Lauren Bath is Australia’s first professional Instagrammer. A former chef, she has amassed more than 400,000 followers — thanks in part to her early adoption of the platform — and now makes a living through travel photography, inspiring her followers to visit the destinations she is paid to document.

She’s in the “dreaming” phase of people’s travel-plan process, she says, but it was only fairly recently she started to see an evolution in people’s Instagram habits. “I started to clue on to that last year. I knew people were using hashtag searches to find stuff they liked, but it wasn’t until I started talking to more travellers that I realised people were using it to plan their holidays.” Bath sees this as an example of consumers taking control. Far from being content with publicising photos of their travel destinations, “they want to see things as they really are, with real people experiencing them.”

The Broad Place is a Sydney-based platform for education and wellbeing that deals in modern approaches to meditation and conscious living. Its co-founders Jacqui Lewis and Arran Russell started using Instagram to build their profile and community when they launched the brand two years ago. Six months in, “We started receiving a lot of feedback about how our posts were resulting in many people visiting the cafes, restaurants, studios, hotels and venues we visited,” Lewis says. “This feedback came from our audience, and also from the venues themselves.”

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Julia Busuttil Nishimura runs Ostro, an online collection of slow-food recipes. She began using Instagram casually four years ago before realising what a powerful business tool it was. She too has noticed a shift in behaviour. “People began to ask for recommendations for things – mainly where to buy certain ingredients or specialty supplies from,” she says. “As the number of my followers grew, though, people were less asking questions of me directly and more just tagging their friends and leaving comments such as: ‘We have to try this place’ or ‘I just screen-shot your whole trip to Japan for places to eat.’ When people began to have conversations with each other on my feed, it became pretty clear that my Instagram, while still personal, had almost become a directory, in a certain way.”

Lewis and Busuttil Nishimura also use the app in this way. “Especially in Tokyo,” says Lewis. “There is so much opening constantly and it's easier to track where people are going, rather than wait for a journalist to visit and publish a story.”

“In Melbourne there is always something new and things are changing all the time, so Instagram is a really quick and visual way to find things out,” agrees Busuttil Nishimura.

With Instagram now pulling up the same geotags as Facebook, it’s becoming much easier to share your whereabouts. “[That] must play a part, too,” Busuttil Nishimura continues. “Because people's feeds can often be so curated, by just clicking on a geotag, you’re able to see a more varied representation of a particular place. It's almost like having a hundred visual 'reviews' right there in front of you. Within a few minutes, you can screen shot places to eat, drink and go from people's feeds to your camera roll and you've created your own little city guide.”

While Instagram continues to evolve as a powerful tool for businesses to harness commercially, Busuttil Nishimura thinks this approach will nonetheless continue to be used organically. Ultimately, “People love going out and sharing where they have been and what they have eaten.”

Lauren Bath Instagram: @laurenepbath

The Broad Place Instagram: @thebroadplace

Julia Busuttil Nishimura Instagram: @juliaostro