From a Millennial: Nobody Wants to Hear Your Stories. We Want to See Them. | npENGAGE

From a Millennial: Nobody Wants to Hear Your Stories. We Want to See Them.

By on Feb 24, 2014



We all have them. We all love them. Entire civilizations have been built off of, held together by and divided by stories. Edward Bulwer-Lytton wasn’t far off when he so famously coined, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Stories have the power to bring together and to push apart –to distinguish and to extinguish. Stories are also integral parts to any nonprofit organizations and particularly when it comes to fundraising.

Time is money

But who has time to tell stories? In the digital age, where most traditional storytelling is done over the Internet, attention spans are ever shrinking. In fact, the latest numbers given by the U.S. National Library of Medicine put the average 2013 attention span at 8 seconds. Of that 8 second average attention span, I can assure you that my generation is on the lower end of that count. Is that a character flaw? Maybe. But, the fact is, our minds are a byproduct of our instantaneous information culture. I can’t really remember a moment in my life where I wasn’t able to Google something.

Rise above the noise

How do we raise awareness about our unique stories to a generation of naturally attention-deficit individuals? Do we forget about this audience and keep doing it the way we’ve always done it? Well, no, that’s not the answer. After all, we’re going to be the ones who are holding the money soon. You may have read an npENGAGE article regarding how nonprofits can effectively leverage Pinterest and Instagram to reach a broader audience and to meet goals. It has become increasingly important for nonprofits to lean to the visual. Now there is even more incentive.

Instagram sponsored posts

sponsoredThe rumors started rolling in around third quarter of last year – Instagram was going to fill up your photo feed with ads. The public opinion surrounding this move was anything less than positive – just another classic case of a social media avenue trying to further monetize itself. And, to some degree, even as the ads themselves started rolling out, a large handful of the comments left on those ads were extremely negative. But there was also something extremely odd about these “Sponsored” posts that Instagram. They were extremely captivating. Extremely moving. To date, there have been ads from a handful of companies including General Electric, Levi’s, Lexus and Ben & Jerry’s, to name a few. These ads didn’t simply feature the intricacies of a pair of blue jeans. They didn’t go behind-the-scenes on how cars were made. The pictures told a story.



One of the most captivating pictures that we came across was actually an ad for a nonprofit – charity:water. This post was exquisite and honestly made me a little emotional. Having spent several months in Southern Sudan, I know the struggles that people have to find clean drinking water. Seeing a little girl, smiling, holding a jug of fresh water is something that rings true for many. Something that tells a story. But, perhaps what grabbed my attention most is that, at the time we viewed this post, it had nearly garnered 300,000 likes and amassed a little over 3,000 comments. Let that sink in. Imagine the exposure this medium could give your nonprofit.

Instagram is in the testing phase of this program, but the results have gone above and beyond what was anticipated. The audience is certainly there – with a total population of roughly 180 million Instagram accounts. According to reports, Instagram is currently working on a built in metrics system, so that companies who invest advertising dollars on Instagram can get a moderate picture of ROI. According to Instagram’s website, the medium is also trying to access users’ Facebook accounts to target advertising unique to each person’s interests.

Powerful marketing tools

Some say that Instagram is the most powerful social marketing tool out there right now. Fast Company just reported that users spend 257 minutes per month on Instagram, which is 15 times that of Facebook. Instagram receives 1,000 comments and 8,500 likes per second. Fifty-five million photos are uploaded each day. Incredible. Time is marching on, people. The train stops for no one.

When asked about his organization’s involvement with Instagram, Paull Young, Digital Director at charity:water, actually told us that his ad was donated, as a part of a test case with Instagram. Indeed, per Instagram’s website, the company is “starting slow with advertising” and will not be opening up ads to the mass market until its “testing phase” is over.

The future of advertising

Whatever the future holds for this advertising medium, if you want to tell your story in a unique way, I’d keep an eye on Instagram ads. So, when telling your story to my generation, is the pen mightier than the sword? Well, yes. But, lest your nonprofit organization forget, a picture is worth 1,000 words.


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