Instagram is increasingly becoming an educational sharing ground - moving away from pure FOMO inducing aspirational content. This 52INSIGHTS explores this evolution of the social platform in 2020, and the ways in which people are using it to share insights, inspiration and advice with broader audiences and communities, ensuring that online action translates to tangible offline change.
HACKING EDUCATION: THE SOCIAL JUSTICE SLIDESHOW
“I took my Twitter energy to Instagram.” Avery Francis
So called ‘power-point activism’ is all over Instagram these days. What is it? Essentially bite-sized pieces of information or short guides that simplify and explain a topic - often a complex or topical one - packaged in neat (often aesthetically pleasing) instagram squares. The @soyouwanttotalkabout page, for example, was set up in February to simplify political concepts into plain language - think of it like a hack to getting a grasp of a complex topics - and has 2.1million followers.
Infographics on Instagram, of course, aren’t new, but they are circulating widely now. The rise of this type of Instagram post was observed back in June as BLM protests erupted across the globe; in the wake of George Floyd’s, many turned to social media to learn about topics and histories they did not even know they had missed - the informed were happy to catch people up.
“Online activism, coupled with in-person organizing, reached a zenith in June, as daily Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the country. Instagram, once an apolitical din, reflected that change. It no longer felt appropriate — even for celebrities and influencers, who tend to exist unfazed by current events — to skip over politics and resume regular programming. The escapist days of uninterrupted brunch photos and filtered selfies have been replaced by protest photos and black squares. For a brief moment, it seemed as though people, whether they have 150 followers or 150,000, were hyper-aware of what they should or should not post. The unexpected solution to this posting ambivalence came in the form of bite-sized squares of information...” Vox
As you can imagine, these types of posts evolved as more users adopted them as an effective way to communicate a range of social justice issues (for example, there’s reading lists, posts on Turkey’s femicide rate, Lebanon, Defunding the police…) - and even guides for difficult conversations. Not only are these posts useful and informative (someone else has done a lot of ground work and research for you) - the slideshows are eye-catching and use design choices (Canva is a popular app used by creators) intended to pause scrolling and prompt reading the info provided.
THE TOOLS: INSTAGRAM ENABLES THE INFO-HUNT
“Stories disappear after 24 hours but this guide will remain...” Zoe Sugg
It’s all about making information (and terminology and complex topics) as accessible and shareable as possible. Carousels (an Instagram function that allows users to post up to 10 images at once) have allowed these bite-sized pieces of information to exist as educational slideshows that tell a story about a particular topic, issue or incidence. The format conveniently also allows the post to be shared by others in their stories.
In 2018, Instagram finally allowed users to share others’ content, via “Stories” — which naturally helps boost the spread of these kinds of graphics. Now Instagram has just launched ‘Guides.’ The Guides function works as a way to curate scrollable content (products, places or posts) and helpful recommendations - with commentary - in an easily digestible format. Guides now enables users to create extensive lists of resources for particular topics. It’s a really versatile format of curated discovery - a way to share inspiration, guidance and tell stories. UK creator Zoe Sugg, for example, has created Guides on anxiety and mental health (‘things that helped lift me, feel less alone or educate me…’) and Black Lives Matter for her 9.1million followers to explore.
The older Q&A function on Instagram of course also enables a different kind of conversation to be broadcast - allowing individuals and educational pages to invite and answer questions from followers, facilitating the evolution of Instagram from a passive advocacy channel to a safe of accountability, learning and impact.
SOURCE QUALITY & FACT CHECKING
Some of these posts or guides that advocate for virtually any cause you can think of - are likely to get tens of thousands of “likes” and engagements. This means it’s really important for people to pay attention to the source of the information. A regular habit of more trustworthy sources is to include credits and statistical sources within the posts or in the caption, further legitimising Instagram as a source of valid education in a world that needs life-long learning on all social justice issues.
The power of social media to inspire young people to expand their horizons and knowledge-base through the communities they engage with and drive real, important change has been realised in 2020.
There is a clear opportunity for brands to participate in online education using campaigns as catalysts for change.
Transparency in communication is key as is the communication format - take inspiration from this evolving way of knowledge sharing emerging from young communities - around an important topic, clear facts and figures, proof points and examples are preferred to language that has to be deciphered or long paragraphs of context. The Guides function is also an obvious format for a brand to share stories behind a product, purpose or social mission, or highlight posts by fans.
As we head towards 2021 one thing is for sure - lifelong learning is here for the long-haul, so get learning how to use your brand voice for educational purposes.