5 Higher Education Marketing Strategies

Every day universities and colleges are coming up with exciting, innovative courses for the millions of motivated students all over the world. The higher education space is being redefined by innovation in design, delivery and employability for many diplomas and degrees. Education experts have the resources they need to craft, test and rollout cutting edge online degree programs.

However, without adequate marketing, student enrollment numbers often struggle to meet and exceed expectations.

That’s why higher education institutions are bringing on board creative communication and marketing professionals to keep their institutions and programs visible and desirable. Unique higher education marketing strategies help raise awareness of courses and programs while bringing in new students and resources needed to sustain online programs.

Institutions are moving beyond the traditional brochures, magazines and billboards and are instead pushing resources towards appealing to the constantly evolving digital marketing landscape. There, they can have wider reach and greater potential in rapidly increasing their program’s visibility. Below are five key areas that savvy higher education institutions have explored to creatively market their programs and reach a wider array of prospective students and other higher education actors.

1. Instagram Marketing for Higher Education

Sample instagram adAny serious marketer will not ignore a worldwide, 700 million plus user base that has gained a lot of popularity with younger users in particular. With massive reach and increased interaction, Instagram offers higher education institutions a chance to showcase their best programs, campuses and profile their notable alumni.

When it comes to sharing photos of new events such as recruitment drives, faculty-student interaction, innovative programs and community activities, Instagram has become the top app. Schools have a chance to showcase their brands, engage students and reach out to prospective international students using features such as Instagram Stories.

The allure of Instagram is mainly driven by the simplicity of use, as long as higher education institutions can post great, well-curated photos for various updates and events. With the increased photography features of so many phones, institutions can even get photos from students in their own day-to-day activities and interactions and share on their Instagram handles with quite satisfying results. Great campus photos during different events and seasons can keep an institution visually present among the great number of prospective students who are always on the prowl for their next diploma or degree.


 

2. Video and Animation in Higher Education Marketing

ezgif.com-gif-maker (1)Video is a proven way to popularize courses, programs, campuses and advertisements for higher education institutions. It’s known to have a greater impact than text, and there are many channels available today for institutions to share their videos. These include You Tube, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

Strategically crafted videos and animations can be leveraged to reach target demographics for schools and their degree programs. Creative marketing professionals use powerful visuals, branding and storytelling to create videos that speak to their audiences. Through the social marketing potential of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, video and animation advertisements can be a highly successful component to any marketing strategy. The best part? These creatives can be backed by ROI metrics through careful monitoring and reporting.


 

3. Leveraging Faculty for
Digital PR

A university’s faculty expertise is a critical component of a successful higher education marketing strategy. Faculty are researchers and thought leaders in their industries, and can greatly increase the effectiveness of campaign execution in many ways. By leveraging a professional Digital PR team with a keen understanding of the media landscape and PR pitching, faculty members and their research can be carefully pitched to target digital publications in order to share and boost professors’ personal brands as well as increase program and university brand awareness.

When leveraged correctly, Digital PR proves beneficial in other ways such as: building program visibility in search engines, creating program website traffic, and increasing student enrollment. Potential publications and websites for Digital PR opportunities are vast. These are only a few of the places that Circa Interactive has landed features and bylines for our clients:

Digital PR examples

 


 

4. Infographics and Visual Resources 

Infographics are powerful visual representations of data that are used in a variety of ways across industries. In higher education, they are a useful tool in providing career and industry statistics to help admissions teams, such as this graphic created by Villanova’s Analytics program. As seen below, this method of providing job growth and salary statistics is much more consumable and visually pleasing to the online reader than a list of bulleted points or a dense paragraph.

infographic example

Savvy internet marketers in the field of higher education also use infographics to build high quality industry backlinks and traffic to a program’s website. By leveraging professor research and reputable industry sources, fascinating visual resources can be designed, such as this compelling infographic from Ohio University that tells the story of how football concussions have paved the way for innovation in the forms of concussion diagnosis and prevention.

higher ed infographic example


 

5. Virtual Reality and Virtual Tours 

Virtual reality opportunities within higher education are increasing more than ever. A team of professors from Central Missouri State University, University of Missouri, University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Arizona have created a virtual collaborative learning network with a goal of researching and studying the intricacies of the Harlem Renaissance. The possibilities of virtual reality are endless with the classroom as EdTech and digital advantages continue to grow.

This crossroads of virtual reality and higher education applies directly to marketing strategies. Not only can universities gain interest through their in-class virtual technologies, but virtual reality is increasingly being used in the admissions process. A large number of institutions have fully implemented virtual tours that allow prospective students and their parents to explore campuses from afar. Companies such as Campus Tours offer panoramic virtual reality tours inside buildings and around campuses.

For example, USC offers an exclusive 360-degree game day campus tour:


 

Great ideas, but how do I execute these higher education marketing strategies? 

Reach out to an experienced, proven digital marketing company that focuses strictly on higher education marketing. Our team is happy to help and walk you through our services to find effective solutions to your unique marketing needs.
Contact us here

 

FreddieFrederic has five years’ experience in higher education content marketing and search engine optimization. Working with Circa Interactive, he has gained valuable experience in paid search, analytics, SEO strategy, and client management. Frederic excels in process optimization, strategic content marketing, and implementation of daily dad jokes. 

Follow him on twitter @FredHigherEd

 

 

 

6 Ways Social Media Changed the Way We Communicate

There are currently 2.8 billion social media users worldwide. This means that over a third of the world’s population is using some form of social media to communicate, making social media marketing an imperative tactic for boosting leads for higher education programs. While social media is a commonplace platform for communication today, have you ever considered how significantly social media changed the way we communicate?

Our world as we know it has transformed from the start of text messages to the first years of Facebook, to today’s temporary stories. But how has social media changed society and what does this mean for higher education marketing? Let’s take a look at what each of the most used social platforms have contributed to our new way of communication and how you can utilize them in your higher education marketing campaigns.

