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Instagram: visual storytelling for charities

By Forster Communications

29 April 2015

I recently read an article in The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network highlighting that Instagram has now become a bigger network than Twitter, with 300 million active monthly users and 70 million photos posted per day. Social media is a great asset for organisations in the voluntary sector looking to reach out to the public, connect with stakeholders and grow their profile, and although many organisations utilise the benefits of Facebook and Twitter only 21% of charities have a presence on Instagram.

The art of storytelling through photography presents particular benefits for charities working in areas such as community regeneration, environmental sustainability, international development and humanitarian aid, where visible development and progress due to their work can be shared widely. Instagram is also likely to positively impact those wanting to engage a young audience; over half of young adults aged 18-29 use the platform. For many charities, surely this is a wasted opportunity to connect with potential volunteers, donators and supporters.

WaterAid is one organisation that embraces the potential of Instagram, using their page to tell the story of their work improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation around the world. By sharing a single photograph, workers can tell their audience of over 26,800 followers about their most recent projects and developments, as well as the issues they face.

Through sharing, people who have donated can see the projects that they have helped fund, and it is surely an invaluable tool to inspire further donations – at no cost to the organisation.

Forster previously worked with the South Downs National Park Authority on their Discover Another Way campaign, tempting people out of their cars to experience the beauty of the National Park. A photography competition on Instagram was proposed, encouraging visitors to share their photographs of the National Park taken whilst walking, cycling or using public transport, capturing the stunning views that visitors would miss while driving. The competition engaged visitors and supported the campaign, and the platform continues to be used to share images of the National Park.

The increasing importance of digital media for charities is evident: recently, charities have been warned to optimise their websites for mobile devices or face falling down in Google’s search rankings. Google will now prioritise mobile-friendly sites, preferring larger text and ‘responsive design’ that changes depending on user screen size. Charities need to make changes in line with these developments, and consider the value of all forms of social media to increase their visibility and connect with a wider audience.

Photo above from WaterAid’s Instagram (and credited on Instagram as ‘Photo credit: WaterAid/ Nyani Quarmyne/ Panos.’)