One of the most common questions I hear from our social media managers across campus is, “Should our department have an Instagram account?” My usual response is that it depends on how much time you have to devote to Instagram, and how much visual content you have to share. In other words, you will need a lot of time and effort. Simply having an account and casually sharing your favorite photos is not enough these days. You have to be active, intentional and innovative to catch the attention of today and tomorrow’s students.
In Public Affairs and Marketing, we’ve spent the past year focused on improving the Hope College Instagram account with more Stories, more and better multimedia content, and enhancing awareness for Hope’s academic excellence and vibrant campus life. Over the 12 months, with roughly the same number of posts, our effort has translated to more than 2,000 new followers and 22,000 more likes and comments than in the previous year.
A recent national survey of high school students reports as many as 85% of high school juniors use Instagram daily.
Here’s what we’ve been doing to make our Instagram account more Admissions-focused, while not forgetting the on-campus community that brings our Instagram to life:
More story-telling for prospective students
A recent national survey of high school students reports as many as 85% of high school juniors use Instagram daily. These students are in the thick of their college search process, which means Instagram can be a powerful tool to reach and attract prospective students to Hope.
It’s no secret Instagram is great for sharing campus photography and video, but sometimes one or even ten photos can’t convey the mood or an idea the way a story can. Our social team began using Instagram Stories back in 2018 to showcase some of our most requested information such as “What’s involved in a campus tour?” and “What do the res halls look like?” Stories allow us to piece together photos and videos into a sequence that tells a larger story. And, we’re involving our current students in the process. They’ve taken our followers on virtual campus tours, shared what their rooms look like, what their clubs are up to, and more! We even save the best Stories as videos and post them to the Hope College YouTube account so they can be shared again.
Social media takeovers have been a thing at Hope since 2016 when we launched our Snapchat account, but we’re doing this more frequently and strategically in 2019 by engaging with students to serve as ambassadors. These ambassadors, who represent departments, clubs and groups across campus, take over our Instagram for a day to highlight a special event, activity or theme. That’s right — we give students full access the college’s Story for up to 24 hours. But that’s so risky allowing students to have access to the college’s Instagram… you say. Yes, it is risky. But there’s also great reward in having authentic content for students, by students. According to the 2019 E-expectations Trend Report, 45% of high school students find student social media takeovers the most interesting content we can deliver.
In August, we finally reached 10,000 followers on Instagram. This was a big deal for us because this magic number unlocked the “swipe up” feature in our account. This means we can now embed a website link within our story to share additional information about Hope such as a link to the Common Application, details about Hope’s residential and student life, our faith community, financial aid information, and more!
Custom landing page
One of the appeals of Instagram is that it has maintained a mostly visual focus without the information clutter of other platforms like Twitter and Facebook. But sometimes, the very thing that keeps Instagram clutter-free — the lack of external information — limits our ability to share important details with our followers and people who are just learning about Hope.
For example, when we post a photo from one of our Anchor Days, wouldn’t it be great to also share a link to sign up for our next one? That’s where our landing page comes in! We’re using the URL in our profile to send users to a landing page that offers only links to some of our most-requested Admissions information such as how to apply, how to request more information and visit campus.
Instagram highlights are curated groupings of content from our Stories that our users can check out anytime, unlike Stories which are only available for 24 hours. And, because of their prime location right under our bio and above our photos, it’s an easy place to direct prospective students and parents to groupings of some of our most requested information.
New bling for stories
Another exciting advancement for the Hope Instagram account is the addition of Hope-branded Giphy stickers for Stories. These fun animated graphics are publicly searchable on Instagram, so anyone can use them to show their support and pride for Hope College. Speaking of Giphy, we also now have a Hope College brand channel that we’ll be adding fun Hope College GIFs to this year.
As we kick off another academic year at Hope, I’m excited to watch our Instagram account serve as a highlight reel for our amazing campus community, and I can’t wait to see how this will translate into increased interest for Hope from prospective students and families.
To learn more about Hope’s social media strategy or how to use social media to increase awareness for your department, contact Elizabeth Council.