United has been active on Instagram since December of 2012, and has worked since the start to find an identity that created interesting content while also integrating the brand, products, and logos. Initially United posted a wide range of content covering topics including events, sponsorships, photos of employees, and even behind-the-scene shots of its Network Operations Center. In 2016, United decided to focus its Instagram presence to become a visual hub that inspires travelers and connects them to their passion points. The objective became to give the United Instagram presence a new persona as the perfect "travel companion" and to provide followers with distinctive content that met what they desired.
Instagram is an inherently visual platform, which lends itself greatly to the spirit of travel and content focused on destinations and exploration. While this content does thrive, it is difficult to make it ownable and unique for a brand. As a result there are millions of beautiful travel shots on Instagram that receive tons of likes but are not distinctive to the accounts that post them. To create a unique content positioning that filled the desires of United and our followers, we tapped into a pre-existing social media community: AvGeeks.
"AvGeeks" are aviation enthusiasts, or avid fans of airplanes and aviation in general. These people love to take and see beautiful pictures of airplanes and aviation technology, and will often post their own photos on Instagram with the #avgeek tag attached. With United's Instagram presence, we saw the opportunity to galvanize the AvGeek community by utilizing the #avgeek tag and rewarding the best content creators with praise and recognition by reposting their User Generated Content (UGC) on our official page. In order to collect this UGC, we created an operational model internally where we were able to sort, choose, and obtain approval for the #avgeek content from our followers that we felt fit best with our visual theme. We also integrated #avgeek into our Hemispheres publication, creating greater awareness of the hashtag and establishing #avgeek content creation as a part of the in-flight experience.
By focusing on #avgeek content, we were able to create visual and thematic consistency on United's Instagram and appeal to a dedicated social media community which had previously been underserved by branded accounts.
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