeepaChetan. These stories were not like the posts that we wrote on the blog that helped readers plan a trip to Kashmir. These Instagram posts were about how we moved from place to place over 3 months of travel, when we had no prior travel experience and what went into this decision making.
It was great fun revisiting the memories, and writing about things that we don’t generally make part of our travel posts (and gave us loads of new followers!)
3. Instant sharing via Stories
We love Instagram stories and often while travelling, share Stories more than the actual posts on Instagram. We love sharing the detailed observations – a butterfly we chased on the way to the waterfall, the mushrooms on trees, intricate designs on an old building or candid moments at a local festival. In recent times it has become a useful documentation tool for us as well, and we love that our trusted Airtel network has worked in small remote corners. Take a picture of something that catches the eye, share why you find it fascinating – and go back to this Story for reference while writing a detailed blog post. These Stories sometimes act like our own mental snapshots.
Location tagging the stories generates instant engagement with someone from the destination or other travellers who are also around. Readers see your destination and give suggestions. We have met a few “online friends” in remote places, just because we happen to know of their destinations through the Instagram Stories.
4. Going live and hosting AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions to give impactful tips to the readers
This is something we want to start doing more of. Still not comfortable being in front of the camera, but going Live on Instagram can be a powerful tool to connect with your readers (I will not use the term “followers”, because if they aren’t reading, it doesn’t matter). We have done live sessions from places as diverse as the salt flats of Bhuj, an unnamed lake we chanced upon near Pune or a village in Arunachal Pradesh. If the light is good and the sound is crisp these Live sessions are an engaging tool. Viewers connect more because you are literally taking them there.
Another powerful way of using Instagram Live is to do live AMA sessions. You can ask your readers to send their queries about a certain destination or a topic and answer them in an Instagram Live session. This is interactive, informative and engaging.
5. Create engaging Stories when not travelling
Even as travel bloggers, there could be a phase when you are too buried in work to travel. Or maybe other priorities refrain you from travelling for a while. At such times, you can repurpose your old travel content on Instagram Stories and posts.
A few months back, I was spending a lot of time by hospital beds and doctors’ clinics. It meant we couldn’t travel. We couldn’t dedicate enough time to write blog posts or even an Instagram post.
We used this time to talk about our time in the Amazon rainforest. We knew it was enough content to last a few days of Instagram stories. As and when time permitted, we started posting one story at a time of our journey on the Amazon river and forest. It was like taking our readers (and ourselves, again) to this remote corner of the world, exactly as we had when we were there. This ended up being a 100-story series (#SCinAmazon). This way, even at a time when we weren’t travelling or working, we could still create engaging content. Again, we used a constant hashtag so it was searchable, and these stories are now highlighted under the Amazon bundle.
6. Write freely without thinking about search engine optimisation, keywords and other such technical matters
Instagram posts give us the freedom to write without thinking about any technicality. Yes, you stay true to yourself even when you write a blog post. But for your post to reach a wider audience you have to make it work for the search engines, plan your keywords, think about backlinking. There’s a lot of non-creative work involved.
An Instagram or any social media post, however, lets you unleash your creative side as much as you want, in any form that you want.
7. Create content that makes an impact
Humans of New York is one of the best examples of using social media to make an impact and wide-reaching connections. Photographers like Paul Nicken and Christina Mitterneir and using the platform of Instagram to talk about their work in wildlife conservation.
Closer to home, Neelima who is a travel writer and photographer is using this platform to talk about climate change. Shivya, a travel blogger is creating awareness about veganism and sustainable travel.
Some concerns about Instagram and travel
There are questions that a platform like Instagram raises.
- An often-raised concern is whether constantly thinking about content ruins the travel experience. When we started travelling, we didn’t think about “content”. We took photographs because that’s what we enjoyed doing. We then started writing because we enjoyed sharing our travel experiences. And we enjoyed exchanging travel stories with other travellers through comments. It was much later that we learnt that all of this was called “content creation”. So creating content was always an inherent part of our travel experience and never a burden. And because we have always enjoyed it, a right balance of “through the camera lens and directly through eyes” was automatically set.
- Instagram as a platform has been accused of ruining travel. To which, we’ll only say that it’s important to do what you think is right and what you enjoy. The kind of content we share on Instagram is in sync with what we share on the blog which eventually is in sync with how we actually travel and what we love about travel. We aren’t “doing it for the Gram”. How one uses a platform is at one’s own discretion.
- A decent phone camera and a strong reliable network are all you need to create good powerful content on Instagram. It gives us the freedom to travel lighter (without our laptops, at least on shorter trips).
- Blogger vs Instagrammer is a debate that will probably never end. But how to use Instagram (or any social media) as an addition to your travel blog is something travel bloggers should consider and explore.