Take a look around on the photo-centric social media platform Instagram and you will be sure to find some nonprofit organizations seeming to effortlessly pick up new followers and engage their audiences with every post.
Some others might struggle to achieve the same results; nonprofits sometimes need to take a different approach from other businesses in their marketing.
Anyone who has worked with a nonprofit probably knows that it’s the rare organization that has the funds for a marketing budget – of any size. Most groups rely on volunteers who believe in the mission and are able to make time to help the cause.
There are, however, several things that nonprofits can do to maximize their success on Instagram, largely without having to spend a single dime.
7 Good Practices for Organic Instagram Marketing
There are a good deal of things your organization can do to get noticed on the platform completely organically, without the need to spend money on advertising.
While running Instagram ads never hurts to get the word out about your nonprofit, knowing how you can bring organic traffic with just a little creative time spent on the platform will prove to be an invaluable skill.
1. Make sure your organization has an Instagram Business profile set up
While it might be tempting to simply use a personal profile to run your nonprofit content, there are several advantages to having an Instagram for Business account that you might not have considered before. Think about a few of the following reasons to create a new business profile for your organization instead of using an existing personal page.
- You won’t have to dedicate your personal Instagram account to running your business.
- You will be able to add the fact that you are a nonprofit organization in the bio section of your page.
- You can set up and add a phone number for your nonprofit, a dedicated email address, and where you are located – this way, people can know how to easily get in touch with you.
- If you’d like, you will be able to create and run Instagram Ads.
- In your Instagram Stories, you will have the opportunity to add Donate buttons for people to send you donations right through Instagram.
Don’t worry – it is super easy to get back to your personal account from your Instagram for Business profile. All you need to do is take a look at the bottom of your screen, and where you see your profile picture, tap on it.
When you arrive at your profile, simply tap on your name to bring up the list of accounts you are signed into. From there, you can swap back and forth between accounts at will.
Take a moment to look at your bio.
Does it say everything you want it to say about your nonprofit?
You want your followers to know what your organization does, where its funding goes, and what it is doing to help the cause it supports. All of this is vital information in connecting with the people who will support the vision and mission of your organization.
2. Connect your organization’s Instagram and Facebook pages
The ability to connect your Instagram Business profile with your business’s Facebook page is another valuable reason to consider opening up a business account for your nonprofit. This approach unlocks several different things that could help you across both platforms as you try to make more people aware of your nonprofit and the mission it is working to accomplish.
Here are just a couple of the helpful reasons you should consider connecting your accounts.
- You can run advertisements on Instagram and Facebook, and do split-testing to see which ones are performing better than the others across both platforms.
- You can take a closer look at your audience on both social networks, and convince them to follow you on both so they never miss out on your organization’s latest social updates.
Facebook and Instagram are the two biggest social networks on the planet, with billions of people signing into each one. Take advantage of the huge numbers of people using these social media platforms by making sure you have a presence on both – potentially getting new eyes on your pages and your content.
3. Ensure you have a link to your nonprofit’s website in your Instagram bio
If you are working to get more people to come check out your Instagram account, you should also make sure you are providing them with opportunities to connect in other ways.
One of the best things about having a business page is the ability to put your own links in the bio section, so that you can send potential visitors to your Instagram page to your website.
People looking into your content might like to learn more about your organization, and you can only fit so many characters into an Instagram account. Make sure you take advantage of the ability to add links to your bio, and get the URL to your organization’s website into this section so that folks will be able to learn more about your nonprofit with ease by following your link.
You can get creative with links, as well. If you have a longer link or are sharing a video, you could always consider using a link shortening service, such as Bit.ly or Linktree. Some such services even allow you to create custom shorter links that you can tailor to your specific brand, if you so choose.
No matter how you go about doing it, it is true that potential visitors to your site are more likely to simply click on a link to follow it rather than copying and pasting it right into their browser’s address bar, so make it much more convenient for your visitors with a handy, clickable link.
4. Do your research on the sort of content your followers like to see
Have you ever thought about how nice it might be to know what the people who follow you on Instagram are checking out when they aren’t browsing your content?
You can do this with relative ease on Instagram.
Simply navigate to your notifications section on the Instagram application or website, and you will be presented with a screen that is labeled with two sections – Following and You. Navigate to Following and you will be presented with a feed of your followers’ recent activity, where you can see the kind of content they regularly engage with.
If you’re seeing how handy this could prove to be, then you know exactly how powerful of a tool this kind of knowledge can be. The ability to see what your followers are into and what they like to see can give you a better idea of what kind of content you could be creating to further engage with those followers.
You can also use this information as a way to gather other details, such as average age ranges of your followers, potential topics they could be engaged in, and relevant hashtags. Speaking of which…
5. Research and use the right hashtags for the occasion
Hashtags are the bread and butter of content discovery on Instagram and other social platforms, such as Twitter. In short, hashtags are the way that content is indexed on these sites, as opposed to having to have everyone search through pages and pages of categories to get to the content they would like to see.
