While Facebook is still the most widely used social network, numbers on the platform have been fluctuating recently—especially among teens and millennials. As grandparents finally begin to master likes and shares, their grandkids are flocking to new social networks where they hope to find a younger, hipper crowd. Enter Instagram.
As of March 2014, Instagram has over 200 million active monthly users, and 34% of US teens and millennials (ages 14-32) use the network. These numbers continue to grow.
The growing popularity of Instagram is partly due to its appeal to our visual culture. Most people would rather look at a flashy picture than read a post. After all, isn’t a picture worth a thousand words?
Instagram introduced video in 2013, so users can now share up to 15 seconds of video content with their followers. Sure, you can share images and even longer videos on Facebook, but Instagram is solely visual—no FarmVille invites!
Instagram is also popular with the tech-savvy generations because it’s almost exclusively mobile—you can’t post pictures or search hashtags from a desktop. It’s easy to use, and the filters will make any amateur photographer feel like Ansel Adams.
And although some large national companies are dabbling in paid advertising, Instagram is not completely pay to play like Facebook. Your posts will be visible to all of your followers when they log in.
Instagram—the right way
Just like with any other social network, you should keep some best practices in mind when using Instagram for your church:
- Make it easy for people to find you. Include a link to your Instagram profile on your church website along with your other social pages.
- Don’t feed into the selfie craze. The occasional goofy picture of staff is ok, but your church account shouldn’t look like it belongs to a teenage girl.
- Use hashtags wisely. Much like Twitter, users can search for related posts based on hashtags within Instagram. Keep them simple, limit to two or three per post, and make sure you’ve spelled them correctly before hitting share.
- Use the location feature within Instagram so people can find other photos that were taken at your church.
- Consider sharing some of your Instagram posts directly to other accounts like Facebook and Twitter. You’ll get more mileage out of your photos and videos which could lead to more followers.
- Remember that Instagram is a fun way to interact with your church community—in addition to your overall strategy. Not everyone will be on Instagram or see every post, so this shouldn’t be the only way you communicate.
Instagram for your church
Although many churches have seen success engaging their people on Instagram, it’s not right for every church. Consider the demographic of your church and whether or not they have smartphones. Will anyone even see the posts? Also remember that while Instagram is easy to use, it’s not the most convenient to manage. You’ll need to post from the app in real time as Instagram doesn’t allow you to schedule posts or share videos and images from a desktop.
If you’ve decided that Instagram is right for your church, try some of the ideas to engage your community:
- Promote a special event coming up your church. You can also share photos and video during the event plus recap when it’s over.
- Recruit volunteers and tell people where you have service needs.
- Introduce new staff members to the church community.
- Showcase individual ministries and their leaders within the church.
- Highlight an upcoming sermon series at your church to build some interest and excitement.
- Show people what goes on behind the scenes of your church each week.
- Provide the information that visitors would want to know if they stumble upon your profile—service times and a sense of what to expect from your church.
How is your church using Instagram?
Check out these other resources for using Instagram at your church: