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by Jonah Holland, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Public Relations & Marketing Coordinator 

Recently, I’ve been having  fun playing with Instagram.  I’ve been using to for some time here at the Garden to post in-the-moment scenes of the Garden as I walk exploring  what’s new this week. But after hearing one of the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s photographers, Cameron Davidson,  speak about it at VA-1 Tourism Summit, I been feeling even more inspired to use it.  Davidson told us that we don’t have to get the perfect shot, and for me, this was just enough to take the pressure off.  In fact, Davidson says, people no longer want to see polished work in every instance.  It can look too perfect — unreal.   What people want, Davidson explained is to be in the moment with you. They want the “Instagram  feel,” — you connect with the audience though the photo.  A sort of  “wish you were here”  mentality.  Since his talk I’ve more firmly embraced Instagram. I’ve gotten back to my photographer’s roots (I used to shoot for Style Weekly), but with the goal of sharing the moment, not photographic perfection. I used a filter (toaster) for the first time, and even shared a photo of an imperfect bloom ….we can’t all be perfect, but we can still be beautiful in our imperfections.  Davidson said, “Imperfect is the new perfect” and to me that was permission to be real, because realism engages the viewer.


But what really changed things for me was today when I noticed that our old Yfrog photo widget on our Online Communities Page wasn’t  carrying photos to its feed — it needed to be replaced. What to replace it with? And then I had my ah-ha moment: Instagram! I Googled “Instagram Widget”  (got to love technology today)…and seconds later I found SnapWidget a customizable widget that you can pull a feed from either an Instagram account or hashtag and customize it into a slideshow, grid or interactive map of where you took the photos and embed it in your webpage or blog.   So cool! Above is the feed from Lewis Ginter’s account.

I love that I can not only share my own view of the Garden via the Garden’s official Instagram feed, but that I can also share other’s view of the Garden. If you stay on the #lewisginter hashtag slideshow (shown below),  you’ll see a side of the garden from our visitor’s perspective. A baby enjoying the Garden with his mom,  Swiss Chard from a new perspective,  or a teenager in love with the butterfly bench outside the Conservatory. 

So with Facebook limiting fans access to the non-profit pages they follow. And Non-Profit Tech 2.0 blog recommending diversification of social media platforms, Instagram is becoming the darling of social media  in a way it has never been before.  Even my 11-year-old daughter asked me last week if she could start an Instagram account  because….”all her friends are doing it.”

Instagram is right there in step, responding to its new popularity.  Mashable reported Monday that Instagram now has a web interface for the first time.  Statigr.am, after all is Statigr.am, not Instagram.

You can see if your profile is up by typing in instagram.com/username  — the Garden’s profile is not live yet, but  said to  “check back later this week”… that this feature would be available soon.

As Mashable says:

The numbers are pretty startling: 10 images per second, over half a million photos with the hashtag “Sandy.”  Everyone is jumping on this bandwagon.  Comodo, a restaurant in Soho, NYC, has a menu provided entirely in Instagram photo submissions. (BRILLIANT!!) The opportunities seem endless.  Please, if you’d like to be featured on this widget and the one on our online communities page, please use the tag #lewisginter on Instagram.

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