Instagram Marketing for Nonprofits: 17 Ways to Use Social Media Smarter in 2020

by | Jan 20, 2020 | blog, Content marketing, social media marketing

Ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day? Then you’re probably working for a nonprofit! As one person who’s slammed with the workload of five employees, it may seem impossible to give your Instagram account and social media marketing the attention it deserves. That’s why this guide is here: to help you optimize your Instagram marketing strategy and posts so your channel essentially runs itself.

1. Make a Social Media Marketing Budget

Before you get going with Instagram marketing, please make an annual digital marketing budget. Then, make a social media marketing budget! Yes, a 12-month budget. That way, you’ll know how much to dedicate to Instagram, and how much of your resources you’d like to invest in this channel.

2. Convert to a Business Profile

Instagram allows businesses to convert from a standard profile to an Instagram Business profile—giving you free access to tools, metrics, and data…for free! Plus, since Facebook now owns Instagram, this provides a seamless presence between the two platforms—allowing your Facebook following to go back and forth between the channels easily. Go to your Instagram profile and make this switch ASAP!

3. Optimize Your Bio Regularly

SEO (or search engine optimization) doesn’t just apply to your website, but your Instagram profile too. Make it easier for donors and supporters to find your organization by updating your bio with relevant keywords. While your handle is permanent, your name is changeable! For instance, say your handle is @Savetheworld; your profile name can be “Environmental advocacy group” to avoid redundancy.

Instagram for business profile

Test different names and keywords in your profile to see what attracts the most followers. Also, don’t forget to test and optimize the link in your bio. Drive traffic to this link through your posts and track conversions and engagement on your website (or wherever you’re driving traffic). Then, change it up every couple of weeks to find the most effective option.

4. Use Hashtags Wisely!

Hashtags are arguably one of the most strategic and important aspect of a successful Instagram account—aside from original and engaging imagery and video, of course. When it comes to hashtags, do the following.

Do Your Hashtag Research

Quality hashtag research takes hours…but it’s worth it! These tags are essentially your SEO keywords within Instagram—a.k.a., what helps new followers find your organization.

Start your hashtag research by taking a look at the hashtags your competitors or affiliates use. Then, come up with a list of relevant keywords of your own. Here comes the time-consuming part. Once you have this master list, go through every hashtag via the tag search function on Instagram. Use a spreadsheet to record the number of mentions each hashtag has (some may be in the millions while others in the hundreds). Finally, click on each hashtag to see what kind of content is being posted with that tag. This ensures you won’t use a hashtag that has a different or controversial meaning than you thought. Plus, this extra research step will give you insight into the competition for each tag.

Hashtag research in Instagram
Say #volunteerevents has 5,000 uses on Instagram, but each post using that tag has an average of 50–100 likes. If your Instagram posts regularly get this much engagement or more, you have a great chance of ranking highly for that hashtag—putting you at the top of feeds and allowing people to find you! Now comes the next part: combining different density hashtags to be the most useful for your profile…

Try Different Hashtag Combinations

Every Instagram post should include up to 30 hashtags (more about that below). However, you should include a variety of hashtag types in each post like

  • 1–2 large industry hashtags
    General, mass hashtags like #donate, #philanthropy, and #volunteer fall into this category. They are the most popular/dense but have the largest reach.
  • 2+ niche hashtags
    These tags are less competitive but more specific, so they attract an engaged and qualified following. If your organization protects animals, try #animaladvocacynonprofits instead of just #nonprofits (which would be an industry hashtag).
  • 2+ branded hashtags
    Branded hashtags are those that companies, influencers, or organizations create for their brand, campaigns, or events. Create your own branded hashtags and incorporate them into your posts.
  • 5+ community hashtags
    Community hashtags bring people with similar interests together. If you’re an environmental advocacy nonprofit, community hashtags for you could be #savetheearth, #naturelover, #animallover, #green. Community hashtags are more niche, so they’ll less competitive and easier to rank for. Likewise, this audience is super passionate and engaged, so it’s a great one to tap into.
  • 2+ location hashtags
    Using location hashtags unites people in a geographic area. So say you’re a chapter of an environmental nonprofit, you could use #SeattleGreenpeace or #SanFranNatureConservancy. Location tags are also low competition but help you connect with those nearby if that’s part of your marketing strategy.
  • 5+ event hashtags
    Think of event hashtags as events your organization throws, public holidays, trending news and topics, and other large events. Try to use these to stay current with popular conversations and promote your events and initiatives.