Hashtags are not only a boon for the people who quickly want to find the kinds of content they are interested in, but they are also highly valuable to the businesses looking to get their content right in front of people who are already searching for it.
Think about it – people are using hashtags to search for the things they are interested in. With this in mind, you can look at similar pages to your own to see what kind of hashtags they use in their content, and take a look at how high their engagement rates are. If they have high rates of engagement, they are doing something right…and a good deal of it probably has to do with using the proper hashtags (or you could even use Twicsy to buy Instagram followers, likes and views).
For example, let’s say that your nonprofit centers around giving food to the homeless – you could post a photo with the hashtags:
#charity #helpingout #communitycare
People who were already looking at these hashtags would be able to see your content, too. See how this can be handy? You can look into the popular hashtags in your organization’s niche and then use those tags in your own posts to bring folks who are already interested in this kind of topic over to check out your content.
6. Add a Donate sticker into your Instagram Stories
When you’re part of a nonprofit, donations and community support are your lifeblood. While you probably have a donations system setup on your website and other platforms, why not take advantage of a free feature that you can use the next time you post an Instagram Story? A donations sticker.
Stories are a highly popular way for content creators, businesses, and individuals to connect with their audience through video. They are usually short snippets of content, and now, nonprofit organizations who are verified will be able to add a cool donations sticker right into their Stories, where anyone can click on it to easily donate.
To do this with your own Instagram account, you will need to make sure you have connected your Instagram and Facebook accounts and have your Instagram For Business profile completely set up and ready to go.
7. Use a free photo editor to expand your photo-editing suite of software
The stock tools available on Instagram for editing photos are nice for making simple, quick tweaks to photos. However, nonprofits often need something a little better to make their content tell the story they want to share.
If you think the native tools available on Instagram already are good enough for what you are trying to achieve with your content, then that is fine, too! However, if you want a little more power and flexibility in your photo editing, you might want to look into other options. Thankfully, there are several free software applications available for photo editing on both desktop and mobile devices.
These applications will not only allow you to apply different filters and effects like you would on Instagram, Snapchat, or other apps centered around photo content, but they will also give you a suite of other tools that can really bring your pictures to life. Take a look at a few of these great options for when you need to bring a little more power into your toolset.
- GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) – Windows, macOS, Linux
This is a completely free software application allowing you to draw freely, edit and manipulate photos, transcode images in various file formats, and more.
- KDE Krita – Windows, macOS, Linux, ChromeOS, Android
Krita is a free illustration and editing software that bears similarities to apps such as Photoshop. A highly cross-platform application, you can edit photos or draw great art for your content on your desktop computer or your Android tablet.
- Adobe Lightroom – Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Web
Anyone familiar with Adobe’s suite of software applications will feel right at home on Lightroom, which is available on desktop, mobile, and on the web to be able to edit your photos from anywhere you would like.
- Google Snapseed – Android, iOS
Looking for a great photo editor you can use exclusively on your mobile device? Google’s excellent Snapseed is a great way to do just that, whether you are on Android or Apple’s iOS.
- VSCO – Android, iOS
VSCO is a photo editor which, similar to Snapseed, is available only for mobile devices. Formerly known as VSCO Cam, it allows you to easily capture a cool shot in the application and then apply preset effects and filters, or edit them to your own liking with the available tools.
Being able to come up with great, eye-catching imagery is important to getting the attention of people on Instagram, which is a platform built on visual content. Nonprofits can leverage these powerful pieces of software to create amazing visual content without having to spend a single dime.
Scheduling Posts and Finding Success Through Original Content
One powerful tool you might not have thought about yet is content scheduling. People love to see consistent posts from their favorite creators on Instagram, and the algorithm seems to favor consistent, original posters as well. However, how can you possibly find time to create and post all of this stuff while you have so much more going on?
It’s actually super simple to schedule your posts using a calendar, an app to remind you to make a post, or better yet, a content automation service to load up all of your posts and schedule when you would like them to be posted. This way, all you need to do is decide when you would like the content to be posted, and the service will handle the posting for you.
Come up with a posting schedule ahead of time and try to keep it as consistent as possible. You have to think about the amount of people posting content on the platform every single second – and with that in mind, you should post when you can so your own content doesn’t get lost in the noise.
Also, remember to post ahead of time for any special events, like charities, giveaways, or other such announcements. This way, you will be able to give your followers ample time to get informed on whatever your nonprofit might be up to.
- Use some inspirational quotes
Instagram is often a home for people to find motivation, and many content creators find success in including motivational and inspiring quotes on their content. If there is a special quote that speaks out to you, share it with the rest of the world. Who knows? You might end up inspiring someone, too.
- Don’t always make it about business
People will become turned off by your content if it is all about business. Make it a little more personal by making an effort to truly connect with your audience. It could be something simple like a picture of you or your staff hanging out with cute kitties, or a short video that makes people laugh. Make it personal sometimes!
