Pablo Picasso said, “Every now and then one paints a picture that seems to have opened a door and serves as a stepping stone to other things.” While some of you may be painters, the medium of choice for most people today is a smartphone. No longer do you need fancy equipment to take a great photograph. Taking and sharing pictures is faster and easier than ever with smartphones. Instagram lets you put those smartphone pictures to good use.
How does Instagram work?
Instagram is an online service that allows you to take and share photos and videos on the app and on other social networking platforms. You may be most familiar with Instagram because of ever-popular selfies. But with more than 400 million monthly users, the service is way more than a teen trend. Here’s how to use it.
- First, if you want to use Instagram, you have to download the Instagram app for iOS or Android.
- Next, you will create an Instagram account and a password.
- You will also need to set up a profile for yourself or your church. This is where users will see your bio and be able to view the photos and videos you have posted. Remember Branding 101, and create a consistent image for your church. Make sure that you use the same name across all forms of social media.
- Next, learn to use Instagram. The Instagram camera will allow you to take photos. While you don’t need to be a professional photographer, you obviously want to take inviting photos of your church. Learn tips for taking better photographs with your smartphone so that you can capture meaningful ministry moments.
- An important part of the post of any photograph is the caption. Make your captions count. Brevity and clarity are important. Take pains to write the perfect Instagram caption.
- You can also share photos from your photo library, search for and follow other users and make comments about your own posts and the posts of others.
- To take full advantage of Instagram for churches, remember that the top social media sites use hashtags. Think like a marketer and learn the best practices to use hashtags to make your Instagram posts more effective.
How can Instagram benefit your church?
Church leaders can use Instagram in a variety of ways to stay connected to their members, promote church ministries and reach new audiences. While it is a fairly simple process, there are tips for churches on how to make the most of the service.
Using Instagram, you can:
- Introduce staff and volunteers. Share a photo of yourself, your staff members or volunteers (with permission). In the caption, include the person’s name and title.
- Share the gospel: Add a quote from your sermon or an encouraging Scripture verse.
- Use hashtags to connect with other United Methodists. By adding #UMC (the most popular UMC hashtag) to your photo caption or in the comments section, your post is indexed and becomes searchable by United Methodists all over the world.
- Promote church events. Advertise services, events and sermon series or special classes. Remember to include the place, the time and the date.
- Give visitors a “taste” of your church. Share pictures of your church building, your worship service or behind-the-scenes photos of staff getting ready for special events. Produce a short video clip of your service and post it with an invitation for others to join you.
- Highlight various ministries. For example, share a picture of your children’s minister putting up VBS decorations or snap a picture of the meal prepared for the monthly women’s missions luncheon. Engage your audience by using the caption as a shareable invitation.
- Encourage congregants to use Instagram. Set up a fun and functional church photo booth in your lobby. Invite members to snap and share photos. Think of out-of-the-box cell phone use — before, after and even during your service!
- Promote discussions. Since Instagram users who follow your church can comment on your posts, you can encourage discussions about important topics. While many posts will be fun or lighthearted, consider some thoughtful conversation-starters as well.
- Make selfies beneficial. Consider the Selfies for the “Fruits of the Spirit” Campaign that the First United Methodist Church of Boulder, Colorado, created in 2015. Be creative. Encourage your staff and members to find ways to use selfies to promote your church, its ministry and the gospel.
Think like Picasso. Build an Instagram ministry, and use your pictures and videos to create stepping stones into the doors of your church.
Look out for part two in the next MyCom issue. We'll look at even more ways to use Instagram to promote your church!