Instagram appeal grows across UK

Instagram appeal grows across UK

Stick a pin in a map of the UK and chances are that you’ll find an Instagram community at work in the area.

From Cumbria to Dorset, groups have sprung up in the past year with a view to occasional meet-ups and regular posting of images and video.

And the trend is accelerating, with the development attracting brands which are keen to work with such organized groups.

There’s a disconnect: Instagram tends to attract people who are passionate about their photo and filter skills. However, they are not necessarily interested, or savvy enough, to ‘taint’ their interest with commercialism.

Having said that, one or two IGers, as they are known, are now recognizing that having 500k+ followers is of interest to brands. And more will inevitably follow.

“We have had to draw up a strategy on how to work with brands because we are getting approached every day,” says Jess Macdonald. “Instagram is getting a lot more attention.”

Jess (@miss_jess) and Debs (@chelseadebs) voluntarily run @IGersLondon and @IGersUK and are now looking to recruit a third person, plus more help, to cope with the growing interest.

They are given products, such as camera lenses, which often become competition prizes. But the emphasis is still, for now, on social meet-ups and helping people around the country to set up groups.

I admit an interest – I set up @IgersDorset recently, and received excellent help from Jess and @Count_Christoph, who runs @IgersWiltshire. Igers Exeter was launched this week, @IGersBristol is thriving and Jess is helping someone to set up @IgersHampshire.

“The south-west is our first target for helping pull together communities. The region is getting more exciting.”

The number of followers on Instagram can be huge, with several non-celebrity sites having 1m+ simply due to the strength and/or uniqueness of their photos.

Jess has two accounts, and her @missunderground site – purely shots of London tube stations – has 32k followers.

IgersLondon has 12k followers, and an average 50 people will turn up to ‘instameets’ in London. “It’s going to places and meeting people,” says Jess. “IGers feel like they part of the community rather than just using hashtags to get likes and entering competitions.”

But while the UK is gaining traction, Jess looks to Italy for inspiration on how to run community groups. Personally, I have found Costa Brava in Spain to be brilliant in creating community groups, inviting Igers to lead group walks and giving tips for free.

There’s still a long way to go but with 200m Instagram users, the fastest growing social media platform, there is much to play for – for communities creating their own noise and for brands to work with these groups. It all helps boost tourism.

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Steve Keenan has been a travel journalist for 25 years. He started at a Reed paper, news editing at Travel News in London - now Travel Weekly - having spent a decade reporting general news in the UK and abroad. He also taught English in Peru, delivered cars in the USA, ran the Sydney desk at AAP and took the train home from Hong Kong. He left Travel News in 1990 to freelance for several publications, including The Times of London, which he later joined as deputy travel editor. In December 2004, he became the first national digital travel editor in the UK, running the combined travel website of The Times and Sunday Times. The introduction of a paywall at the papers in 2010 persuaded him that the connected world might continue outside of Wapping and he left to co-found Travel Perspective. The company runs the social media seminars at World Travel Market London, and works with Reed Expos and others in helping the travel and tourism industry best communicate stories in all forms of publishing.

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