Instagram: How to Harness Its Smoldering Power
I’m doubling down on Instagram. Want to know why?
Because there is no social media platform as versatile as The Gram (I’m calling it The Gram, now). Think about all the things this little app can do.
Posts. Videos. Stories. Live Video. Direct Messages. Mow the lawn. Pick up the kids…wait, I…I got into another list for a second…
Not to mention it’s owned by Facebook, so cross-posting from Instagram to Facebook actually looks decent now. Which is great news for churches who often post the same content on both platforms (I’m not against cross-posting because you likely have a different audience on each platform that aren’t that similar).
So, let’s talk about Instagram for a bit and how you can harness the smoldering power hidden within this diamond-in-the-rough app.
Instagram Wall Posts
First, let’s cover the basics of the regular ol’ post. That’s the one that you see when you scroll up and down as soon as you open the app.
In this area, you can post video, square or widescreen, up to one minute long. If you upload a widescreen video, make sure to hit the little resize arrows < > in the bottom left corner first.
Don’t worry, all of that white space above and below won’t actually show up when you post the video (works for widescreen pictures too). Don’t forget to add your filter on the next screen and add a sweet caption. In the caption, hashtags can help other users find you, so choose well.
In the lower right corner, you also have a frame button that will allow you to choose a frame layout and insert multiple pictures into one picture. Don’t confuse this with the album post feature though.
When taking video in the app, you will only be able to shoot square video. To load widescreen video, you’ll have to shoot the video widescreen with your standard smartphone camera and then bring the video into IG via your library tab.
But don’t count out video shot natively in the app just because it’s square! It has the old Vine feature in that you can record multiple times to one video. As long as you are holding the button, it’s recording. When you stop, it stops. When you press and hold record again, it starts back up where you left off the last video.
This allows you to create “scenes” in your video before you post it. I bet you can see the inherent storytelling feature in that, can’t you?
The Instagram Album Post
This allows you to add up to 10 photos to a single post, but not in a frame. The button for this is also in the bottom right of the frame when choosing your photo/video. Update: You can now add widescreen video/image posts to the album, however, you must choose the resize option (<>) before you choose photos. Also, every photo will be zoomed out for the album, so it’s an all zoomed out or all zoomed in (square). Still not great, but at least that’s something.
When users scroll to your post, they will see the first photo with several dots under it. This is the signal to swipe left and see the rest of the photos in sequence that you chose to add them. This can be a powerful way to interact with your followers. Update: Instagram has started adding a fraction in the top right corner of these posts like 1/8, telling you this is the first of eight photos in the series.
Ways Churches can use Instagram Posts and Album Posts
When Instagram rolled out the album post feature, it was like Christmas! I’ve got a few ideas on how churches can use that, but first, let’s talk about Instagram post ideas.
First, remember that Instagram was created to tell visual stories. It was originally based on the idea that “a picture is worth 1000 words,” so as you are posting, think about what stories you want to tell as a church. (Wouldn’t you like to know what’s going on in that picture? Me too!)
Regular posts can be as simple as a :60 sermon clip or as complicated as a series of videos captured in the app over the course of an entire event. I like using them to capture photos of a volunteer and talking about how great they are in the caption (you get, like 1200 characters there! Eat that, Twitter).
It’s also a place to share announcement slides, video announcements, or to ask your people to attend something like an Easter service. However, if you’re going to go for the ask, do it sparingly. I only do announcements once a week on social with a reminder post when the event gets close.
For album posts, take a Scripture and break it up into 10 slides for them to swipe through. Also, when you’ve had a great event, album posts are a great way to report on them in one post, rather than ten separate and annoying posts for your people to scroll through. Ugh, yes, Carla, your ski trip was really great. NOW GET OUT OF MY FEED!
If you like to post graphics of a quote your pastor said from Sunday, break it up into an album post. It’s easier to digest and let’s be honest, it’s fun to swipe left and right.
Last, it’s a fun way to reveal the location of your mission trip next year or the winner of a contest you’ve been running (if you’re a contest running kind of church).
I’m sure we haven’t even scratched the surface of what one can do with posts and album posts, so get creative and have fun with it!
Next week, I’ll talk about Instagram Stories, Live Video, and Direct Messages with some more ideas on how your church can utilize The Gram!
Meanwhile, what are your ideas for using Instagram? Let’s share with the class in the comments! Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram!