Have you ever seen a picture that needed no explanation? Throughout history, iconic photos—like from the World War II D-Day invasion, the 1969 moon landing, and more—have helped tell the story of events in a way that words could not. And now, with the emergence of Instagram, anyone in the world can capture the emotion, beauty, and importance of a moment in a single picture.
While Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have been mainstays in alumni relations and annual giving strategies for the last few years, many departments are just now starting to invest resources into Instagram. The photo-sharing app has become a powerhouse in the social media world, with more than 400 million users and over 80 million photos uploaded every day. Instagram is particularly popular with the younger demographic, as over half of millennials use the app daily.
Though you may think that individuals and companies are the only ones doing Instagram well, several educational institutions have taken advantage of Instagram to engage students, alumni, and constituents.
Below is a sampling of five great higher-ed Instagram feeds, plus tips on how to spice up your school’s Instagram presence.
1. Penn State
Over 73,000 followers
Big annual events are a perfect opportunity to showcase your school on Instagram. As you can see above, Penn State shared a photo of graduation on Instagram and garnered thousands of congratulatory likes and comments on the post. It was a great way to capture the excitement of the event, celebrate the newly minted graduates, and help alumni remember their graduation day.
Over 1,400 followers
Reunion weekend is just around the corner so it’s time for an #alumnitakeover!! I’m Jared Greenbaum, #Skidmore Class of 2011!! Since graduating with a Self-Determined Major in Arts Administration, I’ve worked in the entertainment industry @nickelodeontv and #3Arts, and am currently pursuing my MBA @emoryuniversity. I’ve been asked to show y’all a bit of what life is like after Skidmore, though let’s be honest… It’s not #lifeafterskid it’s #skid4life
A photo posted by Life at Skidmore (@lifeatskidmore) on
Skidmore has a general Instagram account, but the college also runs a second feed called “Life at Skidmore” that allows for user takeovers. For an upcoming takeover (see the Instagram post above), an alumnus is going to share his experience at reunion on the “Life at Skidmore” feed. Past takeovers have involved students sharing photos of happenings on campus and their personal experiences at Skidmore.
When creating a college or university Instagram account, it’s important to consider which aspects of the student experience are most visually engaging. Juniata College, for example, does a great job on their feed of highlighting students who are studying abroad and showcasing the beauty of day-to-day student experiences in another country.
A photo posted by University of San Francisco (@usfca) on
While campus and student photos are always popular on Instagram, don’t forget about well-known off-campus spots. University of San Francisco regularly snaps photos of nearby landmarks, giving followers a taste of the gorgeous city and community the university calls home.
Alumni associations aren’t ubiquitous on Instagram just yet, but there are a few that have begun to stand out on the site. Rutgers is one of them. Through Instagram, the Rutgers alumni office is able to promote alumni-specific topics and activities, including their recent giving day.
Ready to get started with Instagram? Here are three points to remember:
- Find unique angles to take your pictures from. Don’t just point and shoot; find a different way of looking at buildings and activities.
- Put the camera in the hands of your students. While we all think we know the minds of our students, you will find that students have a completely different perspective on campus life.
- Bring local flavor into your feed. Alumni want to be reminded not just about campus, but also about the restaurants, stores, and traditions from where they went to school. Broaden your horizons beyond the campus footprint.
If your school isn’t using Instagram, it’s worthwhile to talk to your marketing communications team about the importance of getting on the platform. If you’re already on Instagram, take that next step and think about how your alumni relations and annual giving teams can leverage the app/site to deepen your connection with alumni.
Tim Ponisciak is director of graduate alumni relations at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. Tim also runs the blog Alumni Catalyst and is passionate about promoting how higher-ed institutions can learn from marketing agencies, advertising agencies, and great brands. Tim loves old movies and board games, and is currently trying to visit all 30 major league ballparks.