Once in a while, I like to experiment with storytelling formats on Instagram. So when I went on a cycling trip in Normandy (France) this summer, I decided to share my updates in a different way. Instead of the occasional update where I post my favourite shots from the trip, I decided to switch it up and post a travel diary for a week. Every post or ‘entry’ in my feed chronicled one day of that trip in Normandy. Sometimes I split the entry in two parts: morning and afternoon, simply because there was too much to tell. Was it a success? I think so! Will I stick to the travel diary format forever? Nope, definitely not. Will I give it another try? Probably! On some levels it worked well, on other levels it didn’t do my story justice. Here’s what I learned from posting a travel diary on Instagram.
- Posting everyday improves consistency
- You’re forced to look for the highlights in everyday life
- You’re posting with purpose, not just randomly
- Easy to create a visual narrative for your caption with the slider
- Great micro-blogging tool to build a step-by-step skeleton for potential article
- Attention spans on Instagram are often too short for appreciating multiple moments in one post
- Longer, cluttered captions about your whole day means less engagement
- Bloggers: posting your whole trip doesn’t leave much to the imagination, will your audience still read your longer article?
The Pros: What I Liked About Posting a Travel Diary on Instagram
I’ll start with sharing the positives. Interestingly, there were quite a few things about the travel diary format that helped me get the most out of my Instagram posts on a personal level:
Posting highlights everyday improves your consistency
First of all, one thing I really, really liked about the travel diary format is that it forced me to sit for a minute, think about the day and note down the highlights that put a smile on my face. This format is very effective in helping you stay consistent and post with purpose everyday.
The fact that you’re sharing your favourite memories is a big plus in my book as well. Instagram is already a place where we carefully curate and post our highlights, and it’s usually just the polished shots that make it to my feed. I try escape that mindset. Still, the numbers can be persuasive: before I post a certain photo, I often already know how many likes it will eventually get. The picture-perfect postcards tend to perform much better.
In this case, I really appreciated how the travel diary counter-acted that a little bit. Maybe I didn’t take a mind-blowing shot that day, but I still needed and wanted to post an entry about what happened on the road. So I did, because I promised myself and my audience.
Using the photo slider helps create a visual narrative
For this style of travel diary, I also discovered the slider function was a great option to create a narrative and tell the visual side of the stories I shared in my captions. The longer caption needed to cover multiple things that happened that day and using several photos was the best way to properly illustrate my journey. I didn’t post a single, hyper-curated shot, but used the slider to share a lot more photos and videos than usual. Many of them were lovely, imperfect photos that otherwise wouldn’t have made it to my feed (and what a waste that would have been).
Instead of the one classic shot, the slider allowed me to show Normandy from many more angles without feeling like I was flooding my followers’ feeds with France, France and another serving of France.
If I’m going to spend a lot of time posting content on Instagram, I always want it to benefit my own platform in some kind of way.
The Travel Diary Format is an Excellent Micro-Blogging Tool
This pro might only be relevant if you’re a blogger or writer, but I can’t help but mention it. I’ve always seen Instagram as a great opportunity for micro-blogging your content. I sometimes look at every post on Instagram as a mini blog post. If I’m going to spend a lot of time posting content on Instagram, I always want it to benefit my own platform (this website) in some kind of way.
I usually share a thought and photo on Instagram and see how people respond to it. This helps me decide what to write a longer post about on my actual blog. In this case, however, I already knew I was going to write a longer article about my cycling trip in Normandy. So instead, it helped me actually work out my article step by step.
When you’re micro-blogging about your trip in a travel diary format, you’re basically creating a skeleton for your longer article that you can easily flesh out later. You’ve already written down the most important information and edited the accompanying photos. You’ve laid out the foundation for your article bit by bit on Instagram, which makes it so much easier and less daunting to start writing your 1000-2000 words article.
The Cons: How the Travel Diary Worked Against Me
So, although the travel diary format was a great exercise for me personally, I have to remain critical. Of course it’s most important that you yourself are satisfied with what you’re posting on social media. Still, there’s always your audience to keep in mind. How did they respond to the travel diary?
Longer, cluttered captions means less engagement
One thing I quickly noticed is that the longer captions weren’t as effective in terms of engagement. For my entries, I felt the need to share multiple moments from one day. This resulted in several ‘messages’ in one caption (ideally, one caption should have one concise message). Longer captions can still be very effective in terms of generating engagement, as long as it’s communicating one clear message or question. This wasn’t the case for my diary. A lot can happen in one day.
Mind the Instagram attention span
Here’s a crucial lesson that I sometimes forget: content consumption styles are different on every platform. Somebody reading my blog will expect longer articles and is probably looking for more in-depth stories. Somebody scrolling through their Instagram feed isn’t necessarily looking for an elaborate diary entry with 5-10 photos. They’re usually just browsing and killing their time. If a reader sees a big, intimidating chunk of text, they’re less likely to engage and react to whatever you’re trying to say.
Attention spans on Instagram are usually too short for multiple moments collected in one single post. You can’t expect people to take the time to fully appreciate all that content. When I decide to do another travel diary on Instagram, I’m going to stick to bite-sized or medium-length captions and no more than five accompanying photos.
Shorter captions and fewer photos also leave a bit more to the imagination, which helps in case you’re writing a longer blog post. If you’ve already spilled all of the beans on Instagram, why would people take the time to read your article? Not many will want to see the same thing twice.
Have you ever tried the travel diary format on Instagram? Or did my Instagram experiment motivate you to give it a try yourself? I’m curious about your experiences, so let me know in the comment section below!