- General Best Practices
When Instagram launched nearly eight years ago, it was simply a social media network for sharing pictures with friends (with some fun filters to make you feel like a professional photographer). Since then, the popular social media platform has gone through hundreds of changes and algorithm updates — many of which have been driven by Facebook, after purchasing the network for $1 billion in 2012. While these changes have transformed Instagram from a simple, photo-sharing platform into a marketing and advertising powerhouse, the network still operates on the importance of sharing high-quality images (and now videos), to engage followers — a strategy essential for schools.
Some benefits of using the platform for your school marketing efforts include:
- Having the flexibility of posting photos or videos — both are encouraged on the platform
- Uploading up to ten photos/videos in a single post, which can be viewed as a slideshow
- Using up to thirty hashtags on a single post to increase brand awareness and community engagement
- Making it easy to not only follow specific hashtags but encourage your followers to use them as well
- Sharing what’s happening in real time through live video, stories, and highlights
Like all social media platforms, there are important best practices to follow to build a strong following, build engagement, and contribute to a successful social media strategy. Here are some key best practices to follow when using Instagram.
General Instagram Best Practices
Have a Hashtag Strategy
Like other social media platforms, hashtags are used to categorize and organize content. Many schools have branded hashtags for many parts of their marketing and events, so others can join in on the conversation. Hashtags on Instagram play a significant role in not only growing your following but also engaging with your school community.
How many hashtags are recommended?
Hashtags are an essential component of a successful Instagram strategy. Compared to other platforms, the maximum number of hashtags Instagram allows on a given post is thirty, to be exact. By using the maximum amount of Instagram hashtags, your content has more opportunities of being discovered.
Can hashtags help grow your school’s following?
Yes! If you incorporate not only your own school’s branded hashtags, but general ones related to your school’s market, events, departments, etc., people will be looking for schools like yours that use those hashtags. Avoid using general terms like #soccer or #school. The sweet spot for getting discovered are hashtags with 500-500,000 posts. Using hashtags with more than a million posts makes it harder to get found. You can track how many posts by searching the hashtag itself in Instagram.
Instagram makes it easier to see who is using certain hashtags. You can now follow hashtags on the platform like a regular profile. This is a great way to view all the posts with the hashtag in one place. You can also include your hashtags in your bio as clickable hashtags so your followers can view the posts using it on Instagram as well.
How do you get your community involved?
One of the best ways to build your branded hashtags is to encourage your school community to use it on their posts. You can incorporate the hashtag, brand your hashtag graphically, or even run contests on the platform to encourage your followers to use the hashtag! Charlotte Country Day School has done this multiple times and has seen great success.
Try our Free Hashtag Cheat Sheet
Your photos should be capturing the best moments at your school, from the classroom to an open house event, to the most beautiful parts of your campus. Ask yourself which photos best showcase your school’s experience without needing a lot of words to explain. The Nueva School did a great job incorporating photos from their first day of school in this gallery on Instagram.
Incorporate User-Generated Content
As long as you have permission, Instagram is an easy platform to share content from your school community. The American School of Paris incorporated a specific hashtag to share where students were spending their break into their summer Instagram campaign.
Share Real Testimonials and Stories
Not only does your school have its own story, but members of your school community have their own unique stories that contribute to what your school is really all about. Instagram is a great platform to showcase members of your school, from current students, to faculty/staff, and even alumni. Bethel College, for example, recently highlighted the work of one of their alumni.
Be Authentic. Be Creative. And Simply Have Fun.
Instagram is a place where you can really show off what makes your school special, including (or maybe especially!) your mascot. We love how Berkshire School incorporates their Bear mascot into this photo to welcome students back to school.
Just a little over a year ago in our last blog post about Instagram, we narrowed down these five impressive examples. Even in that period of time, Instagram has made some significant updates (with more to come) that tell us it is even more important to include Instagram in your school’s social media strategy.
Here are some important Instagram terms you should know to understand what’s new in the platform.
Galleries: This term is for posts with more than one photo/video in it. This feature of Instagram is like a mini visual photo or video album in a single post. It works well so your profile is not cluttered and similar images can be uploaded together.
Business Profiles: Instagram was built on the foundation of personal profiles, but has evolved (like Facebook) to offer a space strictly for businesses like schools (more later.)
Stories: These work like Snapchat, but for Instagram. You’re able to share real-time posts in your Instagram Story instead of uploading the photos or videos to your feed.
Highlights: If you captured some good photos in your stories and wish they could live on your school’s Instagram profile forever, you’ll want to try Highlights. This feature allows you to group stories together under a category, and can be shared just above your Instagram feed.
RePost App: Repost for Instagram is a free app you can use to share your favorite photos and videos on Instagram while giving credit to the original user. You even have the option of copying the same caption from the original post.
IGTV: According to their press release, “IGTV [is] a new app for watching long-form, vertical video from your favorite Instagram creators. While there’s a stand-alone IGTV app, you’ll also be able to watch from within the Instagram app so the entire community of one billion can use it from the very start.” This basically means you’ll be able to incorporate your longer videos into your Instagram profile, while at the same time, offer a new kind of viewing experience through vertical video — video that is shown vertically on your mobile device (this way viewers don’t have to rotate their phone to view the video on their entire screen).
Here are some of the key updates to be aware of to maximize this platform.
