How to Use Instagram Stories in Higher Education Marketing

Carnegie Higher Ed May 01, 2018 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

As a higher education marketing professional who personally spends far too much time watching Instagram Stories, it wasn’t surprising to me to learn the number of people using Stories has recently grown to over 300 million people daily! What is surprising is how few colleges and universities are utilizing Instagram Stories, both from a paid marketing and organic perspective. Not only is that an incredible stat showing the popularity of Stories, this type of format is a great opportunity to engage with both current and prospective students.

We’ve heard many reasons for an absence on Instagram from our colleagues and clients: lack of bandwidth to produce content, the length of time it takes to create or format content correctly, the brevity of the content, or simply not realizing their target audiences are highly active on the platform. However, I have some great news: Instagram recently made an exciting update to Instagram Stories to automatically transform single photos or videos under 15 seconds to a full-screen format, making it simpler than ever for advertisers who want to test Instagram Stories but lack the time to reformat content for every channel.

Utilizing this update, as well as the tips and best practices below, should help get you started with Instagram Stories if this is a new platform for your institution!

Instagram Stories content should feel organic and doesn’t need to be professionally produced

  • The most successful Instagram Stories ads are the ones that feel native to Stories so the ad blends seamlessly into the user’s feed. Most users aren’t posting professionally produced content to their Stories, so you don’t need to either.
  • Utilize quick and easy tools such as Boomerang and Shakr to create content that looks great but doesn’t break the bank.

…but if you do have professional content, repurpose it!

  • If you do have professionally produced video content from a commercial shoot or an on-campus event, consider utilizing a 15-second (or less) slice from these videos on Instagram Stories. You likely put some significant budget behind the production of these videos, and Stories offers a great way to repurpose that content.

Keep it fun, in the spirit of the platform

  • Don’t be afraid to have some fun with your ads! This can be a great way to showcase the playful side of your school’s personality, and this makes it more engaging to your target audience.
  • We recommend exploring some of Instagram’s fun features such as stickers, GIFs, and fonts. This also helps make your content feel more native to Stories and makes your school and brand more relatable to your target audience.

Utilize your greatest brand advocates: current students

  • It might seem obvious, but tapping into your current student population is a great way to gather content that feels more “raw” and native to the platform. Consider repurposing photos or video clips from students on campus and fun events such as homecoming, sporting events, concerts, and visit weekends.

Use sound when possible

  • 60% of Instagram Stories are viewed with the sound on, which is pretty unique when compared to other social media platforms. This means you can experiment with videos that include people talking in them, as well as videos that just take advantage of background music. There’s a lot of room for flexibility here!

Instagram Stories are relevant for all phases of the marketing funnel

  • Consider using Instagram Stories to reach prospective students at all phases of the funnel. Stories can be great for general branding, but they can also be utilized in a variety of other ways: showcasing campus to push visits or open house events, highlighting upcoming events on campus to current students or alumni, and utilizing student testimonials or videos of campus life during yield.
  • It’s important to remember that Instagram has all the same targeting capabilities of Facebook since the ads are run through the same platform, so you can utilize behavioral targeting, retarget previous site visitors, or reach out to a list of prospects, parents, current students, or alumni.

Keep your logo/school name present throughout the entire story

  • Some Instagram users tend to tap through Instagram Stories after a few seconds, so don’t miss an opportunity to showcase your brand by keeping your school name or logo present throughout the entire video.
  • Pro tip: Use the Facebook Creative Hub tool to preview how your Stories video will appear to users.

If you have any questions about advertising your brand on Instagram or any other social channels, let us know!

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