Hopefully, you know about Instagram—it’s the photo-sharing, mobile-based, social platform that appeals to every generation from x to z. But when it comes to social media for schools, many school administrators may question whether or not the return on investment makes it worth the time and effort it requires to manage it.
Let’s address the main question first…
Should your school have an Instagram?
Instagram has always been a great place to show off your school. But with the addition (and encouragement) of video content, Instagram is becoming a great place to tell your school stories! And at School Webmasters, we’re huge proponents of sharing your school’s stories! It’s not only excellent public relations, it’s imperative for your school marketing.
Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users and over 500 million daily active story users. The majority of Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 44 years old. The largest percentage of that group was 25–34. By those stats alone, your school should strongly consider having a presence on the platform.
But let’s talk about those school PR and marketing perks a little more. Images of your classrooms, students, programs, and campus will speak volumes about your school culture, assuring currently enrolled students and their parents that they are in the right place and inviting potential parents to picture their children and future students to picture themselves at your school.
Yes. Your school should be on Instagram.
Basic Instagram activity includes posting to your feed. (See our article about using your Instagram effectively with basic posts.) In this blog, we’ll cover some of the newer Instagram features your school might not be utilizing yet, including stories and highlights.
How to use Instagram Stories for schools
An Instagram story is a clip (video or still frame) that can be viewed on your profile or on your followers’ feeds in the circles at the top. These clips are 10 seconds long each, but you can post as many as you want in sequence. Stories only show on your page for 24 hours before they disappear (unless you save your content as a story highlight—more on that later).
Stories are great for casual content such as events, sports highlights, classroom sneak peeks, or other day-in-the-life moments at your school. Several experts recommend not overproducing your stories. In fact, the more authentic, the better. Sometimes it’s hard for schools to post something that isn’t perfect, but remember, your story only lives for 24 hours.
And stories don’t have to be long! According to Rival IQ, around 30% of story activity in 2020 was just one frame, with an average of three frames. Instagram stories are more popular than Snapchat, despite the fact that Snapchat introduced the photo story model.
Story analytics include reach, which tracks how many different accounts have watched your story, and impressions, which track how many views (including rewatches) your story has had. The “reach rate” of an Instagram post is about 13–27% compared to 2–9% of stories. You could chalk that percentage up to your audience following a large number of profiles. The point is, you don’t want your content to be lost. So, because your audience may be watching stories instead of scrolling through their feed, it’s worth posting a story, even if it’s just to spotlight your latest post. If your audience doesn’t want to miss your content, they will navigate from your story to your post.
Stories are an excellent way to drive engagement from your followers. Story interactions are measured by taps forward (skipping the current story to see the next one), taps backward (like a rewind to see the previous story in the sequence), swipes down or exits, and replies or swipes up (these can be comments or an action to follow the link to the content provided in the story). Because of their time-sensitive nature, stories can be used to announce an event or activity or countdown to a big event. Anything that may feel outdated posted to your permanent feed would be excellent content for stories.
On that note, any content that your school takes careful time and effort to produce should probably be saved to your Instagram profile as a post, reel, or video—not a story. Stories are temporary and posts live on your school’s Instagram profile forever. Video clips that you might create for permanent posting include promotional videos, testimonial videos, interviews and spotlights of employees, and program spotlight videos.
Instagram Highlights for your school profile
Highlights are story clips that you’ve saved to your Instagram profile permanently. Visitors to your Instagram profile can see your highlights under your main bio. Highlights are an awesome way to showcase and promote your school. Paramus Public Schools’ Instagram profile is a great example to use highlights.
We recommend making these profile highlights intentionally and using them strategically. Intentionally means thinking about your categories ahead of time and creating specific, branded icons for each category. Strategically means choosing categories that will best reflect your school’s culture and help profile visitors understand what you’re all about. Here are some categories to consider:
- About us
- Life at [school name]
- Contact us
- Registration or enrollment
Keep in mind that your highlight content should be evergreen. That means if it’s not going to be relevant in six months, it probably doesn’t deserve a permanent spot on your highlights. That being said, you could create temporary highlights for specific events or campaigns as long as you remember to remove them when they are no longer relevant. You wouldn’t want a visitor to your profile coming across outdated information—it doesn’t make a good impression.
We also recommend not creating too many categories. Plan ahead for how many highlight icons you’ll have on your profile. You’ll want to add new, relevant clips to your highlights and delete any outdated content. Too many highlights become too hard to manage, so try and keep it simple.
What About Reels and Video?
A reel is a short-form video that mimics TikTok’s platform. Reels can be up to 60 seconds long and be a single clip or multiple clips edited together. According to LemonLight, “Reels viewers are looking for content that’s either entertaining, educational, or a mix of both, and they’re attracted to authentic content over content that looks scripted or formal.” While reels could be a good option for some schools, reels probably don’t fit the needs of most schools. If you’re wondering about putting time and effort into reels, a survey of your Instagram community might be a good place to start.
