A relatively new iPhone application is building a somewhat cultish following of amateur photographers. It’s called “Instagram” and the number of dedicated users who have downloaded the app are growing at a rapid pace – the one-year-old Instagram now has more than 12 million users worldwide.
Instagram is as simple as an application gets. To use it, you create a profile, choose pictures to upload, add a filter (filters allow the user to easily adjust color settings, make a picture look like it’s 30 years old and other cool stuff), post a short caption and then share it with all your followers. It might sound like Facebook minus everything else Facebook does, but the growth suggests Instagram is on to something. (I count myself as one of those who’s joined the cult)
So the next question is, how can nonprofits get involved? It’s new, so this does represent a rare opportunity to lead in an uncluttered space …for now. Of course, there are a few early adopters in the Philanthropy world who’ve already jumped on board. Posted here you see a few examples of nonprofit organizations and how they’re using Instagram. The Philippine Improvement Group is using the photo network as both an awareness raising and a fundraising tool, while the Salvation Army is recognizing volunteers.
The following list has five tips to help you get your nonprofit started in this fast-growing space:
Find your organization’s Instagrammer – Who in your organization always seems to have the best pictures on Facebook? Is there someone on your staff who always ends up with the camera at events? …and produces beautiful images with that camera? Identify the amateur photographer in your group and make them your NPO’s official Instgrammer. The only caveat is, they must have an iPhone (Instagram is only available for iOS platforms at the moment)
Start following and interacting with other Instagrammers – The best way to draw users to your account is by following them and interacting with their accounts. Just like on Facebook, you can “like” and comment on other users’ photos. Find Instagram accounts where the user posts pictures that suggest they might support your mission and then start commenting on and liking their photos. The Instagrammer should notice you and follow back in exchange for your interest in their work.
Tag your photos – Just like a tweet or a blog post, you want to make it easy to find your Instagram pictures. #nonprofit is an obvious place to start. Beyond that, think about what would bring people in to your org. #animals? #education? #healthcare? #cleanwater? Tagging is easy. Just as you see here, simply use the # symbol followed by the word you want for a tag. (don’t use spaces if your tag has multiple words)
Post content your followers want to see, not what you want to show them – Instagram is about looking at cool pictures of people, places and things you don’t see everyday. Use the app to give your supporters an exclusive peek into the behind-the-scenes operation of your nonprofit. Show them the compelling images of the people you help, the animals you save, the wilderness you preserve. Resist the urge to focus too heavily on what you think your followers NEED to see. Instead, show them what they want to see and they will repay you with attentive support and by spreading your message to their followers, friends and family. This basic tenet of Instagram is true of all social media.
Link to a good mobile site – Like most social networks, Instagram gives users the ability to redirect followers to another site from their profile. Instagram is only available on mobile devices, so be sure which ever site you choose is a good one for mobile browsers.
So how many of you use Instagram for your nonprofit work? Please let us know in the comments below. Or, feel free to contact me via email. You can find that at our website, BWF.com.