In this article, you will learn how to use Instagram effectively as an activist. You can use it to showcase your activism on your personal account, or to grow your protest movement. Also check out our other guides on social media for activists.
'Saving our planet is now a communications challenge,' - David Attenborough
When you created your Instagram account, your main goal was to share the pieces of your life with your family and friends. However, Instagram is a great platform to introduce your activist work (or the work of your organisation) with a wider audience. From carousel posts to Reels and IGTV, Instagram offers a lot of options for you to connect and mobilize people to join the movement or take direct action. In this article, you will find some advice on how to approach your target group via Instagram.
The way you approach people depends on their background, age, socio-economic status, culture, priorities (on how to choose your platform according to your target group, read our article Choosing your platform). The important thing to remember is that you are not trying to educate nor convince the person you are speaking to, you are trying to have a conversation with them. That entails that you should use your Instagram to inspire people and invite them to engage in communicating with you.
Focus time-span for an average person is about 8 seconds. So, you have 8 seconds to convince them that your post is worth reading. And not only that, you are also competing with a lot of other organisations whose activities are similar to yours, influencers, commercials, clickbait titles…
Also, when a person comes across your Instagram content, often your passion and dedication can be seen through the phone screen, as they will be seen if you are meeting somebody in person.
So, the topic that you are communicating should not be too broad nor too vague, for example like environmental protection or raising environmental awareness. That entails that your profile description should clearly state which problem are you trying to solve and which tools are you using for it and it should be directed to your target group (for example, instead of raising environmental awareness, you can put: using interactive workshops on urban environmental issues in working with middle school children).
Transparency builds trust. It is important for people on social media to know who is behind the organisation, in which city is your organisation based, what is the motivation behind your work, up-dated contact details (especially e-mail address), the way you are financing your work, who are your partners etc.
You need to communicate with your specific goal in mind and not get carried away with the number of followers (which changes to do you want to make and which tools are you going to use in reaching this). This will help you avoid ‘clicktivism’ - engaging persons in activities that require minimal effort via the Internet commitment (for example, just liking posts, without any further actions). You need to be clear with your goals and share with the community what is a right thing for them to do to help you achieve that goal.
To put it simply - Practice what you preach. For example, if your specific goal is to help people reduce their plastic waste by 50%, you can not host the event that is sponsored by major corporations that produce a lot of plastic waste. This will create distrust of your community and will lead to losing followers/contributors/volunteers.
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Tips & tricks
Going Live + Inviting Guests. Share your vision and the topic you are passionate about via Instagram Live videos and always encourage and invite people to send their questions. If you are not an expert in the topic, you can always invite guests that will help you answer the questions that your audience or you have.
Sharing online and in-person events organized by you, or the events that the members of your organisation are participating/guest-speaking. This will keep your audience updated on your activities and will show them which steps are you taking towards reaching your goal.
Sharing posts about your organisation - introduction of the members. For building trust, it is important for your audience to know who they are supporting and who are the persons working ‘behind the screen’.
Show what is going on in the background. Show how your organisation works. The easiest way is for one person from the organisation to take over the stories and show how her/his working day looks like.
Always respond to messages. This goes without saying. People need to know that you are listening to them and that they can turn to you with their ideas, suggestions and questions.
Repost when somebody tags in you in a post. This one also goes without saying. It may appear rude if somebody shows their support by attending your event or engage in an activity you have suggested and for you not to share that.
Share your posts in stories. Whenever you post a new post, make sure you share it in your story as well. Instagram does not show your content to everybody, so you have a higher chance of reaching people if you re-share your post in your story.
Starting discussions, video clubs or book clubs. It is important to ask questions and start discussions with your audiences. You can organize book clubs and video clubs and organize some discussions later.
Share a post about your core values and beliefs. You should always have at least one post that covers your core values and beliefs. When new people join your network, you should restate your core values and beliefs.
Follow other organisations and share their content as well. It is important for networking and well as increasing your reach.
Using humor and memes in your communication. Instagram is fun! People use Instagram in their free time and do not want to be overwhelmed. FunEducation is the key for effective Instagram communication.
How to contribute
This page is still very empty. Do you know how to use Instagram successfully? Share your experience and improve the article! These are ways this article can be improved:
Add a section on feed posts
Write about how to use hashtags effectively
Add a section on videos
Sending us the examples of effective communication on Instagram
Share your ideas on how to improve communication on Instagram
10 Ways To Use Instagram For Activism by Brandi (Jeter) Riley (2021)
‘Vodič kroz ekološku komunikaciju’ by Anđela Đurašković (Ekokorijen) (2020)
The Aesthetics Of Activism: How Instagram Changed Protesting by Erin Corbett (2021)
Instagram's become an essential tool for activists. But it's a double-edged sword. by Elizabeth Djinis (2021)
IG activism: the pros, the cons and how we can improve it by Eugenie Park (2020)