Instagram for Charities: How can you make the most of it? (Guest post) » Charity Digital News

Instagram for Charities: How can you make the most of it? (Guest post)

Erin Niimi Longhurst (@ErinNiimi), Communications and Social Media Advisor at Social Misfits Media, discusses why your charity should be on Instagram, and how can you make the most out of the platform?

More and more organisations are using Instagram to reach a wider audience. In 2013, our survey of 100 charities found that none of them had a presence on the popular image-sharing app. Since then, the number of charities using the platform has grown dramatically, and it has become a force to be reckoned with.

1) Why Should Your Charity Be on Instagram?

You need to be part of the conversation.

If your posts are topical, you have the potential to reach an extremely wide audience. Charities and nonprofits are often rich with compelling stories and imagery – Instagram is a great way to visually share and bring them to a new audience.

Reaching a wide audience.

Instagram is first and foremost a community-led platform – and the fastest growing one, too, with 600 million monthly users and counting. Instagram is a great platform to reach the next generation of supporters and donors – both millennials and Gen Z. In fact, 70% of all young millennials are on the platform.

Introduce yourself.

Instagram users tend to use the platform as a discovery tool – to find inspiration, engage with ideas, and find out new things. This provides a great opportunity for charities, especially as most of the content in people’s Instagram feeds is from people they don’t know, making it the perfect place to introduce your organisation or cause to a new audience.

2) What Content Should You Be Sharing?

Built for mobile.

Images that work best are compelling, consistent, and tell the viewer everything they need to know in one frame. It doesn’t have to cost the earth, either – Instagram is built for mobile, so images taken on a smartphone work well. It’s worth A/B testing different types of content to see what resonates with your audience.

Be recognisable.

Well-crafted images help drive engagement – it is essential to have your brand incorporated somehow in most images, whether its your product, a logo, a colour, or your name. This is important because people can ‘regram’ your image from their own accounts, which is fantastic in terms of reaching new audiences. However, you don’t want to lose any brand cache, so the image should have strong branding, if possible.

Keep it real.

According to Instagram, in 2016, being amusing is the top attribute millennials associate with content they like to follow (57%), followed by creative content (52%), beautiful content (48%) and inspiring content (43%). But remember – don’t force it! It’s also important to be authentic.

Use hashtags to widen your reach.

Instagram has developed it’s own hashtags and language. Some of the hashtags you use for your other social platforms might work here, like #Charity, #SocialGood, or #Giveback – up to 30 per post. Play into popular tags for your charity’s content!

Compelling videos.

Make sure you are sharing video content, too! On average people spend just three seconds viewing videos on Instagram, so make sure the first three are the most compelling, to draw viewers in.

According to the team at Instagram, “An image or video can convey a powerful and emotional message regardless of geography or language. As a visual storytelling platform, Instagram can help non-profits to reach audiences in a meaningful ways and drive results.”

3) How can you best engage with followers?

Don’t just post content.

It’s important to take the time to comment and engage with others for success on the platform. The average millennial user spends 22 minutes a day on Instagram!

Don’t be shy.

Working with influential users on Instagram is a great way to attract more followers and ask them to create content on behalf of your charity. The best way to connect with influencers is to direct message them within the Instagram app.

Don’t over share.

For brands (unlike individuals or celebrities), the general consensus is no more than one to two posts a day, and between three to four times a week minimum for best engagement. People tend to have a deeper connection with the brands they follow on Instagram, so don’t be afraid to post some behind-the-scenes office shots!

“From stories, to live video to posts in feed, it’s never been easier to tell compelling visual stories and build strong relationships on Instagram. Instagram allows you to reach a diverse, global community, who connect and share around all types of topics – from their love of fashion and sports, to issues like mental health and global campaigns – in creative, engaging and innovative ways.”


Case studies


One of the organisations absolutely nailing Instagram is Fashion Revolution (@Fash_Rev), a global movement working towards raising awareness around the true cost of fashion, and sustainability in the fashion industry. They have a fantastic balance of inspirational quotes, combined with pictures of their supporters around the world. Despite the varied content, the ‘Who Made My Clothes’? imagery and text is consistent throughout – and they do a fantastic job of sharing content from their celebrity supporters, like actress Rosario Dawson, chef Melissa Hemsley, and campaigner Livia Firth.

They are able to generate a lot of buzz and interest on the platform, with over 52,000 posts attributed to their signature hashtag, #whomademyclothes, alone.

@DoSomething know their audience – through their culture of volunteerism, the nonprofit platform mobilises over 5.2 million young people to give back by spearheading national campaigns over a wide variety of causes. DoSomething really excel at being timely, as well as getting people to engage and create content, like with their #GunsOut campaign.

They discovered that 85% of members didn’t feel like the voice of young people was represented well in the national conversation about gun violence in America. In response, they mobilised supporters by getting them to take a picture of them flexing, tagging their college president, with the message that the only guns they wanted on campus were the ones they could flex. As a result of the campaign, over 400 out of 4,500 college and university presidents signed the official letter, taking a stand against allowing guns on school premises.


Top Tips

  1. Have you thought about hosting an #EMPTY?

What locations or experiences can you offer your supporters? By hosting an #Empty, you offer the chance for a few Instagrammers to get access to a building, or physical space, out of hours when it is closed to the public, and document their experience through photos shared on the platform.

The #Empty movement, which began with the #EmptyMet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, resulted in an increase in followers and higher brand engagement. The Royal Opera House also did one in the UK, which provided access and insight to a younger audience who might not otherwise go to these places.

We’ve held our own in St. Paul’s Cathedral to launch their official account – just check out #EmptyStPauls – and at the Iconic Kew Gardens, too.

  1. Have you thought about mobilising your supporters through an #Instameet?

Users can mobilise supporters in real life with Instameets. An instameet is an event coordinated by Instagrammers, who meet at a specific location in order to take photos – a meet up of users in real life. It all started after a user knocked on the founder’s door and invited him to do a shoot!

London-based photographers Matt Garbutt and Neil Andrews mobilised some Instagrammers for a five-mile photo walk, in aid of Oxfam, WWF, and UNICEF. In addition to raising awareness among their own followers, the Instagrammers also raised £2,500 in support of their causes.

  1. Interested in Ads?

Instagram image and video ads in particular have significant brand impact for those using them, with 98% creating a significant lift in ad recall in 2016. You also don’t have to have an Instagram account to run ads – you can run them from Facebook too!

Unlike images or videos, ads can help drive clicks to your website, app downloads, website conversions, and more. You can also target specific groups, and reach potential supporters that may not already follow you. According to Fortune, users are 2.5x more likely to click on an Instagram ad than any other ads on other social media platforms.


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