Tyler Stahle | Apr 24, 2017

3 Ways to Use Instagram for Genealogy

This is the first of a two-part series exploring how Instagram can be used for genealogy. Read part two.

It’s no secret that technology has changed the family history industry over the past several decades. Finding, preserving, and sharing your family’s history is now easier than ever thanks to online databases and dozens of social media sites. If you’re interested in telling your family story online, consider starting with Instagram.

Instagram, a social networking app that allows you to share pictures and short videos, has quickly gained popularity in recent years. In fact, according to a study from Digital Marketing Ramblings (DMR), more than 77 million people in the United States use Instagram daily. Many family historians enjoy this platform because of its simple-to-use interface, intimate feel, and social-sharing possibilities.

While there are many ways to use Instagram to do family history, here are three tips to get you started:

1. Utilize the power of the hashtag

To the social media beginner, hashtags—words or phrases preceded by the pound sign (#)—probably seem sloppy and unnecessary. However, hashtags have become an integral part of the way people communicate online, and learning how to properly use them will enhance your social media experience. On Instagram and Twitter, a hashtag turns a word or phrase into a searchable link. When clicked, these links allow you to follow a discussion and see what is being said about a certain topic. For example, if you attended the RootsTech family history conference in February and want to share your thoughts or family history findings, you could include #RootsTech in your posts to join the digital conversation.

At the 2015 RootsTech conference, Rachel LaCour Niesen, cofounder of Save Family Photos, explained how posting family photos to Instagram with certain hashtags can inspire others to also share their family stories.

“When I post a photo of my grandmother or great-grandmother or great-great-grandmother that I found on Ancestry or FamilySearch, or just in an old shoe box, I’m going to hashtag it,” she explained. “Suddenly, all these other people comment and say, ‘My family also has stories like that; I’m going to share one of mine.’”

Pretty soon, you’ll see multiple posts and comments from others who are also sharing their family photos and stories, says Niesen. “To me, that’s the best advantage of using social media for family history,” she said. “Seeing people comment and say, ‘Hey, family history is something I never really thought about getting involved in, but through these old photos, I’m going to dig through mine and share my stories.’”

2. Connect with other genealogists

You probably hadn’t thought of Instagram as a good place to converse with other genealogists, but according to D. Joshua Taylor, a nationally recognized genealogical author and lecturer, Instagram is the perfect platform to connect with other family history enthusiasts. Taylor says that when he tags his Instagram photos with the area that he’s researching, other genealogists researching in the same area can quickly collaborate.

“I love that Instagram allows you to actually tag the images,” he said at the 2015 RootsTech conference. “This way I can connect with people who are researching in the same county in Ohio that I have family from, as well as those that are researching the [same] family. So opening up these connections allows me the potential to connect with far more genealogists and other potential cousins than I might be able to do just on my own.”

To tag your Instagram photo with a location, simply upload your photo, write your caption, and then tap the Add Location icon. Type the location before publishing your post. After your post has been published, it will be added to a stream of other posts also tagged with the same location.

3. Tell a compelling family story

Instagram is effective because it’s a visually powerful platform. Interesting photos and eye-popping images can capture a viewer’s attention and tell a story. With this in mind, try to share more than old family photos. Mix it up by sharing an image of a favorite family pastime or a photo of your great-grandfather’s favorite chocolate cake. Sharing a variety of content builds your brand and keeps your audience coming back.

“Try sharing family recipes, family traditions and even photos of your ancestral homeland if you decide to take a family history trip,” writes Natalie Lynn for Crestleaf.com. “Not only will this fill in gaps of your family story on Instagram, but it will also keep your audience interested in your family’s history and [keep them] questioning, ‘What will they share next?’”

How do you use Instagram for family history? Tweet us at @RootsTechConf.

Tyler Stahle

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