Using Social Media to promote your research: Instagram for beginners

Instagram is a popular image sharing social media platform that could enhance discovery of and engagement with your research by new audiences.


A quick overview of Instagram

  • It’s a social networking app for sharing photos and videos from your smartphone
  • Pictures and videos posted to Instagram will appear on your profile and newsfeed
  • Audiences will engage by following you, liking and commenting on your photo or video
  • Interact with your audience by following them, responding to their comments and by liking their content

Before you start

To help decide if Instagram is for you check out our blog ‘Using Social Media: Top 10 tips for researchers‘ for helpful hints on deciding what you want to achieve by using social media for research dissemination.  If you’re ready to go check out our…

Top tips to get started with Instagram

Make your profile matter

Even if you already have a personal Instagram profile it’s worth setting up a new account for your research project.  This will create continuity for your audience and improve engagement with them.  When you set up up your new account be sure to write a short bio to explain your research in lay terms.  If you’re working with researchers who use IG professionally add their handle to the bio so your audience can link to their profiles. It’s also a good opportunity to direct new audiences to a project website or blog by including a link.

Read more from the Instagram Help Centre about ‘How to set up an Instagram account

Consent, copyright and data protection

Some photographs of people are considered personal data so may need consent when posting pictures to your social media account.  It may be worthwhile asking for written consent and archiving these should you need to refer to them later.

Copyright is of equal importance as different types of material have their own licence frameworks.  We encourage you to read more about ‘Copyright policy and guidelines‘ and to contact if you have any questions about this.

We’ll be writing a blog post about this topic so we can tell you everything you need to know.

Start sharing your pictures

Instagram is a visual platform so the better your photo the more likely you are to engage with new audiences.  The more you engage with your followers the more you’ll boost your posts and subsequently generate new interest.  To get the best images add a picture by pressing the + at the bottom of the screen, select or take a new picture and use the edit features in Instagram to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation and much more.

Read more about taking ‘Picture-Perfect Instagram Photos

Describe and tag your picture

Give a short lay description of the photo so your audience know what is going on.  You can add as much text as you like but it may not be read from beginning to end so keep this in mind.  Add hashtags after the description by typing # followed directly by the subject, e.g. #experiment. Hashtags are the main way to search for posts on Instagram and this is how new audiences are most likely to find your site. You can also click on your hashtags  to find similar content elsewhere.

Read more from the Instagram Help Centre about ‘How to use hashtags

Engage with your audience

The best way to create an engaged community is to, well, engage! Ask for their opinions when you share your next photo or, if you’re planning a research trip, ask if anyone else is going too.  You may want to set your followers a challenge so they actively engage with your work.  If your followers are taking the time to comment on your photo or by sending you a direct message then take a moment to respond to them.  Doing this will show that you appreciate their support and feedback and keep them interested. It works two ways of course so start exploring Instagram and find people who have an interest or are working in a similar field. By following them they may be prompted to follow you back.

Read more from Alicia Collins @HubSpot about ‘How to get more followers on Instagram

If you’d like to get more advice on using this, or any other social media platform, please contact us at


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