NASA’s instagram: Can this idea work for me?

English: The NASA insignia. Español: Insignia ...

English: The NASA insignia. Español: Insignia de la NASA. Italiano: Logo della NASA. Русский: Логотип НАСА. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NASA now has an Instagram featuring images of planets, space stations, and stars.

So you may be asking: Why does NASA, a huge government organization, have an Instagram account?  I thought this site was just for sharing personal photos with fun filters!  

Well, yes and no.

“We believe we have some of the most engaging images on and off the planet — and we can’t wait to engage with Instagrammers.”  – Lauren Worley, NASA Press Secretary (via this article)

NASA has an immense image library. Instagram is a free, public place to display and distribute these images. Currently over 90,000 users follow NASA’s account.  Followers are able to like, comment, and share images (and videos) with their friends.  Suddenly there is a conversation.

Question: Can you (and your work) benefit from Instagram?

If you research area is very visual or you have an image library, the answer may be yes.

Say your lab just received a new piece of equipment.  You can take an image of this machine and then add a filter and compose some hashtags. With a click of a button, it will be shared with your followers.

Followers will then be able to comment or like or share with their friends.  Instagram also has an embedding feature so the image can be cross-posted on websites.

Of course you need to decide if you feel comfortable sharing pictures of research, equipment, and other scientific developments with the public.  Instagram does have “private profile” functionality.  By choosing this type of profile, people have to be approved as followers before they can see your updates.

Here are a few questions to consider: 

  1. Does your research institution/ university/ lab/ company allow you to take photos?
  2. Are there developments, materials, equipment that would make good photos?
  3. Do you think there could be an audience for those photos?

When you contemplate these points, you will be able to make an informed decision about using (or not using) this promotional tactic.  Just like with videos, if you use it smartly, Instagram could add some visual cache to your work and your brand.

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  1. Using Instagram, a follow-up | Wiley Author Blog - October 4, 2013

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