Skip to content

The rise and rise of Insta-activism

The rise and rise of Insta-activism

The Innovation team at Instinctif harness the best of the future to deliver market-leading ideas in the present. The team’s specialism spans digital strategy and marketing, data & analytics, and strategic brand. With the world and news agenda fast-changing around us, now’s the time to get agile in how we think and work.

This newsletter brings you the best of the week in the “new normal”, straight from the desk of the Innovation team.

Racial injustice, climate change, seemingly arbitrary algorithms dictating exams results; there has been a lot to rail against over the past months.

And the latest vehicle for our activism? Instagram.

Even the most social-media-resistant among us would have been hard-pushed not to have learnt of the black squares filling up feeds on ‘Blackout Tuesday’, and the growing number of visuals from socially distanced protests across the world being shared on grids.

In a recent article on US news site Vox, the journalist explores ‘how social justice slideshows took over Instagram.’

Here’s what we learnt from the piece:

Design counts

The piece says it boldly: “How do activism slideshows go viral on Instagram? By co-opting popular design aesthetics from brands.” Large typeface, bubbly fonts and minimal copy.

The carousel isn’t the best way to share information, as few people take the time to scroll through. And activists are getting wise to this. According to New York-based graphic designer Eric Hu, “Instagram privileges certain content, like attractive people, vacation photos, and graphics with inspirational messages. But now, you’re seeing a lot of infographics trying to Trojan horse these tropes to trick the algorithm.”

How are they doing this? By merging typically high-performing images of aesthetically pleasing visuals of things like flowers and nature with informative copy around social issues. The algorithm is being hacked – for social justice.

Growth can happen quickly

The article cites the So You Want to Talk About account, which was started by a New York based creator named Jess as a way of (according to the account bio) ‘Dissecting progressive politics and social issues in graphic slideshow form’.  In June the account had around 10,000 followers. By August? Over 1.3 million.

Accounts like Jess’ tap into the millennial thirst for neatly packaged information in a specific visual language – subdued, often pastel colours, carrying bitesized facts and figures about a specific topic.

In addition, posts can out-perform the account’s own reach – the piece points to a “A popular mini-guide on using trans-inclusive language with over 43,000 ‘likes’ created by a user with only 1,200 followers.”

Misinformation is a growing concern

A recurring theme when it comes to social media: fact-checking is key and misinformation is insidious.

In March, Instagram announced that it was reviewing its moderation rules alongside Facebook’s to address the spread of fake news. But its procedures are far from water-tight.

No formalised approach to crediting means that often artists and academics go unnamed, and source citations are rare to find. The use of Canva to create convincing infographics and fact cards gives (sometimes undue) weight and credibility to the content being shown.

Vox quotes media reporter Mark Stenberg’s description of the “Facebook-ification of Instagram,” claiming that, “Both exist in a time of political upheaval, which has spurred users into using them as a platform for spreading political messages. Both allow users to post and share just about anything. Both live and breathe user engagement. And both are owned by Facebook.”

Tool of the week

As many of us have discovered over the past months, wearing a mask, while good for reducing the spread of disease, can make it harder to make yourself understood.

Not so at Burger King Belgium.

The fast food doyen is launching a tool to allow customers to communicate their order, without needing to mumble through a piece of cloth. Its newly launched social media competition will see consumers post their favourite order on the brand’s Facebook page or on Instagram Stories for the chance to win it printed on a personalised mask.

Only 250 customers will be selected, rendering these lucky individuals part of an exclusive cohort of customised mask-owners.

The brand’s Facebook page leaves us with a helpful reminder: “Just remember to take off your mask before you eat.” Sage advice we should all heed.

Top tip

This week’s tip comes from Junior Account Manager, Eoin McGrath.

In this industry, we are constantly trying to keep our fingers on the pulse with the latest trends, wanting further insight into what the world is searching for online.

Google Trends offers users analysis into search trends around the world upon entering a topic or keyword into the search bar. It also offers the user an overview of what is currently trending globally and why, as well as allowing users to retrospectively search for trends year by year.

Yesterday’s most trending piece of news was that Zoom was functioning again after being out for several hours on Monday morning, a story which received over 100k searches on Google.

Where are you visiting from?

Select from the regional list below.


    Apply now

    Submit your application directly to our careers team using this form. We look forward to hearing from you!

    Fields marked with a * are required to submit the form.

    Name *
    * Upload your CV and any other supporting documentsSupported file types: doc, docx, pdf, rtf, txt. (MAX size: 6MB)

      Sign up to hear from us

      We send a range of frequent newsletters on several topics below. Submit your details here to receive some or any of these communications.

      Fields marked with a * are required to submit the form.

      Name *
      Which area are you interested in hearing about? *

      If you have a general enquiry, please contact us here.

        Get in touch

        How can we help? Contact us using the form below, or via the following:


        Phone: +44 207 457 2020

        Fields marked with a * are required to submit the form.

        Name *