Allow me to let you in on my secret destination recommendation service. It is powered by over 400 million people and you probably have it installed on your device. I'm taking about the photo-sharing powerhouse Instagram. While trying to keep my own content flowing on the social network, I stumbled into a great way to get recommendations on the destinations I plan to visit on my upcoming RTW trip. Here is how I did it:
1. Search For Posts With Travel Related Hashtags
Hashtags have made sifting through digital stacks of social media much more manageable (although not straightforward) and this is where I would start. Open the search tab on Instagram (magnifying icon on the navigation bar) and type in a hashtag. By far, the hashtag #travel has the most photos with over 89 million, but I have loved using #wanderlust as well. Other hashtags I recommend using are #traveling, #travelling, #travelgram and #instatravel. After typing in your hashtag into the search, make sure to click on the Tags tab to filter down the results to only hashtags. Next, click on your hashtag.
2. Scroll Through Results
At the beginning of the search result, there is a 9 photo panel called Top Posts. You can ignore that and scroll down to Most Recent. Click on the very first photo in this section to change into timeline view and then start scrolling.
3. What To Look For
Scrolling can be an endless endeavor so here is what you are looking for in a good post in the following order:
1) Location Indicator: A photo that has a geotag or a location written out in the description. Since you are looking for recommendations for a specific place, it is important not to waste time with pictures tagged with other places.
2) A beautiful picture: Now that you've identified a photo taken in the place you plan to visit, you want to make sure the picture moves you in some way. A blurry poorly lit selfie does not convey much of a message and I would probably skip over that.
3) A concise description: Personally, I want to make sure that the poster has something to say about the place itself. Whether it is a recommendation or a feeling, a thoughtful description shows the poster's ability to convey something about their experience and will likely want to convey it to you too.
4) Make sure the poster is still on location: It is hard to argue that a travel recommendation can't get any better than from someone who is living it right then and now. To make sure that the photo was indeed taken not too long ago on location, click on the username of the poster and take a look at the 6 latest images (ie. first two rows) they have posted. If all of them are within days of each other and are in the same general region, there is a high possibility that they are still there.
5) Check the comments: Last, but certainly, not least, look through the photo's comments and see if the poster responds to comments left by other users. Instagram users who receive thousands of likes and comments are very unlikely to respond (which is why we skipped Top Posts in step #2). As you go through this exercise, try and prioritize posters who reply to comments that are left on their photos, but do not ignore posters who do not have any comments either.
4. Leave A Comment
After you've identified a potential poster to contact, go ahead and leave a genuine comment on the photo along the lines of:
Hi! This is an awesome photo and I look forward to seeing it myself when I'm there in a couple of weeks. Do you mind if I reach out to you for some recommendations on the area?
If the poster agrees, proceed to step #5. If not, check back later and/or move on.
5. Send a Direct Message
Don't worry, we are not sliding into the DM as the millennials are saying these days. We made sure of that with step #4! Now that the poster has agreed to be in contact with you, go ahead, start a conversation and enjoy the authentic travel recommendations!
Repeat the steps above at different times of day or search with different hashtags for even more results!
1) Can be time consuming: Like everything in life, you're going to have to work a little for this one. Once the recommendations come in, however, it will be time well spent! When I go scrolling in timelines, I set a timer for 30 minutes to ensure I don't lose entire days glued to my phone.
2) Why do I need to direct message? I recommend direct message versus asking for recommendations in the comments of a photo to prevent it from being lost in a sea of other comments. I personally don't receive as many messages compared to likes and comments (light flex) and a direct message will most likely grab my attention more than a comment. Lastly, the conversation is stored neatly in your inbox for easier access later on, compared to trying to hunt down an old comment in your notifications.
About The Author
Nico Atienza is a Philippines born, Sri Lankan raised traveler who sold everything, quit his job and escaped the rat race to travel the world in 2016. Apart from his love of travel, he is an award winning volunteer, miles + points aficionado and perpetually epicurious story teller. You can peer into his life by following him on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram or send him an Email.