Instagram video (previously known as InstagramTV or IGTV) is a place for long-form video content that can last up to 15 minutes if you post from your mobile device or 60 minutes if you post from a desktop. If your school already has a youtube channel, it may be worthwhile to post your videos to your Instagram video as well. If your school isn’t already in the habit of creating videos, then Instagram stories will probably give your school more return on investment than starting with videos.
New Tips for Managing Your School Instagram
Our number one tip for managing your school Instagram is don’t try to do it on your own!
Let’s be honest. You have a million things to do already! For social media to succeed, you need to give it attention daily. And we’ve just told you it’s not enough to post to Instagram. If you want to amp up your PR and marketing efforts, you must use stories! Do you really need that kind of stress in your life?
Instagram is designed for photos to be posted straight from an app on your phone or tablet. From our experience, the on-the-go nature of Instagram makes managing their own Instagram account intimidating to school personnel who like to be able to review and edit content before anything goes live on social media. While you can post from a desktop computer, the execution is a little time-consuming and clunky, especially when it comes to stories.
That’s why working with us is such a great idea—especially when it comes to Instagram! Your school admin can review photos and text before sending it to your School Webmaster’s social media manager who then takes care of the hard part—getting everything set up and posted to your social media platforms. Our social media managers are trained and practiced in school social media and managing your posts, stories, and highlights. It’s what they do best.
If you insist on doing it yourself, here are a few other tips to help you.
Attend events and get inside the classrooms! Take photos and short videos and send them to your social media manager who will add a fun caption and a branded hashtag and schedule it to post it to your account. If you’re unsure about things to post, get to know your audience and put yourself in their shoes. If I were a parent of a kindergarten student, what would I want to see? I would want to know my child is in the best possible environment for them.
Your Instagram feed should reflect your school’s unique personality. Give your audience a taste of what’s going on inside the classroom, how your teachers interact with the kids, and how the administration supports the staff and students. Feature your unique programs, events, and extracurricular activities. Post photos of your students working and playing, videos of story time and show and tell, and parents and other community members volunteering on campus.
If you don’t have a designated staff member with the time to attend events and take photos and videos, send me an email inquiring about our PR4 School service. We have a wonderful, affordable way for your school to get feet on the ground to help your school’s communication efforts.
One thing we absolutely love about Instagram stories is their potential for engagement. Use reaction emojis, polls, yes or no questions, weblinks, and question stickers, and highlight answers to engage your followers. Questions, polls, and countdown clocks are also great features to get your followers excited about and involved with your Instagram profiles.
For regular posts, keep in mind that crafting an effective caption to go with your images can be the difference between engagement and no engagement. Since Instagram’s algorithm favors posts with more engagement, your captions play a key role in pushing your posts up higher in your follower’s feeds.
Hashtags were originally created as a way for users to search related posts; by now, they’ve developed into a bit of an art form! Your captions and stories should include hashtags. Use them wisely. Overuse of hashtags can land you in Instagram jail. Use them to target your audience, spread your brand, and help your posts show up in searches that relate to your school.
It’s an excellent idea to create an original hashtag for your school. It can be generic, like your school’s name or mascot (#GoTigers), or you can create a hashtag for a specific event (#RPSFunRun). You can even center a schoolwide social media campaign around an original hashtag. And it doesn’t hurt to do a little research and find some local, trending hashtags that can help your school be found.
Another great way to be found on Instagram is to add location stickers when appropriate. Stories with location stickers are added to feeds for people in surrounding areas. It’s a great way to be found by new viewers.
Engage with others.
Chances are very good that the businesses and organizations in your community are on Instagram. Spend a little time searching for them so you can follow their pages. This will often result in them following you in return. It’s an excellent way to build goodwill and circulate your school’s brand around your area.
When you have the opportunity, tag these pages in your captions and stories simply by placing the “@” sign before their page’s name (e.g, @mimphx). Tagging fellow Instagram users is a nice way to give them a shout-out when they get involved with your school. Did a local restaurant host a “food around town” night, donating the proceeds to your school? Snap a photo at the event, post it, and tag their business in the caption. Making friends in the community is an important part of every school’s public relations strategy.
One great way to engage with others is to share their content in your stories. You can spotlight other relevant Instagram profiles (like the school band, football team, or local library profiles).
And don’t forget to respond to comments and reply to any direct messages!
Between highlights, stories, and basic posts, there’s a lot to keep track of to manage your school’s Instagram well. Celebrate your wins (big and small). Promote your programs and events. There is always something going on at your school, and your school community would love to hear about it. Instagram is such a fun way to share your school photos, announcements, and stories!
Instagram easily pairs with Facebook, and schools using both can expand their audience by reaching parents and students alike since each platform tends to attract a different age group. If building a tight-knit school community is your goal, Instagram can help you do it.
Here at School Webmasters, we work continuously to offer our clients the most relevant online communication services possible. Social media is ever-changing, and we must change with it! We’ve recently added extended Instagram management to our list of services—something we’re really excited about.
We all know it can be hard to ask for help! However, using Instagram as a part of your school’s communication, public relations, and marketing strategy is time-consuming. E-mail me at Katie@SchoolWebmasters.com to learn more about how School Webmasters can help your school use social media to tell your stories and build community. I look forward to hearing from you!