As enrollment marketers, we are constantly trying to find new ways to reach potential students. The new generation of college students is especially tech-savvy and more aware of marketing techniques on social media, therefore, finding ways to personalize your Instagram content to engage with them may seem challenging.However, some colleges have found success on Instagram by posting unique content that delivers their school’s message in a more appealing way to prospective students, leveraging different types of content on their Instagram (e.g., single photos, carousels, reels, and stories). In fact, a Social Insider study showed that Instagram Reels are the most engaged with content on the app—while single photos are the least effective.
Here’s an overview of some ideas and examples of Instagram posts that can help you effectively engage with potential students and boost your enrollment.
1. High-Quality Campus/Area Shots
It’s important to remember that potential students want to see what life is like on campus and in the surrounding area. This is where they’ll be attending classes, hanging out with friends, working part-time jobs, and much more. Offering a virtual tour of your campus and the surrounding area gives prospective students a taste of your school’s culture and lifestyle, which can ultimately help them determine whether or not they want to sign up for an in-person tour.
Things to consider:
- How can the use of high-quality campus and area shots in a digital marketing strategy enhance the decision-making process for potential students?
- What other visuals might have an influence a prospective student's choice?
Encourage user-generated content when posting campus shots, since photos taken by current students often get more engagement. With that being said, it’s important to only include high-quality photos of your campus on your account. This ensures your account remains reputable, while maintaining a feeling of community involvement. It’s also recommended to take seasonal shots. Showing how your campus changes throughout the year can be a fun way to include additional buildings in your footage such as dorms, sports arenas, and lecture halls.
Example: University of New Haven
2. Student Bios and Interviews
Reading a first-hand testimonial about life on campus can motivate potential students to seek more information, schedule a tour, or even enroll in your college. These videos can tell a story about how the interviewee found the school, the application process, and their life as a current student. This kind of content is also very user-based, meaning that one person could have a wildly different experience than another at your school.
With that in mind, it’s also important to incorporate a diverse background of student biographies. These often describe a student overcoming hardship and finding success at your school or highlight the story of a student’s achievement—whether it be academic, athletic, or professional.
Example: Southern Connecticut State University
Real-life stories of students who have conquered challenges can inspire, motivate, and encourage your potential students to do the same. Southern's Instagram captions share valuable insights and life lessons that resonate with students and create a strong connection with the content. This connection generates interaction and engagement with the posts, empowering others to follow in the footsteps of those who have triumphed over adversity.
3. Sports and Athletics
Sports events often bring people together. Whether it be a love of the game or pride for the school, a strong sense of community is built around rooting for your school during a home game. Promoting that camaraderie on your social channels will entice other students to go to the next game, share the post, and drive more engagement to your school’s page.
Promoting your teams and student-athletes is also important because it drives brand awareness to your school and to the students who participate in those activities. These posts aren’t just beneficial to your school, but to the student-athletes as well. By promoting them on a large platform, it opens the door to a world of scouts, recruiters, and coaches.
Example: Western Connecticut State University
Western Connecticut State University’s posts about their sports teams have informative captions that tell the user who they are playing against, the time and location of the game, and how important the game is toward their overall season. Because of this, posts regarding athletic events tend to do the best on Western’s page, with our example post below driving an engagement rate of 7.3%.
4. Announcements/Campus Events
Apart from sharing photos, Instagram is also a great platform to broadcast information—whether it be cancellations, events, or updates. Instagram’s Stories feature allows you to post this type of content to your page for 24 hours before disappearing, making it the perfect medium to relay this topical information.
While most students are likely to have their sound on when viewing stories, it’s important to include information in the caption and in the video itself in case your Stories are viewed on mute. Promoting events such as move-in day or commencement usually generate the most student engagement. By building up excitement prior to these events, they have the potential to turn into separate campaigns themselves.
Things to consider:
- What are the advantages and challenges of using Instagram's Stories feature to share time-sensitive information, such as cancellations, events, or updates, with a higher education audience?
- How can enrollment marketers ensure the information is accessible and easily understood by all viewers, including those who view the Stories on mute?
- How can building anticipation for events like move-in day or commencement lead to increased student engagement?
Announcements can also be streamlined using campus-specific hashtags that students can follow to receive news about the school. This way, students can receive notifications as soon as you post and view the announcement under one hashtag.
Example: Sacred Heart University
5. Student Organizations and Clubs
Promoting organizations helps students feel recognized and drives awareness to clubs for people with the same interests. It makes prospective students get a glimpse of the different activities available to them and could ultimately play a factor in them taking a campus tour. This is important because it encourages students to get involved and make the most out of their time at college.
While involvement in clubs on campus helps students feel included, getting exposure on the school’s Instagram page makes them feel seen. This not only helps drive engagement by attracting potential students who are interested in a specific activity on your campus, it also boosts your community engagement with current students.
Example: University of Hartford
The University of Hartford utilizes the #FollowFriday campaign to highlight student organizations' and individual students’ personal achievements to drive attention to their accounts. Their use of a popular hashtag, paired with promoting their DECA program, was an effective strategy in earning a 2.2% engagement rate on the Carousel post below.
Implementing the Strategy
These social media strategy examples didn’t just succeed because of one type of content. These schools consistently post a combination of content types, adding their own theme and personality along the way.
Depending on how your audience interacts with your posts, your Instagram page may need to focus on one type of content more than another. For example, some of your students may not want to see announcements on their feed, while others may not want a sports-focused channel. In addition to the content focus, posting different formats (e.g., reels, single photos, stories, or carousels) can make your Instagram page stand out from your competitors. In the end, it’s important to utilize all of Instagram’s features to drive as much engagement to your page as possible.
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