Your campus is a vibrant and busy. Your students are a successful, engaged bunch. Your school is a beautiful, amazing place to be.
There are so many stories there, waiting to be told—and Instagram is a great place to not just tell them, but show them.
But before you run across campus, snapping away, take the time to evaluate (or re-evaluate) your approach to Instagram. Like all social networks, it can be a traffic-increasing, application-boosting powerhouse, but before you can gain the benefits you have to:
Have a plan
One of the biggest challenges of social media is knowing what to post and when. But if you have a plan that outlines all of that, the guesswork is gone.
The last-minute scramble for something to post won’t exist, which takes the stress away and reduces the chance that you’ll post something that doesn’t fit with your brand or audience.
When you take the time to develop and document a strategy and posting schedule, you will actually save time, eliminate frustration and remove stress. Creating a plan also means you’ll be thinking ahead, which usually leads to more thoughtful strategies and impactful posts.
So before you post that first photo, document your strategy and develop an editorial calendar.
Want to be noticed on Instagram? You need great photos, and that means being a little creative with your snapshots.
Need inspiration? Browse the accounts of brands that inspire you. And no, they don’t have to be other schools. In fact, we recommend avoiding the accounts of competitors when you’re looking for inspiration, because it can be limiting and even discouraging.
Instead, browse the Instagram accounts of popular brands, find what makes them successful and consider how you can apply a similar approach to your account.
I guarantee that you’ll never have a craving for a latte quite like the one you’ll get after checking out the Starbucks Instagram account. Every photo they post is enticing, fun, and always makes me want a coffee immediately. They don’t just post a photo of a coffee cup; they turn it into art. Starbucks might inspire you to look at the everyday happenings on your campus in a different way.
The No Your City Instagram account has some stunningly beautiful images of New York City and beyond—and might help inspire you to take campus snapshots from a different perspective.
Now that you have gained some amazing inspiration and are feeling energized about Instagram, I’m going to remind you of this important rule: be yourself.
As inspired as you might be by the quirky captions of Brand X or the colorful photos of Brand Y, if those things don’t fit with your school’s brand, don’t make them part of your strategy.
If you create a social presence based on something you aren’t, you won’t be attracting the type of student that’s a good fit for your school anyway—and what would be the point in that?
Hashtags help grow your Instagram following because they allow your photos to reach people who don’t already follow you. Studies show that posts with 11 or more hashtags have the highest level of interaction, so develop a list of hashtags that are relevant to your school and refer to it every time you post. Just make sure that each hashtag you use is relevant to what you’re posting. It’s better to have five relevant hashtags than a dozen that don’t quite fit. (Tip: To avoid hashtags taking over your original post copy, add them in a comment on your post.)
To find relevant hashtags, start by searching on Instagram. You might start with a simple #highereducation or #indyschool search. From there, click on photos that catch your eye and see what other hashtags people are using. Take a look at the accounts of other schools to see what hashtags they’re using. Add this list to your strategy document and note what hashtags seem to work best for your school.
As with all social networks, the point is not just to talk at people, but with them. Monitor your account daily and respond to comments on your posts. When writing post copy, find opportunities to ask questions of your followers. Start conversations with the accounts of businesses and people who your school is associated with offline. These are all opportunities to help your school seem more relatable and connect with others.
All that outreach means people are more likely to engage with you, and that’s about more than just the warm and fuzzies. In March, Instagram announced a shift from showing posts in chronological order to showing them based on what they think users want to see first. This means that the more your followers engage with you, the more likely it is that they will see your posts.
Instagram moves slower than most other social networks, but the most engaging brands post at least once per day. If your school isn’t ready for that volume of posts, that’s ok, but shoot for consistency.
Thanks to the social media editorial calendar you created, following a regular posting schedule should be pretty straight-forward. See? Planning really pays off.
Know what success looks like for you
It’s so easy to get trapped in the mindset that the more followers you have and the more likes each post gets, the more successful you are. But those numbers can be misleading, and they’re only a small part of what leads to success, anyway. Focus on the goals you outlined when you created your Instagram strategy, and track the metrics that indicate whether or not you are succeeding. All the other data doesn’t matter.
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