50 First Impressions

Has anyone watched the movie, 50 First Dates?  The female protagonist has a short-term memory problem, so when the male protagonist falls in love with her, he courts her relentlessly with so much patience… and since she can’t remember him the next day, it’s like a first date all over again.  A super cute romantic comedy! (I don’t even like chick flicks!)


I feel like the world of Instagram is a lot like the concept of 50 First Dates, but more like 50 First Impressions.  Here’s why:

– The attention span of Americans (people!) is getting shorter and shorter – you only get a moment to capture someone’s attention

– You want a lot of people to like you, based on their first impression

– You want a lot of followers, to show lurkers that you are well liked (people who have lots of friends usually give off a good first impression when you meet them, right?)

– A fresh and dynamic personality is key to keeping people engaged – and on Instagram, your personality is shown through your posts

– If you talk about the same thing over and over, people will be bored!  So you have to keep things updated and new… oooor master the art of telling the same story, a new or different way.   According to the Stelzner interview of Donna Moritz, “As humans, it’s in our nature to communicate visually. Images process quickly and people are drawn to them.”  She goes on to say that “With Instagram and Pinterest, you can communicate purely with images. Sometimes words aren’t even necessary.”

(Photo taken from: Social Media Examiner)

– The bottom line reason you want to make a good first impression?  You want to create and maintain a relationship, and make an impact for the better!

The concepts above are universally applicable, I would say, to Instagram.



Wanna see a  puppy depot on Instagram?  BAM!  You can join some 600K other followers and follow @puppiesforall and a billion other similar sites.  This Instagram account has the followers do the work FOR them by submitting cute pictures… then the administrator just posts a few cute puppy pictures a day.  I mean… can you SEE the Obiwan puppy?!  Or the teacup maltese?  Can you?!



Cute puppies make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and each “First Impression” is “daaaawwwwww!!” but there’s no real take-home message.  It’s a “feel good” account that I follow.

Okay, so what about if you wanted to send a message out there about a specific fitness program you created?  @kayla_itsines is Kayla Itsines’ microblog from AU.  She has developed a print-at-home fitness guide for women out of her own home.  She has now gained  nearly a MILLION followers!  She teaches women how to do circuit exercises at home to chisel their bodies and also, of course, a nutrition guide.  Her Instagram is a potpourri of pictures of her own fit self, other people’s progress photos, healthy food choices, and videos of her doing some of the exercises she has in her guide.


Kayla’s blog shows you that you, too, could possibly have the discipline if you purchased her training and nutrition guides!  I am always motivated when I see her posts, because it makes me want to eat clean, work out, and maybe one day post a progress photo of my own!  Fitness is a critical part of health — what Kayla does with social media is so inspiring!

According to a 2012 article written on Business Insider, “Meet The 10 Most Followed Companies On Instagram — Ever” it’s not necessarily about the number of followers, though.  It’s also the number of times people mention you or your cause via hashtags.  They used McDonald’s as an example:

Take McDonald’s as an example, while the company’s official Instagram account only has 38,000 followers, there are more than 700,000 images on Instagram running with the hashtag #McDonald’s. That’s a lot of people McDonald’s could be reaching daily if they could get all of them to follow the brand Instagram account.

Sadly, none of the Top 10 companies at that time were any health organizations or brands.  However, Nike, McDonalds, and Starbucks all made the list.  They could certainly use their Instagram notoriety to help promote some PSAs to all their consumers!

I did some sniffing around to see what kind of household public health organizations I could find on Instagram.  Sadly, I couldn’t find as many as I thought!

I came across another great article on AIDS United’s site that came out in June 2014.  Here’s an excerpt:

Washington, D.C., June 18, 2014 — To encourage community-based organizations serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer (LGBTQ) people around the country to incorporate HIV prevention messaging for young gay and bisexual men into their work, AIDS United has launched an Instagram image promotion called “#PrideInPrevention.” The promotion is part of AIDS United’s  m2MPower initiative, which seeks to halt the rising rates of HIV among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men.

Participants are encouraged to work with their community-based LGBTQ organization to produce up to four (4) images that promote HIV prevention tools using the theme, “#PrideInPrevention,”  to link HIV prevention and LGBTQ Pride. The promotion takes place during the month of June (National LGBT Pride month) and concludes on July 18, 2014. Selected organizations will be offered a contract of up to $3,000 to further integrate HIV prevention activities in their regular work. Organizations will be selected after the conclusion of the activity in late July 2014.