Mix Up Your Hashtags on Every Post

Even though you’re allotted 30 hashtags per post, it doesn’t mean you need to use them. We used to recommend maxing out your hashtags (like buying as many lottery tickets as possible), but we haven’t seen credible data that shows more hashtags improve engagement or visibility. In fact, they can look kind of spammy.

What we do recommend is that businesses like yours use different hashtags in every post. if you copy and paste the same hashtags into your posts in the same order every time, you may trigger spam filters. Also, you’ll only ever target those tags and interest groups. Maintaining hashtag diversity is definitely something to focus on in 2020.

5. Tag Your Location

According to research, Instagram posts that include locations get nearly 80 percent more engagement! Add locations to every post to increase your chances of appearing in feeds and getting more followers. 

6. Plan Your Instagram Posts

No matter what you’re planning—overall marketing strategy, Instagram content, or your entire social media strategy—it’s best to sit down and hash out the big picture and then execute on daily posts. This exercise is called creating a content calendar. To start, hold a meeting with your team. Create content buckets—or categories that pertain to your audience. Then, write down ideas for the next six to 12-months—paying attention to events, holidays, and other initiatives your organization has planned. 

We find that creating content buckets—a.k.a. the types of posts you cycle through—helps tremendously with a relevant and engaging content calendar. For instance, one bucket for your nonprofit Instagram posts can be “inspirational quotes” while others can be “donor spotlights” or “local events.” Creating categories for your posts will ensure you have variety and cover all your bases for an interesting and engaging Instagram presence. If you’re out of ideas, try these Instagram post topics. Here are some more for Instagram.

Once you’re done planning content, it’s time to curate! Determine how often you’d like to post (at least twice per week is recommended). Then, write down deliverables (images and videos you’ll need to go along with posts). Schedule a social media photoshoot and have a team member gather the assets needed for the posts. Having a clear plan and all of the assets will ensure you continue to post wisely and well on Instagram.

7. Schedule Your Posts

Posting on-demand is a time suck. Plus, it’s easy to forget to post (and at inopportune times as discussed below) if you take this route. If you’ve worked super hard to create content for Instagram, don’t miss out on actually posting it. Use a social media scheduling platform like Planoly or Later to help you schedule your posts beforehand. Tools like these also track data to help you optimize your posting times, types of content, and more. Try to schedule out two weeks at a time—sitting down to do it twice per month—to streamline your workflow and improve your Instagram presence.

8. Post at the Most Optimal Times

After reading our tips above, you now know that Instagram’s algorithm uses hashtags to rank your organization across feeds. However, the algorithm also takes your past post engagement and how quickly that happens into account. Getting your post in front of people at the right time is key so it doesn’t get buried in the feed. Pay attention to your specific Instagram Insights for optimal posting times, and in the meantime use these as a guide: 

Best times to post on Instagram in 2020

According to Later, these are the best times to post on Instagram in 2020:

  • Monday: 6am, 10am, and 10pm EST
  • Tuesday: 2am, 4am, and  9am EST
  • Wednesday: 7am, 8am and 11pm EST
  • Thursday: 9am, 12pm, and 7pm EST
  • Friday: 5am, 1pm, and 3pm EST
  • Saturday: 11am, 7pm, and 8pm EST
  • Sunday: 7am, 8am, and 4pm EST

9. Engage With Your Followers

While everything else on Instagram can be done in bulk and beforehand, boots-on-the-ground engagement cannot. Make this easier on yourself by setting aside 30 minutes per day (ideally within the first three hours of a new post going live) to take time to respond to comments, like comments, and post on your followings’ posts. Calling out followers by tagging them, giving out compliments, and sending some love back their way can enhance relationships with current and future donors.