The Top Social Media Platforms Changing Communication

Facebook is seen as the most predominant social media platform and it has the numbers to back it up.

The Facebook logo.With 2.01 billion monthly users, and 88 percent of 18-29 year olds using this platform,Facebook should always be a top priority for higher education marketers. Facebook is a pioneer in today’s social world. Allowing people to connect with anybody, from their best friends to distant relatives, as well as share their personal thoughts, pictures, videos, blogs and links. The addition of Facebook Chatbots has also opened up a whole new world in customer service and digital marketing.

Learn more: Adding Facebook Chatbots to Your Social Media Strategy

 

Twitter is a fast-paced network that allows users to share information instantaneously –– in 140 characters or less.

The Twitter logoWith 328 million monthly usersand 36 percent of 18-29 year olds using this platform, it can seem like the next best way to reach potential students. Take into consideration however, that nearly 79% of Twitter accounts are located outside of the United States. If this doesn’t affect your digital marketing strategy, then Twitter can still be a lucrative platform. Just remember that the most important aspect of marketing on Twitter is the hashtag. Don’t know how to find the best hashtags to get your content seen by your targeted audience? Try TrendsMap or Keyhole for real-time tracking by industry and locale.

Snapchat has led the way in “temporary” social media, allowing users to share content that can only be seen for 24 hours at most.

Snapchat CommunicationThis social media is only available through a mobile app and boasts roughly 166 million daily users. If you don’t believe Snapchat is worth your university’s time, consider the fact that 56 percent of 18–29 year olds use Snapchat daily. This app is designed for tech-savvy and content-hungry users. In other words, Snapchat is the perfect application to reach millennials, especially for universities looking to share a different side of their campus and boost interest in their brand. If you’re looking to learn more about Snapchat marketing, check out these 7 Snapchat Accounts Every Marketer Should Follow.

This Facebook-owned, social media platform has doubled its user base to 700 million monthly active users in just two years.

Instagram logo
How did they do it? By creating a Snapchat clone all their own. Instagram is hugely popular among younger generations, with 59% of 18-29 year olds using the app. In order to grab their attention, Instagram created similar features for their stories, like filters and stickers, but implemented it in their own unique way. Thanks to a social media-savvy audience and visual platform, Instagram Stories has become an integral part of this social media app. Along with announcing its one year anniversary, Instagram Stories now has 250 million daily users (Stories alone is surpassing Snapchat’s 166 million daily users). Want to capture more student leads using Instagram Stories? Check out this article.

Now, enough with the statistics. The most important thing to understand is that no matter what platform you look at, social media as a whole has informed and shaped millennial culture through gifs, sound bites, chats, brief moments, and temporary flashes of content. Let’s take a look at how all of these social media thrills are affecting the way we communicate.

How Social Media Changed the Way We Communicate

1. Created a Sense of Urgency and a Need to Share 📲

Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has created a place to share anything from genius shower thoughts to favorite songs. The catch is: are you sharing too little or too much?

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have manifested the need to constantly broadcast our lives on the internet. Twitter is most famous for this after becoming known for celebrities sharing what they ate that day or if they were tweeting from the bathroom. After this oversharing trend faded, social media became a bit more tolerable for the average user. From then on, nobody could avoid Aunt Vicky’s vacation photos or Kim Kardashian’s famous behind “breaking the internet“. The need to share and be shared has grown immensely. Fast forward to today’s most used social media apps, and you will discover the type of sharing we do today is much different. 

In basic communication, humans transmit information and receive instant feedback. The integration of texting, messaging and emailing, however, has enabled senders and receivers to sit and dwell before responding. Instagram Stories and Snapchat have changed the game by making messages and content available to view for only 24 hours. In order to remember what was said, or seen, and reply appropriately, the user must reply as soon as they’ve opened it. In effect, these temporary messages take away the ability to dwell and create a more real-time form of communication.

Social media has created a way for people to constantly update and share content with their friends with little effort. Whether it is posted forever on a timeline or a couple seconds in a Snap, a picture is worth a thousand words and social media has created the perfect medium to share these visual stories with friends.

2. Provided an Inside Perspective of Faraway Places 🌍

Social media has enabled people from all over the world to share their story. Besides the internet essentially connecting the world, Snapchat was the first to really give people an inside perspective of foreign places. With the addition of live story streams and Story Explorer, users are able to get a peek of what life in other cities, states, and countries is like. Snapchat in particular, regularly features cities from around the world and features them on the app with a live feed of Snapchats from people in the selected city. For example, tapping on the “Rio” feed instantly transports users to the lively city in Brazil and provides a peek at life through the eyes of everyday citizens.

Besides cities, live feeds are perfect for sharing events. From a higher education perspective, this is the ideal platform to share student events, football games, community outreaches, and more. Snapchat provides universities the unique opportunity of sharing experiences from a wide array of the campus population. By utilizing a live feed, or a Snapchat account altogether, a university is now able to show prospective students what life on campus is like from a student’s point of view. The students who Snapchat their experiences  are nurturing their connection to the university and sharing student stories on Snapchat can result in higher student interest, and help prospective students to determine if a school is a right fit for them.

More on: Leveraging University Events for Your SEO Strategy

3. Shared the Full Story, Instead of Just Highlights 📖

It has already been a year since both Snapchat and Instagram announced the next generation of storytelling: Memories and Stories. These social media channels enable users to not just share the best picture out of their daily experiences; it encourages them to share the full story. Through Instagram, Facebook, AND Snapchat stories many users channel their creativity to share their day from the moment they wake up, to the moment they go to sleep.

Instead of uploading  a few photos on Facebook or posting a 140 character tweet on Twitter, universities can utilize Snapchat and Instagram to complete their “social story”. Using a mix of video and pictures, a university can share a campus event from beginning to end. A great  example would be using Snapchat to share a graduation weekend with their audience. The university can not only share captured moments of graduates but of the ceremony, award banquets, speeches, and more. By sharing moments in this way, a university can create a sense of community and become relatable to current and prospective students.

