Six Tips for Using Instagram in Your Church

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Instagram is a pretty big deal.

It’s not breaking news but something I thought about as I was going to bed last night. I was about to fall asleep when I realized I hadn’t checked my Instagram feed. I reached from my bed, grabbed my phone and scrolled through the square, filtered photos of people, buildings, foliage, workouts, posters and, of course, food. I commented, Liked and even searched through a few hashtags to find fellow Instagrammers who share my passions.

For the better part of the last decade, I haven’t checked a social media platform not named Facebook or Twitter daily until now. Instagram has quickly become one of the top three social networks, and since photos are more personal than a 140-character statement, it has the potential to connect brands with fans on a deeper level than Twitter.

 

Instagram is a channel that brands soon won’t be able to ignore, and innovative brands are already making waves on the platform.

Here are a few tips for steering your brand’s journey on Instagram:

1. EMPLOY USER-GENERATED CONTENT

If you can motivate your fans to submit photos of their own, like pictures of them using your product or just living your brand story, add them to your Instagram stream. Sharpie does this well, often featuring works of art created with its pens and markers.

 

2. OFFER A GLIMPSE INTO YOUR HUMANITY

 

While Instagram can be a place to feature your products in action, consider using it exclusively as a place where your brand’s fans can get a glimpse behind the scenes. Feature photos of faces and places they never get to see. Show them that your brand is more than just the product or service you sell. The Boston Bruins have done a great job of this, especially while the league is in a lockout. The team often shares photos of their fans, the players, and the organization’s philanthropic endeavors.

 

3. PRODUCT IN ACTION 

There’s no hard data to back this up, but I’d bet that Instagram features more photos of food than any other subject. Outback Steakhouse and other restaurants have used Instagram as a place to find photos of all their dishes in their filtered glory. There’s a thin line between sharing great content and being overly promotional, so be considerate when sharing photos of your product in action.

 

4. CONSIDER USING TEXT, BUT NOT TO BRAND OR COPYRIGHT

Overgram and other apps allow you to add text to your Instagram photos. Add a hashtag, give credit for user-generated content, or just add creative copy that will resonate. But use it for good, not evil, and not on every photo. It’s not a place to stamp your brand mark or try to copyright your images. In fact, doing this will make it very unlikely that the photo will be shared with your audience’s audiences.

 

5. DEDICATE DESIGN RESOURCES

Instagram has challenges that other social channels do not. The app is purely mobile, so the photos have to be at least published, if not taken, from a phone. Make sure your Instagram community manager knows the brand’s tone of voice well enough and has an eye for photography so he or she can capture the right kinds of photos.

 

6. HASHTAGS

The best way to find users with a common interest is through hashtags. This is a feature that quickly caught on because of its popularity on Twitter. Are you a sneaker brand? Check out #kicksoftheday. Instagram will even help you with similar suggestions and sort them by popularity. Create your own hashtag, like Tiffany’s did with #TrueLovePictures, to activate fans on Instagram.

 

Remember, there’s a risk and reward here. Instagram isn’t the best social network to help you drive traffic to your site or be a conduit for e-commerce as well as Twitter or even Facebook will. It’s this inability to “sell,” however, that allows Instagram users lower their guard and embrace the brands that use the platform well.

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Jon Thomas

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Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

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