How Travel Manitoba Reveals Its Hidden Beauty through Instagram

If social media activity could serve as a measure for civic pride, then you’d be hard pressed to find a Canadian province whose residents are more proud than Manitobans.

Ranked 6th by population amongst the country’s 13 provinces and territories, and boasting little more than 3.5% of the country’s overall headcount, according to the 2016 census, its citizenry have produced some of the most spectacular images and social media content of Canadian life one can find on the internet.

Support from Fellow Manitobans is Key

We have a very tapped-in local community; they’re very eager to share with us,” said Nisha Tuli, the Senior Content Marketing Manager for Travel Manitoba. “I think a lot of it comes from the younger demographic who are growing up here realizing this is a really awesome place and want to show it off.”

That highly engaged community of citizens and amateur photographers has become a vital resource for Travel Manitoba, which boasts nearly 60,000 followers on its Instagram channel. Though historically not a top destination for first-time visitors, the Travel Manitoba marketing team hopes its social media efforts will show visitors in neighboring provinces and beyond what they’re missing, while helping to build engagement and pride among its locals.

Their Instagram is largely used to showcase the best shots of anything tagged with the #ExploreMB hashtag, ranging from beluga whales and the Northern Lights to ballparks and local foodie hotspots.

Travel Manitoba isn’t the only one pushing these breathtaking images to the world through social media. Some of its most prominent contributors have huge followings of their own, and the sharing of resources helps bolster the profiles of both parties.

“When we share someone’s photos and they thank us and tag us it just helps perpetuate our content through their friends and followers,” explains Tuli.

The destination marketing organization appreciated one of its regular social media contributors so much that they recently hired him as an in-house digital content specialist. The new hire, Austin MacKay, regularly shares breathtakingly beautiful (and often seemingly impossible to capture) images of his native province with the 18,000 followers of his Instagram account.

“We’ve been following his work and we know he knows and loves this province, and sure enough he’ll be starting with us in a couple of weeks,” said Tuli.

Instagram is Relevant Beyond Social Media

T o further engage with their online community the destination marketing organization has run various social media contests and campaigns using user-generated content, decorating blog posts, visitor guides and calendars with images acquired from social media.

Breanne Sewards, Travel Manitoba’s Editorial Content Specialist writes content for their blog, ManitobaHot, taking good advantage of Instagram photos.

“Making those galleries for the blog with CrowdRiff has been a huge time saver, because before we had to sort through all the Facebook pages of various businesses to find usable shots. Now if I want to write about ’10 Restaurants to Eat At This Summer’ I just look up each restaurant on CrowdRiff and I can easily compile a gallery of nice food shots with user-generated content.”

Travel Manitoba is also working on publishing a new magazine using some of those eye-catching social media shots, and continues to find unique ways to bring its online presence to life in the non-digital world.

“A couple of years ago there was a coffee table Instagram book made with something like 200 photos,” said Tuli, adding that the book was given away to media and other visitors as a free promotional item. “To this day people are still asking for them, and we’ve run out.”

Travel Manitoba is now in the process of curating more images in order to put together another book in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation.

“Throughout the year we’ve been collecting photos, and the idea is to put that into a book at the end of the year,” said Tuli. “People loved the first book so much we may have to consider selling the next one,” she joked.

The Trick to Curating an Wanderlust-Worthy Feed

While the local community produces some amazing content it is ultimately up to Travel Manitoba’s staff to curate these images onto its channels and build them out with supporting content.

“I have to weigh beauty versus originality, so if it’s something I’ve never seen on Instagram before then I’ll definitely try and post it, even if it’s not the best photo — whereas if it’s something iconic it has to be really good to be posted,” said Sewards, adding that the account has been tagged in over 200,000 photos.

“We also like to try and have a variety of urban and rural, outdoor versus indoor,” adds Tuli. “We’re very aware of that aspect when we do any kind of content.”

The Travel Manitoba curating effort has been so successful that it received CrowdRiff’s 2017 VIZZI Award for Visual Influence in the “Best Social Media Visuals” category.

“We feel pretty good about our Instagram account right now,” said Tuli. “It’s definitely our fastest growing social channel and the one that gets the most engagement. It’s also very positive and loving community, which isn’t always the case on social media.”

For a destination that has always struggled for recognition amongst better known Canadian destinations, Sewards and Tuli hope the growing social media buzz can help show potential visitors the unparalleled splendor of Manitoba, while continuing to grow civic pride and engagement amongst its locals.

This article was originally published on the CrowdRiff blog on June 20, 2017.