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Instagram’s Become An Essential Tool For Activists. But It’s A Double-Edged Sword. – Social Good

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Before Patrice Ingram shuts off her bedside light, before she closes her eyes to prepare for the day ahead, she checks Instagram.

She’s not floating through a numbing sea of glamorized self-portraits and intricately posed interiors. Instead, she’s navigating the direct messages for Mutual Aid Philly, the volunteer-run organization dedicated to getting Philadelphia’s residents the help they need.

Ingram taps-taps through the messages. One person asks for living expenses. Another needs money for toiletries, but they’re too far. It’s all moot, because Mutual Aid Philly doesn’t offer financial aid on a rolling basis — they only open up monetary assistance periodically throughout the year. Ingram tries her best to provide additional resources, but generally, she has to turn each person away.

“I feel like that’s something that’s catching up with me now,” Ingram said. “I’m just realizing that, ‘Wow, it’s been a lot to keep up with it.'”

She recently texted a fellow volunteer and asked for some help. The onslaught of direct messages that came in every day was almost dizzying. She needed a break.

This is the flip side of Instagram activism — behind every slideshow, graphic, and direct message is a person.

The landscape of community Instagram activism

Instagram’s reach is one of its positives. The app had one billion monthly active users in June 2018, according to Statista. And in the last year especially, the social media platform has become a fertile organizing ground for activists. The informative Instagram slideshow is practically ubiquitous, a landmark reposted in Stories ad infinitum.

For community activists, those who cater to particular geographic regions or individual causes and perhaps want a small relative share of the market, Instagram can be a powerful way to reach their audience.

Katie Boué started building her personal Instagram following in 2013 as an aspiring travel writer planning to spend a year living in a van.

Although her feed is now filled with Western landscapes of sweeping mountains and the vast blue sky, the outdoor advocate grew up in Miami, Florida, where the great wilderness generally has two options — a beach or a swamp.

As Boué navigated America from her van, just as #VanLife was becoming the phenomenon it is today, she had an epiphany. She was benefiting from the world around her, but what was she giving back?

“I was living rent free on America,” she said. “I started feeling this obligation and sense of needing to steward these places and take care of them, because I was taking so much from them.”

Her newfound passion for outdoor advocacy led to a job in November 2014 with the Outdoor Industry Association, a trade organization representing the policy interests of the outdoor industry, including brands like REI, The North Face and Patagonia. There, she grew the group’s Instagram following to more than 24,000 people — a particular accomplishment for an organization that engages more with politicians than the public. She saw one of the platform’s biggest positives: its ability to connect people from across the globe seemingly overnight.

Boué’s time there proved to her the impact the outdoor industry had on public policy, and how little the voices of the consumers purchasing those products were heard in the legislative process. In 2019, the outdoor recreation economy represented 2.1 percent — or $459.8 billion — of the United States GDP, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s not a small chunk of change.

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That knowledge spurred her to start the Outdoor Advocacy Project, working with other industry leaders on a movement dedicated to — at the very least — encouraging recreationalists to recreate responsibly and — at the very most — elevating their voices in key policy decisions.

A scroll through the Outdoor Advocacy Project’s posts shows recent virtual events with the Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, an interview with New Mexico’s first Latina public lands commissioner, and a slideshow on how drought affects wildfires.

Much of the work of community Instagram activism is grassroots and educational, with flavors of local journalism. It’s not simply telling people what to do, but giving them the tools to make better informed decisions. But there are times where social media activism needs to reach beyond edification to result in tangible policy or decision changes.

Enter the Utah national park sale. Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced it was going to lease more than 114,000 acres of land in Utah — many near Canyonlands and Arches National Parks’ legendary red rocks — for drilling. Incensed by this discovery, the Outdoor Advocacy Project launched a social media campaign to gather signatures on a petition opposing the lease. In two weeks, more than 30,000 people signed. Community actions had real impact: Within a month, the proposed oil and gas leases on 87,000 acres of land near national parks were cancelled.

Those are the good days. But there are bad days, when being a public figure in the world of Instagram takes a toll. Last year, a group of people online stalked the personal information of Boué’s family.

“The idea of being publicly perceived is a lot shinier than the reality,” she said. “I think that a lot of us realize that in fact we do not wish to be perceived at all.”

Would Boué trade her Instagram fame for some privacy?

