Photo Credit Ian Beckley @bklyphoto
By Ian Beckley
Simply Social Media Content Specialist and Photographer
Every year thousands of people come together to see over 500 massive hot air balloons fill the sky in the Land of Enchantment for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! From the standard multi colored balloons to crazy special shapes such as Darth Vader and Yoda, this event is a one of a kind and a totally worthwhile trip to make! With over 800,000 visitors in 2018, the Balloon Fiesta is the most photographed event on the planet and the largest in all of New Mexico. After attending for the last five years, and taking photos of the last two, I have curated a list of some very helpful tips to get the most out of your hot air balloon experience!
TIP #1: Get there early! This is the most photographed event in the world and brings hundreds of thousands of people every year. I recommend getting to the park around 5 am to avoid lines and traffic! Besides beating traffic, there are a few other benefits to being at the park before anyone else. If you would like to take photos of the balloons and don't have a camera, or want to try a new camera, Canon has a booth where they rent out cameras for free to anyone with a driver's license. These rentals are first come, first serve and they will run out so being there early will make sure you can take advantage of their amazing offer.
TIP #2: Know where to take photos in Balloon Fiesta Park! The image below was taken in the southwest corner of the park where there are some pools of water that will get you a really great reflection in your photos! This is one of the newest ways to get a unique perspective of the balloons for your images. On the north end of the park there is a hill that sits about 25 feet higher than the field below giving you unobstructed views of the balloons and some pretty cool perspectives! For anyone not familiar with their sense of direction in Albuquerque, the mountains are to the east as a landmark to help you orient yourself!
TIP #3: Stay warm! During Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque really starts to cool down and you need to dress the part. I recommend layers! Long pants, a warm hoodie, and a beanie or scarf to keep your head warm is ideal! Bring a backpack to store your layers because when the sunrises it will warm up and you don't want to be too hot! If you need even more of a boost in the morning make sure to head straight to the Pinon Coffee booth when you get through the entrance for a needed caffeine boost!
TIP #4: Go outside of Balloon Fiesta Park! Once you get a day or two inside of the park, right in the middle of the action, we recommend going to a few other spots to watch the balloons ascend! The two main locations I like are: West Bluff Park (2408 Alamogordo Dr NW Albuquerque, NM 87120, United States) and Oxbow Bluff (Near 4808 Namaste Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120, United States). These locations offer you some of the best views of sunrise with the hundreds of balloons rising up in the sky. On top of that, both these locations are right by the river so you can see the balloons do a "dip" down into the river!
TIP #5: Know which way to get to the event and where to park! There are two ways to get to the park by vehicle - drive or take the shuttle. While taking a shuttle can be a fun way to get there at first, it is not the most efficient process. If you are driving, we recommend taking the northern entrance near Tramway Blvd for quicker access. Due to much less traffic coming from the north this entrance tends to be much quicker than the south entrance off Alameda.
ALSO don't forget cash for parking! Usually it is about $10 a car so get some friends and carpool.
For the weekend of March 1 through March 3, 2019, Simply Social Media brought ten Instagram Micro-Influencers from northern New Mexico to Sunrise Springs Spa Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a weekend staycation influencer event.
Sunrise Springs Spa Resort’s Marketing Goals:
Increase awareness of their resort to northern NM community.
Promote their all-inclusive packages to encourage staycations.
Simply Social Media invited local influencers who had a focus on heathy eating and wellness. These influencers were all located in northern New Mexico, specifically Santa Fe or Albuquerque.
Knew about Sunrise Springs Before this Event
Had Been to Sunrise Springs Before this Event
Had Stayed at Sunrise Springs Before this Event
Out of the ten Instagram influencers brought to Sunrise Springs Spa Resort for this event: one person had not heard of Sunrise Springs before, six people had never been to Sunrise Springs before, and none of the ten people had stayed overnight at Sunrise Springs before.
This experience was based on Sunrise Springs Spa Resort’s Sunrise Spa Cleanse all-inclusive package. Each Instagram influencer was given a personalized itinerary of experiential activities to attend during their staycation. Examples of these activities included: a sweat lodge session, a class on the cleansing qualities of Ayurvedic herbs, an Ojitos tub soaking experience, a CBD massage therapy treatment, a private session with animal communicator Claudia Mardel, and more!
