How elected officials can use Instagram

I only recently started using Instagram and it made me wonder: why aren’t more elected officials on it? A quick check led me to believe that I am the only member of the PA House of Representatives to now have an official Instagram account (though many have personal ones, I know). My biggest regret right now is that I didn’t get on Instagram sooner: this year, Social Media is very much heading in a visual direction. As of September 2013, Instagram had over 150 million active monthly users.  As a whole, an increasing amount of internet users are using Social Media to upload pictures, while 43% of those 18-29 are currently using Instagram.

So, if Social Media is, in fact, heading in a visual direction, how can elected officials take better advantage of it? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Show where you are:  People love knowing that their elected officials are not simply residing in an ivory tower, ordering their minions from point A to point B while collecting a taxpayer funded salary.  Showing that you are out in the community, participating in events and meeting with constituents, is a positive thing for any elected official to do.  Use Instagram to show that you are an active, engaged politician by showcasing where you are, what you are doing and who you are meeting with.

2) Office life: One of the more common questions I get, as an elected official, is, “What do you do?” Rather then tell, show! I think showing what goes on behind the curtain is one of the better things that an elected official can use Social Media for. Clearly, you can’t inundate your Instagram feed with boring pictures, but you can make it interesting. Show a shot of your desk, covered in paperwork. Show a snapshot of a database that shows how many letters you have gotten on a particular issue.  Really, just show anything that helps to pull aside the veil into the daily life of an elected official.

3) Successful events:  In my office, we’ve run a variety of events, including Town Halls, blood drives and collection drives for toiletries for homeless students.  The pictures of the shelves filled with soap and deodorant that we have collected were powerful ways to show not only what we were doing, but the generosity of our constituents.  To that end, use Instagram to highlight your successful events, including crowds, general activity and more.

4) The Capital: There are very few Capital buildings that are not gorgeous, and Pennsylvania is is certainly no exception; indeed, a poll by the Smithsonian taken some time ago voted the Main Capitol Complex as the most beautiful in the country.  You can very rarely go wrong by showing a picture of your capital. It also has the side effect of showing that you are in the Capitol, working, and doing the people’s business.

5) Your district in general: This is an offshoot of the idea of showing where you are. Social Media should not be “me” centered – it should be other centered. As such, show your district, but without the emphasis on “me.” I’m very lucky; the 132nd District in Allentown is replete with incredible architecture, gorgeous parks, and of course, incredible people that do incredible things. I have no doubt that every other district has similar assets, and showing off your district is always a good thing for an elected official!

Anything else you want to add?  Let us know in the comments!

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