Retailer Herschel Supply Company’s #WellTravelled hashtag attracts millions of users from around the world and has become a shining example for how to do effective marketing on Instagram.
Here’s a Q&A interview with Herschel’s community manager, Sheila Lam and global marketing director, Mikey Scott, to chat about the strategy behind this powerful hashtag.
How has social media played a role in the development of your brand story?
It was pretty natural. Instagram had just started blossoming. We were already on Facebook, but didn’t really have official Pages. So we reserved all the names. We said, let’s wait a second until we know what we want to do. We knew we wanted to celebrate our photography, which we already celebrate internally.
We started showing how we travel through our community of users, which created momentum for a travel vibe. We elevated that into #WellTravelled and now #CityLimitless. We’ve built other different storytelling platforms and content series through different partnerships, too.
Can you tell us a little bit about the #WellTravelled hashtag and the story behind it?
The #WellTravelled hashtag is a route of escapism on Instagram for us. We can showcase not only where our product goes, but the stories and people behind it.
The hashtag allows you to see the world from your phone. So we promote far off destinations. We’ve got a great series in the Faroe Islands and Fez, along with places that are little more well-known like Sydney and New York. It’s an inclusive community of people who love to travel.
What do you want people to feel when they’re looking at your #WellTravelled photos?
A sense of wonder. The imagery we promote—both that we’ve produced in-house and the user-generated content—it’s beautiful. It’s a painterly landscape or insane cavernous cliffside. It’s all these moments that take your breath away.
It is difficult to use the user-generated content because the content may not always reflect your brand, but Herschel has done such an amazing job at effectively using customer-submitted content. What’s the process and criteria for choosing what content ends up on the channel?
Our director of photography, Stephen Wilde, has set a precedent of having such amazing visuals. To promote user-generated content, it has to match that. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to curate the images that meet those standards.
Would you say that’s probably one of the biggest ways that you inspire your customers to share great content?
Yeah, absolutely. When you see Herschel you know the quality of content that you’re receiving is at a high level. There’s always consideration behind it—even when it comes from an amateur photographer, it’s about the framing or the subject or how it’s been edited or shot.
It’s all these things that go into making a beautiful image. I don’t want to say that our followers necessarily aspire to us, but they aspire to that. So it’s that quality, that type of content that they they can identify with and want to produce.
The #WellTravelled hashtag is a branded hashtag. Is there a reason that you chose not to include your brand name in the hashtag when you were conceiving it?
I think that instead of getting people to just talk about your brand, they inherently talk about something that’s so embedded inside your brand that it ties back to it. #WellTravelled has 1.8 million hashtags on it and Herschel Supply has 225,000. On the basis of looking at both of them you could say that we’ve created something that’s bigger than our brand, which is pretty awesome. And it’s the same thing with #CityLimitless.
We really looked at, first of all, the whole purpose of a hashtag and what people do when they go through it. A hashtag lets people direct back to your brand without you having to advertise the name of your brand. It allows people to become a part of a movement versus just a number one brand fan. I think launching these types of hashtags creates a path for people to be involved in your brand and all the moments that come with it.
On the topic of world travel—you guys have become a pretty global brand in the last few years. Does your strategy and content differ from region to region?
We are in just under 80 countries and over 180 territories. That’s great for a seven-year-old brand. That being said, we have great partners in all these regions and we need to give them a strategy to localize. Somewhere along the line, being global and acting local became hard.
We need to make sure that we’re engaging and working with different types of partners. We’ve started different hashtags where it’s Herschel Supply HK for Hong Kong, Herschel Supply PH for Philippines, and we’re actually searching those to pull content from.
We’re trying to keep things consistent without opening up the floodgates to have a page for this, a page for that, a profile for this, a profile for that. We want to make sure that there’s that red thread. If someone who travels starts out on the other side of the world and they make it over to this side, our brand looks the same, but there is a little bit of a nuance that they can see and understand.