With over 1 billion active daily users, Instagram is the place to be right now. With so many people of all backgrounds carrying a smartphone with them everywhere, there is even more opportunity than for science communicators to reach out to more diverse audiences than ever before. An opportunity to educate more people than you could ever manage at any local events, and all because we carry a little device in our pockets everywhere.
I have only been a part of the Instagram scicomm community for a little over 2 years now & I have seen it boom recently with more and more scientists sharing insights into their daily lives, covering incredible events that not everyone could go to and tackling some really interesting topics.
But Instagram is a fickle old thing. I'm sure you've all heard your favourite ‘grammers complaining about the algorithm. So, I thought I would share some tips on how to become a top STEM Instagrammer to get you started or help you on your way.
Engage, engage, engage!
This is the golden rule! And regardless of anything else I write below, if you are not engaging with your community, you are not going to grow. People aren't going to find you if you don't reach out first. Like other people's photos, leave meaningful comments, use the Explore tool to find others in your niche, follow your favourite hashtag, make authentic connections. To be a top Instagrammer, you have to engage with your growing community, which means you have to sink time into it. More time than you can imagine. But do this correctly and your community will mean so much more to you than your follower count. Also, make sure to engage with the audience of others in your niche.
Follow inspirations, not influencers
Creativity levels come and go. There will be times when you have loads to post about and other times you just can't come up with anything. These times are tough because you feel a sense of loyalty to your following that you have to post something. In these times of ‘posting panic’ it can be easy to be influenced by other accounts you admire to be like. But what works for them might not work for you. So make sure you follow other accounts that inspire you and are not going to influence you.
There is nothing worse than having a completely fake online personality. So just be real. Be you. Whatever that may be. Your authenticity will allow for more genuine connections and will help you grow a bigger core following that will like, comment and DM you all the time. Those are the people you want. And also be honest. I'm sick of only seeing people's highlight reel on social media. If youre having a bad day, share it. We are all human. We have ups and downs and we make mistakes. Being honest with your followers is the way to go.
Be familiar, but not predictable
People have clicked that follow button because they like what you do. They have come for your niche, so that's what they want to see. Of course, things change over time & you don't want to be too predictable, but your followers have come for a reason so thank them for that. It is also a great way to introduce series or features. People will know that every Monday for example you do a Q&A or share some advice so they will return on that day to get the next fix.
Get creative & some up with some awesome ways to tell your stories with your favourite scicommers on the ‘gram. They give you exposure, you give them exposure. It's win win! And you don't just have to be collaborating with the big guns in your niche. Find new ways of expressing yourself & challenging your content creation with your collage for yourself, but also for your audience.
Video is HUGE on social media right now. People would much rather watch a video rather than read a load of text, even if it the exact same content. Make some videos & utilise stories and open up your content to a whole new audience. But if you use video, don't forget to add captions.
Talking of captions, to broaden your following you need to be accessible to all - not just with your content but with the way you deliver it. Add image caption, use the ALT text features, use live caption apps, be aware of the colours you use, features like Amazon Polly. There are many things you can do so maybe start introducing them one at a time. It takes a bit more time, of course, but it means a bigger and more diverse audience.
Engage, engage and engage some more
No you haven't got deja vu. I just cannot stress how important the golden rule is - after all you are using SOCIAL media to communicate your content, so be social!
There we have a very quick and simple guide to using Instagram for scicomm. It is unlikely you're going to become a star overnight and growth takes a lot of time & effort but it should also be something you enjoy too. Start making these little changes and things will eventually start to change.
If you want to ask any more Instagram scicomm questions, then please ask me over there @soph.talks.science & there is plenty more where this came from on my blog in the near future.
Follow Soph on Instagram at @soph.talks.science