A Beginner’s Guide To Getting Your Cause on Instagram

Instagram is a photo sharing app that allows you to apply beautiful filters to your pictures before you share them with your followers on Instagram and other social media sites. The app is free and is available for download on both iPhone and Android Phones.

The popularity of Instagram as the next big social media tool can be gauged from the fact that Barack Obama recently joined Instagram to connect and engage with people for his 2012 campaign. Many celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg, Jamie Oliver and brands such as Starbucks, Burberry, Levi’s are making great use of the app – by sharing beautiful pictures of their everyday life and work they are engaging people in a whole new way.

Instagram is a powerful tool that can be leveraged to spread the message of social causes by organizations and individuals alike. Pictures are powerful – giving people a view into your work whether it be working in rural areas, urban slums or in disaster zones can be very inspiring and moving for people seeing it from afar. Though I’m still to find social good organizations on Instagram, I have come across several individuals who are making fantastic use of Instagram to highlight and driving engagement around social issues.

Kirby Trapolino, Founder of nonprofit Peace Gospel has been using the app to highlight the challenges faced by people living in poverty in developing countries and the work his organization is doing to help them. You can read my interview with him An instagram celebrity shares more than just beautiful pictures.

Pachi Tamer is another inspiring individual who’s been using the app to share pictures of homeless people and fundraise to meet their needs. His interest lies in sharing stories of homeless people using Instagram and has launched a nonprofit organization, One Dollar Dream which tries to realize the dreams of the homeless. Read my interview with Pachi, Putting a face on the homeless through Instagram.

Another girl who goes by the Instagram handle Corrine_t that I follow on Instagram shares pictures of her volunteer trips to developing countries. Her photos of medical camps in Haiti, Cambodia are stunning and inspiring, drawing a lot of praises and interest from followers, with people inquiring about how they could volunteer as well. While digging for more people or organizations using the app for social good, I came across this short list of nonprofits on Instagram’s website, which are Charity:Water, Robin Hood NYC and Oceana.

How to Get Started

Instagram is currently only available for the iPhone and you need to have the device to use it as they don’t have a web version. Using it is as easy as downloading the free app on your phone and signing up for an Instagram account which is a very quick process. Remember to choose a username that clearly represents your personal or organizations brand, also be sure to add a profile photo, a biography and a link to your website, it will help your followers associate with you better.

Connect your account to Facebook, Twitter and any other social media sites where you have an account on (Profile > Edit sharing settings). This will allow you to quickly share photos to those services, including your brand’s Facebook page

Announce to your Twitter/Facebook followers that you’re on Instagram. Let them know your Instagram username.

Few Tips

Take interesting pictures of your work – in the office or while out in the field or of things that relate to your mission. Make generous use of hashtags to get noticed.

Be consistent but don’t go overboard – be selective about what you share and space it out, a couple pictures per day is a good limit to maintain beyond that you may annoy your followers unless you have enough material that deserves to be seen.

Use the description wisely, it is a great way to tell the story of your work. Geotag to convey the location if you like, might serve well when you travel to different locations for work and will help others discover your pictures and you.

Though Instagram filters are great in turning your ordinary looking picture into a beautiful looking one there are other apps that you can make use of to further enhance your pictures. The most popular ones are Camera+ and Magic Shutter. Go through my interviews with Kirby and Pachi as they talk in detail about the photo apps of their choice. You can also find a list Top 30 photography apps for iphone here

Few Creative Uses

Run photo campaigns on Instagram to engage and educate your followers. Pachi Tamer who shares pictures of homeless people did a campaign around Christmas, called #Giving_for_Real. He asked his 10K+ followers to meet and greet homeless people and to share their pictures with their permission on Instagram with the hashtag #Giving_for_Real. Out of all the participants he would choose four winners and award them with 3 photography apps.

Photo of the Day: You can run photo of the day feature – broadcasting your most inspiring Instagram picture of the day across all your social media accounts. Doesn’t have to be yours, you can pick from your followers or any other picture you find inspring.

Hashtags: Come up with a hashtag around your cause or weekly hashtags and get people tagging around it.

Remember its important you first gain followers in order to be heard. So get started today, take inspiring pictures, tag them and engage others to attract and grow your follower base. Happy Instagraming!

For more resources on Instagram visit Instagram Blog or

Filed under: Marketing


Deepa Chaudhary

I have extensively worked at grass-roots from working in the slums of Mumbai to being on the frontline of numerous disaster relief efforts. I'm passionate about social entrepreneurship and I love discovering and writing about new trends in the social good space.