Executive Chef Rocky Durham prepared a raw vegan menu for our influencers to enjoy during their staycation.
Influencers stayed overnight in Sunrise Springs Spa resort’s luxurious Casitas.
Fifty one Instagram posts, which included 89 photos or videos, were created by 14 unique accounts using the #SeasonalSunrise hashtag. Engagement on these posts consisted of 8,269 likes and 633 comments. The hashtag potentially reached* 78,388 people and made approximately 282,391 impressions** during the time period of March 1 to March 17, 2019.
All attendees created Instagram stories which typically disappear after 24 hours. Currently, 61 Stories remain viewable within saved highlights.
The 89 images and videos posted to Instagram are now available to Sunrise Springs so they may repurpose the user generated content on social media.
Instagram trends come and go but the giant square grid trend on Instagram is one we wish would disappear and NEVER come back!
What is a giant square grid?
The giant square grid is when one square photo is cut into nine individual segments and each one of those squares is its own photo to post on Instagram.
Why do people like it?
When these posts are planned out into an Instagram posting strategy, they look like giant photos when you are viewing that user’s profile.
Why do we not recommend it?
First, when these separate photos get posted to Instagram, it is nine photos posted back to back within a few minutes. We do not recommend posting more than one time per day. Posting nine photos in one day is not ideal.
Second, your followers are not going to see these images in order on their feeds. What they’ll end up seeing is a random order of posts from the nine, intermingled with posts from other accounts that they follow.
Third, photos that do not make sense as standalone pictures will not get good engagement and therefor bring down the potential success of your other posts. Instagram’s algorithm is constantly changing but what seems to be consistent is that posts that are performing better will be shown to more people. This could negatively effect posts you do after the grid.
Fourth, if you want your feed to look good all the time, you’ll need to be extra aware of the content you schedule and make sure to time the posts in numbers of 3.
What should you do if you have giant square grid posts on your account?
This is completely up to you! Depending on how long ago you posted these images, they may not be delivering to your follower’s feeds anymore with the algorithm. If you added hashtags or a geotag to your posts, they may still appear when searching through a specific hashtag or geotag, depending on how popular that tag is.
Our recommendation would be to archive or delete these posts. When you archive a post, it is not visible to anyone other than you and you can only see it when viewing all the posts that have been archived.
To archive a post on Instagram:
Tap the post you wish to archive to view it full screen.
Tap the three dots ( . . . ) in the top right corner of the post.
There are very few exceptions!
There are accounts who utilize the grid strategy well. An example is to use the giant square grid to create one cohesive image when you view their feed. This account then does not post more photos to their Instagram account. Instead, they utilize Instagram stories exclusively while maintaining a visually beautiful feed.
“After @SimplySantaFeNM’s feature post, which perfectly portrayed who we are as a business, I immediately noticed an increase in Instagram followers, website traffic, inquiries about classes, and new clients in the studio! With @SimplySantaFeNM’s large and diverse following, the feature brought in new clientele and energy from all over Santa Fe and our amazing neighboring communities. Thank you @SimplySantaFeNM!”
The term “Influencer” has been a buzzword in the social media marketing world for years. Influencer marketing uses individuals with social media followings to help drive the message of a brand. When you break it down, an “influencer” is someone who affects or changes the way that other people behave. And while “more than 50% of Internet users say they follow some sort of celebrity or influencer account on social media,” (Hubspot, 2018). We have found that too many of these “influencers” are inauthentic and not relatable. Micro-influencers are everyday consumers who have a significant and engaged social media following. There are many different definitions of the follower counts that define micro-influencers, but typically it is anywhere between 1,000 and 10,000.
With new changes to the platform taking the "Insta" out of Instagram, we believe it’s more important than ever to create community, connection, and collaboration through social media. We are in the unique position of being influencers ourselves AND working with them for our clients. We want to share our strategy of micro-influencer marketing to encourage genuine, authentic, and approachable partnerships.
Our partnership began when we met on Instagram in December of 2014 and instantly bonded over our love of local community. We started our first Instagram community, @SimplySantaFeNM, with a focus on supporting local businesses, organizations, and events through a grassroots effort of featuring photography from local photographers and businesses that use our hashtag #simplysantafe. Our second Instagram community, @TravelNewMexico, began in May of 2015 and documents our beautiful state of New Mexico by offering guest Instagrammers the chance to do a “takeover” of the account, during which time they share their unique New Mexico road trip experiences through imagery and stories. There is so much beauty and local pride here in New Mexico that this was the perfect way to bring everyone together and bond over storytelling.
