Editor’s Note: This post was updated in July 2018 to reflect current best practices.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then your nonprofit’s Instagram account is a storytelling goldmine. Since 2010, Instagram has been one of the fastest-growing and highly engaged social media platforms. While Instagram started as a place to share photos it has climbed to the top of the marketing totem pole with an estimated 71 percent of businesses having Instagram accounts in 2017—more than double compared to 48.8 percent in 2016.
The social network also boasts:
- 1 billion active users, with 800 million monthly users and 500 million daily users
- Over 40 billion photos posted to date
- Around 3.5 billion likes daily
- Over 60 percent of users log in each day, second only to Facebook for the most engaged daily users
- 59 percent of users are in the 18-to-29 age range in the U.S., making it a millennial-heavy platform
Instagram has made a name for itself—not just as a place to post pictures, but as a crucial platform for businesses to share their product, company culture, and stories. With 21.2 percent of peer-to-peer fundraising dollars raised coming directly from a social media post, nonprofits need to get involved too.
Nonprofits can leverage Instagram to share their mission, advocate for support, solicit donations, and show impact using one of the most visceral and powerful mediums possible: visual media.
Below are 25 Instagram tips for both beginners and seasoned experts to step up their game.
1. Make Your Profile a “Business Profile”
There are many perks to registering your account as a “business profile” on Instagram, including the ability to add your “type of business category.” List yourself as a nonprofit so when someone comes across your profile, they’ll know right away that you have a social mission. Make sure to include your website and contact information as well.
When you make your profile a business page, you gain access to insights like impressions, engagement, and reach on all of your posts and stories. Social Media Examiner lays out great Instagram-for-business tips on how to set up and analyze your new business profile.
2. Upload Stories and Save to Story Highlights
Instagram Stories allow you to upload fun snapshots of your organization without the fear of over-posting.
According to Instagram, “You can share as much as you want throughout the day—with as much creativity as you want. You can bring your story to life in new ways with text and drawing tools. The photos and videos will disappear after 24 hours and won’t appear on your profile grid or in feed.”
A recent update now gives the option to add stories to your profile to be featured in the Story Highlights section right above the contact navigation bar (pictured below).
To get started, go to your profile and tap “Story Highlights” below your username. Hit the plus sign to add a story, then select the story you want to add and hit next. You can then choose a cover photo and name for the story before pressing “add” (for iPhones) or “done” (for Androids). Story Highlights will be visible until you remove them. To add, edit, or remove a story from your highlights, simply tap “edit highlight.”
It may seem intimidating to post daily stories, but keep this in mind: Instagram Stories have more than 300 million daily users. Can your organization afford to ignore that massive pool of potential donors?
3. Toggle Between Your Personal Account and Business Account
Instagram allows you to switch seamlessly between multiple Instagram handles without having to continually log in and log out all the time. To add another handle into the mix, click the cog wheel in the upper righthand corner of your profile page. Then scroll to the bottom of the dropdown, click the “Add Account” button, and input information.
To toggle between accounts, start on your profile page and press the respective logo at the bottom righthand corner of your screen.
4. Always Place a Link in Your Bio
One of our top Instagram tips is that you should get creative with the links you place in your bio section. If you have blog content or are launching a new fundraising campaign, add a link directing viewers to your site.
You might even consider using a bit.ly tracking link to analyze traffic from your Instagram profile.
In your captions or stories, you should also direct readers to the “link in bio” to donate or support your cause. The phrase has become so ubiquitous that no further explanation is needed—Instagram users will know where to go.
5. Follow the Instagram Blog
This is the easiest way to stay up to date on all of Instagram’s new features and best practices. For all things “Insta,” check out the Instagram blog and for business-account updates, tips, and announcements follow the Instagram Business Blog.
For more nonprofit social media strategy tips, check out these Classy posts:
- 11 Ways to Grow Your Nonprofit Social Media Followers
- 10 Strategies to Run a Successful Social Media Campaign
- The Best Social Media Platforms for Nonprofits
6. Invite Facebook Friends to Follow Your Page
Instagram is owned by Facebook so there is a lot of overlap with what’s possible between the two platforms. If you are an admin of your nonprofit’s Facebook page, you can log into the Instagram app and invite your Facebook friends to follow your Instagram page. This is a great way to generate more Instagram followers.
Start at your profile page and click the cog wheel near the upper righthand corner. The very first option is to “Invite Facebook Friends” so simply tap, log in, and invite away. Right below this section you can also connect to Facebook to discover Facebook friends who are on Instagram that you might not follow yet.
7. Make Sure Your Account Is Public
This one seems obvious, but it can get easily overlooked. Make sure your nonprofit supporters can easily follow your account when they land on your page. To check up on this, start at your profile page and click the cog wheel near the upper right-hand corner, scroll to the section called “Account Privacy,” and then make sure the “Private Account” option is turned off.
