Instagram is now one of the most powerful social media tools in the world. More and more users utilize Instagram to share their photos, videos, and stories with their friends and followers. It’s now so popular that some argue Twitter and Facebook are old news; Instagram is where it's at. And that matters, politically speaking.
Instagram is now heavily utilized by political campaigns and any political party or politician should be actively using it to help achieve their electoral goals, particularly when it comes to reaching out to Millennials.
In many European countries, politicians are already making good use of Instagram in their campaigns. In Greece, Instagram has been in use since 2015, and some of the best practices put into place by Greek politicians using the platform can serve as good use cases for other European campaigns.
One thing noteworthy in Greece is that even though political Leaders and MPs, like Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the opposition, do use Instagram, the main Greek political parties currently abstain from it. Only the Change Movement (Kinima Allagis), formerly PASOK, has an Instagram account, but the party uses it infrequently at best.
A couple of basic observations from the use of Instagram in Greece: 1) Good graphic design is essential for success, and 2) using popular hashtags to aid in storytelling will increase the value of your engagement.
Spending time and effort on your graphics will mean more followers will engage with your Instagram feed. Many top Greek MPs don’t just present quotes, statements, or articles on Instagram—they actively take the time to produce engaging infographics to pair with that content. And make sure you are using high definition photographs that are scaled to fit the Instagram post size.
Secondly, making use of even well-worn hashtags will increase engagement with your feed. On Greek political Instagram, for example, some MPs or local candidates will use the #ThrowbackThursday hashtag. Making use of #TBT to present a milestone from their personal or professional past is a simple way to generate increased engagement. It is widely accepted that political storytelling is essential and Instagram is a great platform to present your personal story and background.
As Instagram use evolves in Greece and across Europe, there are a few common mistakes made by politicians and parties that I have observed. If you want to ensure your Instagram account effectively engages with your supporters, here are a few things to avoid:
Don’t Duplicate Content
Not treating Instagram as a unique channel is a mistake that is made all too often. Instagram and Facebook are not one and the same – they are distinct social platforms that require distinct approaches. Politicians should not simply upload the same thing to Facebook and Instagram. Duplication of content is neither productive nor good.
Don’t Treat Instagram As Your Press Office
Instagram should not be used as a place to upload lengthy announcements underneath photos or videos. Press releases aren’t the sort of engaging content that Instagram users expect. The descriptions on your Instagram posts should be catchy and geared toward engaging your supporters and followers.
Don’t Always Leave the Account to Your Staff
Almost all Greek politicians tend not to use Instagram themselves. Instead, their posts are created by staff. Followers can often see through this, especially with Instagram Stories. A good Instagram account should create the impression that the politician is the one doing the posting.
In the end, keep in mind that Instagram is a more personal social media platform than Facebook. Whilst Facebook’s fan pages should be kept more official, the goal of Instagram is to create a more personal connection between the politician using it and the follower.
It is also vital to post regularly, but not so often as to overload the feeds of your followers. Three or four posts per week should do it. Finally, think of the stories feature as a good way to offer followers a backstage glimpse into your campaign. Take a day and use this feature heavily so supporters can be up close and personal with the candidate throughout an entire day of campaign events.
If used properly, Instagram can give your followers a unique look at the candidate and at your campaign.
But there are mistakes to avoid in order to make the best out of it. Instagram is a platform that can make you or break you, so make sure you have a plan for the channel before you launch.
Ioannis P. Chountis is the Founder of Promise PMC – M.A. in Political Marketing.