Aug 27 2013

The Interior Department’s Beautiful Instagram Account

In four short years, the agency has transformed from digital dinosaur to social pioneer.

The Interior Department has figured out Instagram, thanks to director of digital strategy Tim Fullerton and the natural beauty of the great American outdoors. The agency “protects America’s natural resources and heritage, honors our cultures and tribal communities, and supplies the energy to power our future” and has taken to social media to engage citizens in that effort.

Because of its emphasis on imagery, Instagram has become a key part of the Interior Department’s social strategy. Fullerton makes getting 10,000 “likes” on an image seem easy, but the truth is that the agency has been working extremely hard to expand its digital presence, according to GovDelivery:

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Director of Digital Strategy, Tim Fullerton, knows a thing or two about making lemonade. When he took over the department’s digital communications in 2009, the DOI had no content management system for its website, no social media accounts, no video capabilities and no dedicated staff. It was, in essence, pre-historic. But with a lot of passion and a fine-tuned strategy, Fullerton has managed to transform the DOI’s web presence from a few lemons into a delicious John Daly cocktail with a twist.

Instagram presents the perfect opportunity for the Interior Department to engage directly with a young demographic. In just four years, the agency has accumulated 20,000 Facebook fans, 94,000 Twitter followers and 114,000 Instagram followers. Fullerton explained the DOI’s successful strategy to Alex Fitzpatrick in a recent Mashable article:

"We launched our Instagram just basically to show the public all of the amazing lands that we have across the country," Fullerton said.

Most of the Interior Department's Instagram photos come from department staff or from the public's submissions to photo contests. Interior is running one such contest this summer — the "Summer in America’s Great Outdoors" project, which asks parkgoers to submit their park photography to this Flickr collection.

The Interior's Instagram account posts a combination of native iPhone or other mobile photographs along with adapted DSLR imagery. Fullerton says he occasionally posts photos he sees tagged in national parks, though only when he's "gotten explicit permission" from the photographer.

"If we've seen some really striking amazing images, we've emailed asking for permission," he said. "We're always sure to give full credit on Instagram."

Fullterton also said his team "got a pretty positive response" to early experiments with Instagram video, so he'll be looking for more opportunities to experiment with it in the future.

The department’s efforts are paying off. With more than 114,000 Instagram followers, the Interior Department is pioneering new strategies for government–citizen communication. Check out the images below to see exactly why the account is growing so quickly.

<p>Credit: Interior Department</p>

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