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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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?’”

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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.

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“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.

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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.”

Related video: How companies (and you) can make social media accessible for everyone

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LinkedIn Makes its 20 Most Popular LinkedIn Learning Courses Freely Available Throughout August

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Looking to up your skills for a job change or career advancement in the second half of the year?

This will help – today, LinkedIn has published its listing of the 20 most popular LinkedIn Learning courses over the first half of 2022. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also making each of these courses free to access till the end of the month – so now may well be the best time to jump in and brush up on the latest, rising skills in your industry.

As per LinkedIn:

As the Great Reshuffle slows and the job market cools, professionals are getting more serious about skill building. The pandemic accelerated change across industries, and as a result, skills to do a job today have changed even compared to a few years ago. Professionals are responding by learning new skills to future-proof their careers and meet the moment.” 

LinkedIn says that over seven million people have undertaken these 20 courses this year, covering everything from improved communication, project management, coding, strategic thinking and more.

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Here are the top 20 LinkedIn Learning courses right now, which you can access via the relevant links:

  1. Goal Setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with Jessie Withers
  2. Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365) with Dennis Taylor
  3. Interpersonal Communication with Dorie Clark
  4. Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  5. Project Management Foundations with Bonnie Biafore
  6. Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity with Joshua Miller
  7. Essentials of Team Collaboration with Dana Brownlee
  8. Unconscious Bias with Stacey Gordon
  9. Learning Python with Joe Marini
  10. Communicating with Confidence with Jeff Ansell
  11.  Speaking Confidently and Effectively with Pete Mockaitis
  12. Learning the OWASP Top 10 with Caroline Wong
  13. Power BI Essential Training with Gini von Courter
  14. Strategic Thinking with Dorie Clark
  15. SQL Essential Training with Bill Weinman
  16. Developing Your Emotional Intelligence with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  17. Communication Foundations with Brenda Bailey-Hughes and Tatiana Kolovou
  18. Agile Foundations with Doug Rose
  19. Digital Marketing Foundations with Brad Batesole
  20. Critical Thinking with Mike Figliuolo
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If you’ve been thinking about upskilling, now may be the time – or maybe it’s just worth taking some of the programming courses, for example, so that you have a better understanding of how to communicate between departments on projects.

Or you could take an Agile course. If, you know, you don’t trust your own management ability.

The courses are available for free till August 31st via the above links.

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Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …

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Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.

Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.

Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.

Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.

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Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.

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Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.

Now, the active status will only appear when you are both active at the same time.#Instagram #instgramnewfeature@MattNavarra @instagram @alex193a pic.twitter.com/2chGZP9hr4

— Yash Joshi  (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021

Read next: Instagram Plans On Allowing Users To Return To Its Old Chronologically Sorted News Feed

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android

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5-apps-for-scheduling-instagram-posts-on-iphone-and-android-–-mashable

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.

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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.

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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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