This month, the United States government approved Instagram as a social media tool that federal departments can use to connect with citizens. It joins an ever-growing list that includes Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and, as of January 2013, Pinterest. Naturally, this begs the question: how can a social media platform normally used to post pictures of cats and food be beneficial to relations between the government and the populace?
The answer is three-fold. First, people are more than ever using their phones and tablets as their sole communication devices. And since Instagram is primarily accessed on one’s phone, it’s an incredibly convenient and easy-to-use platform that could increase engagement with government.
Second, it’s a great way to reach out to younger generations. Instagram is a platform that tends to be associated with Millenials – what greater way to get them involved and interested than through an app they associate with leisure and use on a daily basis?
Third, it is sometimes easier to move people with photos than with words. Two government departments – the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior – are already proving that Instagram works as a tool of education, engagement and promotion.
The TSA has amassed a following of 44,186 users in less than a month; the Department of the Interior, 62,860 users. By posting photos of confiscated weapons, the TSA can show that the work they do is keeping the public safe. Similarly, the Department of the Interior can encourage tourists to visit the less known parts of the Unites States by posting photos of their scenic beauty.
In addition to photographs, Instagram also has a video capability that could be very useful. For example, Gadi Ben-Yehuda suggests that the Department of Defense create short field medicine videos for campers and tag them so that they’re easy to find in case of an emergency.
Do you think the use of Instagram by government departments is a good idea? Should the Canadian government consider adopting it? Let us know in the comments.