8. Post Both Photo and Video Content
According to Social Times, Instagram’s photos get 36 percent more likes than its videos, but videos gain more comments than photos. Back in early April 2016, Instagram changed their rules so that videos can range up to 60 seconds. But be aware of how your audience engages with longer content. Data by Wistia reports that engagement drops off as length increases.
For tips on how to engage your audience, convey impact, and incite action, check out this video that the Classy team created: 5 Storytelling Tips to Drive Donations.
9. Turn On Push Notifications on at Least One Phone
If you may have multiple people logging into your nonprofit’s Instagram account, it might not be necessary to have everyone turn on push notifications. However, it is a good idea to have at least one person turn them on just in case an important notice comes up and needs to be addressed right away.
10. Minimize Your Cellular Data Use on the App
This Instagram tip can help you or your staffer save some money. The person who’s in charge of your nonprofit’s Instagram is likely logging into the account multiple times a day to post, like, comment, and engage users, and they may very well be using their personal cellular data to do so. Tip off your teammate that they can minimize the app’s data usage by turning on the “Use Less Data” feature.
To do so, start at your profile page and click the cog wheel in the upper righthand corner, scroll to “Cellular Data Use” in the Account section, and toggle on “Use Less Data.”
11. Browse Your Likes
If you want a record of the content you’ve liked recently, this easy tip will help you find that info. Start at your profile page and click the cog wheel in the upper righthand corner, scroll to the section “Account” and click “Posts You’ve Liked.”
Use this information to track interactions with your supporters; if you want your audience to engage with your content, you should do the same. A simple “like” or comment is an invaluable part of building relationships with your supporters. Your nonprofit becomes a part of their everyday life and by demonstrating that you support them back, you’re more likely to gain loyal supporters that go beyond social media.
12. See What Your Followers Are Liking
Keep tabs on what your followers like and use it to inform your ongoing content strategy. Click the heart icon at the bottom right part of your screen, then select the “Following” option at the top left corner.
13. Schedule Posts Ahead of Time
When you schedule out Instagram posts ahead of time, you can save precious time that you can use to engage with your supporters instead. A January 2018 update to the Instagram Graph API allows business accounts to schedule out automated posts with the use of Community Management software. The directions vary for each tool, but here are a few useful links to get you started:
- How to Schedule Instagram Posts on Hootsuite
- How to Schedule Instagram Posts on Sprout Social
- How to Schedule Instagram Posts on Buffer
14. Nonprofit Hashtag Tips
Hashtags are a vital part of any successful social media strategy, but they can also be the toughest to get right. For example, Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags for one post but certain data suggest that just 11 is the perfect amount of hashtags. But using 11 of the wrong hashtags won’t help you boost engagement or attract the right audience, so be selective when creating your hashtag strategy for Instagram.
If you’re just getting started, follow these basic steps:
- Come up with a branded hashtag for your nonprofit or a specific campaign.
- Keep it simple and to the point, like how Girl Up simply uses #Girlup.
- Use community hashtags that aren’t specific to your nonprofit, but to your sector or cause, like #Girlpower.
Check the post below to see how Girl Up hits the nail on the hashtag head.
View this post on Instagram
Today, @UNHCR launches the #WithRefugees World Tour! The World Tour is shining a light on families who are forced to flee, and Girl Up is proud that its 7th Annual #LeadershipSummit is part of it! Register now to join girls from around the world at this incredible event in Washington, D.C.. Link in bio! . . . . . #Girlup #girlupcampaign #girlpower #withrefugeesworldtour #girlslead18 #girlslead #girlupleadershipsummit
Instagram posts with at least one hashtag get 12.6 percent more engagement than posts without one, so check out these tips from Sprout Social to help you find the right balance for your nonprofit’s brand.
One more #tip for the road … If you don’t want to display your hashtags in your caption, use the following caption trick to hide them:
- Open your notepad on your phone
- Type out five periods, each on a separate line
- On the sixth line, type out all of the hashtags for your photo
- Copy all of this text
- Paste this text into a comment on your photo and post
- Refresh the photo
The comment will have “shrunk,” forcing readers to click it in order to see your hashtags.
15. Use Tag Handles in the Caption and the Photo Itself
To boost your posts’ exposure, the rule is to over-tag rather than under-tag. If you are posting a picture of other people or organizations, make sure to @tag their handles in the caption and the photo itself. Tagging their handle in the caption will notify the organization, but tagging them in the photo itself will let the photo live on the “tagged photo” section of their profile, enabling all of their photos to see.
