10 Ways to use Instagram and Pinterest to Market Your Organization

Photo-based Instagram and Pinterest have built followings based on the compelling, fun and interesting photos posted by users…and in Pinterest’s case, providing decorating, clothing and other sources of inspiration to its millions of users.

Corporations to small businesses are boosting their brand identities and expanding their reach using these free services…why can’t your district, COE or non-profit organization?  Your brand is about great programs that advance important outcomes—education, interventions to help students be successful, making learning fun, great teachers, great staff members, improving a social good, and more.  I’d be willing to bet that there are hundreds of photo opportunities each day.  And with Instagram’s availability on just Apple iOS and Android mobile phones, your photos are available to quickly build awareness and loyalty in a personalized approach.

Here are just a few tips* how you can use Instagram and Pinterest to take your organization’s marketing and communications to the next level.

1. Promote your programs and services.

Where you have parent permission, post creative snapshots of your 21st century learning programs, student success programs, and even just students having fun learning at your schools.  For non-profit organizations, show pictures of your various programs in action, instead of just your black-tie event snapshots.  Or, if you have training programs—post interesting pictures of participants engaging in a workshop activity (no boring room shots, please) and avoid boring stock photos, infographics or text-heavy images.

2. Use close-up photos and interesting captions!

These pop out more when a person is scanning through images–pictures of student art work and other student creations, students performing on stage or on an athletic team (with a great caption about how your district supports strong academics for student athletes), the face of an expressive teacher or staff member (“Here’s Ann Banks, secretary at Washburn Middle School.  She’s not only amazing with helping students and parents, but she makes it fun, too.”).

3. Redundancy…is boring.  So, keep it fresh!

Make sure that you don’t show the same types of photos more than three to four times a day—so, if you’ve already posted three photos from the high school’s fall play, then post some photos from the elementary school’s Red Ribbon Week activities next, instead of another fall play (or other theater-related) photo.  Also, avoid posting the same picture twice. Repeat photos are generally a turn-off in the Instagram and Pinterest communities, which thrive on fresh, new imagery.

4.  Host photo contests.

Photo contests can be a fun, free way to attract, interact with your audiences….and build your following.  Ask your Instagram and Pinterest followers to submit personal photos from their involvement with your district’s/school’s/ organization’s activities and then post the best ones on your website.  Note—for student-related photos, please remember to consult your district/COE policies regarding parental permission.

To keep followers coming back day after day, launch a photo-of-the-day campaign. Change it up and invite your followers to submit captions for your photos or answer trivia questions about your snapshots. Pick daily or weekly winners and reward them with prizes.
One fun photo contest idea is to ask followers to take pictures of themselves or their children wearing their school’s spiritwear, and original and creative accessories with their spiritwear.  The images of winners of this contest could then be a part of your district’s/COE’s marketing campaigns, website, newsletter, etc.

For non-profit organizations, you can ask members, donors, and partners to take pictures of themselves holding a sign (8.5×11, on white paper, with large writing) that states, “I support ABC Organization because….”.  Images of the winners of this contest would then be used in your organization’s next marketing campaign, website, newsletter, etc.

And don’t forget…your photo contest can be used across ALL of your social media accounts!

5. Create images that feature promotional codes.

Promoting exclusive discount and coupon codes for paid events and programs within a single Instagram or Pinterest photo is a fast, low-cost way to attract fans and boost sales for your events and programs.   The high school’s fall play?  Use a picture of one of the actors holding a blank sign on which a promo code can be displayed.  Your next non-profit program?  Give your Instagram and Pinterest followers a discount, and use a picture that is related to your program to display the promo code.

Don’t forget to hashtag your special-offer photos with #promocode. Hashtags on Instagram work exactly as they do on Twitter. They’re an effective way to attract and track deal seekers.

6. Go behind-the-scenes.

Show your audiences what happens at your organization by posting candid snapshots of employees collaborating with each other or working on a large project—even just “a day in the life” of your office, with interesting photos would be interesting.   Such behind-the-scenes glimpses help show all the work that your organization does when no one else is around, which can create a sense of camaraderie and trust with your followers.  Instead of a room shot of someone talking to a group, get a close up of the person talking, or someone in the group listening.

7.  Introduce your employees.

Again, make sure you have interesting photos!  When describing the employee, be sure to connect their attributes to your organization’s strengths (“Meet Shiela Gray, the brainchild behind our district’s Response to Instruction program.  Her attention to detail ensures that we follow up with each student’s parent at least once a week, to ensure that they are engaged in their child’s learning.”).

8. Make your followers stars.

Choose a follower of the day and promote him or her with an @mention. Similar to Facebook and Twitter, an @mention is how Instagram users tag each other in comments. This can fire up powerful word-of-mouth promotion and deliver more followers and potential customers. Many people — Instagram photo buffs included — like to be personally recognized by organizations for their loyalty, and they’re more than happy to spread the word about their special status within their Instagram network.  Have followers that are frequent posters?  Reward them!

9. Inspire copying and sharing.

Yep, educators, give permission for others to copy and share!  Think of your Pinterest and Instagram pages as inspiration to your followers to replicate some of the ideas that they see.  Teachers might get ideas from seeing pictures from a class’s project that is highlighted.  Parents may get inspired by a program that the PTA did at one of your district’s schools, and use with their PTA.  Non-profit donors or partners might use pictures from your program to inspire a giving program at their business to benefit your program.  Therefore, when linking these photos to a website (with Pinterest), be sure to include the event/program/activity coordinator’s contact information in case someone wants to learn more.

10.  Obtain feedback on your organization.

This is a fairly new idea, but businesses are starting to use Pinterest and Instagram for goal visualization activities.  The next time your organization is going through a goal/priority/strategic plan setting process, create a board (on Pinterest) or unique hashtag (Instagram) to obtain feedback on your organization’s goals.  Ask followers to provide images that represent attributes/goals they want to see in your organization.  Then, once the goal/priority/strategic plan setting is complete, develop and post the dynamic images that represent the resulting goals/plans.

*Sounding Board Marketing & Communications likes to give credit where credit is due!  Many of these tips were inspired from an Entrepreneur article—you can read it here.

Check out Sounding Board Marketing & Communications’s Savvy Social Media Guide and Video for more tips on how to harness the power of social media to advance your organization’s goals!

About Heather McGowan

Heather McGowan increases public confidence in public education and improves opportunities for non-profit organizations to succeed through proactive communication and marketing. She provides strategic marketing and communication services that exceed her clients’ unique goals and delivers results that motivate audiences to act, change, and/or otherwise change behaviors for a greater good.

Comments and Feedback:

  1. Wonderful blog! I found iit while searching on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any tips on hhow to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!

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