For college students, August is a time to pack up, head back to leafy campuses, and settle in for a new semester of fun and adventure. For colleges themselves, school is always in session, especially on social media, where institutes of higher learning share student life through visual storytelling. One of the hottest platforms for universities to express their culture is Instagram, which has grown to 700 million monthly users partly for speaking the visual language of the digital generation. Earlier this year, we provided some tips for how colleges should capitalize on Instagram. Now let’s look at some best practices. Here are a few examples of how colleges master Instagram:
Expressing a Culture
Sometimes colleges can seem like faceless institutions especially for high school students and their families thumbing through piles of literature as they consider their options. Instagram helps universities make their personalities shine. Many colleges do an outstanding job relying on photos and video to give you a taste of student life, events, and their campuses. Penn State is a great example. The university wisely makes liberal use of its photogenic Nittany Lion mascot to commemorate playful events such as #WorldChocolateDay:
Special events such as the #HappyValleyJam concert receive their share of visual love:
Penn State also tells the stories of its students whether during the school year or their summer travels:
And Penn State simply makes its campus a desirable, activity-filled place to be – who wouldn’t enjoy #SandcastleDay on campus?:
For Penn State, Instagram is a treasure trove of images that invite students to learn more about its culture.
Colleges give back to their communities all the time. By sharing their stories on Instagram, they encourage you to do the same. For instance, the University of Illinois has used Instagram to help the University’s Illini 4000 non-profit organization raise money for cancer research by biking coast to coast:
Over a period of 76 days and 4,370 miles, the university chronicled the progress of the Illini 4000 as they bicycled from New York to San Francisco. The university also cross-promoted the Illini 4000’s Instagram account to drive traffic for donors who wished to give as well as follow their journey:
As of August, the Illini 4000 had raised more than $100,000. Well done!
Colleges love to celebrate their students on Instagram, as well they should. You don’t have to look very hard to find excellent Instagram accounts featuring happy students learning, traveling, working out, hanging out, and generally enjoying life — University of Nebraska, we’re looking at you!
Harvard University demonstrates a best practice by highlighting the accomplishments of its students. For example, the following image gives a shout-out to Jonny Kim, an emergency medicine resident who has been named to NASA’s 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class.
Note that Harvard discusses Jonny’s background and accomplishments with a well written description accompanying the image, and Harvard cross-links to relevant Instagram accounts that are part of his story. This example is but one of many ways Harvard celebrates the accomplishments of current and past students. Harvard is certainly not the only university to do so, but it sets a high bar for many others to emulate.
Sharing the Curriculum
How do you visualize your curriculum? Doing so is easy on Instagram! Many colleges give you a taste of their classes by zeroing in on field research and lab work. The University of Rochester is a case in point. The university prides itself in its research program, and its Instagram account reflects that pride. In the following example, the university describes how student Meghan Patrick is working as a summer intern in the mechanical engineering lab of Douglas Kelley as part of her research into developing sustainable energy:
Meanwhile, student Madison Carter is researching how public art influences social interactions in the city of Rochester:
The university’s Instagram account abounds with examples like these. As is the case with Harvard, the University of Rochester shares insightful narrative behind the images, too. The university sends a strong message: learning takes place everywhere, well beyond the campus classroom setting.
Universities hustle to show you how beautiful their campuses are. The University of Minnesota doesn’t shy away from showing off its Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, designed by Frank Gehry:
Boston University frequently reminds you of its distinctive location:
Stanford University is a standout for using Instagram to give you a visual glimpse of different aspects of its renowned campus and deserves kudos for experimenting with black-and-white photography:
As we discussed earlier this year, Instagram provides plenty of tools for institutes of higher learning to maximize their visual appeal. To learn more about how to use visual storytelling on social media to build your collegiate brand, contact KeywordFirst – we’re happy to help.