The following is an excerpt from Mobile for Good: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits.
Owned by Facebook, Instagram is the largest mobile social network in the United States. With more than half its users outside the United States, Instagram is well-positioned to become more broadly used worldwide. The predominant age group of users is 18–29. At the time this book went to press, the Instagram tool set was limited primarily to sharing photos or 15-second videos, adding text-based captions, and liking photos. The simplicity of the app is part of its appeal, but in terms of fundraising, nonprofits have few options for converting Instagram followers into donors. If in the future Instagram enables nonprofits to insert links into captions or attach them to photos and videos, then the app could become a powerhouse for mobile and online fundraising. Imagine being able to send your Instagram followers to mobile-optimized donate, text-to-give, or mobile wallet pages. That simple upgrade could instantly increase Instagram’s relevance in your mobile and social fundraising plan. Until then, in terms of fundraising, nonprofits are limited to sharing images embedded with keywords and short codes. For cause awareness, Instagram is a highly engaged community. Your nonprofit will likely receive more Instagram likes than Facebook likes and Twitter retweets combined, and it’s a community that is very responsive to nonprofits and images and videos that foster social good.
1. Use Instagram to Report Live
When reporting live from the field or from events and conferences, your new media manager should be adept at using Instagram to capture moments and events in real-time through photos and video. Always include a short caption, and like other social networks, inspirational quotes and powerful stats significantly increase engagement. When the event is over, you can convert the images into a web-based slideshow using Slidagram or a video slideshow using Flipagram.
2. Share Screenshots of Photos a.k.a. Regram
Using the screenshot function on your smartphone, you can add images to your smartphone’s photo library that can then be shared on Instagram. You can create screenshots of your own photos or of branded images that you have posted on other social networks and then share them on Instagram. You can also share screenshots of compelling photos posted by others. When using images from others, be sure to tag them if they have a presence on Instagram using the “Add People” function. It’s also worth noting that images embedded with quotes and stats are very popular on Instagram.
3. Add Hashtags to Captions, and Like the Photos of Others
Nonprofits that consistently use hashtags on Instagram have twice as many followers as those that don’t. Instagram users regularly monitor hashtags, thus enabling your nonprofit to gain more exposure to potential new followers. In addition to your event and cause awareness campaign hashtags, your nonprofit should also monitor and use the hashtags that are most popular on Instagram. Also, as part of your event reporting and cause awareness campaigns, you can crowdsource images and videos on Instagram by asking your followers to use your hashtag when sharing images on Instagram and then convert the images using your hashtag into a slideshow or embed them directly into your website or blog.
Another way to grow your Instagram following is to regularly like images posted by others. Each day take a couple of minutes to like at least 10 images posted by those you are following. In the future Instagram will likely enable users to forward their favorite images posted by nonprofits to their followers which will help your nonprofit gain new followers (similar to retweets). But until then, your nonprofit is limited to promoting your Instagram web profile, using hashtags, and liking the photos of others.
4. Use Third-Party Instagram Apps
There are number of third-party Instagram apps worth experimenting with. In addition to Slidagram and Flipagram, your nonprofit, should explore Statigram for tracking your Instagram analytics and Copygram which allows you to print your Instagram photos (good for volunteer appreciation gifts and as a fundraiser at events). You can also use Pic Stitch to create collages of your Instagram images and Pixlr-o-matic for advanced photo editing.
5. Share at Least One Image Daily
To gain followers on Instagram, you must be active on Instagram. If possible, post once in the morning and once in the afternoon or evening. Instagram images and video have peak activity during the first four hours after sharing, so to be consistently active, you need to post twice daily. If you cannot be active that often, then sharing one image or video daily is enough activity to build a following slowly but surely over time.