What Do You Know About Instagram?

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on June 2, 2015

in social media

As of September 2014, 73% of U.S. Internet users had a social media profile. Facebook is still the leading social media site with 71% of U.S. Internet users. Instagram which is owned by Facebook has 26% of active Internet users. Why should we care about Instagram?

Facebook connects and engages people using status updates that may or may not contain links, photos or videos. Facebook is accessed on computers and multiple mobile devices.

Instagram is a mobile device app that connects people through shared images, photos or videos.

Instagram is about being unique and creative—taking and sharing photos or videos that tell the story or make the point without long explanations. The images are the conversation starters. The hashtags ( such as #love, #friendship, #beauty, #rain, #church for example) are very important on Instagram. Use as many as you like. People can find your photo using these hashtags.

Why should we in ministry care about Instagram? It’s the demographics.
Teens are still on Facebook, but many of those who have smart phones or tablets are also on Instagram as shown in this graph from Pew.

Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat Used Most Often by American Teens

The fastest growing demographic on Instagram is the age group 18-29—an age group that we in the Church need to be available to. Here is another Pew graphic.
Instagram users

While some senior citizens are on Instagram, Facebook is still their primary social media site.

I do have an Instagram account (srsusan), but I have not used it very much. One “church” person that I follow on Instagram is James Martin, SJ, from America Magazine (jamesmartinsj). Father Martin has 5,111 Instagram followers and 237,677 Likes on his Facebook page.  He often shares his Instagram photos on his Facebook page which is very easy to do.  The disparity in the numbers for Facebook Likes and Instagram followers is pretty typical in church related accounts.

I am reading about Instagram now and thinking about how I can use it for ministry. If any of you are using Instagram for ministry, please share your experience with us.

Here is a video that walks you through the Instagram app for those of you who have a smartphone or tablet and may be interested in learning more about how the app works.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn June 2, 2015 at 6:01 am

I am a big Instagram user, although primarily on a personal level; I love it. Recently I took a photo of a statue of Mary at my work parish and I ultimately shared it to the parish Facebook page – it was a big hit. I will be doing more of that. For my personal use, I share the majority of my Instagram photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. As I said, I love this app, what great visual needs it serves in a world seeking beauty.

The church where I worship will be breaking ground for a new sanctuary; we are hoping to use Instagram to show the progress. Honestly, I feel like this is the tip of the iceberg. Instagram offers a church of sacrament and symbol many opportunities, as yet largely unexplored.

And yes, God bless Jim Martin, a person who used all social media for good, including Instagram.

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn June 2, 2015 at 6:02 am

P.S. – I am 57, 58 in less than 6 months. I love breaking the demo predicitons! 🙂

Therese Boucher June 2, 2015 at 7:00 am

not sure how Instagram is different from Twitter and when to use one instead of the other.

Bob Lucas June 2, 2015 at 8:04 am

There are a lot of social media tools out there. I think one of the key things you said and I think should be emphasized is “I am reading about Instagram now and thinking about how I can use it for ministry.”

I believe that if you use too many tools, your message can become diluted. We use our web page for general information; our blog for interactive bible study; our Facebook page for announcements, Mass schedules, and special event reminders; and Twitter to communicate with our youth.

We have looked at Pinterest and Instagram and are still looking for niches to address using them, but you should have a good reason before you add a new tool to your toolbox. Then you need to advertise to your proposed audience, publish it, and make sure it is cross referenced in your media tool bag to get the best use out of it.

Because of this, we have developed an app to use on your mobile phone that provides a quick link to them all as well as adding links in each tool to quickly move from one to the other.

I think this is a key to getting maximum use out of each tool and making them more user friendly.

P.S. I think the #hashtag use in Instagram is a great reason to consider it. It also reminds me that whenever possible you should include a good search engine in you tools to make access to particular events easier.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND June 2, 2015 at 8:38 am


Thanks for the question. Basically, Twitter is a text-based (up to 140 characters) social media platform that allows you to post links, photos and videos), whereas Instagram is an original image based platform that is mobile only. On Twitter, people usually comment and reply to the text message. On Instagram, people comment on the photo or image. There are probably other distinctions, but I think these are the major ones. I hope that helps.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND June 2, 2015 at 8:42 am

You make some good points here, Bob. One thing you don’t say, but I am pretty sure is understood is that all of us in ministry want to use social media tools to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to every “niche” we can reach. We really need to think that through and as you suggest have a plan and integrate our offerings.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND June 2, 2015 at 8:46 am

Fran, once again you demonstrate your pioneer spirit. Keep it up!

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn June 2, 2015 at 10:12 am

*blushing* Thank you Sr Susan! I am grateful that we walk this path together!

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