The documentation of guest experiences on board superyachts is usually limited to through the lenses of paparazzi cameras or staged photo shoots for advertisement campaigns. Notoriously secretive, most superyacht owners and guests see social media as an invasion of privacy and, therefore, it is often frowned upon in the industry. Within the past few years, however, some forward-thinking owners and crew have started recognising the benefits of creating a social media presence for their yachts, particularly on Instagram, a platform centred on images and real-time videos that lends itself well to conveying the on-board superyacht experience.
In particular, charter yachts that wish to capitalise on potential charter revenue are seeing Instagram as a way to attract more clients. The 47m charter motoryacht Loon, for example, is very active on Instagram with over 56,000 followers on its account @motoryachtloon (at the time of writing), which Captain Paul Clarke believes has been a big part of the yacht’s success on the charter market. Loon did 17 weeks of charter in 2019, and is on track to surpass this with over 20 weeks booked for 2020, having been busy with back-to-back charters throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in May and June this year.
“Loon is an awesome boat, but she is also a 20-year-old Christensen, so when the owner bought it and said he wanted to charter we discussed what we needed to do to generate hype and make the boat exciting,” explains Captain Clarke. “Loon has so many cool toys and features on board that it helps get the word out. So, we started the account back in 2017, when there were almost no yachts on Instagram, and it has taken three years to get to nearly 60,000 followers. We hope increase that to over 100,000 followers by the end of this year.”
“It is surprising how many of our followers can charter the yacht – out of 60,000 there are probably 10 to 20 people that can afford to and that is all you need. Our Instagram account alone has generated around three million dollars’ worth of charters over the last three years.”
And increasing Loon’s Instagram following is definitely worth it, as Captain Clarke acknowledges that the yacht has received charter bookings directly as a result of its Instagram activity. “It is surprising how many of our followers can charter the yacht – out of 60,000 there are probably 10 to 20 people that can afford to and that is all you need,” he says. “Our Instagram account alone has generated around three million dollars’ worth of charters over the last three years.”
But it is not just charter yachts that can see the value in generating a big Instagram following. The 55m private motoryacht Gene Machine was one of the first superyachts to start posting on-board content on Instagram. The yacht’s crew started the @mygenemachine Instagram account four years ago when the yacht began a 9500nm trip from the Mediterranean to the Northern Passage. Gene Machine’s Chief Officer Tom Milton explains that the social media account exploded due to the spectacular images they were able to post during the trip, and the account now has a following of over 11,000 (at the time of writing).
“Gene Machine has been on some epic trips compared to most other yachts, so we started the account to show what yachts are capable of, just how far they can go and, in our eyes, what real yachting is about,” says Milton. “It’s a great tool for connecting with other industry providers and it helps with getting different ideas and suggestions at different destinations. We also like building the boat’s brand and reputation for crew recruiting purposes, as well as sharing some of the owner’s amazing scientific projects.”
Gene Machine’s crew post on the Instagram account frequently, but generating that quality and quantity of content takes a lot of effort and management. “As a crew, we really enjoy sharing the fun moments and experiences we have on Gene Machine,” adds Milton. “We have two drone pilots on board, several crew with a keen eye for photography, and we get help with content management from a communications company called Vandal.co. We’re all proud of the yacht and the work we put in maintaining it, so social media gives us a way to celebrate that.”
While there are plenty of external companies out there that could help yachts build a social media presence, for Captain Clarke, having the crew oversee the account is vital to its effectiveness. “It has to be managed by the crew in order to post new and relevant content – a professional social media person wouldn’t be able to get the same story across,” he explains. “And we do it all within superyacht boundaries as well. We only use pictures of the boat and the destinations we are in, but there are never pictures of the guests.”
While the crews of Gene Machine and Loon might be spearheading the use of Instagram as a tool to promote the on-board superyacht experience, Milton thinks that social media could be utilised much more by the superyacht industry in general. “I think it’s a great way for crews and owners to share what they’re up to, the places they go and how the boat operates,” he concludes. “The more everyone participates, the more we can learn about different products, places and experiences in the industry, as well as cool new destinations for guests and crew to discover.”
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