4. Made Digital Messages More Personal 🎨

Customizing content doesn’t just mean choosing how long a picture is able to be viewed or writing a caption to accompany the picture. Snapchat and Instagram have taken storytelling to the next level by encouraging users to draw, write, sticker, and filter their pictures to add a personal touch and have fun doing it! The newest Snapchat and Instagram features enable users to interact with the content they view and share.

Both Snapchat and Instagram have upgraded the average selfie. Now users can transform into a myriad of animals, characters, and even other people using these smart filters. The most popular example of a filter would be Taco Bell’s Cinco de Mayo filter that transformed users into actual tacos. Taco Bell was able to market, create brand awareness, and even set a new record by using Snapchat’s features to engage and interact with their customers.

 

An example of Snapchat Lenses used to take selfies. Another way social media changed the way we communicate.

Snapchat lenses and Instagram filters allow users to share personal messages with a fun twist.

 

A university could create a Snapchat filter for a football game that would engage students in attendance and encourage them to share their stadium experience. By creating an interactive university brand, prospective students are shown the campus community and current students will feel more engaged and a part of their school’s conversation.

Snapchat’s Discover features channels for a group of brands to broadcast their own content. These brands are lucky enough to be able to market themselves by engaging their audience and creating a conversation through interactive content. Another ability users have when using Discover is being able to directly share their favorite pieces of content with their Snapchat friends. Instead of having to explain and describe what was so funny, simply holding a finger on the screen allows users to instantly show their friends why they are laughing.

5. Brought News Back into Millennial Life 🗞

All of this interactive content has lead to journalism becoming attractive to millennials again. A study conducted by Wibbitz found that 40 percent of millennials rely on digital outlets for their news, while 23 percent primarily get their news from social media. Snapchat jumped on this finding and added news outlets to Discover.

An overarching theme in this article is interaction. Millennials love to interact with content, so why not the news? A big step in this new territory occurred when the Wall Street Journal joined Snapchat. CNN and National Geographic are among the 24 other media companies that have also joined the application in hopes of delivering journalistic content to this demographic.

Besides Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter have also played important roles in making the news more accessible and attractive to millennials. Twitter features “trending” hashtags that often highlight important national and global events. The website and app also highlight an array of news updates, events, and hot topics through their “What’s Happening” portion of their landing page. Facebook also joined the journalistic movement by creating their own “Trending” section that highlights trending stories ranging from politics to science and technology. Facebook has taken this movement one step further and just debuted a section specifically for Trending News on its mobile app.

 

Trending News Section on Facebook's Mobile App

The new Trending News section of Facebook’s mobile app.

 

6. Provided the Ability to Broadcast Moments –– Live 🔴

Facebook Live became available to the public in April 2016 and instantly changed social media as we know it. At first it began as a way to innocently share even more with your friends, but then it became increasingly used for serious matters. Facebook Live has ended up revealing a lot about our society, from police shootings to a look at the increasing rate of opioid overdose deaths. On the positive side, it has created a launchpad for these more serious conversations to be had. Thanks to these Facebook Live videos, these controversial moments are not just being talked about, but also building momentum behind creating a positive change.

Besides changing the way we communicate major events through video, Facebook and Instagram Live have also opened up new marketing potential for universities. Similar to how a university can utilize Snapchat and Instagram Stories, higher education marketers can use the Live feature to engage both current and potential customers by sharing university events in real-time! Live allows your audience to jump right into a graduation, special concert, or collegiate event and get a real sense of what life on campus is like from a student’s point of view.

Today’s social media has undeniably transformed our means of communication, created new opportunities for brands and universities and even brought personality back into a digital world.

Circa Interactive has created innovative social strategies for a number of universities, schools, and individual degree programs. If you would like Circa to create a more targeted strategy focused on interaction and lead generation, please visit our social media marketing services page.

 

Audrey-for-site

 

Audrey is a digital marketing and social media specialist at Circa Interactive. She currently manages multiple high profile social media accounts, including Circa Interactive’s own social media presence. As a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and a past president of their Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, her passion for innovation and connecting like-minded individuals is driving Circa’s social media strategy into the future. Connect with Audrey on Twitter: @audgepauge93

How to Reach Prospective Students Through the New Instagram Stories Feature

Instagram has rapidly grown to nearly 500 million monthly users worldwide and is projected to continue its growth at a steady rate. With this many monthly users and roughly 55 percent of them being ages 18-29, Instagram is the platform that higher ed marketing experts should be targeting. The addition of Instagram’s new feature, Instagram stories, allows for more opportunity to engage with followers and prospective students. Much like the Snapchat story feature, users post content that will disappear after 24 hours. This 24 hour time frame provides the opportunity to post as much content for your program as you would like, without the worry of cluttering your Instagram profile. If you don’t know how to use the feature, there are easy step-by-step guides available. 

 

insta story

 

The Difference Between Snapchat Stories and Instagram Stories

What sets these two seemingly identical features apart? Unlike Snapchat stories, Instagram stories can be watched regardless of whether or not an Instagram user is following an account. The explore page feature on Instagram uses an algorithm to show users content that they will be most likely to enjoy. It also suggests profiles that are similar to those that they are already interacting with. For example, based on my Instagram activity, it’s easy to see in the photo above that a lot of food accounts have made their way onto my explore page. This page also shows users which accounts the people who they are following are interacting with. Basically, if a user or their friends are engaging with higher education profiles, then it is more likely that your account will pop up on their explore feed. If your account is clicked on, the user can watch your Instagram story by clicking your profile photo. The explore page feature is beneficial to higher education marketers because it is easier to reach potential students. With Snapchat, there is no explore page, so discovering new profiles is more complicated and difficult if you do not know them personally.

Although people do not have to follow your Instagram account to view your stories, the goal is of course to make them want to.
If you’re looking to get more followers on Instagram, there are tricks that can help. The more followers you have, the more likely you are to show up on other users’ explore pages, and the more likely you are to get your story and brand seen. 

