A Social Media Power User’s Advice for Instagram


Do you use Instagram personally, but aren’t sure how to use it for your organization? Instagram offers organizations a great opportunity to tell visual stories and reach people on what feels like a less-crowded platform.

Erykah St. Louis is a senior digital strategist at ignite: action and has 10 years of experience in marketing, communications, and digital strategy. She was head of digital strategy at ADRA International, where she managed a team of content creators and developed an integrated global digital strategy with a focus on improved user experience.

Erykah started out as a graphic designer, but became a social media power user. At her job at a nonprofit, she campaigned for her organization to become more active online. “Early on, I saw the value of organizations opening themselves up to their audience on social media,” she says.

1) What do you love about working in the social media sphere?

Erykah: I love the community aspect of social media. I like that you can have your own tribe and that it can be incredibly authentic and real. I like that it is constantly evolving. It’s never static. At the root of what makes social media successful is people’s desire to be connected and part of a community.

2) Why should organizations use Instagram?

Erykah: Instagram does curated content really well. Better than any other platform. Instagram feels less noisy than other platforms. On Instagram, organizations can tell their story in different ways.

I don’t think Instagram is necessarily the right platform for every business, but more and more people are moving to Instagram as their main social media platform.

Users on Instagram are talking about the products they use, the experiences they have in different countries and contexts. This represents an opportunity for organizations to get to know their audience better. It’s also a place where you can get immediate feedback on how you’re doing.

It also a great place to tell your story in different ways. You can have a strong visual story for your brand but you can also give customers the feeling that they have behind-the-scenes access. Post can be like mini-commercials or behind-the-scenes content. You can also talk with your audience about something exciting you want to share or connect in real time, beyond likes and comments.

3) How do you suggest organizations get started with Instagram?

Erykah: Organizations can get started by doing an exercise: Look and listen. Get a sense of your audience’s behavior. Step one: Is your audience even on Instagram? Spend time listening and observing.

Don’t create an account without a plan. The biggest pitfall is that organizations start an Instagram account and they don’t have a plan or idea on how they’re going to manage it.

Determine what types of messages you’re going to post. Is Instagram a sales tool for you? Is it an educational tool? Is it inspirational? What is the mix of content that you want to share on Instagram?

Decide who within your organization owns Instagram. That person will need autonomy to make real-time decisions about what needs to get posted and why.

Develop a posting strategy for how you’re going to keep your audience engaged. Organizations don’t necessarily have to post every day, but definitely every week is recommended to ensure that your organization is top of mind. Or close to top of mind. There is no magic number for the number of times a day you should post. Some organizations do 4 x or 6x a day. That would be too much for others.

As you use Instagram, you will gradually learn how your audience responds. You collect data as you use the platform. You may start with one posting strategy, but that will change as your activity picks up and your audience grows.

4) For inspiration, who is using Instagram really well?

Erykah: Airbnb have done a great job at visualizing the Airbnb experience by pushing the human element. Their Instagram feed makes you feel like you’re in the customers’ shoes, which is very deliberate. The captions are almost as enticing as the photos.

charity: water’s Instagram feed is inspiring because it highlights their success stories and shows people who are affected by the contributions made from supporters. The photography has a consistent style. Each image tells a whole story.