Six Big Mistakes Non-Profit Organizations Are Making on Instagram

Each day Instagram calculates that 55 million photos are shared through its smart phone app. Through 2013 the image editing and sharing app's popularity has skyrocketed; Nielsen reports that Instagram usage increased 66 percent through the year.

That said, the photo social networking service gives non-profit organizations a great way to connect with the community they serve as well as to gain new supporters. Here are some tips on how to make your Instagram account stand out.

Mistake #1: Sharing Bad Photos
One of the best parts of digital photography is that it makes it easy to take pictures all of the time. Unfortunately, it has created a Walking Dead-like mob of terrible photographers snapping everything and anything that might be even the slightest bit interesting. You know how you stop paying attention to your Facebook friends who are constantly posting the worst photos ever? The same goes for Instagram. There are lots of great resources online that can help make even the worst of photographers look like experts.

There are two really easy tips for taking good photos that everyone should know. The first is get in close to your subject. Your iPhone may have a zoom feature in it, but it makes the image look grainy. Get right up in there. The other is to avoid overly posed group pictures of your events. If you have a speaker at one of your events, just take a really good picture of them at the podium instead of several awkward ones with everyone on your organization's executive board. No one wants to see that.

Mistake #2: Not Tagging Anything
Instagram is just like Twitter in the sense that you can use hashtags to label your images, making them easier for people to find. So in addition to writing a good brief description of your picture make sure you effectively tag your image. A public library posts a picture of a Star Wars themed storytime should use tags like #starwars, #library, #storytime and #usetheforce.

Mistake #3: Having An Inactive Account
It was pointed out earlier that each day there are 55 million new pictures added to Instagram, unfortunately making the shelf life of your images fairly brief. If you want to maintain visibility with your followers, you should try to post daily at the very least. Sometimes you might not have anything that exciting going on, but on those days you can upload a picture of something that has happened previously. It's really simple; just follow these instructions.

Mistake #4: Never Liking Photos
Although it focuses more on the visual side, Instagram is a social network. That said, it works best when you actively participate. So if you see any photos that are related to your cause or from similar organizations, you should like or comment on their images.

Mistake #5: Not Following People In The Community
One of the hardest tasks for any non-profit is getting support and getting advocacy within the community, thus making the appropriate introductions. Instagram can be used to network with other non-profits by simply following their accounts. Hopefully they will follow you back and both organizations will have a better understanding of how each serves the community.

Mistake #6: Not Realizing The Big Picture
Like with any project, you need to promote across several channels. Instagram makes it really easy, as they allow you to cross-post your images to Twitter and Facebook as well. You can even promote your account in low-tech ways, like sharing your account info in press releases.

Chris Barnes has worked in the non-profit sector for 10 years, specializing in public relations, social media and community engagement for public libraries.