“In retrospect, I wish I had never logged onto Instagram,” she said.

Still, other grassroots Instagram activists remain in awe of their platform while maintaining a healthy dose of wariness to its drawbacks. Indigenous creator Isaac Madson got his start on TikTok in early May, 2020 and soon transitioned some of his following to Instagram. Much of Madson’s Instagram activity echoes his TikTok — his feed is largely Reels, short, edited videos that can have multiple clips and largely resemble TikToks for the Instagram set. He sees the biggest pro of the social media platform as enabling users to find a community of like-minded people. But it can be difficult to separate his online self with his personal self.

In one of Madson’s early TikTok videos, he responds to a comment: “First Native American I’ve seen on the For You Page. Finally.”

“Representation matters,” Madson writes in the text while DaBaby’s “Rockstar” plays in the background. “Hopefully I’m not the last Native American you’ll get to see on the FYP.”

The creator was stunned by the early response his videos received. His friends teased him, claiming they’d never download TikTok. Eventually, Madson grew a following on Instagram through reposting his TikToks as Reels and using the IGTV live function. On both TikTok and Instagram, he was sometimes the first Navajo person viewers had seen promoted on the app.

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Madson found the public nature of Instagram and TikTok to be a double-edged sword. He never expected millions of people to watch his videos, and he found himself fielding questions about his culture and other people’s identity.

“It was really overwhelming to feel so much emotion being outpoured to me,” he said. “It took me a while to realize that I didn’t need to have an answer to every question asked.”

By the time Madson garnered a similar following on Instagram, he knew how to set boundaries. He reminded himself not to take comments so personally. He got comfortable telling people no or that he didn’t know.

While many of Madson’s videos speak to a broader kind of activism, that of representation and being seen, he occasionally steps in to advocate for local issues.

When a federal court refused to extend the deadline for mail-in ballots from Navajo Nation voters in Arizona despite access issues, outsiders offered to drive people to post offices, Madson says. He was shocked. At the time, COVID-19 was in full swing and residents on the reservation were being asked to stay home. The last thing they wanted was a flood of people, even if they were trying to help.

“There was that space for someone like me to say, ‘I live here and this is not right,’” he said. “You guys have these good intentions, but this is how it is here. And if you want to help, there are mutual aids that are already working.”

On Instagram, Madson felt he and other Native organizers were able to control the narrative around voting. Native organizers put out accurate information on how to vote and asked helpful questions — “Do you have a ride?” and “How will you get there?”

“We put the focus on getting people to prepare themselves,” he said. “We continued to move together in our messaging to empower our communities that we as Indigenous people are resilient.”

Organizations like Mutual Aid Philly also have to pick and choose the causes they elevate. The group made a decision not to share crowdfunding campaigns from outside groups, because it was too difficult to determine which ones merited sharing.

Drawing attention to issues outside of mutual aid and available community resources felt like too much to Ingram. People were worried about affording their next meal. They didn’t need to focus on something else.

“People are already struggling and just needing so much aid,” Ingram said. “Raising awareness to other issues could make them feel like, ‘What about me?’”

What’s the end goal of Instagram activism?

The trouble with Instagram is whether it’s a means to an end or the end itself. This is the dilemma Boué finds herself now considering.

“We really have to take a step back now and figure out how we navigate this space,” Boué said, noting that posting on Instagram can’t be the end goal. It has to be signing petitions, engaging in policy advocacy, or having an offline impact. “How do we use Instagram for organizing all these community movements, but also how do we make sure that Instagram isn’t the point of our advocacy?”

Before the 2020 presidential election, Madson and other digital organizers teamed up with the Rural Utah Project and Natives Outdoors to reach out to Indigenous voters. In total, the campaign reached more than 2.2 million people, encouraging voter participation and combating disinformation in the run-up to the 2020 election. President Joe Biden received roughly 13,500 more votes in 2020 from the Navajo and Hopi reservations in Arizona than Hillary Clinton did in 2016, according to a New York Times analysis.

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The result of that election prompted one of the most pivotal success stories for Native Americans: the selection of Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo, as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary.

In a TikTok celebrating the decision, tears welled up in Madson’s eyes. “This is a big deal,” he says.

“It was us collectively sharing, whether through a mass audience or our personal circles, our experience and sharing our passion for having somebody in such a high position within the United States government.”

