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Social media is an extremely powerful but frequently misunderstood and all too often underestimated tool for travel writers. From Facebook to Tumblr, Instagram to TikTok, and beyond, there is a spiraling list of platforms designed to connect us with the people, trends, and topics we love. Unfortunately, many travel writers balk at the idea of choosing which social media platform to advertise themselves on. They’re wary of spending precious time building a page. They shouldn’t be.

Lee van Katwyk

When it comes to social media, there’s no time like today to get started. The sooner you begin, the quicker those important new connections will be made and the more interest your work can accrue—think of your page as an online portfolio. The great news is that you don’t need to be a social media guru to launch yourself toward virtual success. Whether you’re an Instagram savant or you rarely have time to play with your personal Facebook page, these hot tips will get you five steps ahead on your social game.

1. Play to your strengths

As a travel writer, your foremost strength should be writing. So, you’ll want to start by investing your time in a platform that allows you to showcase those wordsmith skills. Facebook is a great platform for this because it’s a community where people are often happy to get sunk into verbose posts. Whereas Instagram’s audience, unless you’re already a celebrity in your own right, is a harder bunch to convince to stick around and read after they’ve noticed your picture. Facebook also has more users than any other platform, with 2.6 billion active monthly users, so you’ve already got yourself a higher potential reach.

2. Make your posts easy to read

Think of your photo/video as the bait that will lure the audience in, your writing alongside is the hook that keeps them interested. Anybody can post a photo of themselves typing away on an exotic beach, but can you be witty, informative, relevant, or all three to go alongside? What’s your writing angle that’s going to hook the audience in and keep them following your account? Whatever your unique selling point, just remember to keep those adjoining paragraphs short, two or three sentences max. If you make those post too bulky, no matter how juicy your bait, it soon becomes an unswallowable hook.

3. Mix up your posts.

Don’t just post about your writing work. Mix it up. Our lives, especially as travel writers, should be diverse and interesting. So let your audience in at every level of the adventure. By all means, share a link to your latest work, but in between those publications, you should be giving your audience a sneak peek behind the scenes. Show and tell them about that sweaty ride on a Nicaraguan chicken bus, take some snaps and describe what it’s like partying it up in Bali, or simply just detail your downtime back at home. Your audience wants to come along for the ride, through the highs and lows of life as a travel writer, so give them a little bit of everything you experience. You will soon be rewarded.

4. Endeavor to engage the audience.

Always remember, it’s called social media, not “show-off” media. You’re on the platform to engage with those who follow you, to be social. Make sure you reply to every comment no matter how trivial. If someone leaves you an emoji, at the very least give them a like. If someone comments on your post, take the time and make the effort to leave an equally compelling reply. And, at least once a week, send out a call-to-action; ask your audience about their favorite travel location, or ask them to vote on the world’s most exciting continent.

5. Pick your best post and boost.
Social media times have changed. A decade ago, any number of your posts could have been picked up in the whirlwind of virality and lifted to the lofty heights of thousands of likes and shares. But today, social media companies have become savvy about our desires for virtual fame and fortune. They’ve put algorithms in place that make it hard to “organically” (without paid promotion) achieve these viral feats. It’s a bummer. But we have to work with the system we’re given. So, once a month, pick your favorite post and pay 10 or 20 bucks to boost it out toward a new audience segment. This isn’t a surefire key to viral success but it’s your best chance at bringing in a steady stream of new followers.