Building A Community With Instagram: IGers Exeter

One of the many hats that I wear is co-admin of Instagramers Exeter, a group of Instagram lovers who often meet for instameets to take photos of stuff and network.

Whilst rummaging through some files, I came across a post that I wrote last year after my talk at Digital Exeter at The City Gate just over a year ago.  Some of this is out of date now; we’ve since had an Instameet at Exmouth and we have held one for the City Walk trail too.  And the resplendent Mark Myerson is currently the other co-admin.

But it shows off Instagram and the way that a community can be built-up through the love of an activity or an app quite easily with social media.

IGERS EXETER LOGO

This blog post accompanies my talk that I gave to The Digital Exeter Group on the 23rd July 2015, and although much of the content might be the same, it gives me a chance to present any links and address topics I might not be able to in the presentation.

My contribution to the Digital Exeter talk agenda was ‘Building Community with Instagram’

As an aperitif, here are a few stats from the bods at econsultancy.com to give you an idea many people are using Instagram at the moment:

  • Instagram has over 300m monthly active users. 
  • On an average day Instagram users post 70m photos and hit the ‘like’ button nearly 2.5bn times.
  • It’s a popular app with 20% of internet users possessing an Instagram account

So naturally an app like this will have a fan base. Instagramers is a globally organised fan network and in this post I will be sharing my experiences of building up an Instagramers Network Group here in Exeter and some of the ways that we’ve built up the community using Instagram as the primary network.

Who Am I?

I won’t go in to great detail about myself, but to give you context I must encapsulate how I fit in to Instagramers Exeter. As the admin (I suppose coordinator might also work?) my role is to organise, promote and run the group. I do this on my own at the moment, dedicating as much as five to two hours a week generally. My twitter handle is @chrisgower and my Instagram handle is @ch.ris.g

I am a qualified librarian who has a professional interest (I run our social media channels and am always on the lookout for new ways for us to use SM to engage with customers) in how libraries use social media and the social media landscape in general.

I work for a large education provider based in the city centre and am in charge of our departmental social media accounts.  I’ve been an Instagram user for about three years, running accounts for myself and other projects. My guinea pig has an Instagram account too, but she much prefers just using Twitter.

My interest in social media also covers my other long­term project, which is Eating Exeter (www.eatingexeter.co) a blog dedicated to reviewing restaurants and other eating places in Exeter, along with foodie events and press releases it has a very wide remit and covers anything to do with eating and buying food in Exeter. The blog is active on social media, with a Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram presence. I use IFTTT to provide consistency and Tweetdeck to manage things on one screen.

And finally I have Instagramers Exeter, which is the focus of this post.

What is Instagramers?

Instagramers.com is a website that was started in January 2011 by Phillipe Gonzalez @philgonzalez, a Barcelona based developer, who started posting tips and tutorials about how to use Instagram and interviews with key Instagramers.

A friend suggested that Phil create a fan group for Instagram fans in Barcelona. So Phillip and his friend Marta Alonso (@martaar) started one in Barcelona and Madrid (@igersmadrid). Soon other fans started writing to him asking permission to start groups in other cities, and now the movement has sparked 410 groups in over 60 countries from San Francisco to the Philippines. There is a nice interview with Phillipe here which is worth a read.

I haven’t really come across a good short definition for what the Instagramers is, so I am going to have a go and create my own. Instagramers empowers Instagram users to improve their experience through tutorials via the website. It celebrates the best things about Instagram through organised fan groups, which furthers the value of the mobile application. It is one of the only fan based network of its kind (EyeEm has a similar fan groups but not on such an organised scale) and a quick glance at the website will show that there is even an offline Instagramers gallery in Madrid which is proving very popular. Through the dedication of volunteers across the world, the Instagramers network organises instameets, runs competitions and participates in projects (often with brands and businesses), stimulating and enriching their local IG communities.

In the UK there are 29 groups. I have created an overlaid Google Map to show each city and country group with the IG handles of each group. Some are more active than others, the most active that I regularly follow are @IgersLondon @IgersBirmingham and @igersbristol

Instagramers Exeter was started by chance more than anything else. Whilst doing some research one afternoon, I discovered that Instagramers had no presence in Devon, there were groups for Dorset, Cornwall, Bristol and Wiltshire but nothing for this county.

I thought I better double check so I contacted Instagramers UK. In a brief phone conversation with one of the coordinators of Instagramers UK, I had started Instagramers Exeter and in no time at all with all the social media channels set up, we started gaining interest. I was introduced to Philip Gonzalez by email, and a week later we had an official logo created and we were now officially official. I’m not very good at saying ‘no’, but I felt that Exeter really needed an Instagramers group.

Building Community

The Instagramers Exeter group doesn’t have an official ‘membership’. It has an organic base of individuals who have expressed interest, attended one of our instameets, or even commented on a photo.

If you interact with the group then you could be counted a member, so a quantifiable figure is impossible to produce. But here is a number of methods that I’ve used to help bring together local Instagram fans.