Imagine posting a photo of your volunteers: if you tag them in both the caption and photo, then you could add exponentially more views.
16. Use the Most Relevant Community Hashtags
Use the search feature on Instagram to check which hashtag iterations are the most popular. For example, the hashtag #pride has nearly 13.4 million uses, but #pridemonth has around 1.1 million uses. In this case, if you wanted greater odds of people seeing your post or wanted to use the generally most relevant hashtag, then you should go with #pride.
On the flip side, if you wanted to use a hashtag that will pull up fewer total posts so you would have a better chance of standing out, then you could use the search feature to find a hashtag with fewer posts. Doing a little quick research on your hashtags can make a big difference. But remember, you have around 11 hashtags to use, so experiment which works best for your nonprofit.
17. Use the Desktop Site
Instagram’s desktop site now allows you to comment on posts, see overall engagement, and view both your feed and your profile page. The only thing it does not allow is to post photos.
If you’re at work and simply want to check on your account, use Instagram.com instead of pulling out your phone to log in multiple times a day.
18. Ask Supporters to Turn On Post Notifications
If a user turns on a particular account’s post notifications, it means that they’ll receive a push notification every time that account posts something. Consider posting a photo in your story that asks followers to turn on notifications for your profile to increase engagement.
Do this only once in a while to avoid barraging your followers, and frame your ask as an invitation to stay updated. For example, you could say, “If you want to stay up to date and never miss a single fundraising event, make sure you turn on our post notifications.”
You might also want to turn on notifications for other accounts you’d like to keep tabs on, whether it is an influencer you admire or another organization. This would ensure you never miss content from which to draw inspiration.
19. Change Your Tagged Photos to “Add Manually”
When another account tags your handle on their photo, you will get a notification. However, you might miss an important notice like this among other notifications for comment and likes.
To solve this, turn on the “manual” approval option to approve photos you are tagged in. This will give you a special notification for approval when an account tags you in a photo. To view your currently tagged photos, begin on your profile page and click the second furthest right icon just below your bio and above your photos.
If you want to manually add photos you’re tagged in, click the cog wheel in the upper righthand corner, scroll down to “Privacy and Security” and tap “Photos of You.” From there you can toggle on or off the option to “Add Automatically.”
20. Reorder and Delete Your Filters
Did you know you can reorder your filters so that your favorite ones appear first? Once you land on the filter page of your post, scroll left through the filter options until you hit and click the “Manage” tile. Uncheck filters you want to delete, and click and drag your remaining filters to reorder them.
21. Add Instagram Icon to Your Website
Make sure to add social media follow icons on your nonprofit’s website. Instagram is a big enough social platform that it deserves a place alongside the other big players—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube.
The typical Instagram photo is 1080px by 1080px, but as of August 2015, the platform changed its rules so that you can now post a landscape image. Make sure to test out your photos to see which looks better before posting. It might also be worth tracking which shapes garner more engagement.
23. Test to Find the Best Time to Post
There is some conflicting data when it comes to general best posting times, from HubSpot claiming Monday to Thursdays at any time except 3 to 4 p.m., to Latergramme claiming it’s 5 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Our best advice? Try it out and see which times are most effective for your own audience, referring to the insights Instagram provides for business profiles or within your social media management tool. You can see insights on individual posts by clicking on the photo and clicking “View Insights.” Or, for more holistic stats about your profile, click the bar graph icon in the upper right corner of your profile page.
When posting, ask yourself, would I see this right now if I followed this account? For example, as a personal Instagram user, I usually don’t log on until 7 to 9 p.m. after work hours. Keep your audience in mind when posting.
24. Consider Instagram Ads
Use Instagram ads to promote your upcoming event or fundraiser. These ads look more like regular photos in a user’s feed than on perhaps any other platform, so this Instagram tip is worth trying out if you can put some money behind your social media efforts.
Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, you can run Instagram ads in the same place as your Facebook ads. Go through your Facebook ad manager and check out all the ways you can cross-promote on both platforms.
You can also create Instagram ads through the phone app itself. You can post a photo, video, carousel, or story with paid promotion, so use this Instagram Business blog post to learn about your options.
25. Use Boomerang
This one is fun. Boomerang videos aren’t like normal videos. They are movies played forward and backward on loop. Use this Instagram-created app for when you have an active moment to capture that isn’t quite worth an entire video.
Instagram may have built itself up through niche industries like food or fashion, but it has become a platform any brand can benefit from. Success on the platform, however, means more than just posting attractive visuals. To make Instagram a beneficial effort for your nonprofit, you need to carve out time dedicated to curating content and must constantly be up to date on new features or functions. There is no doubt that images evoke emotion in a unique way compared to words alone, so use the Instagram tips in this article to help tell your story in ways other social media channels cannot.