When it comes to driving online donations, social media can be an effective medium for charities.
Facebook recently rolled out fundraising tools in the UK and across Europe that allow users to directly donate, as well as easily find and share the causes they care about.
Twitter has also experimented with a donate button in the past, allowing users to give money to political candidates ahead of the 2016 US election. Of course, the platform is also typically used as a way for charities to communicate and engage with consumers online.
But what about Instagram?
In 2014, a report suggested that just 21% of charities had an Instagram channel. Now with the platform surpassing 700m monthly active users, this figure is bound to have increased, and yet Instagram still feels like a bit of a forgotten-about platform within the sector.
So what are the benefits of charities using Instagram, and how can they make the most of it? Here’s some insight along with a few examples of those doing it right.
Create spontaneous content
Instagram has doubled its user base in just two years, meaning it is now twice the size of Twitter. Users are also highly active on the platform, with 51% saying they access Instagram daily, and 35% saying they look at the platform several times per day.
Despite brands increasingly using Instagram to post professional and more polished content, charities can still capitalise on its spontaneous nature, and its highly engaged audience.
Doctors Without Borders is one charity that uses Instagram to candidly showcase its work in more than 60 countries around the world. This often involves photos of doctors and nurses communicating with and helping people in need. It also makes good use of captions, accompanying its imagery with copy to tell compelling stories.
By using Instagram to post candid and more spontaneous snapshots of its work, DWB is able to promote a greater sense of authenticity and connect with users on an emotional level.
Don’t be afraid to entertain
As well as highlighting the work a charity does, Instagram can also be used purely for brand building purposes. While there is the assumption that charity content has to be serious or po-faced, it’s important to think about what type of posts resonate with users – such as funny or entertaining content – and to use this to help spread the word.
According to a survey, social media users are more likely to share content if it is humorous and informative, as well as if it is in support of a social cause. Charities, particularly those that are related to animals, often use this two-pronged approach to engage users.
Take Dogs Trust, for example, which often posts amusing quotes and funny photos of dogs. Not only does this make the charity more discoverable for people searching specific hashtags – such as #doglover and #instadog – but it is also effective for catching the user’s attention as they scroll.
Get people involved
While Facebook and Twitter are more directly associated with donations, Instagram can also be effective for driving fundraising.
First, charities can use inspirational content to encourage and prompt others to also do their bit. Alzheimer’s Association often takes this approach, posting photos of supporters raising money via fundraising events and activities.
Similarly, Macmillan Cancer Support encourages users to get involved with its ‘coffee morning’ campaign, posting images of products that people can buy in order to hold their own, as well as encouraging user-generated content in order to widen reach.
Meanwhile, charities can also take advantage of Instagram’s visual impact, simply by asking people to text in their donations. Save the Children utilises this tactic, directly asking users to donate to current and on-going causes.
Help and educate users
While charities often use social media to promote long-term goals and aims, platforms like Instagram can also be used to reach out and help followers in need. Mental health charities and youth-focused non-profits commonly do this, capitalising on the platforms’ highly engaged and young user-base.
Young Scot, a Scottish youth charity, often posts tips and advice for kids on a variety of topics, from how to stay safe on social media to what to do if they’re feeling depressed. As well as advice, it also promotes direct ways to access help, such as the Samaritans phone number.
Mental health charity Mind also uses its Instagram presence to reach users who might be struggling. As well as tips on what to do, it uses social proof to reassure users that they are not alone or abnormal for feeling a certain way.
Breast cancer charity Coppa Feel takes advantage of its daily presence in users’ Instagram feeds to remind women to check their breasts. It also uses pop culture references as well as advocacy from celebrities and influencers to drive interest.
By tapping into users’ daily Instagram habits, it means that charities can use the platform to do good, not just inspire charitable giving.
Finally, charities can also use Instagram as a vehicle for showcasing their good work by telling people how and where money is being spent. Instead of directly asking for donations or highlighting other people’s fundraising efforts, it can be far more effective to say ‘this is what we achieved with this amount of money’. In doing so, users are able to see the direct cause and effect, which could help to spur them on to get involved.
Charity: Water’s Instagram feed is filled with positive proof, mainly involving posts relating to how supporter donations have helped change people’s lives in Africa. The charity also communicates gratitude – another strategy that is likely to encourage repeat donations and continued support and engagement on social.