Instagram for CSOs: tools and trends

Instagram for CSOs: tools and trends

Maria Bogacheva, digital and social media marketing manager at the Butterfly Children Foundation explains the value of Instagram and how it can be used by CSOs in an interview with ASI’s media centre “Blagosphere”.


A billion people visit Instagram every month. Supporters and future donors can be found and cultivated on this site. 71% of Instagram’s users are younger than 24.

“On Instagram, we adapt our content for a younger audience. For example, we focus on educational material so that within two to four years, any user will understand what the foundation does and how it affects society”, says Maria Bogacheva.

Influence-marketing and targeted advertising help CSOs to attract new audiences.


One of the most popular formats on Instagram is Instagram Stories. Stories are 15 second videos which are only available for 24 hours. For non-profit organisations stories with surveys, questions and other interactive features are particularly useful. Long passages of text should be avoided as Instagram’s users are more interested in visual content.

CSOs often use a single advert to list every possible method of donation. “In most cases, however, this distracts the target audience from the message and desired action. Information must be given out in small doses; certain methods of donation should be advertised in clearly defined spaces. It depends entirely on the context,” Maria Bogacheva highlights.

Live streams work particularly well. CSOs can broadcast material themselves or invite guests to do so, in which case subscribers can watch both the organisation’s and guests’ content.


There are many formats which can help CSOs to boost their visibility, reach new audiences, find new channels of communication and ultimately increase the volume of donations.

‘Ambassadors’, such as the organisation’s trustees, can help to communicate a CSO’s values and connect with audiences on Instagram. 200 million users visit at least one corporate Instagram page every day.

Another option for promoting a CSO is collaboration with a well-known commercial brand or a media personality. Together, they create new content, such as new products under a brand’s name.

“Collaborating with 200 personalities or brands every month is probably too many. It is better to do one or two collaborations, so that your audience does not start to think that this is the only way of supporting your organisation or project”, – says Maria Bogacheva.

Other formats of value for CSOs include integration (advertisements placed within someone else’s content) and special projects.


On Instagram, CSOs are not competing with other CSOs but with professional bloggers and large corporations, which means CSO content can be no worse than its competitors.

How can you make CSO activities interesting for Instagram’s users? Maria Bogacheva has several suggestions.

  • Introduce users to the organisation through people’s experience – use Instagram to shed light on the organisation’s experts and employees. You could record interviews with them for example.
  • Introduce users to the organisation through useful and relevant content – provide the audience with links to interesting resources.
  • Introduce users to the organisation with information guides – prepare publications for holidays or certain importance events. For example, you can create themed collections of films or music.

Every post does not have to come directly from the organisation, third party content is also useful. It is, however, important that such publications are in harmony with other material on the webpage.

One charity shared a series of recipes on Instagram, alongside posts asking for support in aid of ill children. This caused a degree of confusion amongst some users. It is vital that information is published at the appropriate time – organisations must understand where their current and potential audience ‘sits’ within the app.

It is also worth preparing a content plan in advance. Bogacheva suggests thinking about publications a month ahead.

Five ingredients for success

Maria Bogacheva suggests using five “ingredients”, which help to boost the number of views of a particular post. More than 50% of users visit pages that are ‘recommended’ to them by Instagram every month.

Ingredient 1. Trigger advertisements. A post should evoke a vivid emotional response from the user: nostalgia, anger, happiness, sadness and so on.

Ingredient 2. Universality. It is vital that any post is of interest not just to the target audience but also to other users. An awareness of trends and posts from popular bloggers can help to boost a post’s relevance to the wider Instagram audience. 

Ingredient 3. Engagement. Comments, shares, saves and likes all contribute to your account being ‘recommended’ to other users. A CSO can for example encourage its users to write comments.

Ingredient 4. Intrigue. The majority of Instagram users look at posts rather than reading them. CSOs have four seconds to capture the attention of the Instagram audience. The post’s title must be immediately interesting while also promising further useful content.

Ingredient 5. Relevance.

CSOs must interact with users in such a way that meets their expectations, while adhering to their brand and upholding their reputation.


Using new tools can help to create unique and innovative content. CSOs must therefore follow emerging trends closely.

Instagram Reels allows users to create and edit 15-second videos. They are available in Russia, but not yet to all users.

Guide is a tool which enables the creation of informational and educational guides, which are embedded in articles and posts on the platform.

Text Content consists of text overlaid on top of photos, drawings or videos. They can be added through the photo editing tool. As a rule, CSOs should focus on using just one or two sentences which capture the principal message of the post.

User Generated Content is content created by the user, rather than the CSO account. CSOs can incorporate photos or videos created by their subscribers.

Animation on the platform is simple and subtle. It consists for example of a twinkling star, flashing text or a moving image in the background. You can create videos compatible with Instagram on Adobe Sparkn, Pixaloop or ImgPlay. Any animation should be of high quality and brief.

Carousels became popular in 2020 and will be far more widely used in 2021. A high-quality carousel should hold the user’s attention for a longer period than a post with a single image. Educational carousels can increase user engagement and a post’s reach, especially as they can be saved and shared.

Questions social media content creators should consider

Bogacheva suggests that any social media marketer must answer the following five questions to ensure that the content being posted from their account is worthwhile.

  1. Why should any user follow this CSO account on Instagram?
  • What helpful information or new experience does the CSO’s Instagram account provide?
  • How long can the CSO hold its user’s attention with the given post? Are ideas developed in any way?
  • How will the CSO’s target audience react to this content?
  • Does the Instagram content correspond with the CSO’s main ideas and purpose?

The ASI Media Centre ‘Blagosphere’ is a collaborative project between the Blagosphere Centre and the Agency for Social Information. Its purpose is to promote charitable concepts and those of social responsibility through a variety of new media platforms. These include a media club set up to conduct training, discussion and educational events.


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