Title

Best Practices for Instagram as a Geoscience Education Tool

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Geological Society of America Annual Meeting

Volume

51

Issue

5

Location

Phoenix, AZ

Publication Date

9-24-2019

Abstract

Instagram has high potential as an engagement tool for geoscience institutions looking to interact with the public, especially younger generations who use the platform prolifically (Smith & Anderson, 2018). However, Instagram has yet to undergo rigorous scientific study. Here, we provide a toolkit for geoscience institutions to assess education and outreach efforts on Instagram. The FOSSIL Project is an NSF-funded initiative (NSF-DRL 1322725) that seeks to foster interactions with users across the continuum of paleobiological knowledge through social media platforms. To understand the interactions between this social paleontology community and the FOSSIL Instagram account, we developed a set of metrics for both Instagram posts and stories. These performance metrics were then applied to raw data mined from the app over the course of a year and a half. The expansion of the post type taxonomy defined by Lundgren et al. (2014) for Facebook and Twitter allows for a qualitative framework to characterize Instagram post content (Hughes et al. 2019). Applying this framework to the FOSSIL Project Instagram allowed us to determine which category of posts have the highest level of success with our audience. Based on our calculation of post engagement rate, informational posts performed the best, followed by news and opportunity posts. The success of Instagram stories was assessed recently (Ocon et al. 2019) and metrics were defined in terms of performance of interaction tools and retention rate. These metrics provide insight into the optimal length of stories and the most effective interaction tool in regards to engagement. We discovered that shorter stories perform better and that poll tools are the most effective in engaging users. Our work provides a baseline for understanding and analyzing how to craft effective educational Instagram content. As more departments, institutes, and organizations have a stronger online presence, it is to their advantage to learn from our work when trying to engage new visitors and/or students.

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