A recent survey has found that only one in five voluntary sector organisations are regularly sharing images and videos through social media.

In fact, the research showed that, while the majority uploaded text-based statuses on Twitter and Facebook, only 45% of charities had an active presence across at least two of the image-based social networks, such as YouTube, Pinterest, Flickr and the latest network on the block – Instagram.

Considering that there are a whopping 90 million users, uploading a total of 40 million photos uploaded to Instagram every, single day, it’s no wonder that 59% of brands have a presence on photo-sharing app.

But should charities and not-for-profit organisations be following suit? The answer, we think, is yes.

As the old adage goes, a picture paints a thousand words, and this is what Instagram harnesses really well. An image is understood on a global level and there’s rarely any social or language barriers to overcome. You can touch anyone with a simple snapshot – something that is often a lot harder to do with words.

Instagram provides a way to connect with supporters and share your work with others. So whether it’s a snapshot of volunteers hard at work, an example of what donations can achieve, or just the smile of someone who you have helped, you can show supporters and followers just what you are capable of, and no doubt inspire a few people along the way. And the swish filters to transform your images – they are an added bonus!

So how can you make Instagram work for you? Here are a few tips to get you started:

Hashtags

If you know about Twitter, you’ll know about hashtags already, and you’ll be pleased to know that they work in exactly the same way on Instagram. For those who don’t know, hashtags are tags included in text, using a hashtag symbol (#) as a prefix. These hashtags are then searchable and everyone who uses it will be grouped together. It’s a great way of finding people with similar interests to you. A good example would be the #nonprofit tag, which has over 36,000 photos to date. And you can set your own up, so that followers can follow that tag, and even join in. It’s a brilliant way to keep in touch with people and sites like oninstagram.com can help you search for certain tags and keywords, as well as the actual Instagram app.

Link Accounts

One benefit to Instagram is that you can link with some your existing social media accounts, so you can populate multiple accounts with photos, which means that, not only is your image being seen by more people, but you are giving followers the opportunity to retweet on Twitter, or like on Facebook. Any tags you have used on Instagram, will also cross over to Twitter too. Handy.

Video

You may of already heard of apps such as Keek or Vine, that let you network via video snaps, but managing a lot of accounts simultaneously can be hard work. Recently, Instagram have added a video function, which means you can upload 15 second clips and jazz them up a bit with a filter too. This would be a great way to show volunteers in action – or send messages to followers and possible donors.

Other Apps

You can do a lot more with Instagram than what meets the eye, thanks to a lot of other apps that support it. Whitagram gives you more scope, if you’d like to include an entire image and not just the cropped square that Instagram usually offers. Pic Stitch enables you to create collages out of your images, if you’d like to display a group of them together. And, the latest craze, A Beautiful Mess (an example of which is shown to the right), lets you create images with text and graphics, so you could use this to encourage people to link to your latest blog post, record a quote, or inspire people to donate.

And these are just a few examples of apps that could turn you into an Instagram master.

If you still need a little inspiration, here are our top picks when it comes to charities utilising Instagram…

Amnesty International UK

A movement of over three million people, standing up for humanity and human rights, Amnesty uses Instagram to promote many of its campaigns, as well as lots of inspirational shots too.

charity: water

charity: water is a non-profit organisation bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. The team uses its Instagram account to share stunning photos of its efforts to improve the lives of others through clean water.

Oceana

Oceana is the largest international organisation focused solely on ocean conservation and captures and shares beautiful marine-themed photos that would inspire anyone to protect the world’s oceans.

Diabetes UK

Diabetes UK is the charity for people with diabetes, their family, friends and carers, and they have been using their Instagram account to support fundraising – such as their #bigcollection.

The Big Dig

Michael and Nathan, part of the team behind Water Aid’s The Big Dig project – working to bring clean, safe water and sanitation to 134,000 people in some of the poorest communities in rural Malawi – documented the fantastic journey via Instagram, with some breathtaking photographs.

It seems it may be worthwhile getting yourself on Instagram so you can do some insta-good…

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