Instagram Business Profiles
Schools, too, are businesses. So if you’re school is using a personal Instagram profile, it is time to make the switch. Why? Instagram Business profiles come with advanced features that can make using Instagram more worth your time and investment, including:
Additional Contact Information
This feature allows followers to get directions to your campus or call your main phone number directly from your Instagram profile. The ‘Contact’ button will appear next to the Following button in the profile information section of the page. Upon clicking the button, users will have the option to get in touch with the business or get directions to their location. Through Instagram’s Insights, you can track the success of your contact information and see how much easier it makes your followers to get in touch with your school.
This feature allows you to see the total number of impressions your posts received in a given time period, your top posts, followers, the days and times they’re engaging with your posts the most, etc. You can also see your engagement results for each post individually and learn more about the demographics of your followers.
Similar to Facebook ads, you have the option of promoting your posts to reach more people. This will not only get more people to see your posts, but can also influence and improve your engagement.
You are only able to have a business account on Instagram if you sync it to a Facebook Business page. Once you have this set up, you’re ready to dive into the features to better understand your followers, engagement, and more.
Ephemeral content -- content that is only available for a short period of time -- is now being found on every social media network. Through Instagram Stories, schools can share in-the-moment content that is archived after twenty four hours. Content shared to stories also won’t appear on your profile grid or in the main Instagram feed, making your profile seem interactive but not cluttered.
As Finalsite’s Events Marketing Manager, this is one of my favorite new features in social because I am able to merge my two favorite things into one. This type of content is perfect for behind the scene footage for events, like open houses, athletic games, concerts, and more. If there are members of your school community who cannot attend but wish they could (basically experiencing FOMO (“Fear Of Missing Out”), they could feel part of the event by watching your stories. It is a great way to give everyone a chance to see what’s happening in real time.
Instagram Stories are more interactive than Snapchat, in comparison, because you can get involved with your story. For example, it allows you to:
- Tag hashtags, which then will lead a user to follow that hashtag on Instagram and see other posts where that hashtag was used
- Create a poll or ask a question to your followers that they can respond to in real time
- Add a location or tag another user in the post to increase engagement
- Swipe up/see more feature can allow you to give a sneak peek then redirect followers to your website
Highline Schools was active this week during a presentation with their superintendent. They incorporated the #highlinepromise and #highlineequity hashtags, and even incorporated a few polls in their story.
Instagram Story Highlights
What if you wanted to keep some of the photos and videos you shared in your story? There’s Instagram Stories Highlights. Unlike regular Instagram Stories that vanish after 24 hours, Instagram Stories Highlights are curated clips grouped together by you and live permanently on your profile until you delete them (source). Keep in mind, you can only add stories that have been posted since this new feature started rolling out last December.
You can organize the highlights by topic, event, department, and more. They will live right above your Instagram feed so they are easily accessible to your visitors. Follow these steps to start building your own:
Step 1: Turn the Auto-Archiving Feature On — this way, your story content is saved automatically in the backend of your profile.
Step 2: Create Your Instagram Stories Highlights — Just go to your Instagram profile and click on the arrow next to “Story Highlights” and then click the “New” button. Select the stories you want part of your story, give it a new title, then publish.
Lawrence School, for example, has their own organization to their stories, including the Lower and Upper schools, Summer activities, Faculty/Staff, and more (and it’s awesome they created branded logos for each of these so the categories are easily recognizable!)
IGTV: The new way to incorporate videos for Instagram
If you have been on Instagram recently, you may have noticed an important new feature integrated in the Instagram app in the top right corner — IGTV. This new app is about a new kind of video experience integrated with Instagram’s platform, giving you more options when it comes to publishing video.
Some benefits of IGTV that schools on Instagram should take note, include the feature being:
- Mobile first: IGTV is built for how you actually use your phone: vertical and full screen. This makes it easier for your followers to watch videos right from their phones.
- Simple and intuitive: It starts playing as soon as you open the app. Users don't have to search or browse to get started, and it's easy to multitask.
- Curated: IGTV is focused on the creators users love most and already follow on Instagram. Your true Instagram fans will see the video content easier in the app.
Schools are already starting to use the new app! Canesius High School, for example, recently used IGTV to broadcast their Robot Competition.
Anyone can be a creator on IGTV and upload videos in the app or on the web, but you don’t want just any video on there. This app is better with long-form video (now competing with YouTube) vs. shorter videos that may be shared in your Instagram story. Your followers can be notified about your new videos, and your video content will show up in their IGTV feed. Want to share a back-to-school video? Go live during your next open house? Or share a parent/student testimonial to your channel? Incorporating video into your social media strategy with IGTV takes your social media to a whole new level.
With these new features in Instagram, your school can take its Instagram profile to the next level of becoming a true, engaging social media platform. These features allow more people to become contributors in your social media strategy. These features also allow you to interact with your social media followers more one-on-one and immediately compared to other platforms and avenues.
Finalsite makes it easy to incorporate your social media content, like Instagram, into your website with Finalsite Feeds. With Feeds, you’re able to promote the content you’re already posting on Instagram but on your website, as well as monitor which content is being pulled into your website.
Ultimately, Instagram is known as the visual social media network. You want to use this platform to tell your school’s story, show your authenticity, have fun with your school’s brand, community, and environment. If you’re new to Instagram or may be looking for some guidance with how to use social media in part of your overall school marketing strategy, our experts can work with you based on your goals!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Events Marketing Manager, Stephanie is passionate about sharing what's happening at Finalsite with all school professionals. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and brings a fresh perspective for marketing with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. Stephanie enjoys helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments.
- Social Media