You’re familiar with Facebook and LinkedIn. If you’re among the savvy social media users, you may even be on Twitter. However, if you really want to connect with students – and young parents – Instagram is the place to be. Here's why schools should be using Instagram: it has gained more than 130 million users since launching in 2010. More than 90 percent of those users are under the age of 35, with most between the ages of 18 and 23.
Instagram’s growth has truly been astounding, as seen in this chart from Business Insider. It's a growing medium that features powerful immediacy and graphic impact. But where does Instagram fit into a school's communications mix?
At its simplest, it’s a social network built around photo sharing. You can upload photos and quickly edit them to make them high-quality or to give them a unique look. You can also build a community around those photos by using hashtags.
Much like Twitter, users can search for photos and status updates by using the hashtag. Instagram shares a number of characteristics with Twitter. Other users can mention you by using your @username in a comment. Similarly, you include others in the captions or comments of your pictures. You can follow other users and they can follow you. You can also set up Instagram to be connected to your other social media accounts. That allows you to post images to Instagram and then have them automatically pushed out to Facebook and Twitter. Many people opt to do this because they can edit the image in Instagram in ways that they cannot on the other social media platforms.
For those worried about using a new social media platform, you don’t have anything to fear. It’s easy to use. If you’re familiar with Facebook and Twitter, you won’t have any trouble with Instagram. You may even prefer it. In fact, many people get hooked on Instagram because of the ability to edit and play with their images.
Why schools should be using Instagram
We’ve established that Instagram is a fun and easy way to share pictures, but that alone doesn’t mean it’s a helpful social media tool for schools. So why should your school embrace Instagram?
1) It’s where your students are heading.
Facebook is still the largest of all the social media platforms, but it’s quickly becoming the “uncool” place to be among teenagers. Since you know teenagers well, you know there’s nothing worse than being labeled the “uncool” place. A 2013 study of teenagers showed that most consider Facebook to be “dead and buried.” The reason? Their parents have invaded. Teenagers want a place that's their own, free of parental monitoring and embarrassing interactions. While there’s still a great deal of utility in Facebook based on its high number of users, the point here is the growing preference of younger people to use Instagram. And you know what that means? Older users such as parents and advertisers are going to follow suit. Schools should too.
2) You can show, not tell.
Rather than talk about how great your school is, you can show them on Instagram with pictures and even short videos. In a recent blog post, media consultant Janet Murray discussed how some schools are using Instagram to create online visual brochures, such as the one below:
3) You can build a community.
By creating a school specific group or using a designated hashtag, you can share your images and videos with your community of students, teachers, and parents. Share pictures from graduation ceremonies, school events, field trips, and more. You can even ask your students and parents to participate by posting their own images.
How teachers can use Instagram
Instagram is useful for schools to promote and market themselves, but it’s also helpful for teachers to better communicate with students. Teachers should add Instagram to their social media classroom mix. They can use Instagram to complement fun assignments and school projects. Teacher and education blogger Hannah Hudson recently posted her 10 favorite ways to use Instagram with her students. Some of the most interesting include:
- Showcase students' work. Snap pictures of students' artwork and other special projects to share on a private Instagram account only accessible to families and others in your school community.
- Feature a student of the week. Invite students to alternate "taking over" your classroom Instagram account and sharing photos from their daily lives. Then have the featured student share his or her photos with the class.
- Share reading recommendations.Invite students to snap photos of their favorite books and then browse the photos in your feed for more ideas on what to read.
- Go on an ABC scavenger hunt.Challenge kids to find print in the world around them—on signs, packaging and in the mail.
- Document student progress. Snap photos of student's writing at the beginning and end of the year. Order inexpensive prints from sites such asPrinstagr.am to show students how far they have come!
Social media is always changing, but it’s worth making the effort to keep up. Social media is one of the most powerful ways to communicate with your students, teachers, parents, and surrounding community. Instagram is where your students are and it’s one of the most effective places to reach them.
As co-founder of Campus Suite, Steve believes behind every great school is great communication. His tech savvy and passion for design fuel his desire to help administrators understand, embrace and seize the power of web communications.