Education, Research

Promoting Destination Brands on Instagram: Lessons from Visit Finland.

April 25, 2019

Mireia Pavón Jordán, Media Management MA student, Department of Culture and Media, Arcada UAS

Supervisor: Dr. Nathalie Hyde-Clarke   Examiner: Tomas Träskman


My MA thesis aims to illustrate how Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) can use Instagram for destination branding purposes. It focuses on Visit Finland’s Instagram activity in order to explore the different approaches in the use of this social media platform. The thesis is significant for the Master in Media Management because it reflects on the use of a new media channel, and the social and behavioral changes that have led to its success in the few last years. The research contributes to the field of social media studies by providing recommendations specifically for DMOs using Instagram.

Two different methods are used in my research. The first includes interviews with two employees of Visit Finland – a Senior Advisor from the International Marketing Department, and the Coordinator of Digital Channels. The interviews provide an understanding of the organization’s point of view regarding their activity on Instagram. During the interviews, four different approaches used on Instagram are identified. These are (1) use of user generated content, (2) collaboration with influencers, (3) encourage user participation, and (4) paid ads. The second method is a content analysis performed on four Instagram posts that illustrate the four different approaches aforementioned. The findings consider: the values conveyed in the visual and written elements, the engagement achieved by the post, the owner of the content, and how the content is shown to the users. The screenshot below shows one of the analyzed posts.

Screenshot of a post from @ourfinland, illustrating the use of user generated content (2019).


In my analysis, I identify that the values conveyed in the image are connection to nature, quietness, privacy, uniqueness, exclusiveness and good taste. The text is concise and clear, communicating one unique idea. It refers to one of the main tourist attractions in Finland, aurora gazing, which generates interest and motivates users to learn more. The post had 22.213 likes in March 2019, and it is one of the the top 10 Visit Finland’s most liked posts on Instagram. It illustrates the practice of using user generated content, as Visit Finland shares an image from @leviniglut’s – another Instagram user – as it is aligned with their own values and objectives as a destination brand.

All data gathered from the two methods mentioned is compared and related in order to identify patterns in the use of the social media channel and to propose a list of recommendations for future media managers using this space.

My paper confirms that social media are a valuable source of information for travelers, and therefore DMOs need to have a successful presence in them if they want to be known. The findings show that Instagram brings new opportunities for destination branding and can contribute to making a destination more popular if it is used to its fullest. The findings cannot be generalized to every DMO that wants to do destination branding on Instagram, as only Visit Finland is being analyzed in this study. However, the paper serves as a guide of different practices and provides recommendations for an appropriate use of the channel. The first recommendation is to produce interactive and engaging content that makes users feel an active part of the brand and at the same time is aligned with the destination brand’s values. The second one is to use different approaches to presenting content on the channel in order to reach different audiences and have a more complete presence in the social network. The third and last recommendation is to use all platform’s characteristic features – more specifically the use of locations and hashtags – in order to be easily found by users.

Writing my Master thesis at Arcada UAS has been a journey full of lessons learned. My study has helped me grow as social media advertising specialist. Not only have I broadened my knowledge on Instagram and the sociocultural changes that helped it become a relevant media, but I have also been able to shift my attention from a global use of the channel to practices that contribute specifically to Finnish destination branding. In addition, I have also grown personally. During the six months that I have spent on my research, I have developed a new way to analyze things and to explain data to others. That is a skill that I am taking with me for all my jobs and studies to come.

Select readings from References:

Abed, S., 2018. An empirical examination of Instagram as an s-commerce channel. Journal of Advances in Management Research, 15(2), p.146-160.

Hajli, N., Shanmugam, M., Papagiannidis, S., Zahay, D., & Richard, M., 2017. Branding co-creation with members of online brand communities. Journal of business research, 70, p.136-144.

Lund, N. F., Cohen, S.A., & Scarles, C., 2018. The power of social media storytelling in destination branding. Journal of Destination Marketing & Management, 8, p.271-280.

Valentini, C., Romenti, S., Murtarelli, G., & Pizzetti, M., 2018. Digital visual engagement: influencing purchase intentions on Instagram. Journal of Communication Management, 22(4), p.362-381.


The full thesis may be downloaded from from June 2019.

Are you looking for tools to manage the rapidly changing media industry? Or do you find yourself in the media industry struggling to see the bigger picture? Learn more about our MA in Media Management here: