The world looks better on Instagram. It’s the rose-tinted filters (rrrrow, Clarendon), the lack of clutter, the simplicity.

As of September 2015, the social media network, now available on both iPhone and Android, had sucked in some 400 million users and counting.

Instagram’s appeal is obvious to anyone who has spent some time on the app— its endless ticker tape of visuals, and (mostly) non-manipulated newsfeed can feel like the perfect antidote to the algorithm-happy, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink of Facebook. And that picture you took of that pine cone and pile of pencil shavings? Well, slap a filter on that and you look like Wolfgang Tillmans (sorry, Wolfgang Tillmans).

Smart nonprofits are latching on to the site for what it can do for their visibility, branding and community growth (especially with minorities and millennials, many of whom claim it as their social media of choice). Now that Instagram has allowed advertising, the opportunity for growth has just skyrocketed.

Instagram Best Practices

Whether your org is eyeing up Instagram, just starting to fiddle around, or already well-established, here are 10 best practices from experts that you can bookmark as you move forward.

  1. Only post great pictures. We can’t stress this enough. Instagram is all about photography. Choose sharp, colorful, and well-composed pics. If your images don’t look good, your org won’t look good.
  2. Go for variety and consistency. Don’t post the same subject matter over and over. Switch up your approach to create a true, colorful collage of different facets of your nonprofit. Tell stories about your beneficiaries, educate followers, go behind the scenes at your org, report live from events, or post inspiring quotes, facts and stats in visual form. BUT keep your look consistent (pre-determine your “look” by using only select filters).
  3. Diversify your photo sources. Draw pics from various sources to ensure a more well-rounded view of your org. Supporter photos are a great resource.
  4. Post often and engage with commenters. Like other people’s (and orgs’) photos, and post at least once per day, but not more than every 4 hours.
  5. Make your org easy to find. Use the same handle on Instagram that you do on Twitter.
  6. Use hashtags. Research which popular tags are most relevant to your nonprofit by looking at what similar orgs are using. Social Rank is also a great tool for checking hashtag data.
  7. Include a live link to your website in your bio. Instagram won’t let you put live links in picture captions, but you can include a link to your site in your bio.
  8. Use video! Instagram now allows users to post videos up to 60 seconds long. A moving picture is more captivating than a still one and stands out in the feed.
  9. Go easy on the calls to action. CTAs are okay on Instagram, just don’t overdo it. This site is more purely pleasure based than Facebook and Twitter.
  10. Learn how to advertise and retarget. The great thing about Instagram is that everything you get posted is seen by everyone who follows you. It doesn’t hurt to bump your visibility through ads as well.

Instagram Tools

Like on other platforms, there exist a host of tools for Instagramming smarter and better. Social Media Examiner, Post Planner and HootSuite have laid them out quite nicely:

  • For Scheduling
  • For the Bells and Whistles (Including text overlay, photo editing, layout, reposting, time lapse videos, etc.)

Nonprofit Exemplars on Instagram

Here are a smattering of nonprofits who already have a great knack for Instagram. Study these and then steal what they’re doing right for your own vision.

Okay, berry patches and seascapes are naturally easy on the eyes. But what if you work in human rights, social causes or relief?

Here are three organizations doing a bang-up job for their causes with the human subject front and center:

Inspired? Keep these models and best practices in front of you and then start creating. Each org has its own character and visual assets. Find this sweet spot on Instagram and your community will grow.