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Building an Instagram strategy for UK Parliament 

The UK Parliament Instagram channel was launched in 2016. Since then, we’ve built up a following of more than 35,000 people through posting a selection of photos from around Parliament and beyond. 

But the PDS Social Media Team knew that this channel had the potential to do more in terms of creativity and audience engagement. So, over summer 2018 I brought together teams from across Parliament to help build the first Instagram strategy for the channel. This is what we did. 

Do your research 

First, we spent time thoroughly researching our Instagram audience and what they like. We found that 48% of our Instagram audience is based in the UK, compared to just 15% of our Facebook audience. We found that the most popular content themes are Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower, the restoration of the Palace of Westminster, topical anniversaries, and art in Parliament (such as the statues and paintings that make this a unique, historical place). We also found that there were lots of features in the platform we weren’t using fully, such as Instagram Stories and live broadcasts. 

Second, we held workshops to gather ideas for content. Over 40 people working in comms and digital projects in both Houses attended those sessions. Working together helped us understand how we can use Instagram to support the wider communications objectives of teams in the House of Lords and the House of Commons, as well as Visits and Archives. We concluded that we needed a schedule through which teams can feed in their content regularly, rather than thinking of Instagram as the last thing on the list. 

Third, we talked to external organisations whose Instagram feeds we love for their beauty and creativity (oh hi, @barbicancentre). By meeting people who work in very different sectors, we learned from innovators about how they take great images, work with multiple stakeholders, and measure their success. We decided that we need to have high aspirations for this channel. It needs to be a place where we don’t just slap up any old photo: somewhere we can showcase creativity for UK Parliament. 

Find a creative approach 

Six photographs from UK Parliament's Instagram

We’re now finalising the schedule for the static feed, but teams won’t just be submitting one photo or video when it’s their turn. Instead, we’ve taken inspiration from Instagram accounts who have very strong identifiable themes visible through their Instagram rows.  

The creative approach we’ve taken will see teams around UK Parliament telling a story across a whole row. This could be posting three consecutive images or splitting up one landscape image into three separate ones. Teams will be paying a lot of attention to storytelling through their captions, whether it’s describing what the House of Lords does, or how international visitors can get tours of the Palace of Westminster in their own language.  

Posting in threes gives our audience more value from us. There's lots of evidence to show that audiences respond well to this approach, with engagement usually around three times higher. And getting teams on board with the creative approach was painless: the challenge and opportunity to try something novel has got everyone thinking about new ideas. 

Results so far 

We soft-launched the new creative approach at the beginning of September and have already seen great results.  

Since rolling out the new format, we've doubled the number of weekly profile visits, doubled the reach, and quadrupled the impressions. 

What’s next 

We're planning to use a range of templates for our Instagram Stories to make sure that our themes and identity come through clearly on that channel too. Depending on the context, some will be more formal, some less so. Other Stories will be built around strong calls to action. We’re also thinking about how we might use influencers to showcase opportunities to visit Parliament or get involved in democracy. 

Follow UK Parliament on Instagram and see our strategy - and your Parliament - come to life. 

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