Stick a pin in a map of the UK and chances are that you’ll find an Instagram community at work in the area.
From Cumbria to Dorset, groups have sprung up in the past year with a view to occasional meet-ups and regular posting of images and video.
And the trend is accelerating, with the development attracting brands which are keen to work with such organized groups.
There’s a disconnect: Instagram tends to attract people who are passionate about their photo and filter skills. However, they are not necessarily interested, or savvy enough, to ‘taint’ their interest with commercialism.
Having said that, one or two IGers, as they are known, are now recognizing that having 500k+ followers is of interest to brands. And more will inevitably follow.
“We have had to draw up a strategy on how to work with brands because we are getting approached every day,” says Jess Macdonald. “Instagram is getting a lot more attention.”
They are given products, such as camera lenses, which often become competition prizes. But the emphasis is still, for now, on social meet-ups and helping people around the country to set up groups.
I admit an interest – I set up @IgersDorset recently, and received excellent help from Jess and @Count_Christoph, who runs @IgersWiltshire. Igers Exeter was launched this week, @IGersBristol is thriving and Jess is helping someone to set up @IgersHampshire.
“The south-west is our first target for helping pull together communities. The region is getting more exciting.”
The number of followers on Instagram can be huge, with several non-celebrity sites having 1m+ simply due to the strength and/or uniqueness of their photos.
Jess has two accounts, and her @missunderground site – purely shots of London tube stations – has 32k followers.
IgersLondon has 12k followers, and an average 50 people will turn up to ‘instameets’ in London. “It’s going to places and meeting people,” says Jess. “IGers feel like they part of the community rather than just using hashtags to get likes and entering competitions.”
But while the UK is gaining traction, Jess looks to Italy for inspiration on how to run community groups. Personally, I have found Costa Brava in Spain to be brilliant in creating community groups, inviting Igers to lead group walks and giving tips for free.
There’s still a long way to go but with 200m Instagram users, the fastest growing social media platform, there is much to play for – for communities creating their own noise and for brands to work with these groups. It all helps boost tourism.