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Should you launch an Instagram account?

Frog dives for a stick.

Launching an account on a new social platform can be daunting, especially when social media is only part of your job. Every social media platform requires a good amount of attention, so adding another thing to your to-do list takes a lot of consideration.

I recently (literally three weeks ago) launched an Instagram account for the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. This is how I came to the decision, and below are a few of our strategy tips to keep the account successful.

Students and prospective students are on Instagram

If you’re asking if your audience is even on Instagram, then I’m sure you know they are. In fact, some students are even using the platform to decide where to go to college, according to TIME. Yea, that’s a pretty big deal.

But no need to wonder if they’re on Instagram. Trust me. They are.

What’s your goal for having an Instagram account?

How do you think an Instagram account is going to add to the overall success of your college/department/division? It could be for awareness of your programs, or to get more information to prospective students, or to better connect with your current student population. Whatever your reasoning, make sure you know what it is. This will help you when you’re creating your strategy.

I decided to start an account for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital first and not the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences because (1) I wanted to increase awareness of the services offered at the hospital and (2) reach a certain student (prospective student) population I wasn’t reaching on Facebook.

Will I ever create an Instagram account for the college? That’s still to be determined. (Again, a LOT goes into deciding whether an Instagram account would be beneficial to your entity.)

Find your cute

instagram.exYou know college and high school students are on Instagram. But…what on earth do you post? Find your “cute.” For the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, it’s no surprise animals are our cute. For Colorado State, I would argue it’s the Oval (campus scenes).

Your “cute” doesn’t have to literally be something cute and cuddly, however it does need to be something your audience will want to see in their newsfeeds. Just remember, every social platform has a specific purpose. For Instagram, it’s sharing awesome photos. This platform might not be the best for sharing lengthy student success stories with a picture of a student in front of a wall. Instead, make the text concise (possibly even shorter than Twitter, unless it’s for a really good reason), and figure out a way to tell the story with an appealing visual.

Be unique! If you’re taking a group photo, think of new angles and ways to take the picture. Find a different way to visually tell the story. Taking that extra minute to switch up the shot could mean extra likes.

How often should I post?

This definitely depends on your bandwidth. But, don’t think you have to keep up with CSU’s account. Remember, CSU has a whole team working on Instagram over here.

I try and post to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s account three times a week. Two-to-three posts each week will keep your account active without emptying your social gas tank.

What should the photo caption look like?

It’s better to be concise on Instagram. The picture is the attention-getter, not necessarily the text. Your strategy shouldn’t be to always post the same content on Instagram that you’re posting to your Facebook page. Or, if you’re going to share the same story on Instagram as Facebook, say it in a different or shorter way.

Instagram is much more laidback, so try using a more casual voice. CSU is really good at this. Scroll through their Instagram whenever you need a little guidance.

#Hashtag

Get your hashtag on. Figure out what hashtags are popular within your content area. For @CSUVetHospital, we use #DogsOfInstagram and #Dogstagram frequently.

While dogs are popular on Instagram, there are only 55,000 posts under the #DogsOfInstagram hashtag. There are more than 2 million posts under the #science hashtag. This is good news for research stories.

Once you figure out some popular hashtags you could use, see what kind of pictures people are taking who are also using those hashtags. Hopefully this helps give you inspiration for the type of content you could also post.

Create your own hashtag to let your audience know how to engage with you. We use #CSUVetHospital and #CSUVetMed (mainly because those are the hashtags users are already using when talking about the hospital). CSU uses #ColoradoState. Feel free to also use #ColoradoState!

Recycle content from other platforms

ramchat.instagram

(Click to enlarge)

Earlier I said your Facebook strategy shouldn’t also be your Instagram strategy. However, it’s more than okay to post the same story on both Facebook and Instagram if you have a really strong visual. Just switch up the text. Make your Instagram text shorter, casual and include a relevant hashtag.

For example, we are hosting a G+ Hangout at the end of the month for prospective veterinary students. We used a fun looping video on Facebook to promote the Hangout. The text was pretty long, but I wanted to also post the information to Instagram because the visual was so great. So, I shortened the text. A lot. And it worked; it was a successful post for our small account.

Cross promote

Do it! Really. Let your audience who already follows you on Facebook/Twitter/etc. know you’re also on Instagram. “If you post it, they will come.”

Use those resources

If you don’t have time to go out and get a picture, use one that’s already been taken. You can find great pictures from your Cumulus account and CSU’s Flickr account. I actually do this quite often. We have such a great library of animal photos at my fingertips, and posting those on busy days saves me a lot of time.

If you have a student intern, put them to the Insta-task. Students are Instagram natives. They’ll know what to do.

Don’t pressure yourself to set aside a time every day to take pictures. If you have an extra 30 minutes one time in a week, go out and take a bunch of pictures all at once. You’ll be able to access those photos on days you don’t have time to venture out and take a live photo.

Student takeovers

CSU does this with its @ProudToBeACSURam account. But, you don’t need to have a separate account for this. Prospective students following your account might really appreciate the student perspective, and you just got free content for the week!

Try new things

Try switching it up and post video to your Instagram account. Consider tagging the location of your photo for prospective students who can’t visit campus. You won’t know what’s popular with your audience likes until you try.

Become best friends with apps

Apps will help you out. Unfortunately, there’s no app that allows you to schedule out Instagram posts, however there are a couple useful apps out there.

  1. Repost: This app allows you to repost a photo from another account. Think of it like a share on Facebook. This is helpful on the busy days, when you don’t have time to post original content. Maybe a student tagged your account in a photo, or maybe CSU posted a really beautiful picture of campus. Repost them and call it a day.
  2. Over: This app comes in handy when you want to lay text over a photo. Trust me, this will change your (Instagram) life.
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Ashley Manweiler

About Ashley Manweiler

Colorado State alum. Graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in journalism and technical communications, concentration in public relations. I’m not a science genius, but I write about it a lot. My favorite social media platform? Buzzfeed.