What I Learned Running an Instagram Walking Tour

By Emily Roland

In August of this year, Chute sponsored the ESTO conference in the beautiful city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. As sponsors and attendees ourselves, we wanted a way to offer an event that not only allowed attendees to socialize and network but also give everyone a chance to leave the conference rooms and experience the urban scenery Minneapolis has to offer. To do that, I pulled inspiration from one of the favorite tactics of the travel brands and destinations we work with: host an Instagram walking tour. We worked with a local instagram influencer and photographer to showcase 5 landmarks of the city and in the end got awesome feedback from everyone who attended! It’s something that we now plan to run more of at tourism conference locations throughout 2018.

A walking photo tour is a great way to get visitors and even locals of all ages excited about a destination as so many people have decent cameras on their phones and dabble in photography for their personal social accounts. The tours combine walking, which  is a great way to show off the unique charms of any city, and learning more about photography and visual storytelling along the way!

Finding your influencer

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Finding the right  influencer/s is key to having a successful event. Ideally you want someone who is very familiar with the city, so they can bring additional value to the tour by offering their own perspectives on the best landmarks and photo opportunities. Also, if you are organizing a walking photo tour of a city you don’t know well, having an influencer who is an expert is essential.

For the walking photo tour we ran in Minneapolis we worked with Brandon Eckroth ( @brandoneckroth) who has 77K followers and is a professional photographer. Brandon has lived in Minneapolis for many years so was able to give the group some history was well as insightful tips on getting the perfect shot at each landmark. If an influencer is not a professional photographer they could instead give tips on how to tell your visual story on Instagram.

We found Brandon using Chute’s Discover platform, but you can also use the instagram app directly if you’re willing to put in a bit more time. The easiest way would be to search a hashtag or geotag associated with the destination you are hoping to showcase to source content creators who have posted about the city. We choose our top three influencers based in Minneapolis and arranged to have a phone call with each. You may find content creators with a high following may have an email in their bio or you can use the private message function within Instagram. However, meeting with the influencer is key. A successful walking photo tour is a very social experience, so you want your special guest to be able to speak confidently  to the group and offer their personal insights into each landmark as well as offering tips on photography social storytelling.  My advice would be to speak in person or on the phone, not just over email, to ensure the influencer is the right fit for your brand.

Lastly, payment. Remember that you’re asking someone for hours of their time, which may also include them practicing the route a few days before to ensure good timing and hone in on tips to share with attendees. If you also want them to use their platform to promote the tour and destination, which most travel brands probably would, add on their normal influencer rate. We recommend knowing what you can afford to pay and to go in with that in order to make the process seamless and transparent. Also, set expectations up front: how long do you want to the tour to be? What kind of tips are you hoping will be shared? How do you expect the influencer to post before and after the walk? Answering all these questions early will save a great deal of headache and will ensure all parties leave the experience happy.

Planning the Route

Most cities will have obvious landmarks, take San Francisco for example:  the Golden Gate Bridge, Palace of Fine Arts and Lombard Street all come to mind as great spots to take amazing photos for Instagram. However, your attendees would need to be up for a ton of walking! What I learned is it is best  to pick one main landmark and then base the tour around that area. This type of insight is why you want to have open communication with your influencer who can provide a different perspective on good photo opportunities that you may not have thought of on your own.

For Minneapolis our main stop was the Stone Arch Bridge, other stops included the Foshay Tower and the Bank Stadium. Both of these landmarks may not be an obvious choice, but with insight from a photographer about angles, focus and reflections  you can come away with some stunning photos of a city's architecture, which your audience will love. Our photographer taught us to have fun with ways you can showcase the city through the camera lense -  it may be a building from a low angle, a reflection of the skyline in a lake or a really beautiful tree which is picture worthy due to the season.

Another nice touch is to end with with a “finale” image. This may be the main landmark with a twist. For our tour in Minneapolis we timed the tour so we ended up at the Stone Arch bridge right on sunset.

As well, we were lucky enough to get input from the local DMO, Meet Minneapolis. If you are not part of the local DMO, then reach out to see if they would be interested in giving you some feedback, information or advice as they are some of the most knowledgeable people about the charms of their destination.

Lastly, be sure to create a hashtag for the tour so that everyone can post using that, and you can check out all the amazing images shared post-event - the one we use for our walks is #PhotoChute!