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Reach Gen Z with Your School's Social Media Marketing On Instagram

Reach Gen Z with Your School's Social Media Marketing On Instagram

Improving Your School's Social Media Marketing on Instagram:

The conversation has been all about Millennials for years. The time has come to shift our focus to Generation Z. Luckily, your education marketing strategies aren't starting from ground zero because many of the same marketing methods apply to Gen Z. However, there are a few significant differences. One of them is that Instagram is to Gen Z what Facebook is to Millennials. Gen Z'ers post updates about their lives, comment on each other's posts and have real conversations on the platform. As a result, Instagram delivers some of the highest engagement rates for higher education institutions.

To reach prospective students, you should be working on creating a strong presence on Instagram with eye-catching posts, social interactions, and creative marketing.

1) Add Contact Details to Your Profile

Your profile is the only place you can add a live link on Instagram, so use the limited space wisely. Your website gets its own form field, so it is essential that you fill in that detail. Then, in your 150-character bio, you should describe your school in a witty way, include a popular brand hashtag or two, or any other contact info or links you need to advertise. Need more links? Try free services such as LinkTree, who allow you one link to house all the content you are driving followers to.

3) Post Creatively

To catch your target audience's attention, you can't post any old photo. You need to be interesting, funny, eye-catching, and genuine. Don't post stock pictures of students enjoying themselves, find real students doing real things and post about them. Show what life is really like on campus and try to do so in unique ways, using movement as much as possible.

  • Post videos on a regular basis.
  • Consider investing in a drone so you can capture bird's-eye views of campus.
  • Learn how to create cinemagraphs to bring a Hogwarts-like atmosphere to your images.  
  • Create hyperlapse videos of campus buildings during quieter moments or show off a fun event in a few seconds flat.

4) Create Stories

Instagram's Stories feature has increased the amount of time users spend on the app and helped Instagram overtake Snapchat in total users.

Stories is a similar in format to Snapchat, without all of the filters. Your Stories are linked so that one plays right after the other and 24 hours after you post your Stories, they disappear. Because Stories are discoverable, you allow your users to see your content that may  not appear regularly in their feed. Additionally, you are allowing users to choose to view you, which helps those users who are picky about seeing brands too often. Don't forget to add hashtags and have fun! Stories are a great way to let users see the spontaneous version of your brand, rather than the carefully crafted content we sometimes feel compelled to use in an effort to "be creative."

5) Use Hashtags

When posting on Instagram, you need to use hashtags on each post. Hashtags are the search function of Instagram and allow people who don't currently follow you, to discover your content through one of the hashtags they follow. Create a list of evergreen brand hashtags that go on every post like the name of your school, hashtags your school is promoting, and hashtags referring to your school type and related topics (#university, #lawschool, #art, etc.). You should also use hashtags that are more specific to each picture that will reach a broader audience. Need inspiration? Use this list of popular hashtags to find it!

6) When to Post

Many people are obsessed with finding the best times of days to post on social media platforms. There are a lot of studies that try to pin down those perfect times, but ultimately it comes down to when your target audience is awake. Whether a person sees your posts often has more to do with how many people they are following and how often they use the platform than when you are posting.

However, the important thing to keep in mind is how often to post to each channel. On Instagram, it's best to post only 1-3 times a day. Otherwise, it will feel like spam to your followers. Feel free to add to your Stories feature as often as you want since watching someone's Stories is optional for users. Remember, the days of "quantity over quality" in social media are no longer. Most platforms, especially Instagram, are encouraging users to post original, engaging content. If your users are happy with 5 posts a week, on specific days, this is way more important than just trying to post every day at a specific time in order to fill up your feed. Analytic tools like Iconsquare are your friend. They show you when your followers are engaging, which posts they like the most, even who/what/when/where your users are. For businesses, these tools are really an essential part of beginning to truly understand your users.

7) Interact Constantly

Instagram is a social platform. Not only should you interact with your followers, but you should also actively seek out and interact with people who don't follow you. Follow other schools and comment on their posts (always in a positive and supportive manner). Find popular Instagram users that are in your target audience's age range and find ways to interact meaningfully on their posts. Look for hashtags that reference topics and places your school has connections with and like and comment on some of the posts you find.