Sadly, though, when I went to the @AIDSUnited Instagram account, there wasn’t much in terms of activity or posts.  Why?

Just four pictures (albeit powerful ), and a humble 33 followers.  Would this organization and Instagram flourish? Will they be able to achieve their mission to increase education and awareness?  Their mission and message is so important, though.  But what components are missing?  I, myself, feel disinterested in my first impression of this account.  Not many posts, not many followers… the posting style is monotonous… would I follow this account on my own Instagram account? Probably not.

How do we help tech savvy people at public health organizations go from Instagram accounts like the one above, to be bustling and booming like that of the most followed account on Instagram:

beiber18 million followers, Lord only knows how many hashtags… and yet his profile says “Help change the world.”  @justinbieber, I challenge you to honor your profile and be true to it!  What can Justin Bieber do to help improve public health (other than him disappearing indefinitely… :P)?


10 thoughts on “50 First Impressions

  1. Great post Sun – spot on as usual, but frankly this made me think about how high maintenance it is to spend all that time and effort getting & keeping followers, being quoted, etc. Kinda feels like high school (or jr. high all over again)!

    • It really is a LOT of work to keep followers and be prolific! I underestimated this kind of job initially. I have heard that people who work as the “tweeter” for big companies in Silicon Valley make about $200K a year doing just this!

  2. Hi Sun, I love your analogy to 50 first dates to instagram. I’m a very visual person and when it comes to the free time we have I tend to pick and choose news articles based on how interesting the picture and headline look. I haven’t come across many public health organizations who use instagram either, but wonder if there could be another potential use for it other than just posting random pictures and communicating with certain constituencies. Say if a non-profit is working in a collaboration with others, how could instagram be used to facilitate information sharing? This came to mind when I thought about how I use instagram in my personal life… It’s really been useful for me for “life hacks” like the occasional inspiration for outfits or next do it yourself projects or even building my own inspiration wall. For the non-profit world, this could be a platform to share visually best-practices, inspirational quotes, event planning etc.

    • I think the hashtag is a great way to kind of categorize and index collaborative efforts with others in a non-profit/PH setting, for sure! I mean, you might get the occasional unrelated person who mis-hashtagged or had a different purpose for the same hashtag, but it’s a great index/card catalog for sure. Whoa… card catalog… I am quite old 🙂

  3. Hi there Sun,

    I really like your point about needing the hashtag. I was surfing around trying to get to understand Instagram and for a while I was approaching it a lot like Facebook. Looking for users and trying to follow them. Then I realized that there is SO much tied up in the hashtags. Very educational blog – thanks for sharing.

    P.S. I want to snuggle Obiwan puppy forever and ever.

    • Hi Teresa!

      I normally follow new people, organizations, or Obiwan puppies by searching by hashtag! It’s the only way I can figure out things that interest me! But it has now come to be that all the “Suggested Posts” for me are… puppies, food, and fashion. Although I follow a dozen or so public health IG accounts, none of those ever seem to pop up into my suggested posts! I wonder if that’s because there are so few of them… or if I just really DO like/follow THAT many puppies/food/fashion posts? 😛

  4. Haha, way to throw The Bieb a challenge! Nice. I agree, I have not seen many great examples of public health organizations using Instagram effectively. One that I do think is great, though, is SF HIV Foundation’s AIDS Life Cycle — http://instagram.com/aidslifecycle. What is powerful about this is that people who engaged in this amazing experience all participate in creating the social media buzz, not just the organization’s social media team. If you ask that team what made this effort successful, they say that Instagram works well in coordination with highly visual events. So the AIDS Life Cycle is perfect but conferences, policymaking, report writing, etc, are not so visually exciting but an equally important part of their work.

  5. This was a great post and fun to read. I still don’t get Instagram. For one thing, I cannot figure out to search for people or ideas. Its draining trying to figure it out. I’ve tried but I just do not find it as intuitive as Facebook. It is too bad that more public health organizations don’t use it — and this is what is sort of depressing about it — nearly 700,000 followers of puppies but few PH pages (is that what they are even called) and if there were some, the puppies would surely beat them out.

  6. I agree, Amanda. It could really be a challenge for PH pages to grown on Instagram. It almost seems like the pictures need to be either gross or ridiculous in order to be popular.

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