When Madison Clevenstinea 27-year-old content creator, decided to plan her May babymoon, she decided to go somewhere that had been at the top of her list for a while.
“Nantucket you are so cute,” she wrote in an Instagram caption for her 37,000+ followers. The photo shows her standing under a cascade of pink flowers, her hand resting on her stomach.
Over the next few days, Clevenstine shared a series of photos and videos that would be familiar to anyone who’s followed lifestyle or fashion influencers over the past few years: she posing next to a bike in a cobbled street near a quaint New England cottage, her and her husband grinning broadly by a lighthouse, paninis at a sandwich shop, and charming shop after charming shop.
Why did she come all the way from her home in Knoxville, Tennessee, to a small island off the coast of New England? Well, you could say the influencer was influenced.
“I’ve wanted to visit Nantucket for years, but I’m sure social media played a part in that,” Clevenstine told me, adding that although she shared the trip on her accounts, it was fun. personal and uncompensated holidays. “I think there are few places as postcard-perfect as Nantucket in the United States…the whole island is a perfect backdrop for creating content.”
The wealthy Massachusetts enclave 30 miles off Cape Cod has long been a popular summer destination for East Coasters, with beautiful beaches, small shops, plenty of colorful scenery and iconic lighthouses. But over the past few years, its popularity has skyrocketed among bloggers and lifestyle influencers and, consequently, those who follow them.
My social media feeds seem to be full of pictures of ACK as I now know the locals call the island. Influencers share photos of hydrangeas bursting with blue and purple hues, melting ice cream cones from the Juice Bar and gray clapboard houses, TikToks of themselves riding bikes through a fishing village, to music whimsical and hashtag #sconset, and many, many, many shots of the historic Brant Point Lighthouse. I’ve never been to Nantucket, but if I see a photo of this quaint, coastal lighthouse with an American flag on the side, I immediately know where the person is.
Even Instagram-friendly brands are getting in on the hype. Hill House, the brand created by business owner-turned-influencer Nell Diamond (who grew up summering on the island), has opened a pop-up store on the island. In the store, fans can purchase three exclusive styles of the brand’s famous nap dresses, all of which have “Nantucket 2022” embroidered inside.
Why has Nantucket’s popularity increased with the set of influencers? It’s pretty simple. Take a beautiful island with plenty of colorful and scenic spots that seem perfect for the gram, combine that with a tourism board keen to partner with creators, and you’ve got a match made in social media heaven.
“I don’t think people realize why they see so many other pictures of Nantucket; [it’s] because we actually actively promote Nantucket to visitors,” Shantaw Bloise-Murphy, the island’s director of culture and tourism, told me.
Bloise-Murphy explained that the city’s road to becoming social media gold has been pretty organic. Influencers and travel bloggers, drawn to Nantucket’s scenic views and charm, began contacting the tourism board a few years ago to ask if they could team up to promote the island.
The council began working more closely with content creators to create sponsored trips, offering perks like free hotel stays, free meals, personalized tours of island museums and boat trips . “Nantucket is such a beautiful place,” Bloise-Murphy said. “We’re lucky he shoots very well.”
She added: ‘We’ve always had travel writers coming to the island, and now we’re entering a whole new market that we haven’t necessarily been exposed to or taken advantage of in the past. . But as we know, marketing evolves [to] digital. It’s all on social media.
The campaign works. Bloise-Murphy said the island has seen “a very obvious increase in tourist numbers every year, even throughout COVID”, although when asked she had no statistics on the increase. Nantucket has also seen a shift in visitor demographics, she said. While visitors are traditionally older people who stay for much of the summer – your “coastal grandmas”, say – more and more tourists are from the coastal granddaughter population.
“We notice that they are younger than they have been in the past,” she said. “So you get a lot of young people in their 20s and 30s who come for shorter trips to the island.”
Many of those visitors are likely to be influenced by women like Aubrey Jackson, a luxury travel content creator who took a trip to Nantucket this summer after being invited by the tourist board. Jackson said she jumped at the chance to charge for some of her experiences in exchange for positions.
“People’s curiosity about Cape Cod and the island’s ultra-richness are the perfect ingredients to attract tourists and influencers alike,” Jackson said.
During Jackson’s trip, which she documented on her blog and social media accounts, she stayed at a new hotel, shopped at what she called “mom-and-pop shops,” visited the African American History Museum and took lots of great photos featuring the island’s top Instagram tourist attraction.
“By far the best place to take pictures is the Brant Point Lighthouse,” she told me.
Mackenzie Horan Beuttenmuller, a lifestyle influencer and blogger, has a unique take on the Nantucket Instagram trend. She has deep roots on the island. Her family has owned property there since the late 1800s, she grew up spending summers on the island, and she and her husband married there, as did her parents.
Horan Beuttenmuller has seen what she called her “pretty well-kept secret” become a busier tourist destination in recent years. She thinks bloggers and influencers “have definitely been part of this wave”, along with an increase in the number of airlines flying there. She has her own well-curated list of places where you can get the perfect Instagram shot on the island.
“The view from the top of the stairs at Steps Beach, the hydrangea aisle on Lincoln Circle and the rose-covered cottage on Mitchell Street in ‘Sconset have all become popular backdrops for bloggers, which has made them probably, in turn, made more popular venues for family, engagement and maternity photoshoots as well,” she said in an email.
The island’s newfound popularity has also been a boon for Nantucket-specific content creators. Kate Benjamin, a 29-year-old media worker, lives in New York but spends much of her summer on the island. In 2021, she created a TikTok account, @nantucket_island, to flex her creative muscles and share some of her favorite spots.
“The island inspires photographers, painters and writers to produce great work that I think people on social media really resonate with,” she said. “It may sound very dreamy.”
Benjamin answers many questions about the island on his account, which has over 22,000 followers, mostly budding travelers looking for travel advice. She said her videos offering restaurant recommendations tended to do well, as well as those showcasing the island’s natural beauty. She has seen her engagement increase over the past few months. A recent video she posted showing a charming island cottage has received nearly 600,000 views.
Georgina Morley, photographer and year-round Nantucket resident, started the @greyladygirl Instagram account in 2017 to document her local adventures and off-season photography.
Morley has a theory that Nantucket got a tourism boost because people were looking for a nice home vacation spot during the pandemic.
“I once heard someone say, ‘Nantucket isn’t just a place, it’s a feeling,’ and I completely liked it,” she said. “Once you experience it, you want to keep coming back and bringing your favorite people with you.”
With an influx of tourists to any popular vacation area, there are always fears that locals could be overrun or evicted, and Nantucket is no exception. Island voters, in a fight that has been going on for more than a year, are currently debating whether to impose more restrictions on short-term rentals. According to the Wall Street Journal, the debate is “neighbor versus neighbour,” with some saying short-term rentals help residents pay for their homes on the island, while others say they’ll push landlords away in favor of residents. promoters.
According to Bloise-Murphy, however, the island’s permanent residents, many of whom own or work in small businesses, tend to welcome the increase in visitors.
“Many of us rely very heavily on tourism during these short months to be able to afford to live on the island for the rest of the year,” she said.
However, she added, there are things visitors can do to ensure they don’t disrespect those who call the island home. She advised visitors to leave their cars at home and recognize the slower pace of life.
“I always say I wish everyone had their own Nantucket,” she said. “We are a very welcoming community. We love when visitors come to the island. ●