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How to Up Your Enrollment Marketing Game on Instagram

By collegemktgrp | October 12, 2020 | Universities

As a university, trying to figure out which social media platform to use when marketing to prospective college students isn’t easy.

While LinkedIn can be useful for posting about your school, the majority of its users are over the age of 25, and use the platform for job-seeking and networking. Meanwhile, Twitter allows for video and image posts, but limits text to 280 characters.

Many schools are turning to Instagram for their social media marketing strategy because of its quick storytelling capabilities via Stories, visually appealing images and videos, and wordcount flexibility.

With over 1 billion active users, Instagram can be an invaluable platform for your school’s enrollment marketing efforts. Your university is likely primarily targeting 18-23-year-olds, or Generation Z — 88% of which are highly-active Instagram users.

But successfully marketing to college students on Instagram can be tricky. Not only are you competing with content from celebrities and big-name companies, but also with other universities.

From what to post, when to post, to how to measure results, we’ve put together 6 tips for boosting your school’s enrollment marketing campaigns on Instagram.

1. Finetune Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

The first step in using Instagram for enrollment marketing is to fine-tune your overall strategy. Much of what happens in this stage is information gathering.

But what type of information should you gather?

Here are a few things to keep in mind when setting your social media marketing strategy:

Know Your Audience

Gen Z is a unique generation. Make sure to craft your persona of this group by doing interviews and research into what this generation admires and values.

Start with a robust audience persona exploration to understand the following:

  • What messages do your personas need to hear at every stage of the buyer journey — from awareness of your university to consideration and ultimately making a decision?
  • What are their questions, challenges, goals, and aspirations when seeking a university?
  • How can your Instagram content move these verticals through the buyer funnel?

It’s important to not just include faculty and marketing experts in this conversation — draw from your alumni and current student population, too.

Craft a Clear Student Story

What journey can an incoming student expect when they attend your school? Are you cultivating students to be social change makers, or are you preparing them for a corporate professional environment?

Taking a look at your school’s history and alumni outcomes can help prospective students better understand the culture and value propositions of your university.

Figure Out What Makes Your School Stand Out

Is your university a part of a quirky college town? Or are you situated in one of the nation’s largest metropolitan cities?

In addition to uncommon student clubs and world-class teaching and research facilities, you might also want to highlight your school’s most successful alums, or the employment rate of recently graduated students from your engineering, business, or other programs.

Drive Traffic to Your Other Sites

Make sure you’re driving traffic to your university’s website and other social media channels and not just focusing your efforts on one platform.

You can do this by asking your audience to check out the other content you have to offer — maybe it’s watching a longer video on your Facebook page or checking out a landing page on your site about a newly launched student center.

2. Highlight Your School’s Location

The location of your school’s campus is high on the list of considerations for prospective college students. Some students opt for a smaller, cozy campus, while others prefer the energy of a bustling city.

Students want to imagine themselves on your campus, so make sure to post photos that highlight your school’s most popular and scenic spots. Instagram has a variety of filters you can use to highlight buildings or scenery with vibrant backgrounds.

You’ll also want to balance between images that are inside and outside the classroom. A student will most likely spend time in both settings, so highlighting both settings can work to your advantage.

Is there a popular undergraduate class that you want to highlight? A new dining facility? Chances are these locations are consistently packed with students, who make great additions to these landscape photos.

3. Showcase Student Life

College students do more than just sit in a classroom. Posting images of non-classroom activities like sporting events, unique study spaces, and guest speakers are some of the many ideas you should consider for your Instagram profile.

Georgetown University, Iowa State, and Dartmouth College are considered leaders when it comes to marketing their colleges on Instagram. Of these schools, Georgetown has the largest following and has figured out how to effectively engage their students.

These schools excel at showing their students across a variety of locations — from lounging in hammocks on campus to enjoying unique study rooms covered in greenery.

You can also post photos of welcome events, like campus move-ins and even pictures of the beloved campus pet. Moves like this show prospective students that your school has more to offer than just a professor in front of a whiteboard.

4. Pay Attention to the Algorithms

Whether talking about Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, the term “algorithm” can be a headscratcher, but it doesn’t have to be.

Algorithms on Instagram determine the priority with which your posts show up in your followers’ feeds. And this is determined by the type of posts and the other Instagram accounts that your audience engages with the most.

Other factors include the timeliness of your posts, how often you use your Instagram account, and how many people you follow.

For colleges and universities, this equals overall engagement. So how do you outsmart the Instagram algorithm to make sure your content is seen by the masses?

Check out these tips on outsmarting the Instagram algorithm maximizing your posts’ engagement on Instagram:

Tap Into Audience Insights

  • A popular Instagram marketing tool comes in the form of “insights” which gives you key information on your account followers and your account’s overall performance.
  • Here, you can see how many times a post is seen, your peak engagement times, and how often your content is shared.

Keep It Consistent

  • Posting consistently will keep your audience engaged and tip off Instagram’s algorithms that you’re an active account with lots of fresh content.
  • Consider posting at a peak time each week—for Instagram, the best times to post are between Wednesday at 11 a.m. and Friday from 10 a.m.–11 a.m.

Post Visually Striking Content

  • It’s no secret that the most liked and shared content on Instagram is eye-catching.
  • Take advantage of bold colors, breathtaking landscapes, and filters.
  • You could also invest in a professional photographer with a specialization in design to make colors more vibrant or add in additional scenic elements.

Publish Videos and Stories

  • Last year, Instagram Stories passed the 500 million daily user mark.
  • Posting videos and stories show your campus in action and can reach prospective students who are interested in more than just static images.
  • Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours. Luckily, you’re able to share them to your school’s page as a standard post.

Go Live

  • Students want to see that your school’s account is more than just a paid marketing machine.
  • Going live with an Instagram Takeover is a great start for letting your current students engage prospective students through a tour of the campus and popular off-campus locations.

5. Use Hashtags

Hashtags are a sure way to drive your targeted audience to a particular post. Clicking on a hashtag can also show you how popular it is, and which types of posts are using them.

A quick search of the hashtag #financialaid links to multiple school websites, so make sure your tag is distinctive enough to not get lost in the shuffle.

6. Mix It Up

Gen Z uses social media for entertainment and gaming purposes, so your Instagram marketing strategy needs to be fun and take advantage of Instagram’s features. Think short, engaging, and humorous content.

Ads are very common on Instagram, so consider taking a different approach to drive traffic to your website. Students don’t always use social media for college research, but an interesting way to grab their attention is to let them into the process.

One way is to demystify the admissions process. This tactic was used by The University of Virginia’s Associate Dean of Admissions Jeannine Lalonde. She noticed a spike in the university’s website traffic when after mentioning details related to admissions in her blog.

Bringing It Home

There are lots of factors that go into an Instagram marketing strategy, so it’s natural to feel a little overwhelmed.

When in doubt, it’s best to keep it simple. Whether it’s a photo or video, aim for consistently posting content that is engaging and visually striking.

Make sure that you’re balancing between content that showcases the many facets of life at your school. You probably have more to offer than just a lecture hall and state-of-the-art labs, so feature locations that are popular with students and don’t forget to keep the students themselves are front and center.

If you’re looking for other ways to boost your social media efforts, College Marketing Group can help.

Instagram is just one of the many tools to consider in your enrollment marketing toolkit — check out our pages on enrollment marketing strategies for YouTube and the successful features of university Facebook profiles >

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