USAGov’s Guide to Instagram

March 09, 2021   Posted by: Zulekha Abu

Social media is a powerful tool that can help government agencies connect directly to the people they serve. Agencies have been using Facebook and Twitter for years. But many are still unlocking the power of Instagram to share resources in an engaging, simple manner.

At USAGov, we have been experimenting with our Instagram page and how to grow our following. Through strategic planning and creativity, we’re learning to reach more people and better understand what kind of information they need. 

Are you wondering how your agency can grow your Instagram followers and engagement? Here are some things we’ve learned so far.

  1. Treat Instagram like a blog because it requires strategic planning. 
    • Although it may seem as if companies post on Instagram randomly, it actually requires a great deal of pre-planning. We plan out our Instagram content a month in advance based on popular themes from previous months. This allows us to create quality content users can engage with because the data shows that’s what they are interested in.
    • Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram posts are more about quality over quantity. Your followers can’t engage with your content if they don’t see it. Instagram uses an algorithm to decide which posts to show users, based on their interests. Spending more time creating quality posts will get more views, which in turn allows for more engagement. 
  2. If Instagram posts are like blog posts, Instagram Stories are like tweets.
    • For quick information you want to share, use Instagram Stories. They last for 24 hours and can reach a wider audience. An estimated 500 million people use Instagram Stories every day.
    • Although we plan our Instagram Stories campaigns a month in advance, we always leave room in the calendar for important topics that may arise and need immediate attention. For example, if there is a weather emergency or crisis, we include resources in our stories to quickly get the information out. 
    • Keep information short and to the point. A good rule of thumb is to use the Twitter character count (about 140-280 characters). Stories move fast, so less text and more images capture people’s attention.
    • Always add a call to action in Instagram Stories. Your call to action should be related to your overall strategic plan. Is your goal to get more people to your website? To sign up for a newsletter? No matter what it is, at the end of every Instagram Story you post, link to your website or resource.
  3. Consider themes and color schemes. 
    • Creating a lot of content can seem daunting, but if you create themes, it becomes easier. We have often run “mini-campaigns” where we focus on a theme for a week or two and post content related to that theme on Instagram Stories. Mini-campaigns that we’ve run include housing resources, back-to-school, and health topics.
    • To keep your content and page visually appealing, pick a color scheme that matches your website or logo. At USAGov, we use the blue and gray color scheme from our logo. When choosing what pictures to use, we tend to look for those that have a blue color scheme or apply the same filter to every photo. This creates a more cohesive look and feel. \
  4. Engage with your audience.
    • Engaging with your audience does not have to be scary. Start off with yes/no polls or quizzes. As engagement grows, you can create a space for people to give you feedback. For example, we have done “trivia Tuesdays” or asked our followers to vote on “this or that.” Limiting choices leaves little room for trolls and spam. 
  5. Tag and use hashtags.
    • Just about everyone knows you should be using hashtags, but not everyone knows how to get the most from them. Did you know there are thousands of hashtags that have been banned temporarily or permanently from Instagram? Simple hashtags like #WorkFlow, #Books, and #Desk have all been banned at some point on Instagram. 
    • When using hashtags, add around 5-10 and make them as specific to your post as possible. Also, consider using a hashtag generator to keep up with current trends.
    • A helpful strategy for us has been to tag local, state, and national agencies or organizations. With reshares from those organizations, our content has gotten more views and engagement, leading to increased partnerships.

About the USAGov Blog

USAGov is working to create the digital front door for the United States government. Follow our progress and help us learn as we go!

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