With new and evolving social media channels rolling out seemingly all the time, knowing how to leverage them effectively can be challenging. In higher education, where tight budgets and packed schedules abound, it’s not always easy to learn the ropes of the newest additions to the social media world. One of the newest is Instagram, and it’s already the most popular channel for the ever-prized 18-34 age bracket. Essentially, Instagram makes it easy for users to share photos and videos with the people they care about. It's a prime place for institutions to build and strengthen connections with former, current and prospective students.

We know it’s not always easy to find the time to learn the best ways to use new tools. To take some of the pressure off, we’ve put together some best practices to help you maximize the impact you make on Instagram. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be taking a big step toward making better impressions on prospective students.

  1. Ask questions! Lots of questions. This will give you an idea of what content your students, alumni, faculty and staff would like to see posted. Do they want to see unique pictures of campus that people don’t normally notice, or do they prefer pictures that give a sense of nostalgia and pride?
  2. Expand your audience. Connect your account to your other social networks (like Facebook and Twitter) and share your Instagram content on those platforms. By doing this, it can increase your brand awareness and audience engagement on all of your social media platforms.
  3. Encourage participation in major events. You can do this effectively by creating a hashtag specific to an event. This way, when someone posts a picture with the hashtag, you are able to find it easily.
  4. Create a universal hashtag. Another way to enhance brand awareness, followers and engagement on Instagram is to create a unique hashtag that your audience can use. Vanderbilt University’s hashtag, for example, is #vandygram.
  5. Engage, comment and repost. This will help increase involvement from students, alumni, faculty and staff. It shows you're engaged, but ensures audience engagement as well. Princeton University is a great example. They regularly posts their own pictures, but make an effort to also repost their followers’ photos.
  6. Tell your story. By posting logos, mascots, and iconic images of things around campus, your institution helps the audience get a sense of who you are on a personal level. Syracuse University does an excellent job at this. Their posts tell their brand story while consistently celebrating their past, present and future.
  7. Be consistent. You want to be sure to post often. We recommended posting several times a week, or even once a day, so your audience knows you are interested and willing to meet their needs. Princeton University also does a great job when it comes to being consistent in their posts.

We're just skimming to surface here, so if you have questions or want a deeper look into how Instagram can fit into your institution's social media strategy, feel free to contact us or comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts.