Launched in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, Instagram, the photo- and video-sharing social networking site, at first was just for iPhone users and was known for its quaint filters. By 2012, however, Instagram's influence had grown so much that Facebook bought it and its 30 million users. That number is now 1 billion active users per month.
Recently, a major change was made to the site, the impact of which has yet to be felt: In November 2019, Instagram made headlines by announcing it would be eliminating "likes" from the platform. Users can still click the heart under a post to "like" it (and leave comments), and account owners can continue to see how many people "like" their own posts, but now the broader Instagram community won't see the exact number of likes that a post gets.
For planners, Instagram can serve a number of functions, for both their own careers and the events they are putting together. Posts can be targeted to promote services, share upcoming events, build brand awareness for themselves or their organization, and crowdsource all kinds of ideas.
Using Instagram to build your own brand
Zoe Moore, event resource broker at LB Alliance and part of M&C’s class of 2019 Rising Stars, tells Northstar Meetings Group that for her, the allure of the site is its convenience. "My favorite platform is Instagram because it allows me to post to many platforms in one click," she says. Moore mostly uses it to build her own following and reputation as an industry leader. "Currently, I’m working to establish my personal brand by highlighting businesses I support and those who are allies in the advocacy for inclusion and diversity in the meetings and events industry," she says.
If you're looking to build your business persona through Instagram, then creating a "work Instagram" account is great for not only brand building but also for keeping your personal and work lives separate. A brand account also can help clients find you and your work, and your feed is a great place to showcase your own best practices.
Use Instagram to plan an event
For event planners, Instagram is a powerful planning tool. Using industry hashtags, planners can peruse an entire feed of relevant content for ideas and inspiration. Considering a venue? Look up their official Instagram page. But also look up their geotag — a geotag is the specific location, organized by latitude and longitude — and see the most commonly posted user content at that venue to get an idea of its vibe, ambience and most up-to-date status.
To search for a geotag, go to the search page, select "Places," type in a location, and pick the tag that applies. Note that sometimes there are multiple tags for the same location. For example, if you're considering an event at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas — a 2019 Stella Award-winning property — then you would go to the search bar, type in "The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas" and select on the tag. This would pull up a feed of the top photos tagged at this venue. Clicking "Recent" at the top would show the same feed in chronological order, spotlighting the most recent content first.
You can also use general destination hashtags (those terms following the "#" sign that are used to group together like content) to similar advantage. Using a generic hashtag — say #hawaii — you can scroll through information on hotels, restaurants, tour ideas and more. While there’s always room for error — Instagram can’t prevent people from misusing tags — hashtagged content still provides planners with useful intel. Or search under such tags as #eventdecor, #motivationalspeaker, #meetingspace and other industry-related mashups to find what you're looking for.
Posting to Instagram
Sharing content on Instagram has three components: posts (photos or videos that live on in your feed), stories (photos or videos that expire within 24 hours) and IGTV (longform video). When sharing on Instagram, here are some best practices for putting your best foot forward and expanding your reach.
Don’t spam your audience with multiple posts when you can share up to 10 images in one post. The slideshow function gives you more images to work with and increases the value of each post.
Opt for high-resolution images from your events. If you have smartphone images, consider using photo apps like VSCO and SnapSeed to play with filters, saturation, and cropping functions.
To grow and build your audience, make sure to tag relevant businesses like venues and vendors, geotag photographs, and use hashtags.
How to tag a post: Tagging accounts on a post is done before posting an image. Below the area to add a caption is a "Tag People" button. Select this and tap anywhere on the photo to tag people. You'll be taken to the search bar where you type in the account you want to tag. You can tag up to 20 accounts in any photo. You can also drag each tag to place them wherever you want on an image.
How to geotag a post: Geotagging accounts also takes place before posting an image. Below "Tag People" is the "Add Location" button. Select this and type in the search bar for a city (e.g. Las Vegas, Nevada) or a specific venue (e.g. Wynn Las Vegas). Select the tag of your choice.
How to use hashtags: Some industry specific hashtags include: #eventprofs, #meetingprofs, and #plannerlife. But depending on the content, you can add custom hashtags. Have an amazing picture from a hotel overlooking a beach in Hawaii? Use #Hawaii, #beach, #BeachesOfInstagram, #Hotel and #Resort. Showcasing a venue's amazing acai bowls? Use #acaibowl, #breakfast, #healthy, #fruits and #food. You can use up to 30 hashtags per post (across the post and in comments), but that's a bit of #overkill. A few pithy ones will do the job.
Using Instagram Stories
Instagram rolled out Stories in Aug. 2016. Many tech-industry experts saw the feature to be the platform's answer to SnapChat. While it struggled at first, more than 500 million daily active users now use Instagram Stories.
Planners can optimize real-time content from their events or behind-the-scenes footage using Instagram Stories. The function allows users to geotag venues, tag other brands and users, and leave insightful and engaging commentary. What’s more, if attendees are sharing videos and images to their account Stories, event planners can reshare to their Stories as well. You just have to be diligent to reshare those stories wit the 24 hour window.
IGTV is Instagram’s latest attempt at embracing video content. Launched in June 2018, the YouTube-esque feature lets users to share video content up to an hour long. (In comparison, each video in Instagram Stories is cut off at 15 seconds, and regular video posts can only be up to 60 seconds long.)
You can create a channel on IGTV for long-form content. Stream large chunks of your events, show valuable behind-the-scenes footage, or even become an industry coach by recording YouTube-style educational videos. At the bare minimum, you can post casual chats and Q&As about the services you provide and your expertise.
To learn more about social media, check out our coverage on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, and WhatsApp.