It’s safe to say Instagram isn’t going anywhere. Recent studies indicate that the free photo sharing app has more than 7 million daily visitors, and is it turns out, many of them are teenagers.
For the past year, high school students have been photographing and posting about their personal lives faster than you can say “Sutro” or “Lomo-fi.” Now media staffs are catching on to the storytelling possibilities and including Instagram in their social media arsenal.
Maybe you’ve covered Instagram’s popularity in your publication, or perhaps you created a contest to involve readers in the photo-sharing experience. If you’re new to the idea or aren’t sure where to start, we’re here to help. Some of the advantages are obvious: the app is free, instant and personal. Students are able to use the camera on their phone rather than checking out one of the staff cameras. Hashtags make it easy to follow a topic or ongoing story from a variety of perspectives. It’s easy to break spot news with a photo, following up later in other forms once you’ve conducted interviews and thorough reporting.
It’s not that Instagram is the only — or even the best — way to edit and post photos. It’s just that Instagram is where the audience is right now, and we’d be crazy to pass up an opportunity to reach them. To introduce Instagram to your program, or to build upon your staff’s use, consider these activities:
FIRST, study professional examples. This piece from the presidential campaign trail gives students plenty to analyze and discuss and provides a list of reporters to follow on Instagram. Consider assigning students to follow a professional account (like @washingtonpost or @sportsillustrated) and make quick presentations in class to compare and contrast. It’s a great chance to review composition techniques, news values, photo ethics and the importance of a creative angle.
NEXT, check out what students are doing. Here’s a list of 10 high school media staffs on Instagram. What works for another school might lead to great ideas for your staff.
THEN, create a plan for your media organization. Set goals and establish clear guidelines for all who will utilize the account. Here are some questions to guide class discussion:
• What purpose will the Instagram account serve?
• What unique value will it add? (In other words, why should users follow you, and what will they get here that they aren’t already getting from your Facebook page, Twitter feed or website?)
• Who will have access to the account?
• What level of photo editing and filter use is acceptable?
• Will your account follow other users?
• What caption guidelines will you follow? For example, will students be identified?
• How will you determine common hashtags?
• Will posts include photo credits?
After thorough discussion with all key players, editors can formulate policies for the staff account, which should match the brand identity (in handle and profile pic) of your other social media accounts. Include these new policies in your social media guide or staff manual for consistent use. Advisers should follow and praise or redirect students with the Instagram feed in the same way they coach students in other forms of media — without posting or managing the account themselves.
Once things are up and running with robust content and some marketing to attract followers, the real fun begins.