“That was something that a lot of Native American organizations pushed for,” he said in an interview. “It wasn’t just one or two people — it was us collectively sharing, whether through a mass audience or our personal circles, our experience and sharing our passion for having somebody in such a high position within the United States government.”

Mutual Aid Philly watched their demand and donations skyrocket over the summer of 2020, in part through growth on social media. By the end of that year, they had distributed more than $100,000 in direct aid. But this year, it’s been much slower, says Ben Haas, who has a lead organizing role in the mutual aid group.

“The portion of the public not already engaged in mutual aid and justice work doesn’t have the longest attention span for ongoing work like ours,” he said.

Part of that is because some people want a “fixable” problem, Haas said. People want to donate to causes when they’re in the spotlight or when they’re able to see the tangible and immediate impacts their money can have. And while social media can be a powerful tool, crowded feeds don’t always facilitate or encourage repeat engagement.

“You see a post of ours, hit follow, and then forget until you see us again on your feed.”

“You see a post of ours, hit follow, and then forget until you see us again on your feed,” Haas said. “But how many people do you follow? How long until you see us again?”

For others, engagement is not the problem. It’s translating that engagement into real action. Boué hopes to grow the Outdoor Advocacy Project into an organization with regional branches, so they can have people on the ground focused on local issues.

But most importantly, she hopes to answer this: How do we take activism off of Instagram? For Boué, that might look like organizing a trail day, talking with local land management agencies at City Hall, or simply getting more people outside.

“People are really having a wake-up call to [needing to organize off of Instagram]. We’ve discovered this really great tool and it’s part of the toolbox,” Boué said. “But it can’t just be Instagram. Somebody has to go do the thing for good. We have an opportunity to connect those dots.”

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android

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Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly

PLANOLY

We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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Social networking websites launch features to encourage users to get boosters

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Facebook Instagram and TikTok are launching new features to encourage people to get their coronavirus booster jabs.

From Friday, users will be able to update their profiles with frames or stickers to show that they have had their top-up jab or aim to when they become eligible.

It follows on from people previously being able to show they have had their first and second jabs on certain social networking websites and apps.

TikTok also held a “grab a jab” event in London earlier this year.

I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones

More than 16 million booster vaccines have now been given across the UK.

People who are aged 40 and above and received their second dose of their vaccine at least six months ago are currently eligible to have their booster.

A new campaign advert is also being launched on Friday, which shows how Covid-19 can build up in enclosed spaces and how to prevent that from happening.

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup said:  “Getting your booster is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family this winter.

“It is fantastic to see some of the biggest household names further back the phenomenal vaccine rollout, allowing their users to proudly display that they have played their part in helping us build a wall of defence across the country.

“I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top-up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

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How many hashtags should you use to get the most ‘Likes’ on Instagram?

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Hashtags are a key feature of Instagram posts. In fact, they have become an essential means of ensuring more ‘Likes’ on social media – so long as you choose them wisely.

But how many hashtags should you use to maximise your popularity on the social network? The answer might surprise you.

It’s a question that many Instagram users ask themselves: what’s the right number of hashtags to add to a post? To find out, the Later platform analysed 18 million Instagram posts, excluding videos, Reels and Stories.

Interestingly, Later’s results differ from Instagram’s own recommendations. According to Later’s analysis, using more hashtags helps get better results in terms of “reach”, or the percentage of users exposed to the post. By using 20 hashtags, Later observed an optimal average reach rate of just under 36%. Using 30 hashtags gets the next-best reach rate. With five hashtags, reach hits just under 24%.

And while a post’s reach is important, engagement is even more so. From “Likes” and comments to shares and follows – on average, 30 hashtags appears to result in better engagement rates: “When it comes to average engagement rate, using 30 Instagram hashtags per feed post results in the most likes and comments,” says Later’s research.

Yet, at the end of September 2021, Instagram advised its creators to use between three and five hashtags for their posts, while warning them against using too many. The social network advised that using 10 to 20 hashtags per post “will not help you get additional distribution”.

For Later, there could be other reasons behind Instagram’s recommendations: “As Instagram continues to expand their discoverability and SEO tools, it makes sense that they want users to experiment with fewer, more relevant hashtags – this could help them accurately categorise and recommend your posts in suggested content streams, like the Instagram Reels feed or the updated hashtag search tabs,” the website explains. – AFP Relaxnews

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