Engaging the next generation with Instagram

August 5, 2019

Visual storytelling is the name of the game on Instagram, a platform increasingly popular among younger generations like Millennials and Generation Z. In fact, Instagram currently boasts more than one billion monthly active users and 59% of online adults 18-29 years old use the network in the United States. From Instagram Stories to bios and hashtags, Sarah Shimazaki shares the best ways for nonprofits to harness this powerful tool. We also included best practices for ensuring inclusivity and respect in all your posts, such as alternative text for people who are visually impaired, using ancestral names when providing location information, and more.

Download your copy of this tip sheet here.

First steps on Instagram

Before you can start ‘gramming, you need a profile, which you can set up on the web or via the mobile app. If you’re setting up your organization’s account, we recommend using the business account, which gives you access to insights and analytics. Once you’re set up, introduce yourself, find your voice and personality on the platform, and start posting. We recommend posting at least three times before following anyone, so that they’ll have an idea about who you are and what you like to post before deciding to follow you back. Then, it’s time to start building your community: follow your friends, partners, community members, relevant hashtags, thought leaders, similar organizations, etc.

Your Instagram bio

There’s a 150-character limit for how you introduce yourself, but it can include emojis, hashtags and handles. There’s space for just one link — and Instagram posts can’t contain hyperlinks, so any links you want people to follow must be in your bio. We like the web app called Linktree as a way to create a “tree” of multiple links that followers can use to click more than one link.

What are Instagram Stories?

When you create an Instagram Story, the photos and videos you add will only last there for 24 hours. You can take photos and videos in the moment, go Live, upload photos and videos from your camera roll and create text-only images as well.  You can also choose to “highlight” your stories and keep them visible on your Instagram profile for as long as you like. 

Instagram best practices

  • Include small, engaging stories in your captions: personal storytelling is huge on Instagram right now. To set your posts apart from other visually stunning Instagram posts, consider adding short, personal stories to hook your audience. 
  • If you don’t have photos, you can still create graphics to communicate powerful, shareable messages: Use tools like Canva and/or PicMonkey to create graphics sized for Instagram. 
  • Take advantage of existing hashtags within your field: You can use up to 30 hashtags in a post caption or comment. The best practice is to add hashtags in a comment, so they don’t overcrowd your post captions. And, Instagram gives the option for people to follow hashtags in addition to users.
  • Engage your community, especially influencers, with a campaign: Reach out to relevant influencers in your community and ask for their consent to be featured on your Instagram campaign. 
  • Use Instagram Stories to provide a “behind-the-scenes” look into your organization: Instagram Stories are less formal, so you can include photos and videos of: staff lunches and retreats, meeting snapshots, staff working “in the field”, etc.
  • Acknowledge the land: Use indigenous names when describing the location at which a photo was taken. If you’re not sure, check on https://native-land.ca  
  • Use pronouns: If you’re featuring someone’s photo, be sure to include their pronouns (and ask them what pronouns they use!). It’s important to use the pronouns someone identifies with (she/her, he/him, they/them, etc.), rather than the pronouns we assume they use. 
  • Include alternative text: for folks with visual impairments, it’s best practice to include an image description at the end of your caption. Now, Instagram also includes the option to add alternative text when posting a photo or video (go to Advanced Settings at the bottom of the same window where you create your Instagram caption). 

Happy ‘gramming!

Download your copy of this tipsheet here.