Instagram can be a very useful tool for public engagement. Here are my ideas on how to use Instagram as an academic researcher, effectively.

Before we get started, reflect on who you want to reach with your content in the first place. Is Instagram where that audience is to be found or would it be more rewarding to connect with them via Twitter? Not every demography is Insta-savvy.

Don’t just go on Instagram because every other academic seems to be there. Get in there purposefully.

Now, here are my top 5 tips on how you may use Instagram as an academic researcher:

#1 Have clear purpose for your Instagram account

What do you want to say? Do you want to talk about the PhD life journey in general, or your research work specifically?

Is your Instagram account simply meant to help you generate traffic to your blog or it’s primarily for networking with colleagues in your field?

Why do you need an Instagram account?

#2 Understand who your target audience is

Social media is crowded. Everyone is trying to get heard above the noise. This is why companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Google, are profiting billions from ads.

For those of us taking the organic route (as opposed to ads), we need a strategy. And that strategy involves knowing exactly who you are speaking to.

Chances are that if you get the attention of the right person, the people who follow their Instagram account (and vice versa) would be similarly interested in you too. It is a social NETWORK after all.

Understanding your target audience doesn’t end with a one-word description – you need to dig further and do some research.

Who are they? What are they interested in? What are their pain-points or frustrations? Is there any value I can add with my knowledge? Are these pain-points areas I can address?

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#3 Create the content and have a plan

Sometimes people underestimate how much hard work content creation for social media is.

To be fair, many academic researchers also keep off social media because they consider it time-consuming and off little value to their work. I beg to differ on the latter, and I address this at the end of this article.

About content-creation being time-consuming, like everything else we already do, it just takes planning.

Now that you have a purpose for your Instagram channel and you understand who your key audiences are, you can tell where the knowledge you have overlaps with their needs.

Get creative and produce the content that speaks to your audience. But most importantly, have a content calendar that will allow you plan content in advance.

This is how not to get overwhelmed and stressed out over social media.

There are loads of apps out there you can use to schedule your content ahead; as long as your remember to check in from time to time to engage with your audience.

You may also like to read: I am a woman in Science, and I love Instagram.

by Dr. Natalie Susman

#4 Promote your Instagram account

Don’t just create content and expect it to be found automatically.

Beyond competing against the noise online, your content is also grappling with the algorithm of the platform.

The algorithm determines how much of your content is visible, and the ranking factors used to make the selection change from time to time.

Rather than break sweat trying to figure out what the ranking factors are, focus on creating value (content) for your audience. If you make your audience happy, Instagram is happy with you.

Value creation on Social Networks is measured by how much engagement you generate on your page, not just the number of followers you have.

Use every tool at your disposal to promote your Instagram channel.

Link to to your channel in your email signatures, plunk it on your introduction slides at conferences, print it on your business cards (if you still use those, no judgement), and boldly display it on your blog or website.

You may also like to read: Personal branding for academics

By Dr. Tee Ola

#5 Engage your audience

Don’t treat your Instagram channel like a noticeboard or public service announcement channel.

Get your audience engaged – and there are various techniques to do this. Ask questions in images and captions, and genuinely pay attention to the answers.

We do this a lot, especially on the Stylish Academic Facebook Group. It says your opinion counts.

Make use of the cool features on Instagram – the polls, quizzes, sliders etc.

Also follow your audience and listen. I don’t mean this in a creepy way. I just mean pay attention. Ask for feedback even.

Why should you use Instagram as an academic researcher?

  • It’s a cheap and easy way to get the wider public involved with your research
  • It’s a great networking tool to connect with fellow researchers in your field, especially across the world
  • It reduces the feeling of isolation that often comes with thesis writing and research generally
  • Engagement on this platform is measurable, so you can demonstrate the value of what you do in facts and figures

There is so much more we can talk about when it comes to deciding on the name of your Instagram channel, kind of content, how to write captions and so on. Let me know in the comment section, if this is something you might be interested in.

In the meantime, coming soon are my shortlist of academics doing Instagram for research right.

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Tee Ola is the Managing Editor at Stylish Academic. She completed her PhD in Digital Media and Public Culture in 2015 from the University of Warwick, during which time she founded Stylish Academic. Tee works as a Digital Strategy & UX Consultant by day and Managing Editor + fitness girl by night. She’s on Instagram as @thetomiola.