Any given weekend in New York City, you can likely find an InstaMeet happening. As the Instagram platform and the digital space becomes more saturated, this might just be the way your nonprofit can stand out and build deeper relationships in the communities you're trying to impact. Kerri Sullivan of Jersey Collective, a community of New Jersey photographers "showing why NJ is awesome", shares with us just why InstaMeets are so powerful and how to run one.
What's an InstaMeet?
Instagram is more than just an online tool for sharing photographs. With InstaMeets, users are getting together offline as well. An InstaMeet is when a group of Instagrammers meet up in person to take photos together. Hosting an InstaMeet is a great way to connect with members of your community, get some great free publicity, and gain high-quality photos to use on your social media accounts and websites.
Benefits of an InstaMeet
- Exposure: InstaMeets create the perfect environment for spreading your mission to a new group of people. You never know who will show up to an InstaMeet. It’s guaranteed that there will be photographers in attendance, but the really neat thing is that not everyone who uses Instagram is a professional photographer. Individuals of varying interests, backgrounds, and ages show up to meets.
Wider reach: When your InstaMeet attendees recap the event by posting to their account, they’re sharing your nonprofit’s story. You’re able to authentically tap into their network by showing your team and community in action.
Photographs: A really important part of an InstaMeet is taking pictures. Some people will be interested in taking portraits and others might gravitate toward capturing a sense of place. Your meet attendees might take some awesome photos of your building or your staff, and maybe they'll be willing to let you use them on your website.
Low/no cost: Hosting an InstaMeet doesn't cost anything but time. It's a cheap (or free) but powerful tool for promotion and connection. You can share your message with people who are interesting, influential, and well-connected with your community.
How to do it
- Choose a location: If your organization has a physical location, this is easy. If you can offer something extra appealing like behind-the-scenes access to areas that are normally closed to the public, consider doing so. If you don't have a physical space of your own to use for a meet, that's okay! Maybe you can partner with another organization. Or you can use a local park or downtown area. If you're not sure if a particular location would work well, consider reaching out to a local Instagrammer who’s engaged in the community and ask for their input. If you’re meeting in a big public area, be sure to give directions or put up signage to let people know exactly where to find the group on the day of the event.
Choose a date and time: Set a date and give yourself enough time to promote the event. Consider a weekend date if you want to draw a big group.
Create a hashtag: Hashtags are used on Instagram to group related content together. When you create a dedicated hashtag for your meet, anyone on Instagram will be able to click on it and see all of the photos posted from your event. Instagram's website has some more information about what works well.
Simple is good: Funny or clever hashtags go over well. You want it to be easy to remember and spell. A good one to use might be #YourOrganizationNameMeet. You also want to check to make sure it’s a name that hasn’t already been used. If it has, you can consider incorporating the date or location.
Partner with influencers: Invite prominent Instagrammers and ask them to help spread the word. They'll likely be flattered you asked them personally and happy to tell their other Instagram friends about the event. Search for hashtags related to your state or city and use them when posting your announcement. This will help local people find you and your event. Send out press releases and see if any local papers or websites are interested in covering what you're doing or listing your meet in their event pages.
At the event
- InstaMeets don't require much structure beyond giving people the time and meeting place. It's a good idea to have a place for attendees to check in when they arrive. Get their information so you can tag them in photos and reach out to them later. If you can, give something away like stickers, reusable tote bags, or snacks. Be sure to have plenty of brochures/flyers with information about your organization to educate the community on your cause and ways to get involved.
Plan to make an announcement once the group has gathered. Let them know the plan for the day, even if the plan is just "go wander and take pictures." Thank everyone for coming out. This is your opportunity to them a bit about you and your organization. If you're incorporating a tour into your meet, you likely already know how your organization likes to handle tour groups. One thing to keep in mind for an InstaMeet, though: make sure you leave plenty of time at each stop for pictures! This tour group will differ from others because everyone will have a camera and they'll want to take a lot of shots of everything. They'll also want to mingle with each other, so give them the time and space to do so.
Be sure to take a group photo, especially if you draw a big group!
After the event
After the meet comes another exciting part of InstaMeets--seeing all of the photos! Some people will post photos during the meet, but many will wait until they've had the chance to look through and edit their images. A great way to honor some of your favorite images is to repost them to your organization's account. The Repost app is a great one that does the work for you and properly credits the original photographer. Always make sure to tag and credit the person who took the photo.
Follow up with some of your new connections about possible collaborations. Maybe the portrait photographer you met would be willing to volunteer her time on another day and photograph your staff for your website's about page or cover your next event. Follow up with the teenager who mentioned that he needs community service hours and asked about how to volunteer with your organization.
Finally: keep the momentum going and plan another one!