What is Instagram
Most scientific disciplines, and some in the humanities, land themselves very well to visual media. People love to see chemists work in their labs, the discoveries that archeologist make in far away lands, the world under a biologist’s microscope, or the marvels seen through a physicist’s telescope.
Instagram is a social media platform that lets users share these photos and videos. If you want science to be more accessible, we highly recommend that you maintain an account. It will give you the opportunity to interact with people who would other never be expose to your blogs, papers or discoveries. You can also answer their questions.
Maintaining an Instagram account is very manageable since it only requires posting pictures, and not writing long blog posts. To save time, we encourage you to use services like Buffer to schedule posts (aim for two per day). Posting daily can be too much for busy academics. With these services you can dedicate half an hour one day per week to choose what and when to post for that week.
What to Share on Instagram
Like with other social media platforms, the goal of Instagram is to build a community around your blog. The time that you spend building that community will determine the size of your fan base. To help you come up with ideas on how to build your community, we wrote a good article on what to post on social media; it includes:
- Interactions with followers (i.e. photo contests, photo caption contests…)
- Recommendations (i.e. other Instagram accounts)
- Behind the scenes (pictures and videos of experiments, student’s work, photos of assistants, fieldwork…)
- Miscellaneous (i.e. combining multiple photos into a collage for maximum engagement with tools like PicFrame)
- Photos with faces because they humanize you and are more popular.
How to build a community
To attract followers, make sure that the photos and videos that you post are unique and make science look fun. We also recommend putting clever captions on all your posts: some Instagram accounts became popular, not because of the actual pictures but, because visitors found their captions hilarious. Finally, to make posts easy to find, include relevant hashtags, such as #science, #laboratory, or #dinosaurs.
Your ultimate goal is to build a community. Therefore, follow as many people as possible and regularly leave them meaningful comments. Users receive a notification when you start following them or check out your profile when you write a nice comment. More often than not, they will follow you back. Also make sure to respond to your fans comments and questions. A thank you is often enough.
Administrators should also use Instagram
Encourage your institution to create its own Instagram account. If it already has one, suggest that they post their faculties’ pictures. Having an institutional account is an effective way to tell a story of its work, accomplishments and strategy to donors, prospective employees and patrons. In fact, the medium lands so well to science that some of the most popular Instagram accounts are of museum and universities, such as CalTech, Harvard Medical School, the New York Botanical Garden, and the Smithsonian.