Last October, Gareth Pon—an influential Instagram photographer based in South Africa—organized a worldwide InstaMeet. Which of course begs the question:
What is an InstaMeet?
As Gareth knows, an InstaMeet can offer an excellent opportunity for like-minded folks to explore their common passions in a local setting. At Curalate, we tend to agree. In a world where digital communities connect millions of consumers to their favorite brands, an InstaMeet is a unique and interesting way to bring that relationship to life.
Imagine an event in which a handful of lucky fans are invited to the factory in which your products are made and given free artistic reign. Or, maybe you choose an influential member of your Instagram community to lead fellow evangelists on a city-wide tour, sponsored by your company. No matter how you choose to get started, the experience offers a fresh perspective on your brand. And the result is a ton of inspirational, authentic content from a group of dedicated fans.
But, there is a catch. Organizing an InstaMeet is no easy feat. It takes thoughtfulness, foresight and planning. Lucky for you, Gareth was gracious enough to answer 15 basic questions that are likely top-of-mind – from how to send out invitations to “what’s an infogram?” If an InstaMeet is up your alley, keep reading …
1. What’s the best day of the week to hold an InstaMeet?
This really depends on the type of people you want to invite. Weekends work best because the meet ups can be any time of the day, and people are generally more flexible with their time. We find that Sundays are great because cities are quieter and more casual. It makes for easier opportunities to take photos without needing to fight with crowds of people.
2. What time of day should I plan for, and how long should it be?
You should plan for Magic Hour: an hour before and after sunrise or sunset. This is when the light is ideal and best for photos. I usually plan for an hour before so we can explore with some afternoon light, and then after sunset, we head out to a cafe for some drinks and socializing.
3. Who, ideally, should be in charge of leading the event?
The person who knows the area the best! InstaMeets are admin-heavy, and someone does need to take the lead. Ideally, this person can make quick decisions and knows the route really well. It also helps if the person in charge is well connected with the group that is attending, so if anything changes, he or she can announce them easily.
4. What should I look for when scouting out a route or location?
Photo opportunities and eye candy!
6. How long should I plan to stop at each one?
15 to 30 minutes. Keep it short and sweet, while providing enough time to explore.
7. What’s the protocol on asking local proprietors for permission to take photos?
It’s all about conversation and relationships. Each proprietor will be different, but we’ve generally had very welcoming responses when we want to collaborate with local people. It’s also great publicity for them, as the Instagrammers showcase and in some cases tag their areas.
8. Is there an ideal number of attendees? Is there such thing as “too few” or “too many” people?
We find a good group size is between 20 and 30 people. Any bigger than that and the group gets too big if there is a planned route. If the meet is just one location, then any number of people is OK.
9. How can I generate awareness around my InstaMeet? Who should I invite?
You should invite the most influential Instagrammers in the city. Incentivize them to promote the InstaMeet and invite their followings to join. Bring along a few bloggers, celebrities and people who aren’t Instagrammers, because they’ll love the experience.
10. How can an organizer create a subtle branded experience? Are there best practices around invitations, “infograms” or hashtags?
Branded experiences should be invite oriented, where individuals are incentivized with experiences, gifts and even money. As soon as an InstaMeet becomes branded, you need to be as honest as possible. People can smell advertising from a mile away.
Alternatively, brands can sponsor prizes with no strings attached. That way, their presence will be there, but the InstaMeet will still remain about photography – not about the brand. Infograms (Instagram images with details overlayed) should always be visually strong with only the main pieces of information. Hashtags should be themed, original and related to the area or brand involved.
11. What’s the best way to kick off an InstaMeet? How can I make everyone feel excited and comfortable?
Introductions, name tags, hugs, explain the route, talk them through it, and give them a few ideas about taking photos. It’s all social! The meet will be awkward initially, but as it goes it’ll become more casual and fun.
12. How important is it to be hands-on at each of the locations, providing tips and instructions?
Be casual. Allow people to feed off each other’s knowledge. Try not to be too “show-and-tell,” and rather allow the people on the InstaMeet to teach each other. It’s easier to set up a workshop before or after the meet and allow people to opt-in for it. You want to avoid treating people like school kids, because most people who attend will be pretty capable of creating a cool image.
13. What’s the best way to wrap up?
Drinks or eats! Social all the way. InstaMeets aren’t always about just photography.
14. How can I continue the conversation with the group and share stories with my community?
Leveraging Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups and community groups on other platforms. Create follow-up posts on community accounts, and feature peoples’ images from the walk. Engage a lot as people share photos.
15. What’s the value of an InstaMeet? How do I know whether it’s appropriate for my brand?
InstaMeets are great for producing content and culture so long as your brand caters to that. Photo opportunities are always the main priority. If your brand isn’t a visually strong brand, you may have to think outside of the box to create an InstaMeet that features your brand and integrates the culture of Instagram. You should plan one if you want to grow your base, start a conversation and create visuals that tell the story of your brand. Or, plan one if you just want to create an amazing, visually strong experience for those who attend.