All Things Instagram (Part Two)

Trent Dunham interview with Nils Smith

It’s not going anywhere anytime soon… and if you’re a ministry or nonprofit looking to increase awareness and engagement, you most likely need to be on Instagram.

Check out part of this conversation I recently had with Nils Smith on The Dunham Podcast:

Trent: What is the decision matrix that says Instagram is a platform that I want to prioritize when it comes to distributing content?

Nils: It starts by understanding how many people are engaged. When I think about all the organizations we work with, I can’t think of one that shouldn’t be on Instagram. It’s just so significant.

What makes it unique is that there is so much diversity when it comes to what you can do through direct message, stories, posts, and IGTV, all within this one mobile platform. You have a lot of flexibility to play with it and make it your own.

The decision matrix is this: Yes, use it!

Continue to pay attention to where the engagement is happening within the platform and learn how to effectively apply it. In other words, what do you post to get better engagement? A scenic picture or a selfie video? Keep testing and paying attention to what’s working when it comes to how people are engaging with you.

Trent: On Instagram, it seems to me that people are either scrolling through the feed, or just in it for the “stories.” Do you agree?

Nils: I do. On the whole, younger adults engage more with the stories and older adults with the feed.

Another thing to note is that for any organization, you should have a business account. This will give you analytics and an opportunity to see how many people saw your post or story.

For instance, if you notice that 1,000 people saw your post and just 200 saw your story, I’d say put five times the effort into those posts and let the numbers speak. It’s truly a balance of understanding where people are engaging.

Trent: Who is doing it right in our sector?

Nils: I would say in the nonprofit sector, Transformation Church. They have an effective Instagram account and a lot of followers. The pastor, Michael Todd actually has twice the following of the church with over a million followers now.

Steven Furtick at Elevation Church has done a tremendous job with engagement for a long time. Also, Charity: Water on the nonprofit side has led the way with creativity. You don’t see a lot of videos, but they’ve used beautiful imagery for a long time and that’s been their thing and it’s worked well for them.

Trent: We want to grow our reach on Instagram for the purpose of reaching more people. But how do we do that beyond just having good content?

Nils: Let’s start with hashtags. This has been a core part of Instagram from the beginning and how people use them is a changing landscape.

I believe you can now use up to 15 hashtags without being penalized. But when you go over, your account will be flagged and it will actually hurt you in the algorithm. I think five is the perfect number.

Find some consistent hashtags for almost all of your content and use the same two or three, then find some unique to that post of the conversations you might want to enter into.

And don’t just make them up. Your hashtag needs to be something people would actually search for. For instance, #Dallas, #fundraising, or #marketing.

Another tip is to stay engaged in other people’s posts by liking and commenting. This helps with engagement and also encourages a follow back. As a church, find people in your city who are posting about things and leave them a positive comment. Start a conversation with them. And then as you’re engaging with them, they’re likely to engage back with you.

Next, I would say don’t miss out on advertising. The advertising that I believe works best is the Instagram story ads where people can just swipe up and go to your profile. The call to action there is “Follow me on Instagram.”

For more insight into how to effectively engage your Instagram followers, listen to The Dunham Podcast episode,All About Instagram.


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Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters. Contact Bethany Cranfield at 469-454-0100 to get more information.