If you really want to connect with students and parents, having an Instagram account is essential.
Here’s why. As of June 2018, the number of Instagram users reached 1 billion active users, up from 800 million a year ago. (Statista) More than 90 percent of Instagrammers are under the age of 35, the target audience for many independent schools.
Instagram is a social network built around photo sharing, captions, and comments. It’s easy to upload photos and quickly edit them to make them high-quality or give them a unique look using filters. One of the great advantages of Instagram is the prolific use of hashtags, making it easier for potential followers to find your account.
Instagram is an especially relevant social platform for schools for three reasons.
Instagram has been invaded by parents
Many students consider Instagram to be outdated and unfashionable, mostly because it’s where their parents hang out. While there are still teenagers that enjoy the experience of posting photos, there is a growing preference for parents to use Instagram.
You can showcase your school
Instagram is a place where you can demonstrate how special your school is using pictures and short videos. In essence, you can show, not tell, about the extraordinary qualities of your school.
You can build a community
Garnering inquiries and enrollments is all about building relationships with people. By creating a school-specific group or using a designated hashtag, you can share your images and videos with a group of students, teacher, and parents. Try sharing pictures from school events, graduation ceremonies, field trips, classroom activities and more. You can even ask your community to participate by posting their own images.
Most marketers will tell you that, in order to grow your Instagram account to 1,000 followers or more, the most important thing you need is great content.
Instagram is a highly visual platform, and having a successful account depends on your ability to publish eye-catching and engaging images. But appealing pictures are only part of the equation. There are lots of schools that publish great content but overlook a few key tactics that can help them build their audience faster than usual.
Here are six strategies you can use to get your first 1,000 followers on Instagram.
Strategy #1. Promote your account on your other channels
This may seem like a no-brainer, but a surprising number of school Instagram accounts forget to make sure they promote their Instagram account on their website and other social networks. Create an “evergreen” type of post that you can republish regularly on your social networks that invites people to join you on Instagram.
Strategy #2. Exchange “Shout Out For Shout Out” (S4S) with other accounts
S4S is an acronym that means “Shout Out for Shout Out” or “Share for Share” on Instagram. This is where you promote another account in your own Instagram Feed and call the other entity out so they will return the favor. The best way to exchange S4S is to private message other accounts and ask if they would be interested in exchanging shout outs with you.
Want to connect with other schools that are on Instagram? Click here to follow other independent schools on Instagram.
Strategy # 3. Run an Instagram contest
Contests are an effective way to build awareness for your school, generate engagement and drive a serious return on investment. Here are a few contest examples to get you started:
“Tag a Friend” contest
Set a time limit and give a prize people really want. Give them directions on how to enter. For example, “How to enter: Like this photo @ tag 2 friends.”
“Submit a photo” contest
Invite followers to post a photo (you choose the photo category). Create a designated hashtag and instruct entrants to use your tag. The photo with the most “Likes” will win, so tag your friends and tell them to vote for your photo. Let people know what the grand prize will be and consider giving prizes to 2nd and 3rd place winners.
“Raise funds for a good cause” contest
Consider raising funds for a local charity or a scholarship for your school. Invite entrants to:
- Follow your school’s Instagram account
- Capture a photo that demonstrates how they (and their family) are making a positive difference
- Ask them to include your designated hashtag
- Invite them to pledge their support to the cause
This is a good way to build a partnership with a local merchant that cares about your school. Invite entrants to post themselves either wearing or using a product that your local merchant sells and set up winning criteria. For example, enlist a local hair salon to give a free hair style makeover in exchange for new followers. Designate a contest hashtag and invite people to submit a picture of themselves and what their dream hair style would be if they won. Require them to tag at least 2 friends who they think might frequent the hair salon. The person with the most votes wins!
Partnered promotions are great! They boost engagement and allow you to build a relationship with a local business. The cross-promotion will be good for your school and the merchant.
Create a recipe contest
Choose a recipe category that fits with your school (i.e., a recipe children can cook or one you can make as a family). Have them take a picture of their child or family cooking together. Entrants must submit the recipe and the picture of the child or family cooking using a designated hashtag. Let them know the criteria the judges will use to judge the winner. Give a prize that encourages families to cook together, such as a kitchen appliance.
“Show Us Your XX” contest
This is a fun contest where you choose something – like a family activity, a family participating in a school activity or a space that promotes healthy family interaction (bookshelf of family-friendly books, music room, outdoor game area, etc.) – and ask people to upload an image that portrays the subject matter. They have to follow your school, include the designated hashtag and tag at least 2 friends of course. You can add bonus actions to help spread the engagement further and generate more followers. Winners can be randomly selected, or you can establish criteria.
Set up a recurrence period (i.e., every Friday) and run a GIVEAWAY FRIDAY contest. Give away smaller prizes on a more frequent basis, keeping your audience interest high and costs relatively low. This is another good way to partner with a local merchant. Make it simple to enter, such as:
- FOLLOW @yourschool
- LIKE this photo
- TAG 3 friends
- Winners will be announced next Tuesday XX/XX/XXXX.
Strategy #4. Use a call-to-action (CTA)
People will respond when you tell them what you want them to do. Do you want them to Like your posts? Tag their friends? The best way to get people to take action is to tell them what you want them to do.
Strategy #5. Vary your caption length
Most accounts use short-and-sweet captions in Instagram, but this is not a requirement. You can take extra time and write up a mini-blog type of caption on a topic that is meaningful to your audience – like maybe a parenting-related topic that you think they might be struggling with. Design a compelling image or video to go with the extra-long post and see if you garner more engagement on it.
Strategy #6. Capitalize on popular, relevant hashtags
Hashtags are a big part of the Instagram culture. Hashtags, or “tags” for short, are used for search purposes as well as to emphasize a point. Sites like Hashtagify.me or Tagboard will help you uncover the most popular hashtags and the ones most worth using. Click here to learn more about researching hashtags for social media…
Instagram boasts 1 billion monthly active users; 500 million Instagram users are on it every day. The Like button is clicked an average of 4.2 billion times per day, and 63 percent earn more than $50,000 per year. It’s no wonder that most independent schools are tapping into this rich resource by sharing their stories and connecting with their audience.
I’m confident you can grow your Instagram to 1,000 followers – and more – using the above six strategies. In order to make this happen, though, you need to take action. So get busy – and watch your Instagram account audience grow!
Want more Instagram-related content on SchneiderB Media? Check out these popular posts:
- 4 Ways to Gain Followers for Your School on Instagram
- Top 8 Instagram Apps for Schools
- 10 Ways to Design an Attractive Instagram Feed for Your School
- Facebook Live VS Instagram Live: How to Utilize Livestreaming to Their Fullest Potential
- The Ultimate Guide for Growing Your School’s Instagram Following
- How to Use Instagram Video to Help Your School on Social Media
What are your favorite Instagram audience build strategies? What strategies should I have included in this post but didn’t? Please comment below and help the rest of the school marketing community grow their Instagram accounts to 1,000 and above!
Also published on Medium.