Capturing Potential Students’ Attention with Stories

Now, the real question: How can you make your program stand out by using this new Instagram feature? Of course, one must think about what the intended audience wants to see. As a higher education program, your audience is most likely a part of the Millennial Generation, which is a good thing considering millennials make up 55% of Instagram users. 

Authenticity is key when it comes to marketing to millennials.  A Cohn & Wolfe study found that 89% of people agreed that it is important that businesses act with integrity at all times. They don’t want advertisements, they want genuine content and a personalized brand. Millennials engage the most with brands that they feel are relatable and genuine.

Another way to appeal to this generation is by engaging with them on a personal level. According to Forbes, 62% of millennials prefer brands that have engaged with them on social media platforms, so Instagram stories are a great way to reach and engage with millennials. So how can you appear genuine and authentic while also making your audience feel as though you are engaging with them on a personal level? Simple: showcase your students.

Your content should tell a story, hence the name Instagram stories. It should show the authentic side of your brand while striving to be creative and engaging. Displaying student life, campus life, or promoting upcoming events that your audience may be interested in are all great starting places. That way, a prospective student can get a better understanding of your program and whether it’s a good fit for them.

With the start of school coming up, showcasing orientations or new student convocations is a great way to give prospective students a taste of student life and show them what events are available to them. The University of Arizona, The University of Texas at Dallas, and Coastal Carolina University have posted a series of Instagram stories covering their new student convocations and first day of classes that effectively present unique aspects of their student life and campus.

Insta Stories

 

In addition to displaying what your student life has to offer, you can use the story feature as a way to make your academics stand out. Emphasize academics such as student research or academic achievement events on campus. Use the story feature to show what specific student clubs are up to and highlight upcoming campus events that students are attending. Stories allow you to display the daily activities that make your program or university unique, without the worry of posting perfect, edited content that will be on your Instagram for a long period of time.  

Instagram stories also allow you to draw on your story or add captions to your story which makes the story seem more fun, while also adding a personal and creative touch. Emojis can be added to captions to add some flare to the image?.  Remember, you are capturing the attention of a generation with notoriously short attention spans. In order to reel them in, you must present your brand with a unique and engaging twist. The Instagram story feature might be just what you need to stand out in the large pool of higher education programs.

Shannon black and white 2 Shannon is a senior at the University of San Diego studying communications and visual arts. Working as an intern with Circa Interactive, she has gained experience in higher education content marketing, digital public relations and creating content for various clients’ social media. Shannon’s creativity and passion for public relations and content marketing has contributed to Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value. 

Instagram Growth Hacking Tips: A Comprehensive Guide From the Ground Up

Recognizing The Importance of Instagram

Regardless of your feelings on their recent logo change, Instagram is one of the widest-used social media platforms out there. With 300 million active daily users posting 70 million photos each day, it’s really hard to ignore an outlet this big. Especially when brand engagement ranks the highest out of any social media platform at 4.21%. The mobile photo-sharing app is also considered the most important social network by more American teens (at 32 percent) than any other network, which presents an especially large opportunity for schools and universities.

So it’s clear that there is value to be found in Instagram, but how do you rise the ranks in this massive, established community to reach students? Let’s go over some Instagram growth hacking tips to help you get a new instagram account growing from the bottom up.

All Hail the King

King Content that is…

In case you haven’t heard, Instagram has recently updated their newsfeed algorithm to focus on quality content. Before the March update, newsfeeds were strictly chronological and organic. Taking into account these changes means creating engaging content is of utmost importance, and it’s the first step in successfully growing your Instagram. Steer away from promotional posts and get creative. Your content (and a good history of it) is what followers will stick around for.

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You might be thinking: How can I create the best possible content without the best equipment? The most important part about your content is that you really don’t need that $2,000, 50-megapixel camera you’ve been dreaming of. Sure, it might help, but our smart phones nowadays can rival 10-year-old SLR’s if you know how to use them. I’m not going to dive into advanced photography principles, but a basic understanding is definitely useful. If you don’t know what the rule of thirds means, then a little light reading might be of help.

To make your photos “pop” (as they say), I highly recommend using a free photo-editing app called Snapseed. It’s extremely powerful, fun to use, and designed by Google, so what’s not to love? Sometimes I’ll even prefer editing photos on mobile in Snapseed instead of using Adobe Photoshop. Again, I’m not going to dive into the deep end of the photo editing pool, but if you are looking to dip a toe in, this is a great resource.

If you really want to stand out and give yourself a unique Instagram brand, consider establishing an identifiable persona or theme. Some basic examples might include a graphic design account that uses all cool colors (blues and greens) or a university account that only posts pictures of people at the school called “people of [insert university].” Another way to uniquely identify your account is through using a certain filter in every post.

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Build a content library and plan for future posts so your account will look alive and healthy. It’s critical to create and keep a library of ORIGINAL content that you can post. Originality will not only help build your brand, but it will also help your chances to appear on the suggested users list, or the wall of fame as I like to call it.

Another key to engaging content? Video. Instagram reports that video views have recently increased by 40%. We’ve also seen their parent company, Facebook, give preference to video content within their own algorithm, which could be taken as an indicator for the future of Instagram itself. The only thing – quality video content is a little more difficult to create and takes more time and better equipment. If you have the resources, definitely move forward with a video strategy.

Posting Consistency

Consistency is extremely important on Instagram.

A lot of people post every day or even multiple times a day and claim that it’s a great way to grow an account. With the recent changes, it’s also a great way to get lost in the algorithm. If your strategy is to post multiple times a day, often your content isn’t going to be of identical quality due to the constant pressure of maintaining consistency. Lower quality posts will then receive less engagement and tell the Instagram algorithm that your content isn’t popular and therefore not worth being featured on the newsfeed.

There really isn’t a cookie cutter standard for posting frequency, and it seems like everyone has historically had different experiences and suggestions. However, when starting a new account, I’ve always found it beneficial to post infrequently, especially when you’re just learning how to create good content. This doesn’t mean I post inconsistently, though. I’d recommend a structure of every 2-3 days for new accounts. If you’re just starting out with photography and editing, followers especially won’t be interested in an account that floods them with subpar content (no offense). All in all, initial infrequent posting is a great way to RETAIN followers when they only see your posts occasionally.

