Instagram, the popular Millennial photo sharing site, is gaining traction with world leaders, government leaders and nonprofit executive directors. According to the “World Leaders on Instagram Study” released yesterday by Burson-Marsteller as part of its latest research into how world leaders, governments and international organizations communicate via social media, the heads of state and government and foreign ministers of 136 countries currently have an official presence on Instagram, representing 70 percent of all United Nations (UN) member states. Like world leaders, nonprofit executive directors have been slow to recognize the power of Instagram.
Instagram is about photo sharing and tell stories in photos. The platform attracts many brands because of the opportunities for brand story telling. The visual nature makes it a perfect channel for executive directors to engage with their stakeholders. But to be effective, nonprofit leaders also must excel at using their personal brands and voices in service of their organizations’ missions and strategies on Instagram and other social media channels. Aside from having a personal branding strategy, what exactly makes an effective personal brand for a nonprofit leader? It’s about authenticity which breaks down as follows.
- Genuine: It reflects their character, behavior, values, and vision.
- Distinctiveness: It is expressed in a unique way and clearly defined, so their audience can quickly grasp what they stand for.
- Relevant: It meets the target audiences needs
- Visibility: It makes them visible. They become a source for journalists to quote, have conversations with professional colleagues, or directly engage with stakeholders.
- Specialization: It is precise, focused around a core talent or subject matter.
- Authority: It reinforces that they are an expert in their field or subject matter related to their organization’s mission or fundraising campaigns.
- Goodwill: It generates goodwill, especially if exudes humaness, humility, and/or humor.
If you want to learn more pointers about building an effective personal brand and taking this deeper, read this Online Guide to Personal Branding by Neil Patel and Aaron Agius.
One of the best personal brands that I’ve seen on Instagram from a nonprofit leader is Thomas P Campbell the CEO of the Metropolitan Museum. He has focused on one channel, Instagram, because he wants to show the world his professional life at the Met through the eyes of his iPhone. I analyzed his photo stream and witty narrative to connect examples of what he shares to the criteria for an effective personal brand. Here’s what I discovered:
He doesn’t just share the standard PR about the Met and its programs. He shares photos and reflections from business trips. This outdoor shot of SFMoMA is from recent trip to SF where he had an indoor tour of the facility. Showing a value of integrity, he said he wished he could share the indoor shot, but promised not to reveal it.
It may be no surprised that he is an excellent photography and each shot is carefully crafted and described. He is curating the experiences he shares. Take for example this shot of fireworks and the accompanying reflection.
The audience is obviously Met donors and visitors as well as professional colleagues. This shot is a painting at a museum visited during a professional conference for museums. He gives you the inside story about the work of art.
He is an expert in art at his institution and keeps abreast of what’s happening the world around that provide an opportunity to celebrate art. Here is an observation about noticing Chuck Close’s art in Instagram feeds and sharing a work from the Met, with some commentary.
He generates Goodwill by being human and humorous. Here is a before/after photo of his dog, after getting groomed. He quips that the dog could attend the Met’s Costume Ball, but unfortunately it is sold out.
This is a brilliant example of how a nonprofit leader has aligned and synchronized their personal brand with their nonprofit’s brand. He has created the best fit and is delivering that extra punch to the Met’s communications strategy. When a CEO is personally invested in their nonprofit’s work and demonstrates it on social channel, it guides their focus and creates value for their organization’s stakeholders. It also creates a highly engaged group of employees and board members and attracts people outside of your organization to their cause.
What to Post?
On Instagram, a photo is worth 1,000 words. Instagram is about storytelling. So, now doubt executive directors, if they are using the platform for leadership, their content should align with their organization’s mission, but be shared in the leaders unique voice or lens as the examples from Thomas C. Campbell above. He shares the art, a sneak peak about what it is like to be the CEO of the MET, acknowledges donors, shares insights about the art world, and the occasional human photo (his dog or family). Need more inspiration? Here’s a summary of content posted by world leaders.
Avoid the Uncanny Valley
Most importantly, nonprofit CEO’s must avoid having their PR or Marketing support staff create an personal brand that walks right into the uncanny valley. The term was discovered by robotics professor Masahiro Mori in 1970. It is defined as a level of realism in robots in which the human observer has a negative reaction. Any less realistic and we feel empathy; any more realistic and we can’t distinguish that it’s artificial. The space inbetween is called “The Uncanny Valley,” and it makes us distrust it, ridicule it, or want to kick it.
Thomas C Campbell does not walk in The Uncanny Valley, but Socality Barbie does. This is a hilarious Instagram spoof account satirizing the great millennial adventurer trend in photography. It’s an endless parade of selfies with just the right filter, description, and hashtags. If your CEO’s social media profile is simply duplicating your brand’s feed and voice, it enters the Uncanny Valley.
And, of course, busy nonprofit executives can’t make using social media full time job, they need to squeeze it into a packed day. So, there is a middle ground between the Uncanny Valley and having do it all themselves. Certainly, they may have a team support for their social media channels to help with posting or generate ideas for posts – much like world leaders get support from a speech writer. But there are world leaders who manage their own accounts. According to the Instagram report, some
world leaders manage their Instagram accounts themselves and usually take their own pictures and selfies, including Presidents Joko Widodo (@Jokowi), @MauricioMacri,@PenaNieto, Prime Ministers @damedvedev,@Erna_Solberg, @LeeHsienLoong,@Najib_Razak, @TRoivas, and Foreign Ministers @DidierReynders,@EdgarsRinkevics, @GebranBassil,@kasnms, @Khalid_bin_Ahmad,@KristianJensenum and @NasserJudeh.
Nonprofit CEOs on Instagram
I searched high and low on Instagram to come up with a list of Nonprofit CEOs on Instagram. There are lots of brands, like this of art world players on Instagram, but not a lot of personal brands. I’m sure I missed many. Is your nonprofit executive director or board members using the tool? Please share the URL in the comments and I’ll add it to the list.