When you think about Instagram, you’d be forgiven if you immediately called to mind images of people who just want to share photos from their family vacations and of delicious meals with the world… and little else. That may have been the case at one point in time, but it certainly isn’t today. In fact, a significant number of nonprofits have discovered that Instagram is one of the most powerful channels they have in terms of sharing what may be their most valuable asset of all:

Their story.

Recent trends indicate that 2020 will finally be the year that Instagram itself makes a big shift away from carefully created imagery towards content that isn’t just more relatable, but that is less produced at the same time. This, of course, includes video: something that 85% of ALL Internet users in the United States watch on their devices on a regular basis.

Of course, this is excellent news for the nonprofits out there who DON’T want to spend hours upon hours editing their photos to perfection. Not only do you get to spend less time editing, you get to spend MORE time creating the type of content that people love – all with fewer restrictions than ever before.

But at the same time, you need to remember that your Instagram profile – including its overall look and feel – is what will ultimately convert a visitor into a follower. So while that perfectly-curated experience is (graciously) out, it’s still important that everything fits together into something that people can latch onto.

Thankfully, this isn’t nearly as difficult as you may fear – but it WILL require you to get creative and come at things from a new perspective. If you truly want to create a memorable, lasting nonprofit brand using Instagram in 2020 (and make no mistake – you do), there are five simple steps to keep in mind.

Step 1: Be strategic

This is something you need to nail down BEFORE you begin work in earnest. If Instagram is a perfect tool for telling your nonprofit’s story, you must begin by asking yourself “what is the story being told here?”

In other words, be strategic. What insights do you want to share with people that they can only get on your Instagram profile? What do you want your followers to learn about your organization? How are you different from every other nonprofit out there? How do you want to make someone feel?

If you answer these questions before you begin creating content, so much of the hard work will have already been done for you – and you’ll have a roadmap for the type of content you can share that positions your organization as an authority at the exact same time.

Step 2: Optimize that Instagram bio

Speaking of positioning your brand as an authority, you’ll also need to pay careful attention to your Instagram bio as it’s one of the first things that people will see when they hit your profile for the first time.

Again, try to make it crystal clear what you do and why that matters – and try to do so as quickly and as succinctly as you can. Likewise, get creative with the links you place in your bio. If your nonprofit recently launched a new fundraising campaign, include a link directing readers to your landing page. You can even use tracking links to analyze the traffic flowing into and out of your Instagram profile for even greater insight that you can turn into action later on.

Step 3: Consistency is king

Above all else, one way to wield the full power of Instagram for non profits in 2020 involves being as consistent as humanly possible with your efforts.

Instagram is not something that you do once a week and forget about. Best is to plan out your content in advance and come up with a schedule. Don’t stress out if you don’t have time to create one post a day. It’s all about creating a habit and stick to it.

Note that this also extends to the visual part of your profile. Your captions should always be a certain size, with similar colors and spacing. If you use emojis and gifs, make sure you do so on a regular basis. Using a free design tool like CANVA helps you to stay consistent when it comes to colors and fonts.

In my experience working with nonprofit organizations for the last 10 years, I have found that a one-page branding cheat sheet comes in handy. And yes, even if it’s just you updating the social media feed! Include things like the style of your images, colors, and fonts, but also what tone to use in your captions and how that content is connected to your vision and mission.

Remember that all of these little elements really set the tone that your organization uses, and also help create a consistent experience (there’s that word again) for anyone who happens to work on it, too.

Step 4: Building Relationships

By far, the best way to get more followers for your nonprofit on Instagram involves seeing your objective for what it really is: you’re trying to build a relationship in every sense of the term.

Relationships are built on a strong emotional connection with your followers and to get to that point, you need to make sure that your own page is as “discoverable” as possible. On Instagram, brands traditionally get discovered via hashtags. They’re those digital little breadcrumbs that lead directly to your virtual doorstep. Therefore, learning how to use hashtags well will not only make sure that more people than ever can find your page – they’ll also go a long way towards increasing engagement at the exact same time.

In fact one the pillars in the 5 Pillar content system for nonprofits is community building. Make it a habit to tag and feature other non-profit organizations on a regular basis.

Step 5: Focus on those stories

The fact that Instagram Stories for nonprofits are a huge deal should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody. In fact, this is a technique that an estimated 75.3% of ALL businesses will use on Instagram by the end of 2020.

As always, taking advantage of this for your nonprofit will be far, far easier if you already have a system in place at the start of it all. Think of it like “seasons”: Awareness, Engagement, Community Building and Fundraising. Your stories are your opportunity to usher someone from one season to another in a way that remains consistent and enjoyable throughout.

Depending on which “season” you’re currently in, there are many different Instagram Story features that will come in quite handy. If you wanted to create awareness, for example, you could take advantage of elements like stickers, mentions, hashtags and location data. Stickers are also valuable for engagement, too – you could post questions or quizzes, create chats and leverage more opportunities to get people to interact directly with your nonprofit.

Whatever you do, be sure to always include a call-to-action (CTA) to encourage people to share your content to spread the word about the hard work you and your own people are doing on a daily basis.

In the end, understand that building the most objectively perfect profile for your nonprofit on Instagram in 2020 isn’t something that is going to happen overnight. It’s less the product of any one major move and is more about a series of smaller ones that, when taken together, add up to something far more powerful than any one could be on its own.

But provided that you have an organic, thoughtful strategy at the heart of your efforts BEFORE you begin, and by following steps like those outlined above, there’s truly no limit to what you’ll be able to accomplish.

Kerstin Heuer is a branding and marketing consultant who is also the proud founder of Non-Profit today. Since 2008, she’s been helping nonprofits communicate the heart of their organization by leveraging the trinity of branding, marketing and design to their advantage. She’s dedicated to helping nonprofits connect with their audiences and achieve their missions – something she’s been doing successfully for over 25 years and with over 500 nonprofits. Connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at kerstin@non-profit.today.