Instagram Aesthetic Trend for School Marketers - Curated User-Generated Content

This is the third installment in a series on Instagram aesthetic trends for 2020. Click here to view #1 Instagram Aesthetic Trend for School Marketers – Treat Your Grid Like Your Homepage.

User generated content (UGC) isn’t the newest trend in social media, but it’s definitely taking Instagram by storm in 2020. It’s likely you are already seeing, receiving, and sharing UGC because it’s simply a way of describing marketing content created by your community. User generated content can take the form of photos, videos, or other media created and shared by your school community. UGC is a powerful way to connect with and engage with both existing and prospective families as well as help your ultimate goal of increasing enrollment.

Why Is UGC Important for Schools?

User generated content has become an integral part of digital marketing, particularly inbound marketing, because it lets the user demonstrate what your school means to them. UGC is genuine and honest portrayals related to your school shared by followers and fans. It can be as simple as a student tagging a photo in Instagram Stories or a YouTube video featuring an activity at your school.

Do you remember those personalized Coke bottles and cans with people’s names on them? Chances are you didn’t first discover them from a TV ad. You probably found out about it from a friend or family member sharing a photo holding a bottle with their name on it. They might have even posted their picture on social media. This is a prime example of how user generated content can provide incredible results for a brand.

Research shows that 85 percent of users say visual UGC has a greater impact on their decision making than brand-generated photos or videos. Essentially, UGC is a personal recommendation that provides a gold-star endorsement of your school. This is especially true for millennials, who are highly active on Instagram.

Free Source of Content

Creating content takes time, effort, and budget. Photography, videography, graphic design and copywriting can take up a large part of your marketing staff’s time. Utilizing quality, creative content from your school community can reduce the stress and cost of content creation.

Your Audience Will Love It

Seeing a positive piece of content generated by someone in your school community can essentially act as an endorsement or testimonial for your school. Since parents are always more likely to trust peer reviews more than the information you provide about your school you can rest assured your audience will LOVE seeing content they’ve generated or from other members of your school community.

People love having their content praised and shared, especially on social media! You’ll find most of your school community will be more than happy to have their content shared, making your content more varied and creative. Plus, it’s content you don’t have to create!

The tricky part of user generated content is sourcing, collecting, and reposting the right UGC so you’re always sharing top-quality content that’s aligned with your school’s branding and overall aesthetic.

Best Practices for UGC Marketing

Before I jump into how to integrate user generated content into your marketing strategy, there are a few things to keep in mind. These tips will not only help you think strategically about UGC but ensure you’re serving your audience in the best possible way.

Be Original

It’s important your user generated content stand out and be original. Start by analyzing how other schools are using UGC. Do you want to follow their lead? What can you do differently to stand out?

Be Authentic

Social authenticity is a growing trend on social media; stay with this trend by sharing authentic user generated content on your social channels. Audiences today prefer “real-life” content, especially Millennials and GenZers.

Be Purposeful

Take the time to curate UGC that serves a purpose and gives value to your audience. Before you share user generated content, consider how it will benefit current and prospective families who will be viewing it.

Seek Diversity

Not only is this best practice focusing on inclusivity and celebrating diversity, but it also allows you to reach a wider audience.

Encourage a diverse range of users to make your school more relatable to a wider audience while making your school feel more accessible.

Build Community

User generated content is all about building community and supporting engagement, so if you’re looking to harness its power, you need to make sure your audience feels they’re a part of something bigger and their contributions are significant.

Make It Memorable

It goes without saying your user generated content should be entertaining, memorable and shareable. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen a trend of brands reposting Tweets from followers in their Instagram feed.

Share Stories

Sharing user generated content on your Instagram feed can be a great way to connect with your audience on a more personal level – especially when it comes to sharing student-related stories.

Parents are looking for a place where their family will fit in; they want to know you share their values, priorities, and ethics. Look for user generated content that tells the story of a student or family and the impact your school had on them. Read more: Storytelling is Key to Forming Strong Connections with Parents

Share Funny Tweets

One strategy brands are using these days is to find humorous tweets related to their brand, taking a screenshot and then reposting on Instagram in the correct 1080 x 1080 pixel format (use your favorite graphic design program like Canva to create a graphic with the right dimensions).

Always Credit the Original Source

An essential best practice for sharing user generated content is to acknowledge the original content creator. Be sure to ask permission and credit the content creator by tagging them.

How to Source UGC

There’s likely user generated content already out there on the internet – you just have to find it.

Search for Your School Hashtag

If you have a school hashtag, this is a great place to start. Type it into your social media channels and see what public posts have been tagged with your hashtag. Keep in mind content from private profiles will not show until you are following them. Additional tip: not every user will use your school’s hashtag correctly, so be sure to check out similar or related hashtags. And, make sure you ask for permission before you use their content through a DM or comment.

You can register your school hashtag on Twubs or, but that doesn’t keep other people from using it. You can’t own a hashtag like a domain; registering a hashtag just stakes your claim to a hashtag and adds it to a hashtag directory.

You can set up Google Alerts or use social monitoring tools to search for your school hashtag or mentions of your school. Click here for 10 Tools to Use to Monitor Your School’s Online Presence.

Support a School Event with UGC

When it comes to school events, user generated content can be one of the best things going for marketing. Invite people to post their content using your school’s hashtag and even a hashtag you’ve created for your event. Publicize your hashtags along with your event publicity and watch fresh, exciting, new content be posted on social media channels.

Pair UGC With Your School’s Philosophy

Authenticity is one of the hottest trends in social media today. One way to encourage user generated content is to pair your school with your mission or philosophy and invite people to share how their personal experiences or views mirror your school’s. For example, if your school has a strong altruistic mission, you could invite people to share – and tag – content related to ways people are helping others and showing compassion in your community.

Use Location Tagging

You will be able to see when someone with a public profile checks into your school’s location even if they haven’t tagged your school or used your hashtag. Simply look up your school as a “Place” and you’ll be able to see content that has checked in to that location.


You’ll receive a notification on social media networks when users have tagged your school in their posts. Keep an eye on these as you’re likely to be tagged when someone posts some great content that you can ask to repost.

Ask For It

You can always ask your audience to share their photos. You’ll find many people happy to get involved. Need an extra incentive? Turn it into a competition! Ask your community to submit school photos and offer a prize for the best results. You can even ask for local sponsors to help build partnerships with local merchants.

Incorporating user generated content into your social strategy will be a game-changer. Not only will it save you a ton of time on content creation, but it will also help you engage with your followers and attract new ones. UGC can be valuable for your school, especially when it comes to growing a loyal following and reaching prospective parents.

Are you using user generating content for your school marketing? Please share your ideas and experiences with UGC in the comments below…

About the author 

Brendan Schneider

Hey, I’m Brendan, and this is my blog. After 28 years working in private, independent schools in mostly admissions, enrollment, marketing, communications, and fundraising roles, I decided to make SchneiderB Media my full-time job, where I help schools get more inquiries through my Fractional Digital Marketer program. I also started the MarCom Society, a membership created expressly to help, support, and train marketing and communications professionals at schools.

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