In January of 2017, we attended a presentation of La Placa Cohen’s Culture Track 2017. They shared their study of audience behavior to help organizations understand the changing cultural landscape. One of the statistics that stood out to us the most was, “Over ⅓ of Gen Z and Millennials feel that engaging on social media is an act of loyalty.” (La Placa Cohen, 2018). We feel that this statistic not only applies to Gen Z and Millennials, but anyone on social media. If you believe in a business or have a great experience somewhere, sharing about it on your social media channels is a great way of putting your stamp of approval on it and spreading the word to your network. Social media is the new word-of-mouth!
When someone you trust posts on social media about a fabulous experience they had somewhere, or a product they recently purchased that they could not love more, you believe them. It is a true peer-to-peer endorsement in terms of recommendations for places to go, things to do, products to purchase, and most importantly experiences to be had.
Our social media strategy has been to work with our business clients to create unique events, called InstaMeets, that involve micro-influencers. InstaMeets are gatherings of people coming together to create, connect and share an experience through Instagram photography. These events usually involve a behind the scenes tour, access to something that isn’t normally available to the general public, or giveaways of product in support of the promotion. Instagram conceived the idea as a way to bring Instagrammers together in real life and we have evolved this model to benefit both organizations and the micro-influencer community.
In the summer of 2018, we hosted our 4th year of InstaMeets with one of our premiere clients, the Santa Fe Opera. Like many cultural institutions, they are interested in connecting with a new demographic of younger and novice opera goers. We leveraged our local community to bring over 200 local micro-influencers to experience Santa Fe Opera in a way that was second nature to them - through photography. Santa Fe Opera provided backstage tours of their world-renowned campus, exclusive talks with members of their production team, and special reserved seating with non-obstructed view where attendees were not only allowed to photograph the dress rehearsal performance, but highly encouraged. Before we began working with the Marketing and Public Relations team at the Santa Fe Opera, photography of performances by anyone other than their staff photographer was strictly prohibited. To this day the attendees of these InstaMeet events are the only exception to the “no photography” rule. See our case study of this incredibly successful series of events here: 2017 #sfoInstaMeet Season at the Santa Fe Opera. (2018 case study coming soon!)
Do you need to start a community building feature account in order to work with micro-influencers? No, but you do need to develop an authentic relationship with your online community. We recommend doing research to see if there are online communities similar to the ones we have built in your area. The organizers of these communities will often have unique insight to the local Instagram community and would be a good asset when planning an InstaMeet of your own. Please keep in mind that the organizers of that community have spent a lot of time cultivating their relationships and they deserve to be paid for their assistance.
You might think this would require a large marketing budget, but we’ve found influencer marketing can work on even limited budgets. We are paid a fee for hosting these events but the micro-influencers who attend our events do not pay a fee to attend and (most of the time) are not paid for attending. The agreement is that attendees trade limited usage of their user-generated content and promotion to their social media following for this truly unique experience.
We are living proof of the positive power of social media done well, and the potential for lasting and meaningful relationships. Curating and creating great content, engaging with our community, and helping promote local businesses here in Santa Fe and throughout New Mexico are what we live and breathe.
HubSpot. “The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2018.” Hubspot, 2018, www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics.
“Culture Track 2017 Study.” La Placa Cohen, 2018, http://2017study.culturetrack.com/.
We are SO proud of our team, our #SimplySantaFe community, and with our partnership with Sunrise Springs Spa & Resort! Our #SeasonalSunrise Influencer Marketing campaign won the BEST social media campaign in New Mexico at the New Mexico Hospitality Association 2018 Top HAT Awards! A huge thanks to everyone who attended our InstaMeets at Sunrise Springs and for Bri Wright and Mara Bouvier for opening up your beautiful resort to our community! Congratulations also to Sunrise Springs for winning the best full service hotel for the second year in a row. We are so excited to dive into this next year of influencer events!
Here are some photos from the New Mexico Hospitality Awards Top HAT Awards on November 8, 2018 at the Santa Ana Star Casino.