The Era of Photos

A non-profit’s guide to Instagram & Snapchat

In the previous article, we learned that Twitter allows us to:

●      Communicate similar information to Facebook through POSTS

●      Gain more exposure through HASHTAGS

This month, we will review TWO other MICROBLOGGING platforms: Instagram and Snapchat. A reminder that the key advantage of a microblog is the ability to make more posts, more often.

What sets Instagram and Snapchat apart from Facebook and Twitter are their exposure to YOUTH as well as post-secondary students and adults.

A couple of thoughts to keep in mind as you read this guide:

●      The target audience is YOUTH

●      The options covered are FREE OF COST

●      The options covered are the BASIC FUNCTIONALITIES

To begin with, here is how to set up an Instagram/Snapchat business account

1. Download the App

Unlike other social networks, Instagram & Snapchat are strongly app-based. So, pull out your smartphone, find Instagram/Snapchat in your app store and download.

2. Create an Account Using an Email Address

While it might make sense at first to just log in with your Facebook account…DON’T! That will immediately create an account based on your personal Facebook page. Since this is for your business, go ahead and use your business email address.

3. Choose a Recognizable Username

On the next screen, you’ll be asked to create a username and password, as well as setting your profile image. These are two of the most important steps because they secure your brand’s name and makes it easy for people to find and follow you.

4. Picking the Right Profile Picture

On that same screen, tap on the +Photo button at the top. This is where you set your thumbnail icon. It’s important to note that this should be a large version of your logo or something recognizable that’s associated with your brand.

5. Profile Basics

After than, you’ll be asked to enter your full name and phone number. If your business has a name, use it here, but it you’re the face of your business, go ahead and use your own name. And whatever phone number you think your clients would most likely have in their address books, put that number here. Remember, we want to maximize the exposure of your account through the tools that Instagram has provided.

7. Complete Your Profile

Tap on the profile button on the bottom right to see your account, then tap on the “Edit Your Profile” button at the top of the page. This is where you complete your profile. Be sure to fill out the website and bio fields.

8. Set up Your Social Sharing

The last thing you should set up is your social sharing. Go ahead and tap the gear icon on the profile page and link your account with your Facebook/Twitter page.

Now, that you have created your business profile, let’s look at ways to increase engagement.


Instagram and Snapchat are similar in functionality and purpose. They are both IMAGE-BASED social media platforms that aim to make your organization VULNERABLE.

What is the benefit of image-based posts?

People nowadays are busier than ever. Image-based posts are quick but impactful. Users can decide within seconds upon seeing the image whether they find it relatable.

Why is vulnerability based more appealing to youth?

Although in the past, vulnerability may not have been a good thing, nowadays, the right kind of vulnerability shows youth that you are RELATABLE. Or in other words, that you are ONLY HUMAN and that they can also be like you. In other words, vulnerability does not equal weakness but instead, encapsulates human behaviour.

Image-based vulnerability can be seen through situations such as:

●      Live posting from a volunteer event

●      Giving a sneak peek at volunteer preparation

Good examples of vulnerable non-profit Instagram accounts are:

●      @cancersociety posts photos of patients as well as donors

●      @keepabreast posts photos of men and women promoting breast positivity

Good examples of vulnerable non-profit Snapchat accounts are:

●      officialpeta posts recipes as well as animal rescue missions

●      dosomething posts causes and or missions that viewers can immediately get involved with

Below, we will detail communication on Instagram and Snapchat through posts, snaps and stories. Posts, snaps and stories can all be images or videos.

Posts (Instagram exclusive)

Posts are available for users to view until or unless they are deleted. Posts on Instagram are like an image-based post on Facebook or Twitter.

Instagram posts are known for their various filters. Instagram filters exist for one reason: to increase the aesthetic of your photos. Instagram filters allow you to mock high-quality photos by using your phone camera. As Instagram is image-based, aesthetic is everything.

GENERAL TIP #1: Instagram posts also use hashtags. The rules are similar to Twitter hashtags.

Snaps (Snapchat exclusive)

Snaps are sent to specific users and disappear immediately after they are viewed.

GENERAL TIP #2: Make sure the timer is set to 10 seconds if you want the longest exposure time possible.

Snaps can be embellished with filters, text, drawings and stickers.

GENERAL TIP #3: These embellishments can also be used for stories on Instagram AND Snapchat.

Why should I use a filter?

Snapchat filters are just silly. But silly means vulnerability and gets two thumbs up from our youth.

Why should I use text?

Especially if sending an image or a video with no audio, text is useful for describing the content of the image.

For example: ‘A picture of our volunteers’.

Why should I use drawings?

There are no studies that correlate with the use of drawings and popularity of photos. But there is some practical usage of drawing such as:

●      Colouring behind text so it is more readable

●      Circling the important part of the image

●      Writing large text

Why should I use stickers?

There are no studies that correlate with the use of drawings and popularity of photos. Stickers can be used in a similar fashion to Emojis: if they seem relevant and needed. However, stickers are usually never needed.


Stories are available for users to view 24 hours after they are posted. In fact, stories are almost identical to snaps except that they can be viewed an unlimited amount of times within the 24-hour period.

How do I decide what method of communication I should use?

Most organizations WILL NOT send snaps. Snaps are PERSONAL MESSAGES and only reach the audience if the non-profit account follows its users.

The biggest difference between a post and a story is of course its duration. A longer duration allows for more exposure, share ability and a certain level of professionalism since the information is likely to be a first impression. Whereas a shorter duration opens more doors for vulnerability: you will often see live posts and personal situations.

In other words,


GENERAL TIP #4: Remember, even if snaps and stories disappear after a certain amount of time, users can still screenshot the snap or story and it is not a free pass to post anything you want.

Follow these simple steps to build your non-profit’s social media presence on Instagram and Snapchat.

Written by Florence Cao, Volunteer Content Writer