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Growing Your Fanbase

I need to start off explaining follower growth with a simple PSA: NEVER PAY FOR FOLLOWERS.

Purchasing followers doesn’t increase engagement and is an unrewarding way to “grow” your Instagram account. Paid followers are very easy to spot on the followers tab on your page, and it makes accounts look low quality. An account with a lot of followers and little engagement is quite suspicious in the eyes of prospective followers and (probably) Instagram.

How to Gain REAL Followers

Gaining fans (users who follow you that you don’t follow back) on Instagram really isn’t very difficult. It just takes a little time and dedication. To give you a picture of how much time, I probably spend around three hours each week on Instagram growth AND engagement, so it’s definitely not a full-time commitment. Incorporating these strategies into or on top of your existing day-to-day responsibilities is a breeze.

It’s important to note that you should not start growing your account until you’ve built it up into something you’re proud of so your followers will stick. Before you begin step 1, make sure you:

  • Choose a simple, yet relevant account handle
  • Create a unique name for your account.
  • Come up with a simple account bio
  • Include a relevant link to your site
  • Upload a high-quality profile photo
  • Establis a history of at least 9 posts so your account looks established above the mobile fold of your account page

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Step 1 – Following Other Accounts: Look to the Competition

After your account is somewhat built out, the first step is following other accounts, and, specifically, accounts that follow your competitors.

You’ll need to find 4-5 competitor Instagram accounts and rotate through them, eventually following thousands of their followers, tens of thousands of them even. When choosing these competitors, you can search for accounts that have similar keywords in their handles as yours or you can even browse Internet resources and receive insight into the top accounts in your industry.

After you’ve found relevant competitor’s accounts, just click on their followers tab and follow as many as you can. Instagram limits your followings to 200/hour so you’ll have to do this manually and in hourly incremented time segments. It takes about 3 minutes to follow 200 people once you become a pro at tapping “follow” instead of their profile link…

It is extremely important to know that when looking at an account’s followers section, the followers at the top of the list are the newest followers of the account. This means they have recently been online, and you know they are active users. Selecting a specific time of day to follow these people on competitor’s accounts means you can control when your followers are active and post content based around that timeframe. This is also a great way to use the newsfeed algorithm to your advantage.

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Don’t worry if the accounts seem irrelevant or if you feel like you’re following too many people. All of the followers of your competitors accounts have a reason they’re following them, and that reason could lead them to interest in your account. In this sense, instagram is a really great way to directly target your audience segments. You can also use third party apps to find these audiences, but I’ve found that the search feature in Instagram works just as great. Not to mention most of the aforementioned apps aren’t free…

The Instagram community is extremely supportive, and the follow-for-follow approach has really become some sort of unwritten code that most instagram users adhere to. You’ll get about 25% of those you followed following you back most of the time, which means at the beginning, you’ll be following more people than those that follow you. Don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal and expected. If you really want to grow an eventual following, you’ll need to spend a lot of time following accounts as well as unfollowing them. It becomes an intuitive process of follow, wait, rinse, and repeat.

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Step 2 – Unfollowing Accounts

After you’ve followed a large number of accounts, around 3,000-5,000, you’ll start accumulating an attractive following. The second step is unfollowing those that you have followed.

Your “following” number is a large indicator of organic viability. Unfollowing accounts is almost as, if not, more important than following accounts. This is because it’s time consuming and a necessary part of optimizing the illustrious Instagram “Ratio” (cue chorus of angels). This infamous ratio of “following” to “followers” is by far the most popular metric discussed in the Instagram community. A better ratio can be a large sign of respect and authority, which can lead to more organic followers, better odds against the algorithm and a higher chance to end up on the wall of fame (suggested accounts).

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There’s no way to unfollow accounts quickly in the Instagram app, unless you go one by one down your following list and unfollow them, which is possible but takes a LOT of time, and more importantly, it’s just really boring. My personal suggestion, and the biggest piece of advice I have would be to spend a little money, specifically a one-time fee of $2.99 (about the same price as a chalupa supreme). This enables full access to an app called “cleaner,” which allows you to unfollow up to 200 accounts/hour with the click of a button. It’s a complete lifesaver when it comes to cleaning up your account and well priced at that. Cleaner is free, but you can opt-in for the unlimited mass unfollowing option within the app.

Don’t be a Robot

After you’ve gained some followers, you need to let them know you’re a real person. As with every social media platform, engagement is the building block for impact and action.

Scroll through your follower feed and do the following:

  • Like their pictures
  • Comment on their posts
  • Respond to as many of their comments on your content as you can.

Sure, this takes some time, but people will really stick around as a follower if they get a positive experience from your account and feel like you are a human being.

Tap into Communities

Engage with accounts outside of your primary audience. Consider a topic lightly related to a recent post you published. Search a hashtag or location (maybe close to your business) and then navigate to recent posts. Again, we know the top people are active on their accounts and online right now. Their content also has little engagement on it, as it is very recent, and being one of the first to engage with a post can pull a lot of weight.

No, That Isn’t a Pound Sign

It’s a hashtag, and they are very important in Instagram. Hashtags will allow a lot of people to discover your content and your account. There are several tags that people use to find new accounts and draw engagement such as #follow4follow #Followback and #doubletap. Using these can potentially help gain followers and engagement, but they can also make you look desperate. I recommend targeting highly relatable keywords to your posts and using them as hashtags. You can also brand your own hashtags and include them in every one of your posts.

When starting out, use a minimum of 13 hashtags in every post and place them as a comment, rather than in the post copy. That way, when other comments come in on your post, your hashtags will be hidden in plain sight and posts will appear much cleaner. Instagram communities are very powerful; it’s important to take advantage of them, and the best way to do so is through hashtags. But you’ll need to get a little creative. For hashtag ideas, you can look for photos of similar content on instagram and grab hashtag ideas. However, I like to use a site called keyhole to find related hashtags under the “topics” section. Eventually dwindle this number down to around four or five. Too many hashtags can also make you look desperate for followers.

