What happens when you see a great photo of a family in a boat out on the water, kids grinning, dad behind the wheel, mom looking like she’s having the time of her life? You think to yourself, “Gosh, I wish I was out there.”

That’s the power of a great photo to fuel the imagination.

And that’s the power of Instagram as a marketing tool for boating companies. It’s why we recommend that our clients focus their social media marketing efforts on this platform.

Why Instagram?

  1. Because it’s an innately visual medium. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram was built as a tool for sharing photos.
  2. Because it offers boat company marketers the right demographics. Snapchat, also highly visual, skews heavily under 30 and heavily female. (And we doubt that your target audience is a just-out-of-college gal.) More guys use Instagram than Snapchat, and 59% of Instagram users are age 30 and up.
  3. See No. 1.

Instagram is wildly popular among enthusiasts of active sports like boating and fishing because it matches the visual nature of the activities. So Instagram is where you need to be, too, with three key objectives:

  • Sharing images and stories that capture the active lifestyle that your boats enable paints a picture in a customer’s eyes of what their life might look like if they owned one.
  • Enticing new buyers and keeping fans engaged with your brand.
  • Positioning your brand as a connected member of the boating community.

What Makes a Great Instagram Photo?

What would you rather frame to hang on your wall: A photo of you and your fishing buddies in your shallow-water skiff or a shot of the boat on a trailer in your driveway?

Exactly.

A great Instagram photo for a brand like yours allows viewers to picture themselves using your boat. Take a look at Pursuit Boats on Instagram — every third shot or so is a lifestyle image, so users can easily imagine themselves being in a beautiful place with their family out on the water or fishing with their friends. Other images show off details like console layouts, finishes, and the craftsmanship that goes into their products. Pursuit has nearly 20,000 followers on Instagram — and I’m guessing they’re not all Pursuit owners, but they love the boating lifestyle and what Pursuit shares.

What Should Your Visual Strategy Be?

Align a visual style with your brand’s persona. We encourage our clients to invest in a library of high-quality video and photos they can use in a multitude of ways, from social media to printed brochures to web galleries. Develop a mix of stock product shots and lifestyle imagery. Hire a skilled marine photographer, book three or four days in the Keys and get some great material.

We recently helped our client Beavertail Skiffs launch an innovative new crossover fishing/hunting boat, and we saw a tremendous spike in traffic to their site from just a few Instagram posts showing the Predator in action. Intersperse these kinds of professional photos with candid images shot by your team. The original premise of the platform was to make you feel like a pro when you post, so you can have some variety in your visuals and still be strategic.

How do You Caption & Tag Images?

Captions provide commentary about a photo or video; hashtags allow users — especially those who don’t already follow you — to find your posts.

In your captions, be thoughtful, personable and on-brand. Paint a picture that embellishes the moment in the photo. Let people get to know your brand and the people who surround it: your ambassadors, the captains and anglers associated with your brand.

Hashtags are critical to build your following. Search other brands in your space and prominent boating and fishing personalities and see what they’re using to tag their photos. Consider what people would search to find a photo like the one you’re posting; it could be three tags or a dozen. Some brands use informal hashtags like #skiffporn to be cheeky. Just keep it on brand.

Instagram is like a family album for boating enthusiasts; it allows users to virtually share a fishing day with their online friends even though they’re not together. We don’t recommend ignoring other social channels entirely, but Facebook and especially Twitter aren’t visual enough. And without visuals, what do you have left? You can only talk about your technical specs for so long.


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