Would you hand over the keys to your Instagram or Twitter account?

Image Source: https://flic.kr/p/dzN6Vp

Would you hand over the keys to your nonprofit’s Twitter or Instagram account to a volunteer, partner, artist or celebrity? 

It’s called a social media takeover, and it’s been used by big brands and a variety of nonprofits with some fairly impressive results – such as big boosts in followers and engagement. It’s a tactic well suited for arts organizations and orgs with great visuals (think food porn), but any org can use it with a little creative thinking.

Here are 6 tips for executing a social media takeover of your own.

1. Find the Right Person

Thinking celebrity? Maybe. But a staff member, board member, volunteer or artist may work, too.

Some advice from the International Center of Photography:

“For each takeover campaign, we research photographers and look for those with strong work that relates to the current exhibition or programming, who are active on social media.

So far our most popular image [see below] is by Nancy Borowick, who shared her parents’ journey through cancer. This was part of the #ICPTakeTen takeover campaign that focused on ICP School alumnae working on women’s issues.” – Qiana Mestrich, Associate Director, Digital Content and Engagement, International Center of Photography

2. Establish an Objective

Why are you doing a takeover? What do you hope to accomplish? Here are a few potential objectives. (Feel free to expand these options in the comments section.)

  • Broaden your network
  • Inject excitement
  • Boost engagement
  • Prompt action
  • Establish authenticity or authority
  • Educate members
  • Open dialogue
  • Borrow influence

3. Guide Them With Guidelines

Some advice from SFMOMA on the Go:

“Set some guidelines and tips for what it is you’re looking to get out of the takeover. If you’re not comfortable with handing over the keys, you can request that your contributor email the photos first and you post their image and copy. Since the voice might shift when coming from someone else, and they’d likely be speaking in first person singular, make sure it’s clear to your audience that this is a takeover (a hashtag, and the name of the person in every caption can help clarify). You may also need to do a little editing, but I’d keep it minimal and also steer clear of trying to cram too much messaging into a post. It should be authentic. And try to keep it fun!” Jolene Torr, Social Media Associate, SFMOMA on the Go

4. Limit the Duration

What fun (or good) is a takeover if it lasts forever? It’s the ephemeralness of a takeover that helps give it urgency and energy.

Keep your takeover well-defined. Takeovers can last one day, or during a week long event, or can even repeat weekly or monthly.

5. Have a Hashtag

Track and amplify your takeover by establishing and frequently using a hashtag or set of hashtags (research your options on Ritetag, Hashtagify, Twitter advanced search and Instagram search).

6. Promote Like Crazy

Build excitement for your takeover by promoting it across multiple networks, including email. Instagram to Twitter is a common path for takeovers.

Consider daily countdown graphics to quickly and visually convey the lead up to your event. Reach out to your to social media people, from board members to top fans, before, during and after the event to ask for their help.

To get the most out of a takeover and extend its shelf life, recap on your blog, Facebook page and newsletter.

Check out these 6 nonprofits that have hosted social media takeovers.


This spring SFMOMA has an exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris (part of “SFMOMA On the Go” which are exhibitions with partner museums during SFMOMA’s expansion), and asked its Communications Manager to take some photos while she was abroad for the opening. They prepped her with a shot list and tips for what would do well on Instagram. The results were great. They had over 7,980 likes and 120+ comments on 8 posts. 

Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn Museum invited artists to take over its Instagram account to help promote and celebrate its Artist’s Ball.

International Center of Photography

When I think back to this image, I remember standing in my parents room anxiously waiting to take this photograph. I asked them if I could photograph their matching port-a-caths, which is the catheter that connects the port to a vein and is how much parents receive their chemotherapy. I didn’t know how I was going to photograph it and upon joining me in their room, my mom promptly took off her top to join my father, bare-chested. So vulnerable and trusting. I took a few frames and then my dad turned to my mom and gave her a sweet hug. He was protecting her, a role that even though he was quite sick at the time, felt like he could still do. Cancer strips a lot of what you consider part of your identity. In the case of my parents, they both lost their hair, suffered from intense fatigue and nausea and struggled to do regular activities such as eating a meal or taking a walk. That said, they still showed amazing strength and understanding wanting to focus on the time they had left together, and left on this earth. I even felt like they started to resemble each other. Married for 34 years, they were together longer than they were apart, and while they had their bumps in the road, they always stuck it out and perhaps cancer is just another one of those bumps they have to stick out and get past. Throughout this process, they did struggle to play the roles of husband and wife as well as patient and caregiver for one another. Photo by @nancyborowick for @icp #ICPtaketen #pancreaticcancer #breastcancer #family #love #cancerfamily #womeninphotography

A photo posted by Int’l Center of Photography (@icp) on

Since the takeovers began, ICP’s followers increased more than 1,380% and its average likes per image increased from 64 to 325. The tactic has also built brand awareness for itself and participating photographers, increased social media traffic to its website, and built stronger ties between ICP, participating photographers, and its audience. Its Instagram audience is now asking questions and supporting the work of the participating photographers.


MicroCon 2015 | Supreme Dictator Vladimir Veselovsky of The Provisional Territories of the Great United Democratic People’s Republic and Hegemonic Communist Commonwealth of the Free Autocratic Republic of Totalitarianism and Populist Liberation Front for the Federal Tsardom of the Russian Empire and California on Behalf of the Betterment of the World! stands for a portrait during #Microcon2015 at the Anaheim Central Library Saturday April 11, 2015. His California-based #micronation, also known as Provisional Territories of the F.A.R.T. has 224 Citizens (88 Persons, 35 Pigeons, 35 Fish, 28 Dogs, 12 Chickens, 11 Cats, 5 Goats, 2 Sheep, 2 Hamsters, 2 Rats, 2 Cardboard Cutouts, 1 Snake, 1 Pet Rock). Free Speech is not tolerated and those convicted are executed by firing squad. …of Nerf Guns or Airsoft Guns. — Two of the four weapons authorized for use by The F.A.R.T. Military. The other two? Nuclear weapons and Death Rays — neither of which The F.A.R.T.’s Military Arms Department (M.A.D.) Scientists have yet to develop. Photo by @mattrothphoto #Micronationalists #dictator #satire #deathray #radhat A photo posted by AARP Photo (@aarpphoto) on

AARP has hosted member takeovers — from photographers to entreprenuers — on its Instagram account for several years. Engagement always goes up during a takeover.

Ithaca College

Ithaca College has been inviting a senior to take over its Instagram account on Tuesdays this semester. 


GLAAD invited public figures to take over its Instagram account to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at its 26 Annual GLAAD Media Awards.

I had some help putting this post together. Many thanks to Jolene Torr, Qiana Mestrich, Julia Smith, Jenna Sauber, Tammy Gordon and Allison Palmer for your suggestions and support.