It’s taken less than seven years for Instagram to go from a knockoff Foursquare to one of the world’s most popular mobile apps. It currently has 375 million active users, 50 million more than the population of the United States. Its incorporated cutting-edge features like Instagram Stories and Instagram Direct to transcend its original photo-sharing platform. It’s become a digital link between celebrities, politicians, artists and legions of followers and fans. But most importantly, Instagram has evolved into a marketer’s Nirvana. The app is free to download, reaches a massive number of people across the globe, and has the chic aesthetics to drive interest in an increasingly visuals-driven marketplace.
A campground owner like yourself might be wondering why the previous, jargon-filled paragraph has appeared on a campground management blog. What does Instagram have to do with the fixing pipes, stocking pantries, and making sure that the Smiths, regulars at your park for the last fifteen seasons, get that cabin in the glen they like so much? If you ran a fashion house or a string of coffee shops it would make sense…but you don’t. Your target demographic skews older and has a rural rather than metropolitan sensibility, quite different from those Millennials you hear about on the news with their “samurai buns” and car-sharing. More importantly, your business delivers a service, not a product. You can’t capture the feeling of giving someone a taste of nature or a home-away-from-home with a quick photo and a hashtag.
You’re quite right in thinking that a campground is a fundamentally different beast than most businesses. But it’s a business nonetheless, and one can never have too many customers or too loyal customers. We at Bonfire think that Instagram could be a very powerful tool for modern owner/operator. It provides a medium that has the power to vastly increase a campground’s new customers, and ensure that current customers return every season for years to come.
First, Instagram offers free access to many (several million) potential customers. A campground owner with Instagram has a level of advertising power at his fingertips that, ten years ago, was available to only the largest corporations. Furthermore, the majority of Instagram users are millennials. A highly urbanized generation, studies have shown that many today’s youth and young adults are increasingly interested in connecting with nature. They have a rising level of disposable income, and prefer bare bones, “back-to-the-basics” experience to the highly amenitized consumption of their parents. These traits make them ideal campground patrons, ones that could replace today’s older campers in the next ten to fifteen years. Instagram would be an easy, cost-effective way to reach out to this increasingly important demographic.
Second, though campground success is primarily driven by quality service, few would argue that having a striking natural environment is also important. Experiencing nature is inherently a visual experience and Instagram, driven by pictures, would complement this nicely. As wonderful as word-of-mouth reviews about your service may be, many, many potential campers will find a well-edited picture of your property a more compelling draw. Instagram is also going to be rolling out geography-targeting features in the near future. A campground owner like yourself will be able to send curated pictures to Instagram users nearby.
Third, and finally, Instagram provides a wonderful way to remain connected with past or ongoing customers. A fantastic feature that we mentioned in the first paragraph was Instagram Stories. It lets you share moments of your day, not just ones that you want to share on your profile. As you share videos and photos, they appear together in a slideshow that your followers can view as a single narrative. With a little creativity and effort, a campground manager can create a series of vignettes that, when seen together, make a viewer feel like he or she has spent a day at your park. It can be a way to showcase that new dock, or help long-departed guests feel like they’re back sitting in the cafeteria having their morning coffee. Either way Instagram offers a way to keep your park at the front of many people’s minds.