Social media: Instagram's wide reach

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Move over Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Instagram threatens to overtake all of the established social platforms as it continues to move up in the social media hierarchy.

While 92% of respondents to the Travel Weekly Consumer Trends survey said they have at least one social media account, only 47% of respondents have Instagram accounts.

But travel professionals won't be able to ignore it for long. Despite having a lower penetration rate, Instagram is accruing users faster than any other social media platform.

In two years, Instagram usage has increased from just a quarter of respondents to nearly half, while the number of Facebook users is up just four percentage points in the same amount of time.

Even more remarkable is the jump in Instagram usage among those who use travel agents. In 2013, only 16% of those individuals used Instagram. Now, that number has climbed to 68% of respondents.

One difference is in Instagram's mobile-focused approach: Where sites such as Facebook or Pinterest offer mobile apps to accompany their websites, Instagram has a website to accompany its mobile app. This smartphone-focused design leads users to check Instagram often: 15% of respondents with Instagram accounts use it daily. Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn users do not check their accounts as often.

Instagram has 300 million users, who together post an average of 70 million photos per day, which accrue about 2.5 billion likes daily.

In addition to this wide user base, Instagram posts are accessible on other platforms when a user links their accounts. Instagram is currently compatible with Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, meaning that even people without Instagram accounts can see the Instagram posts of someone they follow via another social media platform.

Because of its wide reach, travel professionals and suppliers alike are beginning to take advantage of Instagram's potential.

For example, the 1888 Hotel in Sydney, billed as "the world's first Instagram hotel," took advantage of the social media platform by creating its own hashtag, a customized "insta-walk" and a designated "selfie space" in the lobby where guests can see their own pictures displayed near the reception desk.

The hotel incentivizes posts by offering contests and prizes to guests with the best Instagram photo (there are currently 2,500 posts on Instagram tagged #1888hotel).

Instagram users can tag their location in a post, enabling their followers to see exactly where they are staying.

In June, Instagram launched search-and-explore tools that enable users to search specific places around the globe to see photos and videos from other users who have visited those locations.

Instagram Places range from hiking trails to hotels and make it easier for travelers to search and share photos of their favorite places.

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