Getting Instagram Ready

Preparatory steps for launching an Instagram account that tells your nonprofit organization’s story

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. These popular social media sites represent the grand triumvirate of all things social, covering community building, news gathering, topic trending, and professional bridge-building and networking.

But Instagram is a not-so-distant runner-up, coming in at fourth place (even ahead of Twitter but after Pinterest) among adults online who use social networking sites, according to recent Pew Research Center data. In fact, the percentage of adult Instagram users appears to be inching upward – from just 13 percent of all adults online in 2013 to 17 percent the following year, and rising to 26 percent in 2014.

Going where the people are makes good business sense for organizations that need to connect with supporters, donors, volunteers and other stakeholders on the social platforms where they congregate in their real lives. And that’s just one reason nonprofit organizations should embrace the possibilities that Instagram offers.

While Facebook can be effective for cultivating a sense of community online and LinkedIn is useful in establishing industry credibility, [tweet bird=yes] Instagram’s value proposition rests in the visual. [/tweet] And many nonprofits have great stories to tell through the power of images, from still photos to animated videos.

“If your organization can use images to tell your story, then Instagram is definitely the social media platform for you,” explains Tameka Mullins, social media manager for The Wakeman Agency. “It is a great place to showcase your events, honor your volunteers and create a visual roadmap to highlight your community initiatives.”

After all, most nonprofits are in the business of helping people, strengthening communities, safeguarding the environment or protecting wildlife – all missions rife with incredible opportunities for visual impact. However, with 92 percent of all nonprofits already on Facebook, some may question the importance of joining Instagram, too, as yet another outlet for sharing social-change photos and video clips.

Mullins advises: “The advantage of using Instagram in addition to, or in place of, Facebook is that you’re reaching an audience specifically primed to respond to visuals. Marketing studies show that Instagram users engage with content at a higher rate than any other site. One reason for this is that images and videos on Instagram are highly visible. Plus, there is no algorithm that controls who sees your posts. Your followers see every piece of content you produce.”

For charities and nonprofit organizations interested in dipping their toes into the world of Instagram, here are some tips for getting started.

  1. Know your story. Determine who you want to reach and what you want people to understand about your organization or feel about your cause. You can then create a posting schedule and content based on those goals, developing videos and images aligned with a clear strategy.
  2. Understand your resources. Who will set up, administer and manage your Instagram account? Someone, either a team member or representative from a partnering PR firm, should manage your Instagram account on a daily or – at a minimum – weekly basis. “Organizations with updated and active profiles will attract more followers and encourage lively engagement,” Mullins says. “Having a stagnant profile may lead followers to believe that the lack of activity is representative of your mission and organization on the whole, and you don’t want that.”
  3. Show the true you. Real and authentic. Those are the images people want to see, even if not well-polished, perfectly lit or professionally shot. Organizations should not delay posting photos from events, activities, meet-and-greets or other engagements from lack of having a professional photographer. Man-on-the-street visuals that display real people in action and speak to your organization’s spirit and brand can reap positive returns – translating into page views and follower engagement.
  4. Introduce yourself. It may seem like a simple no-brainer, but make sure you feature the organization’s bio and website URL on your Instagram profile. This way, followers will know who you are and what your organization is about. “Since the only place you can place a link is in the bio section, you can also use this area to promote ongoing events or sites other than your Web address, if need be,” suggests Mullins.
  5. Spread the word. Social media should not operate in a vacuum. Cross-promote by informing your followers on other social media platforms of your Instagram presence when you’re ready to launch to maximize your coverage.

Is your nonprofit organization on Instagram? If so, how long ago did you join, and what have been the pluses (and minuses) of having a presence there? If you’re still not on Instagram, we’d love to know if it’s just a matter of time, or if your organization has decided that it’s not for you. Join the discussion on The Wakeman Agency Facebook page.


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