The world of technology, especially social media, changes so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with new trends, tools, and social media platforms, and one newer social networking platform you may be less familiar with is Instagram.
Instagram is a free photo and video sharing application featuring digital filters that soften or dull the light, creating a vintage appearance. The result is a beautiful, creative, and visually appealing photo created from your mobile device.
Perhaps you’ve noticed social media icons when browsing online and have seen Instagram’s camera-shaped icon along with the brand symbols for Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. However, unlike other social media platforms which are available on PCs, Instagram requires a mobile device, including Apple iOS (6.0 or later), Android 2.2 or later, or Windows Phone 8 or later.
Who uses the platform?
Since its introduction in 2010, Instagram has grown to include more than 300 million active monthly users, including celebrities, professional athletes, brands and even churches.
According to Business Insider, people ages 16-24 are most likely to use Instagram, with users almost evenly split between Android and Apple devices. Around two-thirds of Instagram users are female and around 24 percent of users access the app several times a day.
Why use Instagram?
Your church may already use Facebook, Twitter or email newsletters for promotion, but adding Instagram to your church’s social media ministry doesn’t have to be complicated.
You can link Instagram with Facebook or Twitter, and when you upload photos to Instagram, you can share them on other social networks as well. Instagram’s effects, filters, and borders enhance photos and make them more visually appealing. Regardless of the platform, social media posts with photos gain more views, likes, comments, and retweets.
This encourages interaction between users, and people who follow your church’s account can comment on your photos.
Instagram can also help your church target a younger demographic, as 90 percent of users are under the age of 35. Like other social media applications, Instagram’s terms of service requires users to be at least 13 years old.
Ways to use Instagram
Social media in general can provide a warm, inviting, way to promote your church’s happenings. You can generate buzz about events and services by posting short promotional videos inviting people or showing behind the scenes footage of your praise band rehearsing so people know what’s in store when they visit. Or, create a fun image with a quote from the sermon or a Bible verse and share it.
You can also use Instagram to drive traffic to your church’s website. You can include your church website’s URL in the photo as well as the photo description, so users can get information on service times and locations.
Hashtags are a great way to aggregate similar photos on Instagram. If your church hosts a large event or sermon series, you can create a hashtag centered around it. When you or others include this hashtag on pictures or videos, Instagram crowd sources the photo with other pictures tagged with that hashtag. If you use relevant hashtags, more people will see your posts.
Finally, remember that the photos you take with your phone and filter and share with Instagram do not have to live in the mobile world. Services like Print Studio let you print your photos and post them on bulletin boards, offices, or galleries in your church’s building. This allows you to share photos with those who don’t use social media or have Smartphones.
Word of caution
Carefully planning posts is important for all social media platforms, but it’s especially crucial since Instagram uses photos and videos. You may not want to share photos of your congregation, especially if viewers can see others’ faces. At the very least, if you share photos of others on any social media platform, you should obtain a photo release from the person featured in the image. Like other social media platforms, once you upload content, it belongs to Instagram. Even if you remove a photo, it still has the image.
While this can be a great ministry tool to reach those within and outside the walls of your church, always remember that any posts on social media reflect your ministry and mission. Make sure that message is a positive one.
Does your church use Instagram now? If so, share with us how it’s helping your ministry!