For most of us, Instagram is a place to post photos of our lives — from silly moments documented on our stories to luxurious beach escapes captured forever on our walls.

But one freelance writer sees Instagram as far more than just a digital scrapbook, and she’s not alone. Abigail Koffler wrote for Bustle about how she and others use Instagram as a networking tool to bolster their careers.

“For Millennial women across industries, Instagram provides more than a name, email, or business card, is often the most complete digital calling card — it presents a complete picture of your life, beyond your ‘personal brand,’ or a static collection of job titles,” Koffler writes.

Fascinated by this hitherto unknown social media trend, Ladders got in touch with Koffler to learn why she and other women are turning to their Instas for professional connections. Here’s what she said.

Q: What inspired your article?

A: Last summer, I attended a one-year birthday party for She Spends, a community that works to help women close the wage gap. I knew a lot of people there and wound up talking to a few more, including my editor for the Bustle story. At that time, I was very new to freelancing and wasn’t sure how to get in touch with people. I didn’t yet have a work email or a business card, so I started asking for people’s handles. I liked the feedback loop of following someone back—it felt like a fun connection and an easy way to stay in touch in the long term. When you exchange business cards, you need to write an email introduction, which can go unanswered. After attending a few happy hour events and doing the same thing (sometimes at the other person’s suggestion), I started to put a list together in a google doc about why Instagram works so well for networking. After lots of reporting and revision, that became the final piece.

Q: When did you start noticing women using their Instagrams for networking?

A: I started noticing it as friends began to share more about their work lives on Instagram, particularly using Stories. Even just changing the links in your bio to something recent or sharing happy news with a selfie is an easy way to update your network and I saw it more and more. People share their new desk decor, news about getting a promotion, and also stressful work moments like staying late at the office on Instagram, so it’s only natural to connect.

Q: You say in the piece that you have used the platform yourself as a networking tool. How do you go about that?

A: I use it to stay in touch with people I meet at events and while reporting. The word networking can have a bit of transactional connotation, but that’s not how I think about in this context. I want to form communities in the field I work in and cheer people on as they grow. I also write about restaurants a lot and Instagram is often the best way to get in touch and set up an interview. Another way I utilize it is to share recent work. I have stories coming out frequently that I’ll link to in my bio and share in my story.

Q: What power do you think Instagram has for working women that other social platforms don’t?

A: For many of the women I spoke with, Instagram is a more accurate reflection of their lives than another social platform. There’s an appeal, especially for those in creative fields, in sharing more of yourself with potential clients and collaborators. If we work with people that get us, the work experience is so much better. Plus, the visual aspect of it is very inviting, as many big accomplishments don’t always come with a title change or a byline.

Q:  Is Instagram the new LinkedIn?

A: They can absolutely coexist. For me, Instagram is far more relevant (and human feeling) but it definitely depends on your industry, age, and goals. I’d advise staying active on both and leveraging the overlapping networks you cultivate on either one.

Originally published on The Ladders.

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