3 reasons your charity should be on Instagram


According to a Pew Research study released in January, Instagram is currently the fastest growing social media site. Combined with the fact that both follower growth and engagement rates vastly exceed that of its parent company, Facebook, brands have been scrambling to make a name for themselves on the platform.

Three years ago, when we published our first social media guide, About that First Tweet, none of the charities we surveyed had a presence on the platform. By the time we published Friends with Money (our third publication) last November, that number had risen to 21% – and it’s still growing. So far, so good – but what can it do for charities and nonprofits?

For charities that have limited resources available to manage yet another social media platform, adding Instagram might seem more of a hassle than it’s worth. So how is Instagram different, and what can it do for your organisation?

According to a report from Locowise, organic follower growth for Instagram averaged 1.48%, compared to 0.2% on Facebook. Organic engagement per post was 2.61% of the total audience, compared to 0.55% for Facebook. In addition to the high engagement rate and increased visibility, the platform is also a great way to reach younger users, with half of internet users between 18-29 on the platform.

So why should your organisation be on Instagram?

1. Authentic and visual storytelling

Due to the highly visual nature of the platform, Instagram is a brilliant branding tool in that your organisation can easily create and share authentic content. Charity:Water are one organisation that excel at this – they share images both taken by their volunteers from the field, but are also engaging with their donors by sharing images of donations and letters that have been sent in, and images of staff from around their headquarters, too.

Although Charity:Water share beautiful images, your organisation doesn’t have to have a professional photographer in order to have a successful Instagram account. The important point here is authenticity – often, the more amateur photographs can drive more engagement as they are more emotive and intimate.

2. User-generated content and curation

As Instagram’s head of community, Amanda Kelso, said at our Future of Social Event, Instagrammers are “doers”, and not passive users. Getting users to create content on behalf of your cause is made simple on Instagram, and planning targeted activity and campaigns around a certain hashtag can do wonders for advocacy and brand awareness. Although you can’t link to your site from an Instagram post, you can raise the profile of a specific cause or campaign, and reach a wider audience too, in an engaging and creative way. Buy-one-give-one footwear brand Toms’ #withoutshoes campaign massively raised their brand profile, and managed to do a lot of good, too. The brand challenged every user to spend one day #withoutshoes. For every user that Instagrammed a picture of their bare feet with the hashtag, the organisation pledged to give a pair of shoes to a child in need. The campaign resulted in 296,243 pairs of shoes being donated, while raising the profile of the brand on the platform in the process. User-generated content creation on behalf of your cause doesn’t just happen at the campaign level either – in the States, organisations like Gramming for Good and Gram for a Cause are helping to connect passionate and talented Instagram storytellers with the nonprofit organisations they want to create content on behalf of.

3. Instameets and Photo Walks

Instagram is also great for connecting people offline, or IRL (in real life), too, through Instameets or photowalks. An Instameet is generally a gathering of Instagrammers who meet up to take photos and videos together. It can take place anywhere, and be any size, and charities can harness their networks by organizing their own, like Charity:Water do. In many cases, individuals may be organizing their own in support of your cause, like the Five Miles in My Shoes photowalk in June, which raised funds for Oxfam, WWF and UNICEF through their JustGiving Fundraising Page. The event raised £900 for UNICEF alone, and was organized completely independently from these charities by some passionate Instagrammers.

So should your charity be on Instagram?

If your organisation has a compelling story, or a dedicated and creative audience then you should definitely begin to think about a robust Instagram strategy. It’s a great platform to begin a visual storytelling journey to harness supporters more than ever before.

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Erin is the Communications and Social Media Advisor at Social Misfits Media, specialising in helping charities, foundations and non-profits better use social media to reach their goals. Follow Erin and Social Misfits Media at @ErinNiimi and @MisfitsMedia.