Using Instagram to Build Engagement with Non-Profits

May 16, 2014

Article ImageCharities and non-profits have always faced a tremendous number of challenges. From fundraising to marketing to organizational difficulties, social work is a constant uphill battle. Yet today, technology seems to be turning the tides. Social media is helping charities reach out to people around the world on a scale that was never possible in the past. Social media marketing has now become an absolute must for organizations of all shapes and sizes, and developing strategies to implement this incredible tool in the most effective manner possible should now be a top priority for every non-profit. Instagram in particular has recently emerged as the best social platform for marketers. So to put this vital tool to work for your non-profit, here's a crash course in Instagram engagement and how to improve your non-profit awareness conversions.

Why Instagram?

Instagram engages audiences better than any other social media platform. According to research by Forrester, Instagram photos get 58x more engagement than Facebook posts and 120x more engagement than tweets. The reason for this is that there is simply less content on Instagram than there is on other platforms, meaning it has less competition for users' attention. Yet the audience is nonetheless massive: 200 million monthly active users, and growing. Plus, because Instagram only deals in photos, it is easier and faster for users to browse large volumes of content: meaning they ultimately see more of what is on the site than users of Facebook and Twitter do. 

Why the Urgency?

It is important to get established on Instagram as soon as possible, because this high level of efficacy is unlikely to last. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram has yet to develop a significant monetization strategy and so brands have free license to set up accounts and use the site for free, just like all other users. Instagram's recent attempt to insert sponsored posts into the platform caused a hostile outcry from the community, and was quickly shut down. But we can be sure that Instagram will not stop trying to monetize. 

As the company continues to experiment, the app will likely begin to filter brand content (like Facebook and Twitter already do), which will greatly reduce brand visibility and force companies to buy into whatever marketing strategy Instagram develops.  For non-profits this is still a worthy social media stream to invest time into if the aim is to spread awareness on a larger scale.

Strategies that Get Results

To get results, non-profits must first understand how social marketing works and how it offers value. The best social media marketers give great content to their community for free, without hammering brands down their throats or posting things that look like advertisements. Users engage with the content, appreciate it, and understand that they have been given something of value by the organization. This inspires loyalty, brand recognition, and emotional investment, and it is the most effective marketing strategy ever developed. 

So rather than forcing a logo on Instagram users or posting constant updates about events and promotions, give them beautiful photos. Non-profits should be looking to visualize compelling true stories, show the impact the charity has made on lives and introduce them to the people they are helping beyond who people know of already. Showing people the beauty of what you are building is key to spreading awareness and showing them the problems the world faces is reality content, and to do it all in a way that makes for a compelling visual experience Instagram is at hand. If you capture their attention on positive terms, their interest will make them to want to know more, and ultimately contribute to your cause.  

Models to Learn From

The best way to succeed on Instagram is to develop a campaign that builds upon the success of others. To that end, these are the non-profits with today's most inspiring Instagram feeds and ones we can all learn from:

We could try to describe what makes these campaigns so effective, but you'd do much better to simply see for yourself. A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. Take a look at these Instagram accounts mentioned and you shall see how inspiring they really are. Charity: water for example brings clean and safe water to people around the world to drink, and the Instagram feed shows exactly what its mission is. The United Nations Foundation connects people, ideas and resources which solves global problems, and its feed of inspiring quotes has earned the organization 20,697 followers. Oceana protects the oceans worldwide and the stunning photography of life in the ocean has earned it 12,730 followers to date.

Non-profits are in a unique position to make the most of social media. Unlike most other businesses, they promote positive social change while making people feel good about the impact they are making on the world. So non-profits are perfectly wedded to social platforms, which bring people together across vast distances and bridge divides that once kept people apart. Today, we live in an inspiring time, wherein technology is reorganizing our global society in ways that could soon put an end to some of humanity's biggest problems. When technology teams up with non-profits, everyone benefits.