Struggling to drive engagement toward your college’s Instagram account? These days, it's hard to make your content stand out and drive engagement in the sea of media that gets posted daily. According to a study conducted by Social Insider, the average engagement rate on Instagram for all industries declined by 24.81% from January 2022 to December 2022.
Despite this large drop, however, not every institution is feeling the pain. From student takeovers to Instagram Reels, it seems as if some institutions have found a secret formula for the “Instagram algorithm.”
If you’re interested in organically growing your Instagram page, here are some examples of the most unique college Instagram pages and what makes them so successful.
1. Colorado State University | @coloradostateuniversity
What They’re Doing: Sticking to a Theme
Colorado State University posts aesthetically pleasing, high-quality photos of their current students, campus, and surrounding areas to drive social engagement. Their Instagram page also uses a green theme within the posts, which matches their brand colors and even makes scrolling through their account easy on the viewer’s eyes.
- Followers: 111k
- Engagement Rate: 3.20%
- Average Likes Per Post: 3,227
Why It's Working
Matching your Instagram posts to a similar theme aesthetic is so important to your social media success because it creates brand recognition and ensures originality. Users can easily identify your content from your competitor’s posts that appear on their feeds because they will associate the theme with your college or university. Since building brand awareness is important to any institution, having a theme aesthetic is an easy way to separate your college from others that are trying to compete for the same prospective students.
Having a theme can also make it easier when deciding what type of content to post. If there is a particular aesthetic you’re striving for, having a theme helps narrow down your options.
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2. University of Michigan | @uofmichigan
What They’re Doing: Using Effective Storytelling
The University of Michigan has perfected the art of storytelling through the use of Instagram Reels and coordinated posts. Their Reels are short, highlighting the achievements of students and faculty with clear messaging and minimal dialogue.
The university’s two most engaged Reels in 2023 are short clips of students getting their admission letters, moving in, and participating in campus life as a freshman. As a result, many prospective students interacted with these Reels because they were able to connect to the content on a more personal level.
- Followers: 359k
- Engagement Rate: 1.24%
- Average Likes Per Post: 4.4k per Post
Why It’s Working
Storytelling is a key factor in marketing, especially to students. It helps create a connection between the college and the students—current or prospective. Effective storytelling on Instagram can help drive engagement by communicating the values of the institution through compelling content. Storytelling also helps keep information memorable. Instead of using a long list of facts, effective storytelling keeps the user engaged with the content, while almost leaving them wanting more.
Storytelling through video provides an immersive experience and can convey a wide range of emotions. For example, videos that are fast-paced provide feelings of excitement and energy while slower-paced videos convey calmness and peace. The type of storytelling that will work best for your account largely depends on the tone you want your account to take on.
3. Liberty University | @libertyuniversity
What They’re Doing: Encouraging User-Generated Content
Liberty University takes a more personal approach to its Instagram strategy by posting user-generated content involving alumni, faculty, and current student life. Students' photos are reposted on the official Liberty University Instagram page where their work can drive more attention to the institution.
From athletic action shots to aesthetic campus photos, the students at Liberty University are a powerhouse for creating compelling user-generated content for their school. All niches of campus life are well documented on their page due to the high number of users contributing to the content on Liberty’s Instagram page.
- Followers: 137k
- Engagement Rate: 1.35%
- Average Likes Per Post: 1.8k
Why It’s Working
Leveraging user-generated content drives engagement to Liberty University because it gives the students an opportunity to present their work to an audience larger than themselves. Students responsible for posted content are tagged at the bottom of the caption, driving traffic to their page after Liberty’s post is viewed.
User-generated content gives students the opportunity to deliver your college’s message for you—with little to no work on your end. It can also put a spotlight on amazing people in your community and by including first-hand testimonials about life on-campus for new or prospective students.
4. Southern Connecticut State University | @southernscsu
What They’re Doing: Leveraging Student Bios and Interviews
Southern Connecticut State University’s Instagram page has a large focus on student biographies and interviews. Their posts highlight student journeys and attempt to relate with the student body by explaining the path from hardship to success at Southern.
