Don’t Be Camera Shy: Making The Case for Instagram

The visual social media platform Instagram continues to rise in popularity. Here’s a look at how some associations and nonprofits are using the platform to showcase their work.

Have you seen the Instagram account @hotdudesreading?

Since it launched early last month, the Instagram sensation has amassed more than 400,000 followers—it had more than 150,000 followers just about a week after launching. Now, the popular account, which features men reading while riding the subway in New York City, is partnering with nonprofit social enterprise First Book in an effort to raise $50,000 to provide new books for kids in low-income families.

The partnership is an example of how organizations can capitalize on pop culture to promote their mission or cause, not unlike how associations have taken advantage of films and award shows to advance their work.

Capitalizing on a viral Instagram account is not a bad idea considering the visual platform’s rising popularity.

Earlier this year, a survey on social media usage from Pew Research Center found that, for the first time, more than half of young adults (ages 18-29) use Instagram, and, between 2013 and 2014, usage of the platform increased significantly in almost every demographic.

Instagram, which recently topped 300 million users, also promises greater interaction, with 49 percent of all users engaging with the site daily, according to Pew. That’s significant when compared to Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, which is used daily by 36, 17, and 13 percent of users, respectively.

That kind of sustained engagement translates to brands, too. Last year, a report from technology and market research company Forrester found that Instagram had a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21 percent among top brands. The engagement rates of Facebook (0.07 percent) and Twitter (0.03 percent) pale in comparison.

“If your brand is looking for social engagement—and if you’re not finding it on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks—you should start using Instagram today,” Nate Elliot, coauthor of the Forrester report, wrote in a blog post.

The National Retail Federation took advantage of Instagram’s brand-awareness-raising potential in July. To help promote its “This is Retail” campaign, NRF engaged in an Instagram partnership, akin to the First Book/@hotdudesreading collaboration, with popular clothing outlet The Gap by allowing the retail giant to take over its Instagram account.

During the week-long takeover, The Gap posted images of some of the more creative aspects of its stores, people, and latest styles. It was all part of NRF’s campaign to highlight the strategic elements of retail as well as promote career-recruitment within the industry.

As a side note, Margaret Case Little, NRF’s senior director of strategic initiatives, said the group’s overall presence on Instagram grew more dramatically and organically than any other of its social media accounts, and the group planned to ramp up its Instagram strategy to take advantage of the popularity.

“In a year, I hope we’ve become the account to follow for anyone in the industry who is looking for daily inspiration,” Little told Associations Now.

Partnership isn’t the only option for Instagram success, but taking inspiration from the successful use of the social platform by other organizations is certainly advantageous, at least according to Jenny Ann Beswick.

In an article for EContent, Beswick suggested nonprofits take a note from the Instagram feeds of Charity: water and the UN Foundation, for example. While the two organizations take different approaches to their Instagram strategies, each is using the platform in a manner that showcases its particular mission. While Charity: water features images from around the world that illustrate people benefitting from clean water, the UN Foundation makes use of inspirational, artful quotes, which are reflective of its mission to promote international cooperation.

“Rather than forcing a logo on Instagram users or posting constant updates about events and promotions, give them beautiful photos,” Beswick wrote. “Nonprofits should be looking to visualize compelling true stories.”

For some added inspiration, here are a couple more ways to make the most of Instagram, from two fellow Associations Now bloggers:

  • Engage meeting attendees. Whether you hold a contest or come up with a creative hashtag your event attendees can follow and use, Instagram can be a fun way to get attendees to interact more with each other and the host city, according to Samantha Whitehorne. 
  • Instagram’s video option can prove a relatively easy and economical option for organizations short on resources but long on video aspirations, noted Ernie Smith.

Is your association on Instagram? Let us know how you’re using the platform in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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