We love platforms like Eclincher because they allow you to moderate comments and engage with your followings in one place—with multiple channels. If time is scarce at your business, it may be time to upgrade to a social media scheduling platform like this.

10. Cross-Promote Your Instagram Posts

If your organization is on other social media channels, use them to promote your Instagram account and drive traffic to it! Try a campaign and tease it on Facebook and Twitter. On the flipside, use Instagram to promote Facebook Live events and website content like blog articles. Your goal should be to attract new followers and deepen their engagement with your organization. Cycling users through your digital presence will help do this.

11. Mix In Instagram Stories

Out of Instagram’s 500 million active daily users, 400 million regularly engage with Instagram Stories. We love Instagram Stories for a few reasons. First, they allow you to maximize your content output without overloading your followers’ regular feeds. Secondly, Stories allow you to drum up more engagement than regular posts because you can incorporate hashtags, polls, and more. Finally, now you can store your Instagram Stories in highlights that appear on your profile—and in a private folder for yourself and other admins so you’ll never lose track of these posts that otherwise disappear into oblivion after 24 hours. Start by posting one Story per week and see how your content does with your following. We’re sure you’ll love the results.

12. Try IGTV for Longform Video

IGTV came out as the Youtube of Instagram—allowing you to post up to 60-minute videos here. These automatically link from Stories and your Instagram feed, so creating IGTV videos is a great way to cycle traffic around your Instagram profile. Nonprofits have a unique opportunity to publish emotional videos here to connect with audiences on a deep level and engage followers.

13. Post Different Types of Content

People love them some video on social media—Boomerang too! Experiment with traditional video, Instagram Live, and Boomerang to see what your audience responds to best. Then, cycle through each content type to keep your Instagram channel fresh, engaging, and up with the times.

14. Leverage Influencers

According to Sprout Social, 80 percent of Influencers prefer partnering with brands on Instagram over any other channel. And as you know, customers who receive a recommendation from someone they trust are way more likely to make a purchase or donation from an organization or company. To begin forming bonds with potential influencers (whether that’s other companies or individuals), start with flattery. Get on their radar by tagging them in your posts, commenting on their posts, and promoting them on your own page. You can also reach out directly to see if they’re interested in a philanthropic partnership. However you secure influencer power, you’ll get a boatload of traffic over to your Instagram page and website with their help.

15. Use Social Listening

Social listening allows you to tap into what your audience is talking about—whether that’s your nonprofit, relevant causes, or competing organizations. Pay attention to these free insights! They may help you hone your Instagram strategy and connect in a whole new way.

16. Run Social Media Ads

If your Instagram profile doesn’t have the size following or engagement numbers you’d like to see, consider adding paid social media ads to your monthly budget. Social media ads will fast track your way into news feeds so you can connect with more donors, advocates, and like-minded people. If that doesn’t convince you, here are some more reasons to add social media advertising to your Instagram strategy.

17. Evolve

Marketing is all about going with the flow, sticking to what works, and changing up what doesn’t. Set benchmarks for your internal team—whether that’s monthly or quarterly—to go over results and brainstorm optimization tactics. By setting goals and regular meetings to continue to improve your Instagram channel, you’ll ensure this important step doesn’t fall by the wayside and continue to reap the benefits of your hard work.

Whether you’re a team of one or more for your nonprofit marketing team, you can use these tips to improve your Instagram following and presence in 2020. And if you’d like to learn more about your overall content marketing, check out our other resources. Good luck!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in February 2018. It’s been completely edited for the most up-to-date stats and info. Enjoy!