- Make your content as original as possible
It can be simple to find multiple accounts on Instagram posting what is essentially the same kind of content, and finding content creators who come up with unique, original content can be a breath of fresh air for many Instagrammers.
People love to find highly original content that has a story to tell, so build your connection with your community with fresh content that can only be found on your profile. With luck, the fans who love consuming your content the most will also be inclined to share it with their friends and family, further promoting your brand.
Involve Your Community
Once you have assembled a community around your nonprofit’s Instagram page, you can start building more of a relationship with the followers you have amassed. This can be an invaluable resource for your organization, since followers are likely to not only stick around, but also spread the word, for pages and content creators that they identify with.
Not only does this approach help you quickly get the word out about what your organization is trying to do, but it also makes the community around your nonprofit feel involved, fostering a deeper connection between everyone. There are several ideas you can use to maximize your following and leverage the connection you have with your fanbase so you can truly work to get the word out about what you’re up to.
- Come up with a branded hashtag
People love creative hashtags, and you can take advantage of this in your campaigns simply by getting a little imaginative. Come up with a hashtag that has not been used before, is relevant to the content you make, and is simple for everyone to remember. This is the key to getting folks to participate in a simple, accessible way.
- Feature your community in your content
If you run some form of content asking people to submit photos centered around a certain theme, be sure you engage right back with the people participating in the campaign! Select your favorite shots and share them on your profile. This will mean so much to everyone involved, and will help maintain that connection, as well as encourage other folks to participate the next time around.
- Come up with a creative campaign idea
Have a simple, easily-accessible campaign idea for people to participate in. It could be something like taking a photo of something special (like a certain animal, a treasured possession, nature, or something else) and then sharing it on Instagram with your branded hashtag.
- Your community can help foster new content
Sharing other people’s content on your Instagram page who have shared photos for your content is a good way to provide your account with material to post for days on end, if the response is good enough. Running low on content ideas or just don’t have the time to sit down and make something? Why not share some of the “best of the best” from the community to both share new content and connect with your followers in one fell swoop?
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons to consider involving your community in the things you do. Never underestimate the importance of building up your base of followers on the photo-sharing platform, because they can be an invaluable resource not only for engagement, but also for content and human connection.
Use Instagram’s Built-in Tools to Your Advantage
While there are a host of fine third-party tools that you can use to maximize your success on Instagram, such as content scheduling and more, you shouldn’t discount the tools available to you right on the native Instagram application. With your Business account, you unlock a lot of perks that could help do your organization some good in building up your audience.
Here are a few tools that are already in your Instagram repertoire that you could be taking advantage of right now:
- Instagram advertising
Organic traffic is a great way to get people to come to your profile and your website without spending any money, but if you have a few bucks to throw into the advertising fund, you can never beat paid ads. With Instagram ads, even a few dollars can run an ad campaign that will be able to get your nonprofit some more views and clicks.
- Instagram Stories
Similar to Snapchat, Instagram’s “Story” format has proven hugely popular with audiences all over the photo-sharing network. It allows them to connect with their favorite content creators on a bit of a deeper and more personal level, and everything from short talks to livestreams can be shared. The one downside, though, is that Stories only stick around on your Instagram page for 24 hours before they expire and are deleted, but thankfully, you can do something about that, too.
- Instagram Highlights
Highlights are selected clips from your Instagram stories that allow you highlight special moments from those videos that you can clip to your profile to stay around for longer than the normal Stories do. These highlights are saved, and are visible to followers who would like to watch parts of a Story after the source video has expired.
As you can see, there are some nice tools available right on your Instagram Business account that you can use to grow your presence ever further on the platform. Learn how these work and take advantage of them, and you might be surprised at just how big of a help they might end up being.
Finding Success and Building Up a Following For Your Nonprofit
With some time put into it and dedication, along with consistency in your posts, you can find success for your nonprofit on Instagram. After all, there are millions of people using the site every single day, and out of those millions of folks, you are more than likely to find a target audience for the kind of content you post.
Find your audience, keep them engaged, and post when you can (using the help of a content scheduling software, if preferred) to keep your content high up on timelines where everyone will be able to see it. Make sure you are doing your research into similar content to yours so you can see what kind of hashtags are popular in your niche, what kind of content your target audience likes to see, and so much more.
Always remember that you can post new, diverse content so you can also continue to work on bringing in new followers. Also, diversity in your content keeps things fresh for older followers, so it doesn’t seem like you are posting the same thing over and over again.
You should post consistently, but not so much that it becomes overwhelming to your audience. Always remember when posting anything that quality is always going to beat quantity. After all, you don’t want to make anyone want to unfollow you just because you might have posted a bit too much for them.
All in all, when you have spent a good amount of time on developing your content, learning your audience, coming up with your social media workflow, and more, you will have a good idea of what works in the social media approach for your nonprofit. Keep it interesting, keep it personal, and keep it original, and you shouldn’t find it too difficult to find and connect with the right target audience for promoting your organization.