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  • Writer's pictureChris Strub

An actionable Instagram Stories strategy to lead up to your Giving Day

Last month in San Antonio, I gave a 2.5-hour presentation to a group of around 60 nonprofit representatives, focusing largely on the importance of establishing a strategy in the lead-up to your giving day.

While we focused mostly on Facebook Live, there were a number of questions about Instagram and how to best leverage that platform en route to The Big Give 2019.

Instagram is a great platform to focus on, although I always make sure to mention the important caveat that Instagram is owned by Facebook. Because of that, some of the biggest changes to happen to these two platforms in 2018 have been cross-pollinated integrations -- and I strongly suspect in 2019, Facebook and Instagram will continue to inch closer to each other, capabilities-wise.

The biggest shift happening this year -- and not just in the Facebook space -- is Stories. I've been extremely bullish on Stories for years, having used Snapchat to tell 'Stories' during '50 States, 100 Days' in the summer of 2015. (Get the book)

The rise of Instagram Stories is accelerating at such a rapid pace that soon, Stories are expected to out-pace Feeds as the primary means of social media content consumption.

This is as critical an observation as you'll find in the social media space these days, so to repeat for emphasis: by as soon as mid-2019, Stories are expected to out-pace Feeds as the primary means of social media content consumption.

OK, so cut to the chase: how can we use Instagram Stories to build momentum toward a successful giving day in 2019?

Here's how.

-- Determine a consistent thread of stories that you can tell throughout the year. Try and think of the category of story you can tell at least, let's say, a dozen times. Preferably more than that. Often times, the best approach is your people. Pull out a blank sheet of paper, or open up the Notes app on your phone, and make a list:

     --> Our top volunteers

     --> Charismatic kids in the program

     --> Clients who have succeeded in our program

     --> Camera-friendly staff members

Any one of these categories would work great. Think about the stories that best represent your organization. Again, it's a great strategy to focus on your people, but it doesn't have to be people-based:

     --> Animals we've served

     --> Pieces of art that adorn our walls

     --> Memorable dates in the history of our program

     --> Places around the community where we offer services

I need you to think creatively and strategically here about a THREAD of stories that you can tell on an ongoing basis. Write them down.

-- On a calendar, either digitally or printed out, determine how frequently you can tell one of these stories, divided equally between now and your giving day. So if you're in Louisville, and your giving day is in mid-September, you have almost 300 days (as of now in December) to go. If you set your plan in motion, let's say, the first week of January, you could take your list of 30 stories and plan to tell just one story per week leading all the way to Give for Good Louisville.

(Quick aside: I DEFINITELY do not think you can start a protracted strategy like this 'too early.' That's the digital equivalent of saying you don't want to exercise yet because you won't have to don that bikini until June -- sure, you can wait as long as you want to get started, but the longer wait, the more difficult it's going to be in the long run.)

I strongly encourage you to start your long-term strategic approach with a big-picture look at the inventory of stories that you can tell. By knowing in advance what content you're going to create in future installments, you'll feel much more comfortable building toward those stories that lie ahead. You can even reference them conversationally as you go along. And most importantly, your audience will become accustomed to your style, delivery and frequency -- listening to these stories will become habitual for them.

The Write Podcast with guest Chris Strub, Ep. 34

I want you to check out this episode of The Write Podcast, which I recorded earlier this year with Julia McCoy, CEO of Express Writers in Austin, Texas. We talk extensively about the importance of taking an episodic approach to your content strategy, and I think it'll truly inspire you to embrace the episodic model.

-- Record your stories. This might sound like the hard part, but once you get accustomed to conversationally using Instagram Stories, you'll find that it is, in fact, quite simple. Don't overthink it: if you can point your phone at yourself and talk for 15 seconds at a time, you can tell a story.

Don't be afraid to start simple, although there are plenty of ways to 'get better,' so to speak, at creating Instagram Stories:

     --> If you don't feel comfortable speaking 15 seconds at a time (it is an acquired art), you can download an app called 'CutStory' and just speak for a couple minutes into the camera (vertically oriented, of course), and then use CutStory to break your one video into a sequence of videos that are 15 seconds apiece. Instagram pros Sabba Quidwai (@AskMsQ) and Dr. Karen Freberg (@Kfreberg) use CutStory frequently to share experiences about their travels and their work.

     --> If you want to build some simple custom graphics for your stories, Canva is a terrific free app with tons of versatility. You can use the many templates that are available within Canva, or use their easy interface to build your own customized look. CAUTION: DON'T GET TOO CAUGHT UP IN IT. The worst story you'll ever create on Instagram is the one you didn't record. One thing I like to do with Canva is tell myself that I have, say, 15 minutes to build what I need. Once that 15 minutes is up, you're done. This will keep you from obsessing over perfectionism and keep you on your time budget.

     --> Want to really get the most out of Instagram Stories? Invest in a course to learn how to take advantage of the many bells and whistles that make Instagram Stories such a dynamic, interactive platform. When you're creating in Instagram Stories, you can tag your location, incorporate hashtags, tag other users, freestyle with a paintbrush, throw in animated GIFs, and much more, all of which will help keep your audience captivated, as well as allow your content to be seen by more people. Luckily, I've created a course that explains exactly how all of these different features work, and why they are each so important. You can use discount code BIGGIVE2019 to Save 60% at ... or, use the same code to save 60% on the SocialWithStrub course bundle, which includes the Instagram Stories course, along with courses about live-streaming video, Twitter and Snapchat Spectacles.

-- Use Instagram Stories' highlights feature to create a living, breathing gallery of content on your profile. This is the real key to a successful IG Stories strategy for your giving day, because you'll want your new donors and followers to be able to easily access ALL of the stories that you're creating. For a great example of how a nonprofit can catalogue its best Instagram Stories, check out @metrounitedway - the Metro United Way, based in Louisville, Ky., or @salarmychicago (The Salvation Army Chicago). When new donors come to check out your Instagram page, they'll see your Instagram Stories highlights lined up across your profile, and they'll be able to browse and dive in to check out your stories before committing to make a donation. It's critical to use highlights if you're creating an episodic model where you aren't posting every day, because by having those highlights around, new followers will be able to check out stories from you any time they want. You can also check out my Instagram Stories highlights on my profile, @ChrisStrub.

I talk extensively about Instagram Stories highlights right off the bat at -- it is far and away the most important feature that Instagram has added in 2018. By leveraging highlights, you'll be able to keep all of your nonprofit's best stories at the top of your followers' minds year-round, and build a powerfully engaged audience that will be thrilled to donate to you once your giving day finally rolls around.

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Is your nonprofit leveraging Instagram Stories, and stepping its game up with IG Stories highlights? I'd love to check out your work. DM me on Instagram -- @ChrisStrub -- and I'll be happy to take a peek.

Chris Strub is the Giving Day Guy. Learn more from Chris with his set of online courses here, and get a copy of '50 States, 100 Days: The Book' here.

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