One point to note is that the Instagramers logo is used as the avatar to every Instagram City group, this is an avatar that often will be recognised, and the brand of Instagramers itself already has enough power behind it to be lodged in the consciousness of every heavy Instagram user.

1. The Hashtag

I’m sure that the majority of readers will understand the importance of hashtags. And Instagramers Exeter has #igersexeter which I have promoted at Instameets and on all social media channels. Within reason, hashtags are encouraged on Instagram.

Although strictly speaking a new hashtag should be created for each Instameet (if the Instagramers guide is anything to go by) I haven’t always done this when there have been only a few people attending an instameet. When there are too many hashtags connected an account, this can lessen their power. For instance, when I started the group I promoted #igersdevon as well, but decided to just use and promote the one hashtag.

Instagramers.com has an interesting article on how to properly use hashtags within Instagram, which could be a blog post/presentation article in itself! All Instagram City groups have their own hashtag which is used for interaction and reposts…

2. Reposts

…which brings me on to the next tool in our community box. Everyone loves it when something they have created is valued, especially enough to be reposted on to a feed with a large number of followers.

This sort of activity has to be done carefully, it could be easy to become a fan of a particular users work and repost their shots more than anyone else’s. I feel it is a valuable way of showing appreciation for individual members work, and also gives a source of content which can be used to keep the feed active and fresh.

This helps build interest and encourages followers to use the #igersexeter hashtag on their photos of Exeter and Devon.

3. Social Media Channels

Although Instagramers is dedicated to one social media channel, it’s never a good idea to think that this is the ONLY channel that needs to be kept alive. For some users, Instagram is something that is used daily, but other users might be passionate about the application but use it every week or even less.

As many Digital Exeter followers know, users have multiple accounts on multiple channels, so it’s good to be active on as many of the main ones as time allows. I use IFTTT to keep everything consistent; posts to Instagram appear natively on the main Instagramers Exeter page (http://igersexeter.tumblr.com), on our Facebook page and our Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/igersexeter).

4. Instameets

The bread and butter of Instagramers Exeter is the offline activity. Some people call them ‘meetups’ but Instagramers tend to refer to them as ‘instameets’.

So far we’ve had three instameets:

June 2014 – Our first instameet. We had four people including myself appear on the wettest day of the year. We had a coffee and went on a photo walk around Stepcote Hill, Fore St. and the medieval bridge at Exe Bridges.

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Despite the small turnout and the rain, it was good to meet up with a few people who had taken a keen interest in the Instagramers group.

February 2015 – After a false start towards the end of 2014 due to weather, Helen and Rick from the RAMM offered to help host the 2nd Instameet. We had an attendance of 12 Instagramers who were given a special tour of the back rooms and some items that are not on public display. As a party, we were about to wander around the museum and have a chat to other IGers who make up part of the Instagramers community in Exeter. This was a really successful Instameet in attendance and the value that it gave both the RAMM and IGers Exeter.
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June 2015 – Our third instameet was a smaller affair, but very enjoyable. Meeting on the Quayside we explored the Quay and walked down to the Double Locks taking in the canal side and riverside locations.

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August 2015 – Our next Instameet will be in Exmouth on August 29th, with a seafront walk and stroll. Details to be confirmed.

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Instameets help users share experiences and also to solidify relationships built online, they are about taking photographs, sharing the good ones and connecting. Instagramers.com has a nice tutorial on organising an Instameet.

4. Working with the community

One thing that Instagramers is good at doing is working with brands and businesses. For instance, Instagramers London has done a lot of collaborative work, which works to the benefit of providing Instagramers with a unique experience and providing partners with online exposure and promotion that they can use their own cause.

As mentioned, we were lucky enough to be invited by Rick Lawrence and Helen Burbage from the RAMM to the museum for our second instameet. This collaboration has continued with our first hashtag project  as part of the Whatever the Weather project that Instagramers Exeter has been asked to help out with.

This project is going to be part of an exhibition that will be taking place at the RAMM in November in conjunction with the Met Office.

Using the #devonweather hashtag, users will be able to access an interactive element to the exhibition using an iPad, which will display images shown with this hashtag.

The RAMM currently has a Tumblr log (http://rammuseum.tumblr.com) that is displaying the images that have been hashtagged with #devonweather so far. I was excited an honoured that Instagramers Exeter was asked to help seed this hashtag, and I hope to work with Helen and Rick again in the future.

The Future

Instagramers Exeter has two main goals to fulfil in the future.

1. Expand the type and frequency of activities – Beyond Instameets, maybe competitions in the future? It would be nice to work with other local organisations and brands based in Exeter and get more exposure. It would be also nice to look towards a quarterly timetable for Instameets.

2. Help needed – With the expansion of what we want to do in the future, I need some help running things. Watch this space.

3. Expand the connections we already have – Further work with or including The RAMM, maybe another Instameet in the distant future?

4. Organise an exhibition of Instagramers photography – In concept stages at the moment.

Instagramers Exeter has a solid community behind it which is helped and solidified by some of the methods that I have demonstrated here. Using a combination of hashtags, reposts and through instameets as well the Instagram community in Exeter is growing and popular

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