Behind the lens: Lauren Bath on creating meaningful connections through Instagram

Acclaimed photographer Lauren Bath is a speaker at the event. Source: Lauren Bath Services

INSTAGRAM is awash with sunrises against mountainous silhouettes, bronzed bodies sprawled on sand and flatlays of colorful dishes “effortlessly” laid out. It’s all in the game.

In fact, a recent report indicated millennials – the most intensively analyzed generation in just about any hospitality or travel sector – are now also keen to select destinations on their “instagrammability”.

In other words, millennials are likely to look beyond price points and convenience when shopping for vacation spots, and may instead select one based purely on its aesthetics – ie. how many picturesque shots they’d be able to post on social media.

SEE ALSO: For millennials, instagrammability most important factor in travel decisions

This comes as no surprise to Lauren Bath, social media marketer and professional Instagrammer based in Australia, who will be speaking at The Travel Industry Exhibition & Conference in Sydney next month.

“It’s a strange world we live in. People just really want to show they have amazing lives on social media, and a part of that comes down to having great images of great holidays, and great friends, and great times,” she told Travel Wire Asia.

Bath now has close to half a million followers on Instagram, a figure she’s been chasing for nearly seven years by way of stunning travel photos, relevant engagement and a clear-cut theme.

In 2013, when her followers hit the 200,000 mark, she quit her day job to become “Australia’s first professional Instagrammer”, a title that put her ahead of the pack.

Thereon, she founded Lauren Bath Services, a company dedicated to social media consultancy, working with clients and educating influencers about social media marketing.

It started out with her working on the tourism board as an influencer or destination marketer, which meant she would visit a destination, take pictures and share them on Instagram to raise awareness.

“I work with tourism boards predominantly, any sort of tourism boards. Big ones like Tourism Australia down to smaller regional and state tourism boards. I [also] work with tourism operators and hotel chains down to smaller operators like whale-watching tours,” she said.

Some of the brands she has worked with include Olympus and Visa, and she doesn’t endorse those that don’t gel with her values and travel lifestyle.

After much success, Bath’s scope quickly evolved to include client trips and project management where she found herself facilitating trips for groups of photographers and public speaking on Instagram marketing.

Last year, she launched a conference to teach her peers about how to penetrate the Instagram marketing industry, and ultimately, how to gain followers and monetize from reach.

“Awareness is the main goal [for clients] but what I do as a part of my package is I teach my clients about Instagram marketing so they walk away with a lot of education,” she said.

SEE ALSO: How Instagram is changing the way we travel

But in a social media landscape inundated with good-looking photos, has influence and reach lost its meaning?

“Influence is a very intangible word. It’s hard to define but it’s really just a combination of the trust of your audience and the reach of your audience,” Bath explained.

To make sure she strikes genuine relationships with her followers and are listening to them, she’s had “countless conversations, coffees and phone calls” as well as comments going back and forth with many of them.

“All of these relationships I’ve built on Instagram, they are a relationship of trust. People feel they know me when I talk about the activities I’m doing, the destinations I’m in, the brands I’m working with,” she said.

“One of my goals is to take pictures other people can relate to. For me, it’s not about fine art photography and it’s not about perfect images. It’s about capturing a destination as I am experiencing it in a way other people could also experience it.”

With the Instagram travel community getting more and more saturated, Bath isn’t too worried about being overshadowed or losing relevance.

“You’re looking for real conversations between real people. And relationships that run deeper than just a ‘like’,” she said.

Because of what Bath is able to offer both online and offline, she’s able to sustain a career that’s viable and fulfilling, and we might add, largely enviable.