Share Where You Are

I’ve mentioned geotags a few times, so let’s talk about how to use them. Geotags work very similarly to hashtags. Sure, location sharing is a great way to stalk your ex, but more importantly, people tend to do a lot of research when visiting a new place, and Instagram has surpassed yelp in becoming the go-to resource for visual references, especially due to it’s user-centric focus. Because of this, it’s pretty important for your content to be in the location stream. Especially when posts with location tags drive 79% higher engagement rates.

Adding a geotag is fairly easy. Simply tap the “add location” option when posting your content and select the relevant location you want the post associated with. You can also create a new Instagram location via Facebook by following steps here.

Add Captions to Your Media

You should be including written copy on every post you publish on Instagram. Visual media will obviously be the first thing followers see in your post, but (hopefully) if it’s something they really like, they’ll take the time to read the caption. Now unless you are an Instagram thought leader or celebrity, few people are going to stick around to read a 300 word caption, so generally keep it short and sweet. The max character count is 1,200 characters, but captions cut off in users’ feeds after just 3 lines of text, which usually comes out to just under 120 characters. I’d recommend aiming your character count to somewhere around 100.

Notify Your Followers

One recent feature that Instagram rolled out was the “turn on post notifications” option. This is a great feature that was designed to send push notifications to your phone from your favorite Instagram accounts so you can be up to date on their content stream.

Encouraging your followers to turn on post notifications can be a great way to establish a network of dedicated followers to increase engagement, just be careful not to look desperate. Mention it every once in a while but too much and you could start annoying them. The image below will show you how to turn on notifications.

post notifications image

To Infinity and Beyond

A few years ago, Facebook bought out Instagram for $1 billion. Since then, Zuckerberg’s monster has made some drastic changes to their own algorithm including capitalizing on a strict pay-to-play approach, which has really sent the organic feed up the creek without a paddle, making a lot of people unhappy in the process. Facebook seems to be taking baby steps toward a similar approach with their Instagram strategy as well, and again, it’s not looking too good for the future of organic content. However, we’re at a breaking point right now where the recent algorithmic changes in Instagram present an opportunity of sorts that is ready to be taken advantage of. The important part is just knowing how to take advantage of it.

Some people are suggesting that Facebook’s organic preference toward video content may rollover into the new instagram changes and that videos may become more important in the coming years. Some people are also claiming that ‘sharing’ content will soon become a feature within Instagram, which would add a whole new medium for KPI’s.

At the end of the day, just ask yourself, are people going to like this image or video? The two pillars of Instagram growth are quality and simplicity. Don’t overthink it.

Happy Instagramming! If you have any questions, tips and tricks, or your own or success stories, feel free to share them below.

Jordan OpelJordan Opel is an accomplished, creative professional. He is responsible for managing and enhancing organic social media activities for our various clients. Additionally, as the leading graphic designer, he contributes to a significant portion of Circa Interactive’s creative endeavors through motion-media design, illustration, and content-creation experience.

5 Instagram Tips for the New Algorithm-Based Newsfeed

Instagram recently announced that they will be rolling out a new algorithm-based newsfeed that will move away from the current chronological one to a more personalized one. This change is similar to the way that Facebook changed their feed back in 2009. This means that the posts that show up at the top of your feed, regardless of when they were uploaded, will be determined by the type of content that you are engaging with the most. The main motivation behind this switch is the finding that, on average, 70% of content is never seen by users. Instagram is therefore hoping that a more customized newsfeed will help to ensure that the 30% that is seen, is the best and most relevant. As Instagram stated, “To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.”  

Now that the dependability of a chronological newsfeed is out the window, you may be wondering how to keep your brand’s account from slipping through the cracks. To help you master the new Instagram feed and make sure your content is still seen by your target audience, I’ve compiled a list of five key takeaways that every marketer should be aware of.

 

1. Without chronological order, brands will now have greater international reach

The upside to this change is that it is going to make it easier for brands to go global and be seen by new audiences. In fact, 75% of Instagram’s audience is outside of the United States. By eliminating the restrictions that varying time zones can bring, your chances of reaching an international audience will grow stronger. This means that no matter when you post, if your content is on brand and appeals to your target audience, it will have a greater likelihood of being seen.

 

2. Organic reach will be more difficult–brand your account and encourage followers to turn on notifications

It is important to remember that Instagram is a visual platform. The picture itself is what grabs the user’s attention. To maximize organic reach, you will need to translate your brand into the pictures that you create for your account. Use a palette of colors, special shapes, or even select filters that you can regularly use to keep your content consistent and recognizable.

Harvard Instagram

Harvard University showed off the famous turning of the leaves in Boston through implementing these style techniques. They build brand awareness by using a fall theme, use recurring colors of orange, red and green, and even utilize video to show off their beautiful campus.

If you don’t know where to start, remember that learning from trial and error is the best method. Try new looks and styles of pictures and see what your audience responds to. If you find something that provokes a positive reaction, be sure to integrate it into your strategy moving forward.

Another way to increase engagement and ensure that you are discoverable to new users is by using relevant hashtags. Hashtags will now be more important than ever if you want your content to be searchable and seen by the right audience. Many Instagram users and brands are already starting to use the hashtag #turnmeon to ask their followers to turn on notifications for their posts. This strategy will increase the likelihood that your that content is still seen by instantly alerting followers when new content is posted.

Learn more about engagement with these  4 Ways to Boost Your University’s Social Media Engagement.

 

3. Influencers are set to become even more influential

Influencers are essentially walking billboards. They range from average users on Instagram with large social media followings and brands of their own to world-famous celebrities. By creating relationships with these influencers, you are able get your product or brand in front of new audiences with an added layer of credibility and endorsement. In fact, a recent Experticity study found that influencer recommendations carry 22 times the weight of a recommendation from an average customer. Because influencers have substantial followings, they also have high engagement rates. This means that their content will be pushed to the top, based on the way the new algorithm works. In other words, if you don’t have an influencer to help promote your content or have naturally high engagement rates on your own, your content will most likely be pushed down further on the newsfeed.  