When commenting on other's posts, don't copy and paste the same message. It's very obvious when someone is seeking to advertise through their comments. Instead, find something specific about that image to comment on. Simply having your name next to your comment is advertisement enough. The key here is to be authentic.

You should interact with your followers by responding to their comments and liking their posts, without fail. You can even repost some of your favorite follower's content to your channel (just remember to get permission first and give them credit). If you have limited time on Instagram, you should focus on quality interactions, rather than quantity. Being genuinely interested in engaging with your community will no doubt result in their genuine interest in what you do. 

8) Use Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing became a 2 billion dollar industry last year and by 2020 is expected to be a 10 billion dollar industry. Ad blocking is in, attention spans are out, but influencer marketing seems immune and has actually increased the amount of time users will spend watching an advertisement. 

Influencers can be found on almost any online platform that allows followers, but Instagram is one of the most popular platforms for influencer marketing. Look for alumni, current students, and even prospective students with a sizable following and ask them to talk about their time at college, create a series about life on campus, or tour the campus and post about their experience.

Just remember, if you pay or compensate them in any way, it has to be mentioned in the hashtags or copy of their posts.

9) Buy Ads

Most Social Media trend reports that came out at the beginning of 2018 had the same theme: The days of free social media for businesses are over. Luckily, social media ads are relatively inexpensive in the marketing world and can be targeted to extremely specific audiences. Since a large number of users on Instagram are Gen Z, paying for advertising on Instagram makes sense.

Select the right objective—brand awareness, reach, video views, or website traffic—keeping in mind that most people aren't used to clicking away from the platform, since most posts don't link anywhere, so objectives that can be reached within the platform are often best. 

Creating a post that is overtly an advertisement may decrease interaction as online audiences have become adept at blocking and ignoring ads. Instead, your ads should look like Instagram posts to gain the most interaction. You may want to use your most popular posts in the advertisements and merely seek to gain more followers. Once they are a follower, you can build a deeper relationship with them and seek to convert them that way.

When trying to connect with the next generation of students, you have to meet them where they are and interact with them on a personal level. Instagram allows you to do both, but you have to invest time and money into the effort. By following these eight steps, you can quickly improve your Instagram game and reach Gen Z in ways that they'll respond to.

If you want to learn more about social media marketing for schools and how to exceed your higher education lead generation goals, lets talk!

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FAQ Recap:


Why should my school focus on Instagram marketing for reaching Gen Z?

Instagram is one of the preferred social media platforms for Gen Z, offering high engagement rates and a platform for authentic interaction and storytelling.


How can I optimize my school's Instagram profile for engagement?

Ensure your profile includes contact details, a concise and engaging bio, and a link to your website. Utilize tools like LinkTree to maximize the use of the single live link allowed in your profile.


What type of content should I post on Instagram to engage Gen Z?

Create eye-catching, authentic, and diverse content showcasing real student life on campus. Experiment with videos, drone footage, cinemagraphs, and hyperlapse videos to make your posts stand out.


How can Instagram Stories benefit my school's marketing efforts?

Instagram Stories offer a dynamic way to engage with your audience, providing a glimpse into campus life in real-time. They increase user engagement and visibility, allowing your content to reach users who may not regularly see your posts in their feed.


What role do hashtags play in Instagram marketing?

Hashtags are essential for increasing the discoverability of your content. Use a mix of evergreen brand hashtags and specific hashtags relevant to each post to expand your reach and attract new followers.


When is the best time to post on Instagram for optimal engagement?

While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, focus on posting 1-3 times a day to avoid overwhelming your followers. Use analytics tools to determine the best posting times based on your audience's engagement patterns.


How should my school interact with followers and other users on Instagram?

Actively engage with your followers by responding to comments, liking their posts, and reposting user-generated content with permission. Seek out opportunities to interact with users who don't follow you, including alumni, prospective students, and influencers.


What are the benefits of influencer marketing on Instagram for schools?

Influencer marketing allows schools to leverage the reach and credibility of individuals with large followings to promote campus life and engage with prospective students. Look for alumni, current students, or influencers within your target audience to collaborate with.


How can my school effectively use Instagram ads to reach Gen Z?

Invest in Instagram ads tailored to specific objectives such as brand awareness, reach, video views, or website traffic. Ensure your ads blend seamlessly with organic content to maximize engagement and avoid appearing overly promotional.


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