With a community of over 400 million monthly active users, Instagram is one of the fastest growing photo-and video-sharing social media platforms. Between 2012–2015, Instagram’s usage doubled to include 28% of online adults (Pew Research Center, 2015. Users share nearly 80 million posts each day, making Instagram an excellent platform for those who like visual content.
We asked Daniel Driffin, Project Manager for Think Twice: MSM Serosorting Project at the University of Connecticut’s Center for for Health Intervention and Prevention about using photo sharing to connect and engage with project participants and HIV+ individuals. He told us: “We’ve found that Instagram can be an impactful outlet for the HIV community, because pictures can evoke different emotions than words do. Pictures can really help visually capture the current state of the epidemic. Instagram helps put a face to the people who are affected by HIV.”
If you’re thinking about using Instagram for your HIV work, we’ve pulled together some helpful tips:
1. Know Instagram’s user base.
The majority of Instagram’s users are adults between the ages of 18-29 and 30-49 (55% and 28% respectively). Instagram’s community is global and diverse; 75% of users live outside of the United States.
But individuals are not the only ones using the platform. More brands and organizations are finding Instagram to be a marketing tool as they look to expand their social reach.
If that’s your goal, survey your audience to determine which social media platforms they are using and how you can connect with them more effectively. These insights will be useful when developing and executing your communication strategy.
2. Remember that Instagram was created for mobile use.
When Instagram first launched in 2010, it was exclusively for mobile devices manufactured by Apple. Instagram currently works on both Apple and Android platforms and still caters primarily to mobile users. Access from desktops is available, but functions are extremely limited. Desktop users can view posts, but they can’t upload posts or see detailed follower information unless they’re using a third-party desktop app.
3. Hashtag your images.
Instagram is all about visualization! While photographs are still the most commonly shared media on Instagram, today users can also post videos and animated GIFs.
Whatever you decide to share, it's important to use hashtags. Hashtags allow posts to be categorized and create a structure to search for them. They allow other users to find you, increasing your reach.
4. Use Instagram’s handy tools.
Instagram includes tools to quickly crop and edit pictures and videos—so most of the tools you will need are already built in. There are also a number of third-party apps for other editing tools, including a few developed by Instagram:
- Repost Makes it easy to repost from other Instagram users, while giving credit to the original user.
- Boomerang Takes a burst of photos and stitches them together into a high-quality GIF that plays backwards and forwards.
- Pic Stitch Allows you to create photo collages with pre-made templates. All you have to do is add the photos.
- Quick Allows you to add text to your photo.
5. Measuring engagement is simple.
For those who want to track Instagram engagement and reach, you should pay close attention to the number of followers you have, as well as the “likes” and comments on your posts. You can measure engagement by dividing the number of likes and comments by your total number of followers to see what percentage of your followers are responding to your posts. This will give you data that can provide insight about how relevant your content is to your followers and indicate whether your posts are having the impact you want.
Instagram and other photo/video sharing social media platforms are great ways to reach new audiences. If you’d like some help in making the most of them, HIV.gov provides free social media technical assistance for the HIV community. Just visit our Virtual Office Hours Page and make an appointment!