Using Instagram

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This training covers how to set up an Instagram account and additional basics to get you started online whether as an individual volunteer or a chapter.

TOC and Guide Section

 Instagram is built to be used from a phone app, not from a desktop computer. To create your posts, you’ll need to be on your phone’s Instagram app. You can, however, login, view, like, and comment on Instagram posts from your computer. So if you’re setting up an Instagram account for the very first time, the first step is to download the Instagram app on your phone. Feel free to pause this video and do that.

Creating Your Profile

Once you have the Instagram app downloaded, you’ll want to create your profile. If you already have a profile, keep watching to make sure you have completely set up all the elements of your profile. Your profile should include your name, your “handle,” your profile picture, and your bio.

Name: First, Instagram will ask you to input your name. Put your real name here. It will show up on your profile picture here.

Handle: Next, you’ll need to designate a handle. Your “handle” is what appears after the @ symbol on your profile. This is like the social media version of your name. So if your name is Jane Smith, you might want your handle to be @JSmith, or @JaneS, or something like that. Usually someone’s handle is related to their name, but you can add initials, numbers, or other words if you’d like.  You can recognize a handle because it will have the @ symbol in front of it. When you use someone’s handle in a post, that’s called “tagging” them.

Profile Picture: The next element of your Instagram profile is your profile picture. In our case we’ve used a logo, since we’re an organization, but in your case, we recommend that you choose a real photo. This will help potential followers, or even your member of Congress, understand that you are a real person.

Bio: Your bio allows you to include some information about yourself. There is a word count limit, but within that, feel free to be as transparent or private as you like. You might write something like “I work in finance, I’m raising two kids, and I volunteer with @citizensclimate.” Here’s what CCL’s bio says, as an example. “Want Congress to address climate change? We do too! Join CCL to lobby for bipartisan climate legislation. Nonpartisan | Nonprofit | #GrassrootsClimate” 

Note: it's important as you set up your initial shared chapter account to think through contingency plans. How will you handle sharing access to the account login if the original creator of your chapter's account leaves town? One recommendation is to use your CCL chapter email forwarder (visible here by your chapter: as the login information so it can be shared with someone and help make succession planning easier. If you have any questions, feel free to ask our social media team at

You can also include a link as part of your profile. If you don’t have your own website or link you want to put here, you can put CCL’s linktree link. We have a bunch of basic actions folks can take from that link like write or call congress or sign up for the Info Session. That link is

Choosing Your Privacy Level

As you set up your profile, Instagram will also let you choose a privacy level. You can set your Instagram profile to be private or public. If you want your posts and stories to be visible to CCL and members of Congress you’re trying to influence, your profile needs to be public. This is also true if you want to participate in any CONTESTS CCL is hosting—we’ll need to be able to see your post for your contest entry to count, so your profile should be set to public. You can change your privacy settings later, so if you want to participate in a contest, set your account to public and then you can modify it to private once the contest ends.

Elements Included In A Post

Pictures: When you see an Instagram post, the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s mostly a big picture. Instagram is very photo-driven, and every post actually has to include at least one picture. Some posts include more than one picture and if that’s the case, you’ll see dots here, which indicate that you can swipe and see more than one photo.

Captions: The next element you’ll notice is the caption. Under most Instagram posts, people will write a caption talking about what’s in the photos. Captions can include handles, as you see here, as well as hashtags. 

Icons: Next, you’ll notice there are lots of little icons on an Instagram post. Most of these are related to ways you can interact with the post. You can like a post, comment on a post, send a post to your friends in a direct message, or even bookmark the post to save it and come back to it later. Likes and comments are public and visible to others on Instagram. Direct messages are private and can only be seen by the person you message. Bookmarks are entirely your own - no one can see what posts you save except for you.

Comments: As you scroll down, you can see comments that people have left, and you can interact with those too. You can like or reply to individual comments, and you can even use these quick replies that Instagram suggests.

Creating Your Own Post

When you want to create your own post, click on the plus button at the bottom of your Instagram app. Choose the image you want to share from either the photos saved on your phone, or you can choose to take a new one. Click next. You’ll be presented with what are called “filters” on Instagram. These are enhancements and effects you can apply to your photos. “Normal” is the default setting. So either choose a filter or leave your photo as-is. 

