It’s not easy to shake the general public’s perception that trade associations are stuffy, bureaucratic, and staid. But it can be done, and in this age of social media, Instagram is a valuable tool in your toolbox. Instagram users are nearly 10 times more engaged compared to any other social media platform, and Instagram has an audience that is only growing.

There is also a proven model of success for trade association Instagrams. A handful of associations have thousands of engaged followers on beautifully curated Instagram feeds. Last month, our Chief Strategist Todd Zeigler wrote a great article sharing what we know about those associations and why they are so successful. Today, I’m sharing a step-by-step guide on how to make your own Instagram as effective, engaging, and beautiful as any trade association Insta in the land.

The Step-by-Step

The easiest way to get started on Instagram is to promote the community you already represent. If you need content, look for people already posting relevant images. If you need followers, reach out to your current members.

1. Create an Account

2. Search Instagram for accounts of your members or people who post pictures relevant to your association

For example, if you represent the chemical industry, search for #chemistry, #chemist, or #chemicalplant (on Instagram you have to search by hashtag). It only took me a few minutes to find several chemical themed posts.

3. Ask permission to repost the most visually appealing images

When you find an image you like, click on the user profile and send them a message asking if you can repost the image. Remember, the whole point of Instagram is to share content, so you are helping them as much as they are helping you.

Once you get permission, you can either share their post or download the image and post it yourself. Make sure to give credit in the caption if you download and post yourself!

4. Advertise your new account to your members and ask them to follow you

Send an email blast, share on Facebook, or otherwise share your new Instagram account with your members. It is helpful to have a few engaged followers to help your account get off the ground at the beginning.

5. Reach out to your members for photos you can post

Not every great photo is already on Instagram! But there is a pretty good chance that some of the people in your trade association are hobbyist photographers. They can be a great source of images if you have the ability to reach out to them.

You can also ask for photos of your members and an accompanying story. An easy question is “Why did you become a (insert your trade profession here)?”

6. Post at least one photo each week

It’s very important to post frequently. Every post is an opportunity to attract more followers, especially if you are reposting content from other users.

It will take some time, but by regularly posting quality content your following will grow and your social media engagement will skyrocket. The reposting strategy is effective because it is an opportunity to use existing, high-quality content instead of spending the time to create original content.

Not convinced it could be so easy? Let me show you some high-performing trade associations that primarily use reposting to generate Instagram content.

The Bread Baker’s Guild of America has the 8th largest following of any trade association with 71,000 followers who engage with their posts between 5,000 and 10,000 times per week. And all they do is repost images from other accounts (again, with permission!). Here is a recent example that received approximately 2,000 engagements:

The reposting model is replicated by the best trade association accounts, from the American Welding Society to the Archery Trade Association (would you have guessed that both have top 10 trade association Instagrams?). If you look at the accounts, you’ll notice that both of them leverage their Instagram to advertise their events and ideas in addition to reposting member content.

Don’t know what to post? Think portraits.

What if there are no cool pictures relate to your industry? We get it. Not everyone can post nice pictures of bread. But every industry has people. And the people in your industry deserve a nice portrait shot and profile on your Instagram. Need inspiration? Just look at the Screen Actors Guild, which has the second most popular trade association account.

They invite members to upload pictures and stories on their website. The result is portraits of members captioned with feel-good stories. It is a very well run, popular account, using a content strategy that any trade association could implement by simply requesting photos and stories from its members.

If you’re not convinced, or need some help getting started, please let us know. We’re here for you (and for your big, beautiful trade association Instagram).

Need Some Extra Motivation?

Of the 280 large trade associations Todd analyzed in his article last month, less than 30% had an Instagram. And for the ones that do, 80% post content no more than a few times per year. With so few trade associations on Instagram, just having an account is a great way to stand out. Having an active account with good content puts you in an elite crowd: only a dozen or so trade associations meet those criteria.

But what’s the point of “followers” anyway? A curated Instagram is like a 21st century monument to your industry. Trade associations of yesteryear would build large bronze statues in remote corners of Washington, DC. A 21st century association can build a constantly updated, visually attractive Instagram that thousands of people visit and show appreciation for every week. I think that is far more impactful than a statue. A large, engaged social media following represents global reputation, interest in your industry, and that evanescent “cool factor.” Instagram also presents an opportunity to connect with members and their communities, publicize groundbreaking industry news, and give your industry a little bit of personality.

All of the recommendations we provide are based on quantitative research that can found in the report linked below. We offer that report free in order to demonstrate our firm’s robust, data-backed practices and consulting services.

You can download our full report here to delve into the numbers.

About the Author
Jeremy Neff
Jeremy was born in Berkeley, CA, where he spent one incredibly formative year before moving to Palo Alto. Everything he knows he learned on the mean streets of Silicon Valley. He specializes in communication strategy, analytics, and social media.
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