If you already work with influencers, it’s even more important to ensure the content they are producing stays consistent and includes the right messaging. Establish quality control by creating templates for them to use. These could be used for visual and written content, but make sure they are able to still add their own personality! You don’t want their endorsements to appear scripted.

If you don’t already have relationships with influencers, then it might be a good time to start doing some research. Use resources like Buzzsumo to find the top influencers in different niches. Keep in mind that these individuals typically come with a price tag, so evaluate this strategy to determine whether it makes sense for your brand. If the answer is yes, then having an influencer on your team will help expand your network, get your content seen by a larger audience, and increase lead generation.



 

Coe College invited professional soccer player, Abby Wambach, to speak with their soccer team and a select audience. Abby posted about her experience there, tagged Coe College, and even used their hashtag #kohawks. This endorsement from Abby is a powerful one, especially to prospective college athletes.

On the other side of influencers, Michigan University took it into their own hands to announce a new partnership with professional NASCAR driver, Jeff Gordon. They branded the picture with their logo, included their school colors, and used the hashtag #GOBlue to build brand awareness in connection with Jeff.

4. The number of followers you have won’t be as meaningful

It’s hard to tell how confining the new algorithm will be, but when it comes to reach, things will definitely get more complicated for brands. The total number of followers your account has won’t be as important as it once was, especially as people start to follow more accounts. Because the algorithm will favor higher engagement over a large following, it is important to focus on who your audience is and what they like. Create content that will appeal to them and continue to engage with them. The worst thing a brand could do is stop engaging with their fans and turn to buying followers for help. Many services will promise the accounts they are selling are active, but these accounts will not ‘like’, comment, or share your content. Having dead accounts following you will actually do more harm than good as it will ruin your engagement statistics.

Learn how to create unique, engaging content in my recent article: 6 Tips for Boosting Your Instagram Presence

 

5. Instagram is becoming more expensive for brands

There is no doubt that the new Instagram algorithm has an ulterior motive. With no chronological order and the potential for a smaller organic reach, more brands will turn to Instagram advertising to make sure their content is seen. This will likely lead to handing over more cash, which a lot of small businesses might not have. If this is the case, make sure to assess your analytics. Is your online store, website or blog actually getting traction directly from your Instagram account? If it is, then advertising is probably the right choice for you. If your brand does not see any value from Instagram, try out a different platform that may be a better fit for your marketing needs and goals.

Learn how to target and create the right ads for your audience with these 7 Tips for Maximizing your Facebook (and Instagram) Ad Performance.

Need more Instagram tips? Want to learn more about social media marketing? Let me know what you want to learn about next in the comments below.

 

 

Audrey-for-site Audrey is a recent graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. With a background in journalism, public relations, and graphic design, Audrey lends both creative and analytic skills to the marketing team. Her passion for innovation and connecting like-minded individuals is driving Circa’s social media strategy into the future.

6 Tips for Boosting Your University’s Instagram Presence

Over the past four years, Instagram has become one of the most dominating social media platforms in the world. Out of all the brands that are using Instagram to gain more reach, universities have one of the most active audiences. 90% of Instagram users are younger than 35, and 53% of adults ages 18-29 use Instagram every day. This makes it an ideal platform to reach and engage with potential students, especially those who are using social media to research universities. Here are 6 tips to optimize your university’s Instagram account through branding, engagement, integration, and ads.

Set Standards

Before creating or revamping your account, it is imperative that you fully understand your brand. You must first know your university’s point of view. What does your school stand for? What are your key messages? By realizing these pivotal ideas of your university’s brand, you will be able to create consistent content that will ultimately establish and build your brand.

Once your key messages are created, it’s important to maintain an authentic brand. Know your voice. What would or wouldn’t you say? Authenticity is key to keeping your audience engaged and trusting the brand. To keep the voice consistent it helps to set rules on topics that are allowed or off limits.

Build Your Brand

An Instagram account may get some views by simply publishing content, but without implementing the proper hashtags, universities are missing out on the majority of their audience. Hashtags are the powerhouse of Instagram. Hashtags allow people, influencers, thought leaders, and marketers to search through different topics and brands and potentially find your university’s profile. Hashtags are also useful for finding users and influencers within higher education to interact and build relationships with.

I recommend using hashtags to find your audience and see what they are already saying about your institution, then use this information to mold your content. It is advised to use an average of 11 hashtags per post for the best engagement. Be warned, however, that using too many hashtags can make your account look spammy and attract the wrong following. To keep your content consistent, it helps to maintain a list of regularly used hashtags. I advise making three lists:

  • Brand specific: Hashtags you create just for your university. These can be as simple as #YourUniversity or more community focused like #BullsNation or #GoBlue.
  • Industry: Use tools like Buzzsumo or SproutSocial to find the top hashtags within higher education. Hint: #highered and #onlinelearning are big contenders.
  • Trending: This means anything from posting a #tbt to celebrating #NationalCoffeeDay. Using trending hashtags will help extend your reach by putting your content in front of an audience that hasn’t discovered you yet.

Cross-Promote Creative Content

Creating original content on a consistent basis can take a lot of time and effort. Remember that content from your university’s website, blog, or other social media platforms can be curated and used as Instagram content as well. You can also use Instagram to push traffic towards your other websites and vice versa. Add follow buttons or embed the feed on other profiles to bring your audience to your account and build your Instagram following. By creating cohesive content all around, you can keep your presence on social media consistent and active.

The University of Michigan does a great job highlighting current students and alumni’s work and their stories. They are able to uphold the U of M brand by sharing the quality of their student’s work and the good they are doing around the world. In the example below, Michigan uses a quote from the student to make it more personal.