After clicking next, write the caption you’d like to accompany your post. This can be short or up to 2,200 characters long. You can include hashtags in your caption, which is basically a way to categorize the content of your post. For example, if you’re talking about climate change, you could use #climatechange. If you’re talking about work you’ve done with CCL, you could use #GrassrootsClimate or #PriceOnPollution. Keep in mind that Instagram does allow you to go back and edit your caption, so if you find a typo or want to add another hashtag, you can change your caption later. 

Additional Post Options

Tagging People: Below the spot where you’ve typed your caption, notice there are a few other options under the caption. You can “Tag People” in your photo. Only use this feature if they are actually in the photo. You can tag someone by tapping on the photo and typing in their handle, which begins with an @ symbol. 

Adding Location to Post: You can also “Add Location” to a post. This is a great thing to do if you are at a CCL event, like your monthly meeting at your library or a national or regional conference. If you don’t see your location, you can search for it.

You might also see “Post to Other Accounts” if you manage multiple Instagram accounts, such as your own and an account for your chapter. You might also have connected your Instagram account to your Facebook and Twitter profiles. We’ll skip these options for now, but if you have questions about them, feel free to contact me.

Once you’re done typing your caption and adjusting these other elements, click “Share” in the top right corner of the app. This will share your post.

Following Other Accounts

To follow other accounts:

  • First, click on the magnifying glass at the bottom of the app to search. 
  • Then type in the handle of the organization or person you want to follow. If you don’t know their handle, you can try just typing their name and seeing what pops up. 
  • When you’ve found the profile you want, click the blue “Follow” button (or it might say “Follow Back” if that account already follows you). If the account is public, you’ll be following them immediately. If it’s private, the person will get a request to approve you to follow them.

Here are a few Instagram accounts we recommend that you follow to get started:

  • @citizensclimate
  • @climatechange
  • @leonardodicaprio
  • @climatereality
  • @katharinehayhoe
  • @repteddeutch
  • @repfrancisrooney
  • @yearsofliving
Following Hashtags

To follow hashtags go through the same process:

  • Click on the magnifying glass to search.
  • Type in a hashtag you want to explore. For example, let’s check out what has been posted in #GrassrootsClimate.
  • When you click on the hashtag, you’ll see all the public photos that have been posted with that hashtag. You can then click “Follow” to follow the hashtag too and see future posts that are posted with that hashtag. 
  • Once you’re following a hashtag, those posts will appear in your home feed alongside the accounts you follow. From a quick glance, you can know if you’re looking at a post from an account you follow or from a hashtag you follow by the orange and pink hashtag symbols overlaying the profile photo. You’ll also see the #hashtag instead of handle. Over time, this may also help you find new accounts to follow.

Recommended Hashtags:

  • #GrassrootsClimate
  • #PriceOnPollution
  • #BipartisanClimate
  • #ClimateChange
  • #CarbonTax
  • #ActOnClimate
  • #ClimateStrike
Liking & Commenting On Posts

To like posts, it’s very straightforward. 

  • As you’re scrolling through your home feed, when you see a post you want to “like,” just click the heart icon for the post. The heart will change color, indicating that you “like” the post. You can also double tap the image quickly and it will “like” it for you. 
  • If you accidentally liked a post you want to unlike, just click the heart icon again and it will remove your like. 
  • Right now most accounts in the US still allow you to see how many “likes” a post gets, but Instagram is moving to remove this feature so that you will only see how many likes YOUR posts get, but not on posts that others make. 

Commenting on Posts

Commenting on posts is also pretty straightforward and is a great way to connect with other users. 

  • When you come across a post you want to comment on, simply click the speech bubble icon, type your comment in the response bar, and then click “Post.” There are also some “quick reply” emojis that pop up that you might want to include. Instagram is very casual, and using emojis to communicate can make interactions fun.
  • You can tag other accounts (so that they see the post too - they will get a notification that you tagged them) or use #hashtags in comments too. For example, let’s say you follow NASA on social media, and they post about new climate data. You might want to comment something like: “The science is clear and we need to act. Join @citizensclimate to pressure Congress to put a #PriceOnPollution!”
Press play to start the video (14m 25s)
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Background
(from beginning)

Elements of Your Profile

Choosing Your Privacy Level

Elements Included In A Post

Creating Your Own Post

Additional Post Options

Following Other Accounts

Following Hashtags

Liking & Commenting On Posts
  • Ashley Hunt Martorano
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Grassroots Outreach
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