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How Philanthropy Can Benefit From Tapping Into Instagram Communities

January 13, 2020

Instagram_logoJudging from media coverage and online conversations, it's clear we're living in a time of heightened social consciousness ("wokeness"). Whether that sentiment is driven by genuine concern for the fate of the planet and the welfare of others or a simple desire to be part of a collective is unimportant: people being willing to live less selfishly is a good thing.

That said, changing attitudes and ways of seeing the world don't automatically translate into economic or cultural impact. If we hope to drive meaningful action and change the world, this emerging way of seeing things needs to be broadened, deepened, and communicated as widely as possible. And the key to all that is social media.

When you strike the right tone and activate the right influencers, social media can transform a disparate group of strangers into a unified force for good. And if you were asked to pick one social media platform to focus your organization's resources on, it would have to be Instagram. While the image-friendly platform doesn't have the broad reach of Facebook, it's a powerful platform in its own right and has been growing in popularity, especially among millennials and their younger siblings.

Intrigued? Here are some things to keep in mind as your organization starts to think about using  Instagram to bolster its social-change efforts:

Images drive emotion. Fundraising campaigns typically struggle to gain traction when they rely on text-based messaging alone: even the most persuasive prose can feel removed from matters of life and death, and while it's possible to read about and empathize with the plight of someone living in poverty, too often most of us simply read those appeals and put them aside before getting on with our business.

Knowing this is how most people respond to text-based appeals, charities have learned the value over the years of incorporating imagery into their appeals, whether still photos, videos, or both. If a picture is worth a thousand words, just one powerful photo of a person in need can spark the kind of emotional response from a potential supporter that ultimately leads to action.

Imagery can also be used to illustrate data points and key statistics in ways that make often lifeless material come alive. One of the classic techniques is to combine an affecting image with a dark overlay and an associated statistic rendered in bold text. When done well and shared on Instagram, such an image can easily go viral and spread to other social media platforms.

Community = donations. As persons of average means in an era of billionaire philanthropy, many of us feel disaffected and powerless. Yes, we might have the resources to help one person, but what can any of us do about the root causes of urgent social or environmental problems? It can be all too easy to throw up our hands and trust (or hope) that folks with the money to make a big difference will do so.

In recent years, however, we've seen crowdsourcing emerge as a an important fundraising tool โ€” and a way to bring lots of geographically dispersed individuals together to change things for the better.

On Instagram, crowdsourcing campaigns should focus on the simple experience of supporting a cause and sharing it with others. The best way to do that is to use engagement-building posts designed to get your followers invested in watching the campaign grow as more people get involved. When someone on Instagram sees people they're following donating to and supporting a cause, it makes them want to jump on the bandwagon. Rare is the person who doesn't want to be known as and acknowledged for being compassionate, so take advantage of your followers' generosity and be sure to amplify their posts in support of your cause.

Live video can humanize your supporters. Thanks to Instagram Live (live streaming on the platform) and IGTV (an associated app that allows you to save hour-long videos to the platform), Instagram has become a useful tool for the production and distribution of live video, which  can go a long way in terms of communicating authenticity. After all, prerecorded videos with high production values and a lot of polish look great but often feel cold and soulless.

Presented in the right way, live video pushes social media users to see your donors and supporters as people like them. It favors unscripted testimonials over canned statements and formulaic pledges โ€” spontaneity instead of contrivance.

It's also great for answering questions from a curious (and relatively young) follower base. Because there are so many outlets and options for charitable giving, people will always want to know one thing above all others: Why should I support your charity or cause instead of another? Hosting a live Q&A gives you an opportunity to tell people, face-to-face, why your organization or cause is deserving of their support and develop a personal connection to them at the same time.

For anyone with an important message to convey, social media in general, and Instagram in particular, is the place to be in 2020. With its tremendous reach, focus on strong visuals, and robust support for live video, Instagram is a fantastic tool for  creating engagement with your issue or cause and mobilizing supporters. If you're not using it, now is the time to get started!

Rodney_Laws_EPIO_for_PhilanTopicRodney Laws is an editor at Ecommerce Platforms, a website that evaluates ecommerce platforms and provides ecommerce business advice.

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