University of Michigan Instagram

When creating content for prospective students, remember that many of them will not be from your state or even country. Use this to your advantage and share pictures of campus life and the surrounding city to fully capture the beauty of your university. To increase engagement, repost a student’s picture of their favorite study spot or campus shot on the way to class. Boston University does a great job at highlighting the beauty of Boston and their campus. The majority of these posts come from current students as well. They also use this type of content to highlight their history and instill the fact that they are a well-established university.
Boston University Instagram

Capitalize on the Power of Video

Video has taken over all social media platforms, and Instagram is no exception. Using apps like Repost, you can even repost videos from students or organizations to highlight the work of your university. Columbia University has done just that with their video content. They have implemented video content to highlight their sports teams, guest lecturers, and even research work done by students. This is an example of a great Instagram post. Columbia reposted the video and tagged the owners, engaging with their audience and extending their reach. They also used brand hashtags like #columbiauniversity to categorize the video as well. This post is very successful in showing off the work Columbia students and organizations are doing and inviting its audience to engage and share the content.

Columbia University Instagram

Engage Everyday

Engaging with your audience is the most important activity you can do on Instagram. By liking, commenting, and even reposting pictures on Instagram, you are bringing more views and potential followers to your profile. Instagram gurus have created the 5/3/1 engagement rule to optimize your conversations. Like 5 pictures, comment on 3 with a @mention of the creator, and, in turn, gain 1 new follower.

To create even more engagement, start a discussion. This can be as simple as asking a question in the picture’s caption or starting a contest that requires other users to comment with a correct answer, tag friends, or post a picture of their own. By inviting students to engage with your content, they are more likely to interact and share it with their followers, ultimately, extending your reach and growing your audience. To learn more about increasing your university’s social media engagement, click the link below.

4 Ways to Boost Your University’s Social Media Engagement

 

Advertise

Instagram’s latest feature allows universities to reach even bigger audiences: Instagram ads. Instagram uses information about users’ activities on Instagram and Facebook as well as information from third-party sites and apps to determine which ads appear on their feed. This means if a high school student is following or searching for different colleges using any of these platforms, your ad will appear in their feed.

Thanks to Facebook owning Instagram, ad targeting and analytics are also available. They use the same conversion pixel to allow optimization of ads, track results, and retarget the best potential students. Learn how to maximize the performance of your ads by clicking the link below.

7 Tips for Maximizing Your Facebook Ads Performance (Or Instagram)

Audrey for siteAudrey Willis is a recent graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. With a background in journalism, public relations, and graphic design, Audrey lends both creative and analytic skills to the marketing team. Her passion for innovation and connecting like-minded individuals is driving Circa’s social media strategy into the future.

5 Must-Follow Higher Education Social Media Accounts

As our team at Circa Interactive create social media calendars and content ideas for our higher education clients, we’ve come across countless other universities who are exceeding the mark with their campaigns. Over the course of the next few months, I will highlight some of the best examples of content created by higher education marketers. Below I’ve chosen a few exceptional posts (in no particular order) that exemplify what higher education marketers should strive to achieve. It’s essential for universities to remain creative and timely in order to remain visible and engage with current and prospective students, creating a virtual and interactive university experience.

1. Syracuse–Twitter

Syracuse does an excellent job of putting a personalized touch on their Twitter account in a creative and playful way, as you can see below with their image of the campus designed to resemble a puzzle piece. What their posts prove is that a simple message can be transformed and brought to life through customization and ingenuity. They also often use the hashtag #OrangeNation to foster a sense of community and school pride.

 
One of my favorite parts of Syracuse’s Twitter is their @WorkingOrange account, which regularly features alumni who live tweet their workday and answer questions at the same time. This is a clever way to celebrate the successes of their alumni and a great way to connect them to current students who will soon be in their position.

 

2. Harvard–Facebook

I love the way that Harvard uses time-lapse videos to showcase their campus and student body. This video in particular was a welcome back video that shows the bustling campus life, while hinting at their storied history.  

 
Harvard is constantly using the the power of video to bring the university experience and their brand to life. The clip below shows a day in the life of a first-year student at Harvard. It’s a short and sweet video that humanizes the Harvard Facebook page even more by allowing the viewer a glimpse into the rudimentary parts of a Harvard student life that can appear extraordinary to prospective students.

 

3. MIT–Twitter

It’s no surprise that MIT’s world-renowned research programs play a large role in their social media strategy. By utilizing research from faculty, they’re not only expanding and showcasing their thought leadership, but they’re also helping to promote and push the professors’ valuable research into the community. The key is that they use eye-catching graphics to accompany studies that can appeal to a large audience, as shown below.

 

4. Stanford–Instagram

The Instagram photo below shows the beautiful Stanford campus while encouraging other students to submit photos that they’ve taken themselves. Stanford’s strategy is focusing on something that all higher education marketers should consider while creating content: How can I find a way to engage with my audience? By incorporating photos taking by students, their Instagram feed becomes a community-generated database of striking imagery that keeps their audience involved.

 
I gravitate toward the photo below because it’s not only visually appealing and attention grabbing, but it tells a story and promotes the fascinating research of a Stanford faculty member at the same time. This highlights that when it comes to higher education marketing content, it’s important to focus on storytelling. 


 

5. University of Wisconsin–Facebook

This video by University of Wisconsin-Madison is a unique and light-hearted way to promote alumni donations through their “fill-the-hill” campaign, where a pink flamingo lawn ornament represents each alumni gift that was made. While schools often run the risk of coming off as irritating when trying to repeatedly collect donations, UW-Madison figured out a way to accomplish their goals in a non-intrusive manner through the power of video, while incorporating a long standing school tradition. 

 
And finally the video below shows people how students at UW-Madison are involved in the community, rather than just telling them. This creates a much more sharable story than plain text would.

 
Caroline Khalili is a PR and marketing specialist at Circa Interactive, and she is an expert in developing content for higher education marketing campaigns. A 2011 graduate of the University of Oregon, Caroline now calls San Diego home.