Nantucket Island is my favorite surfing spot and when I’m there, I’ll frequently take a lesson at Gary Kohner’s Nantucket Island Surf School. Gary grew up on Nantucket and started surfing in 1984. He started Nantucket Island Surf School in the summer of 1999 to share his love of surfing and the ocean with others. Besides lessons for people of all ages and weeklong surf camps for kids, Gary also rents surfboards, standup paddleboards and wetsuits. Gary is an avid photographer and shares photos almost daily on his @nantucketsurfing Instagram feed.
Gary uses simple equipment that anybody can master – a GoPro in the water and an iPhone on land. “I’m a little OCD about certain things I enjoy,” Gary says. “I enjoy taking the pictures, I enjoy playing with the editing tools on Instagram, and then putting it out there. It doesn’t feel like it’s a work thing. It’s something I do for fun. I try to keep it fresh and keep it interesting so I figure it gives people something to look at."
Instagram is a great social network to share any product or service that has a visual component or customers who use the products in interesting ways. It allows those who don’t feel as comfortable with creating written content to get their ideas out there.
Epic shots or a beginner's first ride
Gary shoots a bunch of photos from the water and then looks to find the best ones to post. “If I’m using the GoPro while surfing, I usually have it on an automatic setting where I’ll come in sometimes with over 1,000 pictures. I go through them quickly and weed out the ones that are junk, because a lot of those pictures are just not good and you can tell right away,” he says. “I will pick out the top 50 or so that look the best and out of those 50, I usually pick the top 3 or 4 that I really like and I’ll save them and use them for Instagram. That’s why I’m able to post stuff daily. If I’ll go out surfing one day and take a bunch of shots, I can save those up and post them over the next week.”
Gary sometimes posts epic shots of a really good surfer on an awesome wave but he also posts shots of beginners standing up for the very first time during their lesson. "When somebody is standing up for the first time on a wave, it’s a nice moment to capture," Gary says. "I wish I had a shot of my first ride when I was a kid. It’s an Instagram for the surf school, so it makes sense not to just to have surfers inside a tube, but have it more accessible to everybody."
Okay, so Instagram is a fun way to share photos with your social network. But how can you use it to market your product or service?
When Gary posts shots of people surfing, he will often see that they will re-post on their Instagram, which extends his reach. “I have a lot of kids who have taken lessons with me follow me on Instagram,” Gary says. “I’ll ask the parents, especially if they’re younger kids: ‘hey I’m going to take some pictures, if I get a good one, is it cool if I put it on my Instagram?’ And the parents almost always agree. I tag the surfer and the kids love it. They say: ‘Oh I’m on Gary’s Instagram! I’m on the surf school Instagram! I’m famous!’” And they share on their Instagram with their friends. So much of my business here in Nantucket is word of mouth, I’m sure that my Instagram is helping.”
There’s no doubt that Gary’s Instagram is excellent marketing. When people who know that I love to surf ask how to get started surfing, I just point them to Gary’s wonderful photos and that often leads to them signing up for lessons.
Although Nantucket has a small group of people who surf year round even in the winter months when it might be snowing, it is a summer surf destination for lessons and rentals. Gary spends the winter months in places like Costa Rica or Hawaii where he surfs and posts on Instagram for his customers like me to see and enjoy.
When I’m at home in winter and there is a foot of snow on the ground like right now as I write this, I'm missing the surf I’ll go to Gary’s Instagram. If I’m on the road somewhere where there’s no surf, it’s kind of nice every once in awhile to see a photo. “Many of my clients have been to Costa Rica, or maybe they’ve been to Hawaii. So when I post in the winter maybe they get ideas of some places to travel to. The surfing experience is about appreciating the waves and the ocean."
Instagram allows users to comment on each other’s photos and many people pay attention to those who tag them in these comments. If you use Instagram for your business, you should pay attention, too. For example, when I shared a photo of me wearing my Nantucket Surfing t-shirt and hat on Hawaii’s North Shore, I included this caption, with a tag to Gary’s Instagram ID: “Showing my @nantucketsurfing colors at Sunset beach prior to watching the Vans Triple Crown.” Gary responded to me: “I'll be there tomorrow! How long are you going to be around the North shore?” And I replied: “Hey Gary. I just left... Have fun! It was my first time and loved it.” This is a great way to acknowledge or endorse customers who take the time to talk about you and your product or service.
Gary’s Instagram is a great way to stay top of mind with the typical family who visits Nantucket for a few weeks each summer. When the kids follow Gary’s photos all year long and Mom and Dad ask the kids what they you want to do while on Nantucket Island, the first thing they’re going to say is they want to go back and take some lessons. “A lot of people are away doing their thing in the winter,” Gary says. "They don’t surf year round, so I remind them of that memory of surfing, the time they spent in Nantucket. If they’re coming back it’s going to be “Let’s go surfing!’.”