European Capitals on Instagram 2: How Cities Engage with Residents

Cities have varying presence on social media. They tend to choose social media channels depending on what needs to be communicated and to whom. In general, social media contribute to increased communication with citizens and tourists. Instagram is a unique social media platform enabling innovative way of communicating information; it is mobile, visual, and easy to use. As such, Instagram is one of the most user-friendly platforms providing limitless possibilities to public institutions and private bodies.

In November 2016, Europolitan Trends for the first time examined and analyzed the use of Instagram by European capital cities. The EU Capital Cities on Instagram 2016 featured two institutional segments, their communication patterns and practices on Instagram. The promotion of the EU capitals to visitors and prospective tourists, which is usually done by destination management organizations has been described >> here. The other aspect of communicating information from municipalities to residents is highlighted below.

Municipalities/City Administrations

City administrations tend to use social media actively. However, Instagram is still largely undermined among them.

Instagram is an entirely mobile and easy to use innovative medium. However, knowing that cities are usually late adopters of novelties, since they need to follow certain steps and procedures to have something approved, it is easy to understand the late adoption of Instagram among city administrations. However, it is important to stress the significance of Instagram as an excellent and easy to use social media tool, which provides a good platform for information sharing, leading meaningful dialogues with residents, opinion gathering, satisfaction analysis, marketing and situation mapping.

The analysis below outlines the current Instagram setting of EU capitals, and provides guidelines for good practices at the end of the analysis.

State of Play

City Accounts to Applaud

Prague, Czech Republic (@prahaeu)

Prague has an active Instagram account with almost 400 posts and roughly 4,500 followers. The city posts couple of times a week mostly in Czech and thus it is clearly geared towards its residents. The city uses a mix of reposts and own content. Posts are instructive, informing citizens of various policies, actions and events.

Copenhagen, Denmark (@koebenhavnskommune)

Copenhagen has an Instagram account with almost 500 posts and more than 17,000 followers. The content is interactive and informative mostly in Danish.

Paris, France (@paris_maville)

Paris posts in French with the following base, which reaches almost 150,000 people. Paris usually posts own content; however, sometimes photos are reposted. The account posts good quality photos informing its residents and French-speaking visitors about relevant events, information about culture and arts in the city, and about Parisians.

Riga, Latvia (@riga.lv)

Riga clearly specifies that the Instagram account is for Rigans and instructs the followers to share it “with fellow Rigans.” The content is visually appealing and informative. For example, one of the latest photos posted informed its residents that the snowfall was expected during the following week and that it was obligatory to have winter tires. The account is clearly geared towards residents of Riga and posts are creative and informative. Riga is doing a great job and its municipal Instagram account is a great example of what other municipal accounts should strive to reach.

Europolitan Trends EU Capitals on Instagram

Lisbon, Portugal (@camara_municipal_lisboa)

Lisbon is an impressive early adopter. Lisbon also  posts in its local language. Moreover, Madrid, Spain (@madrid) and Ljubljana, Slovenia (@mestnaobcinaljubljana) have a very solid informational portal in their local languages. Both accounts are impressive.   

Nicosia, Cyprus (@nicosiamunicipality)

Nicosia just recently started instagramming. Thus far we see five informative posts.

Pilot Instagrammers

Brussels, Belgium (@bxl_online)

Brussels has an Instagram account, which is used periodically. The captions are in English and the photos mostly have a tourist geared content. VisitBrussels already does a great job promoting Brussels as a tourist destination; thus, @bxl_online should aim to become an information sharing portal that enables dialogue with its residents. It should post captions in two local languages and English (because of the large number of expats) and use content relevant for residents.

The Hague, the Netherlands (@denhaag.nl)

Description clearly states that the Instagram account is the official account of The Hague. The account is in Dutch and it encourages the use of two hashtags to attract user generated content. The Hague posts regularly and focuses on events and tourism related content. This should be discussed with This is The Hague in order to build a valuable Instagram strategy that would benefit both institutions.

Luxembourg, Luxembourg (@multiplicity_luxembourg)

Luxembourg city posts regularly. The photos usually do not have captions except hashtags, which suggests that the account is predominantly tourists oriented. The content seems to be its own. The account of @multiplicity_luxembourg should develop its Instagram strategy and specify attainable goals for reaching residents and tourists with informative and attractive content. Similarly, Warsaw, Poland (@warszawski_ratusz), an early adopter among the municipalities publishes mostly content geared towards tourists. Instagram strategy should be further developed with its tourism board Instagram account Fall in Love with Warsaw.

Vienna, Austria (@stadtwien)

Vienna has an account, which has no posts. Stockholm, Sweden (@stockholmsstad) seems to also have an inactive Instagram account. Note that on the account of @stockholmsstad it is not stated that the account is official. London, United Kingdom (@cityoflondon) has an Instagram account, but the city has not been actively using it. London has also been going through an Instagram trial period; namely, at the time of writing, the latest photo was added 20 weeks before, and the one prior to that 42 weeks ago.

Conclusions

  • Only about 56% of EU capitals have an Instagram account, which means that 15 out of 28 EU capitals have an Instagram account. The following city halls do not reach out to their residents through Instagram: Athens (GR), Berlin (DE), Bratislava (SK), Bucharest (RO), Budapest (HU), Dublin (IE), Helsinki (FI), Rome (IT), Sofia (BG), Tallinn (EE), Valetta (MT), Vilnius (LT), and Zagreb (HR). The later ones are strongly encouraged to start communicating with their residents over Instagram as soon as possible.   
  • Seven EU capitals are using their Instagram accounts in an innovative way to spur dialogue with citizens, to inform of policies, programs, projects and news, and to raise awareness about  on-going issues.
  • At least four city accounts use their Instagrams to promote their destination. This practice is an “easy way out” aka, ticking the checkbox that the city administration is allegedly using Instagram. Namely, the city administrations should keep in mind that usually the main idea behind Instagram for cities is to communicate with citizens and to inform them of the matters important for the city.

Guidelines

  • Be consistent and have a common and recognizable brand. Preferably, have the username, which is the same on all social media channels.
  • Have an accurate profile description on Instagram. Indicate that your profile is the official Instagram account of the city.
  • Do not just use your regular logo as your Instagram profile picture. Have a tailor-made colorful and eye-catching logo. The coat of arms of your city would also work well if it is stylized for Instagram. As a result, you would attract the audience and keep up with your brand.
  • Create and promote a hashtag. If possible your hashtag should match your username and be as simple and short as possible. The hashtag would help you and your community to explore content from other Instagram users. It would also enable structured dialogue.
  • Your account should be in your local language and provide informative content and add value to your followers/residents. Don’t forget that the main purpose of your account is to establish the dialogue with residents. Besides it should serve as an innovative information platform, which informs about important issues in your cities.
  • Post interesting and appealing content as often as you can and encourage you audience to be involved. Encourage them to ask questions and to post content. Even a negative content can help, if you encourage your audience to provide practical comments on what works well in the city and what should be improved and how. This way cities may get first-hand and practical information about failed policies and other pressing city issues. Become the main source of information about policies and important issues for your city. Your account should be the account your audience would go to for reliable news and information about the city.
  • Lastly, your account should be overarching Instagram account for your city. You should support your destination management organization, museums, universities and other vital institutions and companies that are based in your city.
  • Get your profile ‘verified’ by Instagram.

For the full study on EU Capital Cities on Instagram 2016, which contains detailed analyses and the good practice guidelines please contact us and we will send you a free electronic copy of the report.