The exclusivity of travel, which was once confined to our Television sets, books and magazines is now presenting itself onto the screens of our devices through the bridge that is social media. Painting a vivid picture using new means of storytelling that is both immersive and innovative, it has empowered every single one of us to share our experiences with the world in a matter of seconds.
You’d agree we’ve been vicarious travelers forever. Earlier it was through books and TV with channels fighting for a suitably differentiated story to tell. Nat Geo won hands down because it showed you the wild like never before and cultures you never knew existed.
New ones came along with a ‘reality show’ kind of travel, into cities you hadn’t explored before. And today experiential destinations get the share of eyeballs. Travel is such a great job to have or rather a great passion to have. Everyone wants to be out there, reporting. And that’s where social media really ups the game.
Changing Narrative of Travel stories
We’ve always loved to share our holiday tales. Just a decade ago, travel photographs & videos were the 1st entry point for most people in our social circle, to know about the amazing getaway we had. Well you still had to wait to see the photo album. Now, few cameras have inbuilt links to our social media profile. And well, in just a jiffy we can upload good quality pictures. Even from a DSLR. Of course phones have been doing that for a while, blessed as we are with devices that have good lens & great mega pixels. But a DSLR? With the lighting just perfect!!! Am not even getting into editing tools here.
The truth is, this mad rush to make travel sexy started with our profiles (social media/DPs) that needed constant updates. Something fresh. And just like that, cameras and phones adapted. The old economy that presented ‘captured moments’ as perfect shots suddenly became casual, everyday, unexpected and more importantly on the go. And voila, budding photographers and visual storytellers were found in each of us.
Content found myriad, even live channels
While every trip entices you with new activities, some things have stayed more or less the same. Take for example the landscape or then cultural symbols, social mores and even the beaches. But there is one difference. Now, your audience back home is waiting and the theatre is full. All you have to do is decide which film or picture or act you want to put out there, to get them to engage.
You start with creating anticipation even as you leave your city, with your location status. Then Facebook Live and Instagram Stories invites others to experience where you are and what you do. Right then & there. Think about the hottest travel accessory these days, namely GoPro, that can shoot a video of say rafting in Zambezi river with Grade 3 rapids or a biker on a roadtrip in Spiti Valley. And not just friends but all who love adventure sports can see it when it’s uploaded on YouTube. What a world! One that makes you live vicariously, but you feel like you are right there.
Just like being in a simulator.
I know this is just the technology bit. So let’s look at how travel storytelling has changed simply because the visual world got magnified.
Content got dramatic, even 360
I recently had a 25 something tell me the speed at which she runs through her Facebook newsfeed, only to be stopped on her tracks by a stunning image. So think about the drone that accompanies many a honeymooner and even those who have a thing for aerial photography. Have you ever walked through streets knowing they’d look fabulous if only you could get a view from a tower above? The drone is your answer.
And let’s not forget the new Facebook 360 that asks you to move your phone around so you can get the complete picture. Want more drama? Cinemagraphs invite you to do just that with video. Actually it let’s you edit it into a Photo+Video for a wow effect.
Now here’s something even more interesting. Look at what all of the above has done for the traveler and the audience consuming it, before the travel and even after returning from a trip.
Content had made us surprise ourselves, even get immersive
How many of you these days do a road trip more often or then stay in a town that gives you an experience rather than pack in ‘things to see’ on a holiday?
Planning a trip has changed, because the way travel stories are told has found the ‘explorer’ but more importantly the ‘lover’ in the everyday Joe & Jane. These two archetypes are from a book on human behavior that describes our deepest, truest desires. ‘Explorers’ crave for independence and in travel speak they custom make trips with travel agents or then plan things themselves. The ‘Lover’ though is seeking to soak it all in. Which means a lot more time is spent to have richer, engaging experiences.
In a random chat with a few families and couples for one of our travel clients we gathered that reading travelers stories are a big inspiration. Seen in travel blogs/vlogs, loaded with beautiful pictures and descriptions about experiences old and new, they influence how people are traveling these days. As a blogger myself I’ve recently had a few people write in to me about some of my posts on Spain, which had featured a couple of enchanting experiences/trips that happened by default and about my vegetarian food fiesta in that land. In a couple of mails they were convinced enough to spend the holiday deep diving into the land rather than hop from city to city. And yes, hit the road too.
This is truly an amazing time to be a traveler and to be in the business of travel too. Technology may be accused of many things but when it comes to travel, the magic of thrill+sharing+engagement will make a wanderer of everyone.
The article has been written by Sandhya Srinivasan, Chief Strategy Officer & Managing Partner at Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi. As a culture traveller, social observer and a firm believer in purposive storytelling, Sandhya has partnered brands and businesses in creating Lovemarks.