29 April 2016

New Instagram Adventure

fletchermoss-friends instagram page

Apologies for the radio silence. The reasons are legion, most too mundane to mention. One of my more noble excuses for the lack of blogging is that I've been expending my creative juices on a new social media project: an Instagram account for the Friends group of a local park, Fletcher Moss.

Admittedly having an Instagram feed was not at the top of the To Do list of the Friends of Fletcher Moss group. Raising funds and attracting more volunteers are probably more important aims. I'm not too sure what initially gave me the courage to suggest they have one, and I think the reason they said yes was because they could safely let me shuffle away to do it without needing any further instruction. Now I've got to feed the thing on a daily basis I'm wondering what kind of monster I've created.

The purpose is to attract people who Instagram their photos of the park, and in this way encourage a sense of community and ownership. The Machiavellian marketing aim is to then encourage that wodge of people, sorry, community, to either help maintain the grounds, or at least sign petitions and write to MPs when it looks like it needs protecting from the ravages of Austerity. I don't know if that will happen, but it might.

At the moment most of the images on the feed are mine. If you come across a woman with a camera and a haunted look on her face that's me desperately looking for something to photograph that might be more interesting than the mud and bare trees that are currently on offer. Ideally, if all goes well, most of the images could come from other Instagrammers. The process involves a strange new etiquette. If someone tags their photo with a hashtag #fletchermossfriends this can be taken as a signal that it is ok by them if I 'regram' their image on my page. So far only two people have done that, but I'm staying optimistic that with the improved weather of summer more people will be out there taking photos and be wanting to be part of the fletchermoss gang.

Hashtagging is an art in itself. To attract the attention of people who don't know of our page each image is hashtagged with locally relevant  labels like #fletchermosspark, #didsbury or #rivermersey. Instagram users who then might be idly flicking through such labels will then see an image from our page, and then will go "I go there! I'll follow this account because I want to know what's going on there" And thus a Follower is snagged.

More abstract  hashtags are also used to fish for non-local people who are interested in the subject of the image. For example #Springwatch is a popular one. And I've found #foraging is very fashionable now.

Most users, sadly, don't want to Follow the account, but some feel the need to acknowledge their positive feelings. Here we come to the other complexity of social media: the Like button. Facebook and Twitter also use this. I'm taking the Likers to be a sign of goodwill, if not complete commitment. Fair enough. In any case it is useful to find out what kind of image is most popular, then I can take some more and grow the audience that way.

The most popular post so far, as measured in Likes is this:

Followed by:

Interesting ... close up of flowers.  

The least popular has been:

Which is a shame because I thought the accompanying comment "Sign of a successful rewilding programme?" was one of my better jokes.

A page full of flowers would not however be the optimum way to go. It would help to show Fletcher Moss is an important park for wildlife, and thus worth spending municipal money on, but we want to attract people with energy and vision and oomph. Understandably there are many people, particularly of the younger variety, who are not at all turned on by flowers. Marketing research has found people like to look at photographs of other people. This is why it would be better if the page was composed of lots of selfies. These may be annoying and not aesthetically pleasing at all but the overall message would be 'this is a fun place, full of people just like you'.  So far I've managed to get only a few people-focussed photos. I feel a more assertive Instagrammer might have got more. I'm hoping summer brings a rush of enthusiastic selfie takers wanting to show their love of Fletcher Moss.

I'm going to give it 6 months as a project, and then assess its impact on the wider Fletcher Moss visiting public. Even if it has made absolutely no difference, the account will be a nice record of the park through the seasons.

And I will have honed my skills in taking a photograph while standing in a field of mud.