5 Tips for Using Instagram for Your Nonprofit

Chad Warren By Chad Warren

Instagram began popping up on mobile phones about 5 years ago, and hasn’t stopped growing since. This social media network is often used to share creative and captivating images and video. Instagram has allowed the most novice photographer to create great looking photos and videos.

5 Tips for Using Instagram for Your Nonprofit

The most successful Instagram accounts out there are constantly experimenting and showing off their photography/videography skills. When compared to the Facebook and Twitter apps, Instagram is relatively simple. You are limited to just a handful of actions including following users, posting content, or like-ing and commenting on posts. Instagram may seem very simple based on this, however there’s still a lot going on and users are spending a lot of time on Instagram following their favorite celebrities, friends/family members, and brands. Your nonprofit may benefit from interactions on Instagram, so check out our 5 tips for getting started.

1. Should My Nonprofit Utilize Instagram?

 

This post by the Carolina Coonhound Rescue is a great example of a nonprofit using the collage feature of the app to showcase a recent adoption event  to engage with their audience. This is an effective way of keeping their available adoptions on the screens of their followers. Maintaining a relationship with your audience should be the primary motivation for participating in most online forums. If you’re not sure whether Instagram is right for your nonprofit, consider these:

  • If you have compelling visuals and stories to share, you can make it on Instagram.
  • If your target audience is between the age of 16 and 35 and relatively technology-savvy, you should probably consider a presence on Instagram.
  • If your nonprofit holds regular fundraising events or community outreach, you can greatly benefit by using Instagram to promote them before hand and share afterwards.

Of course, these are all over-simplifications to help you get a feel for Instagram, but the best way to know if you should be on Instagram is to simply try it and see what happens. The best part of social media is that it has a low barrier to entry and can be a pretty low-cost experimentation – you’ll only be investing some time and manpower, but your nonprofit will be able to create some great opportunities.

Consider committing to posting regularly, engaging with users often, and promoting your Instagram account on your website, other social media pages, and in person for at least 3 months. At the end of your trial period evaluate how things went. Don’t only determine success/failure based on conversions or funds raised, but observe how many likes, comments, and mentions/tags you get to see whether it is worth your time and effort. It is also helpful to observe how other nonprofits in your space are using Instagram. However don’t take all of your cues from other organizations as great value can come from being a trailblazer in your space.

2. Is re-posting okay or a no-go?

Sharing and Reposting, or regramming as it’s become known on Instagram, is common across most social media platforms. Facebook users often share other users’ posts or photos, Twitter users can be found retweeting or quote-tweeting. Although Instagram does not natively support reposting, there are  3rd party applications which you can use to facilitate this. A list of my favorite reposting applications can be found at the end of this post with other tools to help you on Instagram.

Reposting content can be great for your nonprofit, but keep the following in mind when doing so:

  • Always make sure the original poster is OK with you sharing the content. It’s best to try to refrain from assuming that just because their content is public that you can share it. Send a PM or comment on their picture to ask them for their permission. This small action also allows you potentially meet new influencers in your space.
  • Always credit the original poster with their username on the image itself (most reposting apps will help you with this) and an @ mention in the caption of the post is also good juju.
  • I suggest you also add your own commentary in addition to including their caption on the image. Taking an extra moment to “make it your own” will always be worth it.

When you begin to repost other users’ photos, it shows your followers that you are listening to your audience and that you care what they have to say or show. But be careful, you don’t want to over do it. It’s important to have a nice balance between original content and reposts, otherwise your nonprofit will seem like you are not putting much effort into your presence in the community. There are no hard and fast numbers to adhere to, but I like to see a 75% original content and 25% curated ratio.

3. What should I post on Instagram?

So you want to know the answer to the million dollar question? It really isn’t too difficult to come up with a quick list. Instagram is a fantastic place for you to show your nonprofit’s audience who you are and what you do. Take pictures of your staff doing what they do every day. Take pictures of your volunteers working hard for the cause. Go behind the scenes to show your personality and what you stand for.

As a nonprofit, you probably hold more events and fundraisers than the average for profit business. This is a perfect opportunity to show your supporters what they can expect from your events. It’s also a simple and cost-effective way to promote your upcoming event.

Taking pictures of your event is great, taking pictures of people at your event is terrific, but taking pictures of volunteers in action is powerful. Have your event attendees take pictures and use a designated hashtag to group all of these images together, or ask them to tag your organization using your handle when publishing the image. That’s right…Instagram allows you to use hashtags! If you’re not familiar with hashtags, they’re basically a fancy term for the actual # symbol used in front of a word or phrase on Instagram. Hashtags help categorize photos so that they can be easily found.

Outside of featuring events, a few other ideas to feature the personality of your organization include:

Showcase your donors. With their permission, post photos of your donors. Add a short caption describing who they are and why they support you.

Get involved with a popular weekly post called Throwback Thursday. Post a photo of the Board President at their high school prom. Post photos of staff members celebrating a birthday. Keep it light and go off topic once in awhile. Be sure to hashtag it #ThrowbackThursday, but more than anything enjoy yourself!

4. How should I find others on Instagram?

Just like Twitter and Google+, Instagram uses hashtags to group images together. A large number of users find content on Instagram by searching for their favorite hashtags. Using this technique is key to success on the platform.

There are many hashtags out there that can help build awareness for your nonprofit. Search around and find the ones that are right for you. Some of the most popular hashtags are #nonprofit #activism or #socialgood, but there are plenty for you to choose from.

Emoticons or, as they are commonly referred to on social media, emoji, can be fun to use sparingly. Since this is an account for your nonprofit, you don’t want to go overboard, but one or two here or there in the caption or in the comments can be fun depending on your demographic.

5. Showcase direct impact.

Don’t lose sight of why your organization exists in the first place. You are changing lives, saving the environment, finding homes for animals, preserving historical buildings, or saving children. Whatever your mission, always make sure that some of your Instagram photos show this impact – whether it be a smiling face, a cleaned up beach or an empty food pantry after the holidays. The @charitywater account shows the direct impact the organization is having on improving the quality of life of others in the developing world through access to clean water. The photos are usually simple and compelling and really are worth a thousand words.

Resources

Repost for Instagram – If you are looking for an easy way to repost photos from other users, take note of this iOS app. There is also a version available for Android. This app has been downloaded over 5 million times and has an average rating of 4.0 (4.5 on the App Store for Apple devices). This app is pretty easy to use: Simply log in, select an image you’d like to repost, choose where you want them to be credited on the image (their username), and copy the caption. Then from there you open the Instagram App and import the data and add your own caption along with the copied content. Easy peasy.

Canva – This application is perfect for any who may have a bit more time on their hands and want to do something creative with a photo or photos from your followers. Canva is a free online service (desktop only) that enables amateur graphic designers to create professional looking images. In my post last month – “Best Sunday Dress for Your Nonprofit’s Social Media” I explore how Canva can help you put your best foot forward on Twitter.

Remember: Don’t get too carried away with editing photos as Instagram is known for photos rather than graphics. Anything too overproduced can come across as corporate or automatically register as an advertisement which can hurt your credibility.

2 Comments

  1. I like how you said that if your nonprofit has compelling visuals and stories to share, you can make it on social media. I have a small nonprofit organization that I am marketing. Thanks for the tips on using this social media app for nonprofit support.

  2. Thanks for pointing out that the photos must have an impact on the audience to show that you are making a difference. I will share this tip with my sister since she has been meaning to start one that caters to stray animals. She is a dog lover, and her dog has been lost in the streets during the new year that is why she wants to make sure that the stray dogs don’t feel alone.

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