The Central Valley is home to some of the most beautiful scenery California has to offer. Tucked between the Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges, this stretch of land covering about 18,000 square miles contains everything from wildlife refuges to world-class wineries.
Yet for some reason, the Central Valley tourism industry has yet to really tap into the power of Instagram. Tourism boards all over the world are using this social media tool to boost visibility and attract new visitors, and there’s no reason the Valley can’t do the same.
Let’s take a look at how businesses throughout the Central Valley—and even the Central Valley Tourism Association at large—could take advantage of the exposure Instagram brings to the tourism industry.
Driving tourism with Instagram
Instagram doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, but at over 700 million users, it can’t be overlooked much longer. That’s a huge global audience to draw on, especially for businesses or cities that thrive on tourism.
The Central Valley Tourism Association does have a Facebook page, but the potential for this region—and for the businesses and towns that call the Valley home—is so much greater than just one social media platform. Valley tourism and businesses can start using Instagram more seriously to really show off what they have to offer. Here’s how.
Photographers can highlight the Valley’s natural beauty
Instagram is first and foremost about visuals, which is why it’s important to choose stunning photography for tourism posts. A seemingly average location can become a must-see destination with the help of some excellent photography, and sometimes the best way to get images worth sharing is by teaming up with established photographers.
For example, Canada’s Ottawa Tourism board worked with photographer Ben Brown to capture an image of him canoeing in a beautiful setting. When the image was posted, Brown’s 700,000-plus followers saw the picture and Ottawa gained exposure it wouldn’t have otherwise.
The Central Valley tourism industry could do the same, highlighting the breathtaking scenery of Sequoia National Park, Lodi Wineries and more.
Local businesses can share their specialties
Taking to Instagram is a good way to showcase what the Central Valley has to offer, and it’s a great way to drive more engagement with the area economy. One of the best places to meet consumers is on social media: As many as 80 percent of callers don’t leave voicemails for businesses, believing they won’t ever be listened to, but the same isn’t true of social media—around 90 percent of consumers do try to reach out to retailers through social channels.
Central Valley businesses can capitalize on that social trend by using Instagram to show what they have to offer and being responsive when users engage. Valley-specific businesses or developments like Nut Tree Plaza in Vacaville are prime candidates for Instagram attention, as they lay claim to special insight into the area’s history and culture.
Using Instagram to feature good food can also bring in tourists from all over the world, and Central Valley restaurants are unique and rival some of the more popular eateries in the Bay Area. Sharing high-quality images of delicious snacks, dinners and desserts on Instagram, the way that the Vintage Press in Visalia or the Annex Kitchen in Fresno do, will help draw users in.
Central Valley towns and cities can show what sets them apart
Another great way to pique tourists’ interest is to get many different cities of the Central Valley involved with Instagram. For example, Sacramento gained attention recently as Greta Gerwig featured the town in her recent film Lady Bird. The Central Valley Tourism Association could easily create posts featuring locations used in the movie to build off of that momentum and garner the same kind of Instagram attention that the VisitSacramento account already sees.
Tourism boards also commonly work with travel companies to spotlight specific locations. Central Valley Tourism or a city tourism association could team up with Airbnb to feature a particular area and showcase available rentals, for instance.
Influencers can help turn followers into visitors
Working with social media influencers is perhaps the smartest use of Instagram for the tourism industry. Central Valley businesses and organizations should make use of bloggers and others with big followings who would be willing to promote the region.
Here are some examples of how to work with social media influencers:
Reality TV stars are some of the most followed influencers on Instagram. Send a popular contestant from The Bachelor or American Idol to experience the Sacramento River Train or tour historic Old Town Clovis, and their followers are likely to follow suit. Pun intended.
Well-known videographers make good use of Instagram’s video and story features to drive views. Area parks and farms could work with a videographer to explore agricultural landscapes and farmers’ markets located in Modesto or Merced.
“Mommy bloggers” are some of the original influencers on Instagram, and many have over one million followers. Sponsor one of these bloggers—or partner with a Central Valley-based influencer—to visit the remarkable Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno or take a camping trip to the nearby Bass Lake. Some mommy bloggers get thousands of likes per post and can almost guarantee a boost in tourism to wherever they roam.
When all is said and done, the Central Valley has so much to offer, and its tourism industry could be attracting thousands more visitors per year with a little help from Instagram.