Craft viral travel content with these 5 tips

If you want to take off on social media, focus on weird, inspiring or unique topics. Also, feature cute animals whenever possible.


How can travel publishers, brands and communicators make sure that their content arrives at a fruitful destination on social media?

Analyzing the data behind the top travel content trends is a smart place to start.

Parsing social media data from September through November of last year, we examined the top trends in travel content across Facebook, Instagram and throughout the web.

Our team determined:

  • The top platforms for travel content
  • Which publishers created the most viral travel stories and posts
  • The impact of current events in top travel content
  • How travel brands are creating buzz on Facebook and Instagram
  • Which travel influencers are tops on Instagram

Here’s what we found:

1. Cute animal stories are still internet gold.

There are precious few things we agree on in this world, but adorable animals might be the most reliable.

Bored Panda scored with two notable travel stories featuring cuddly critters in 2017. This article about a man selling his possessions to travel with his cat drove more than 271,000 engagements across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Meanwhile, this delightful story about an adventurous hedgehog just about broke the internet.

The takeaway here: You can’t go wrong by creating content that features cute animals.

2. Don’t shy away from current events.

Newsjacking is an effective traffic-boosting tactic, but use discretion when deciding whether it’s appropriate to create content tied to major news events. Don’t try to capitalize on tragedy or score cheap publicity points. Instead, look for opportunities to create genuine, uplifting storytelling moments that will resonate with your audience.

This story about airlines showing a bit of compassion amid the chaos of Hurricane Irma drove more than 303,000 engagements, primarily on Facebook.

Stories about cutting-edge technology and futuristic travel trends tend to perform well, too. This article about the proposed “Hyperloop” garnered more than 20,000 shares on LinkedIn.

Articles about millennials are also perennially popular. This piece about millennials’ vacation habits sparked about 13,000 shares on LinkedIn.

3. Find the human element.

People like to read stories about people. The more fascinating, unique and inspiring, the better.

Stories that pack an emotional punch are always a safe bet. This BBC piece about Italy’s last sea silk seamstress drove more than 120,000 engagements, and the video has drawn more than 12.4 million views.

This quirky story drove more than 211,000 engagements. Who said airports have to be boring?

4. Point out the weird and wonderful.

Rather than writing a straightforward travel guide, dig deeper to uncover what makes a destination noteworthy.

This New York Times story about Ethiopia’s magnificent, ancient churches was the top tweeted travel article during the time period we analyzed. The powerful visuals, paired with a fascinating, unexpected topic, made for a social media home run.

Superlatives are another tactic to pair up with destination-focused content. This Guardian article about Scotland being deemed the most beautiful country drove nearly 142,000 engagements. Going out on a limb to name something the best, worst, most beautiful, ugliest or most punctual is a surefire way to get clicks.

5. We don’t (necessarily) hate brand stories.

Branded content gets a bad rap, but a great story is a great story.

So far, this has been the year of the “woke” brand. Organizations are embracing a more vocal, active form of corporate citizenship that emphasizes compassion and empathy.

This story about Royal Caribbean’s efforts to help storm victims drove 431,000 engagements, and an article about Southwest rescuing displaced animals went viral as well.

Today’s consumers expect companies to be more than silent institutions. Most consumers prefer brands that take a stand on important social issues. Being outspoken can backfire and alienate some customers, of course, but there are risks in trying to remain neutral, too.

Branded stories don’t have to be edgy, though. This article showing Southwest employees having a bit of fun garnered more than 303,000 engagements on the web.

There’s no magic formula to going viral on social media, but following the lead of these examples is a solid place to start.

Gabriele Boland is NewsWhip’s manager of content strategy. A version of this post first appeared on the NewsWhip blog.

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