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Instagram is More Than Pretty Pictures

With almost a billion people worldwide tapping in each month, Instagram has become a social media starlet. It’s not as big as Facebook — which owns it, by the way — but among social media mobile apps, it is fourth, behind Facebook, What’s App and Facebook Messenger.

But consider this: About a third of people in the U.S. use Instagram. And with its newer features, Instagram has become about much more than posting dreamy pictures. The social media platform can help publicize, promote and build attendance for conferences and conventions.

Here are a few ways to put Instagram to work before, during and after your event.

Spread the word with Stories

When Instagram added its Stories feature five years ago, usage shot up. Stories lets users share videos and strings of photos that disappear in 24 hours. Its ephemeral nature naturally encourages people to check in frequently with your conference’s Instagram. About half of Instagram users use Stories every day. The format works well for reporting on a convention in progress — you can put together a recap of the day or a Q&A with an attendee about the best information they gleaned from the sessions they attended. Stories can also promote deeper content, directing users to blogs or other social media channels like Facebook. Before the conference, Stories can announce big-name speakers, new products or services. After the conference, an association president can thank everyone for coming and talk about next year’s event in a video message.

Take a peek behind the scenes

Talented staff and volunteers probably help put your event together. Give followers the equivalent of a backstage pass by putting the spotlight on some of these important people, and help attendees get a better understanding of the work that goes on behind the scenes. Show your sound engineer flipping his switches, a speaker preparing for a major keynote address, an event designer arranging that knockout floral centerpiece or the volunteer who has greeted attendees for the past 10 years. Put the focus on your convention and its history by highlighting some of its brightest moments with photos or videos from the past, or share a series of little-known facts about your organization and its work. Use data from studies of your industry or profession to create infographics that will be of interest to your audience.

Stage an Instagram takeover

Have an industry expert who is speaking at your conference take over the conference Instagram for a day and post about pertinent issues. Enlisting such an influencer gets people who are coming to the conference more excited about it and builds attendance, as influencers typically have thousands, sometimes millions, of followers. A good example is Daymond John, the businessman, author, motivational speaker and Shark Tank personality who has 1.2 million followers on Instagram. Another twist on an Instagram takeover? Promote your conference destination by hiring a local influencer to post about the city for a day. Have a photographer post scenic photos or a foodie post fantastic photos and videos from favorite restaurants.

Find fun ways to get engagement

Instagram’s eye-candy origins make it naturally enticing. Adding fun elements like games, polls and contests makes it even easier to get people to interact with Instagram posts. Reward winners with a prize that is tied to your event, like free admission to next year’s conference or a ticket to a sold-out VIP event. Polls are quick and easy: Just pop on a poll sticker that Instagram supplies, pose a question and give people two choices. Steak or salmon? Dogs or cats? Instagram’s question sticker is more freeform: Ask a question and users can supply any answer they wish. “What’s your favorite work gadget?” “Best business book you’ve read and why?” Instagram’s countdown sticker can count down to anything: the opening date of the conference, a big announcement about next year’s conference site. Contests can challenge followers to come up with a winning caption for a photo or post their best pictures from last year’s convention.

Give everyone a chance to speak

Education and networking drive people to meetings and conferences, so it makes sense to use Instagram to share what the crowd at your conference is saying, from speakers who are in the spotlight to those who are attending your event for the first time. To promote interest in a speaker and give people a taste of what their talk will include, pair a speaker’s picture with one of his or her powerful quotes. Include a bio that makes it clear why your audience won’t want to miss this person’s presentation. Do Q&A videos with various audiences: industry leaders, conference speakers, attendees. Post video interviews with the suppliers who have the most innovative booths at your trade show. Interview attendees about the challenges of their job or invite them to talk about how they balance work and personal life.