- Followers: 8.7k
- Engagement Rate: 4.02%
- Average Likes Per Post: 349
Why It’s Working
Reading about a real-life story of a student that has overcome hardships often inspires, motivates, and encourages others to follow in their footsteps. Southern’s Instagram captions always provide valuable insight and life lessons in tandem with the image so students can feel a deep connection with the content and encourage them to interact with the post.
The consistent use of the unique hashtag “#scsufirstgen” drives engagement even further by grouping together all posts about a certain topic, making it easier for users to browse through related content.
5. Syracuse University | @syracuseu
What They’re Doing: Incorporating Short, Concise Captions
Syracuse University’s Instagram captions are typically short, informative, personalized, and relevant. They often use topical slang and sayings unique to the university in their captions, which helps create a strong sense of school pride among its students.
- Followers: 123.7k
- Engagement Rate: 3.85%
- Average Likes Per Post: 4.8k
Why It’s Working
Users are much more likely to interact with a post if the caption is short and digestible. People are probably going to be intimidated by a long block of text on your Instagram post, so they’ll either skim through it, or not read it at all. Using shorter captions allows users to read your message all the way through and makes it easier for the content creator as well.
Using slang like “Cuse for Syracuse,” and sayings such as “Whose House?” in captions for football games creates a sense of camaraderie among students. It connects the Instagram page to the campus culture and shows that the content creator also has school pride.
6. UMass Amherst | @umass
What They’re Doing: Promoting Student Organizations
UMass Amherst’s Instagram page is very group-focused. Almost all of the student/faculty-based photos on UMass Amherst’s Instagram page promote student organizations, sports teams, or clubs. This spreads awareness of the different organizations on campus and encourages students to join.
- Followers: 69.6k
- Engagement Rate: 2.15%
- Average Likes Per Post: 1.5k
Why It’s Working
Posting content about the different activities offered at your institution can help you stand out from other schools. It makes prospective students feel included in campus culture by showing possible groups of people that share interests with them. Though some activities may see higher engagement rates than others, showing off your campus’s diverse offerings can ultimately attract prospective students to your school.
This social media strategy is also important for current students because it encourages them to get involved at the school. It can help them to meet new friends, get in front of potential employers, or even build up their resume. Promoting these activities shows that your institution cares for its students and recognizes active members of the community, which can help drive organic traffic.
7. Texas A&M University | @tamu
What They’re Doing: Utilizing Event Promotion
Texas A&M University’s Instagram page is mainly used to announce future and past events around campus. From guest speakers to open houses, TAMU utilizes its page to ensure students are aware of ongoing campus events. After an event has passed, they include a follow-up post that includes an image or video of students having a great time at the event, inviting viewers to join the next event.
- Followers: 353.5k
- Engagement Rate: 4.02%
- Average Likes Per Post: 14.2k
Why It’s Working
Promoting an event on Instagram allows users to get an idea of what to expect before actually attending. Promotion content is also easily shareable between users, generating more organic traffic toward the post and your school’s account. Users are more likely to share user-generated content after the event if they had a good time, expanding your brand’s awareness and reach.
There are many ways to promote events on Instagram. Whether it’s through Stories, Carousels, or Reels, Instagram is the perfect tool for school event promotion. Depending on how large your audience is, you might want to consider how many times a week you post your promotional content. We recommend at least 3 times a week for pages with less than 10,000 followers.
How You Can Apply These Techniques
After studying what these 7 college Instagram accounts are doing to drive engagement on Instagram, you should have a good grasp on what makes a successful post. These examples aren’t successful because of one of these techniques. Instead, they’re successful because they found the right combination of all of these strategies.
While your page may need to focus on leveraging student bios and interviews, it can also be beneficial to also encourage user-generated content for these bios. As a result, it’s important to gauge where your institution’s Instagram page might be lacking before posting.
Growing a booming Instagram page for your institution doesn’t happen overnight, but the biggest key here is consistency and patience. It takes time to create a well-curated account that’s authentic and unique. Each of these Instagram page examples has its own personality, so it’s up to you to create a page that personally engages with your campus culture. Trying to copy another university’s page is not sustainable or entertaining for the students or the content creator.
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