8 ways to boost your executives’ presence through Instagram

It’s not just a platform for wacky images and video. Instagram can build your leaders’ profiles and lend a human face to your organization.

There it is: What could have been an overlong video of kids jumping on a trampoline is transformed into a crazy sequence speeded up like a Keystone Cops movie.

Or that guy cannonballing a swimming pool can be made to splash back out and replay his jump time and again.

Both are examples of Instagram tools that ordinary Janes and Joes are using to add pizzazz their posts. Yet these and other Instagram tools are increasingly finding a home in executive communications, two speakers told a Ragan Facebook Leadership Communications Summit in Menlo Park, California, on Thursday.

Just look at who is using the platform. Huffington Post founder and Thrive Global Chief Executive Arianna Huffington offers inspiration from the Dalai Lama. General Electric executive Beth Comstock shares a disorienting view of a bookstore in China. Spanx CEO Sara Blakely smooches Goofy at Disney World.

Ethan Arpi, market operations manager of Instagram, and Erin Murray Manning, strategic partner development manager of Facebook, offer tips for boosting leaders’ presence through the power of images. Here are a few:

1. Let your hair down.

If your executive is reluctant to try out the wilder possibilities of Instagram, try showing off other executives who are successes on the platform while still having fun. Consider Blakely, who didn’t hesitate to post a photo of herself in a bikini doing a flip into a lake. Instagram users love seeing a human side of the people they follow.

“She really knows her voice,” Murray Manning says. “It’s really casual. It’s very playful. It’s in the moment. And she’s really not afraid to share that with her followers.”

2. Use Instagram apps.

  • Boomerang is an Instagram app that stitches together images, enabling followers to see it happen again and again, Arpi says. This means your followers can see that kid leaping for a Frisbee, then flying backward, then doing it again. This allows you to create motion and greater energy in your content.
  • Hyperlapse allows you to create time-lapse video. “If you speed up an image,” Arpi says, “it just has a way of making it look a whole lot more cool. … What would have been a boring photograph becomes this really cool interactive video.”
  • Layout allows you to arrange multiple photographs together, thereby telling a story or showing of multiple angles on an event or a product.
  • Instagram Stories lets you share multiple photos and videos together in a slideshow format, Instagram states. The stories disappear in 24 hours, making this an ideal platform to experiment in, because it won’t be up forever.

“It creates much more ephemeral content,” Arpi says, “and by having ephemeral content, you can do much more experimentation.”

3. Create a narrative.

Don’t think of your stories solely as single posts, Arpi says. Share multiple stories that together build into a narrative. Think about where you’re going in your narrative arc. You can start mixing photos, videos or Boomerangs to tell a more dynamic story.

4. Share live video.

In November Instagram launched live video to enhance its stories. How can you use it in your organization? Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom once drew thousands of viewers to watch something as seemingly irrelevant as the company’s food buffet, highlighting the waffle station. But hey, maybe it helps recruit waffle lovers.

Live video connects you with your followers in real time, and unlike the Facebook experience, the video disappears the moment the broadcast is over. This makes it better with large follower bases, but it’s also safer to experiment, knowing that bad hair day of yours won’t be memorialized forever.

5. Highlight your big wins.

Systrom posted images of onboarding Pope Francis to Instagram. “And by onboarding such an important world leader,” Murray Manning says, “Kevin was able to make the point that Instagram is a place for serious, lasting messages and deeply personal connections.”

6. Offer shout-outs.

On Safer Internet Day, Systrom shared a photo of the Instagram team that seeks to make the platform safer and more welcoming. “This was an important employee shout-out but also demonstrated Kevin’s interest in internet safety,” Murray Manning says.

7. Share old photos.

Most organizations—as well as individual executives—have a trove of old photos, whether it’s the ’50s-era guys in skinny ties or your free-spirited CEO’s youthful pilgrimage to India. Throwback days are a good way to use such content, and followers like seeing a human side of an organization and its leaders.

8. Write smart captions.

Yes, Instagram is a visual tool, but captions can make all the difference. Without the written word, you wouldn’t know that Comstock’s photo of a mural captures an image of Mildred Dresselhaus, the first woman to win the U.S. National Medal of Science in engineering.

In the end, it boosts your presence if you “really know who you are and what you stand for,” Murray Manning says. Don’t be afraid to get personal, show customers around behind the scenes or take your fans along on your cycling vacation.

Adds Murray Manning, “We see Instagram as an opportunity to be a leadership platform.”



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