Though it's owned by Facebook, the way that students use and interact with Instagram is entirely separate from how they interact with its blue behemoth of an older brother. Instagram is about aesthetic. It's about visually communicating ideas to your audience without taking yourself too seriously. Because of its distinct vibe as a social platform, Instagram can be tricky for university marketers to successfully adapt into their social presences. On top of this, Instagram's massively popular "story" feature comes with its own set of unwritten rules when it comes to appealing to a social-savvy audience.

Read on to learn the ins and outs of adopting Instagram's story feature.

Do Your share

As a university, one of your biggest assets for content creation is your student body. User-generated content is more than an interesting change-up from the traditional, informational university Instagram post. It helps to build your school's sense of community—ultimately bettering the student experience. Instagram allows you to share other people's stories on you official university story, if you were tagged in the post. Sifting through your student story mentions is a great way to discover low-hanging, user-generated content that can easily be posted to your official university story, and it doesn't stop there.

You can also search university-related hashtags to find traditional Instagram posts from students that can also be shared and linked from your story. The more student posts you share on your official account, the more mentions and tags you will receive from 'gram-savvy students hoping to secure their 15 seconds of fame on their university's social page. Is your vault of user-generated content running a little dry? Launch a social campaign that uses a catchy hashtag, and encourage students to share pictures using the tag and mentioning your account. By offering a simple prize, such as a voucher to the school bookstore or a set of tickets to an event on campus, you can drive up your student engagement without breaking the bank.

Double Down

One problem that we often hear cited by marketing pros in higher education is that they don't have the time nor budget to post quality content to their college or university's Instagram stories. That worry is completely understandable, but there are ways to keep on top of Instagram's trendiest feature without hiring a content creator or sourcing an intern. The easiest way? Flaunt what you've got. Assuming your marketing department has any budget at all, you've likely paid for high-quality photo or video content for other marketing applications in the past few years. Take this content—which has already been bought and paid for—and repurpose it to fit the Instagram story platform.

Take that two-year-old student-life highlight reel and put the best 15 seconds of it into a "did you know" post about upcoming student events. Take a few pictures from a previous admissions photoshoot, and post a story telling students about your library's study hours during finals week. Instagram stories are about creating helpful, engaging content that students can use to stay on top of university events and feel plugged into the campus community—you don't need to reinvent the wheel to create content that is "good enough" to constitute an Instagram story post. Take what you have, and roll with it. The results will speak for themselves.

True Story

There's a troubling trend among university marketers—they like to sterilize their schools' social media presences. What do we mean by sterilize? You're probably familiar with the process. Someone writes a post that is then diluted as it runs up the chain of approval. This process results in bland, uninspiring social media content for institutions all across the country. The trend has impacted the way many traditional social media posts are drafted, but your university's Instagram story is an opportunity to do something different.

Students look to Instagram stories for the same reason people flock to reality television shows—they want genuine, unpolished content. If you've ever seen an influencer buy breakfast and document the process in an Instagram post, then you know just how much time some people spend laboring over the finer details of their more traditional social media feed posts. This is not the purpose of a story post. When adding something to your university's Instagram story, don't be afraid to go unscripted. Take videos of things that are really happening around your campus; don't set up a tripod in an office or post boring, static images and expect your Instagram presence to flourish.

Whether you're a seasoned social veteran or a brand new university marketer cutting your teeth on the wild, wild web, Instagram stories are an amazing way for you to connect with your students in a way that resonates with them. By taking the time to understand the platform, share user-generated content and speak to your audience in a genuine, interesting way, you're sure to engage your followers and extend your campus's culture into the digital space.

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