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Leveraging the Power of Instagram

Leveraging the Power of Instagram

This blog will cover some of my thoughts regarding alumni social media engagement.

I consider myself an expert user of LinkedIn.  I also regularly use Facebook and Twitter.

However, when it comes to Instagram, I must confess to being a little ignorant.


So I approached the one super user of Instagram that I know, my 13-year-old daughter Dalia.

Dalia has 4000+ followers (and growing) and kindly agreed to give me a 101 on Instagram to help me figure out why and how schools should use it.

Let’s start with the basics.

Instagram is an app that allows you to quickly and easily build professional looking photos (and videos) and share them on existing social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr.

Furthermore, Graduway’s own research on Alumni Social Media trends shows that Instagram is the fastest growing social network being adopted by education institutions today.

So two obvious questions: does your school need to even be on Instagram and if yes, what exactly should you be doing on Instagram?

Let me start by sharing three stats which I believe will persuade you that every school needs to seriously consider using Instagram.

  1. As of December 2014, we know 300+ million people are using Instagram making it one of those social networks just on its sheer size, that you cannot ignore.
  2. According to Wikipedia, 90% of the active 150 million users each month on Instagram are under the age of 35.
  3. Finally, it has been shown by the Marketing Charts that with respect to the education demographic, users with some college education proved to be the most active users on Instagram. (“The Demographics of Instagram and Snapchat Users”Marketing Charts, October 29, 2013.)

So if you are interested in engaging alumni, especially younger alumni using social media, you probably need to be doing something on Instagram, but what exactly?

I found an interesting case study by looking at what the Simon Fraser University (SFU) is doing with alumni social media engagement.  SFU launched its official Instagram account in March 2015 (you can follow @sfualumni_or go to instagram.com/sfualumni_).

SFU’s stated goal is to have ‘’a fantastic way to give our followers an insight into the life of the University even after graduation whether it is through photos of campus across the seasons or photos of special events in the University, as well as news and updates of SFU alumni exclusive privileges and events.’’

And so far they have been reasonably successful.  They have 740 followers with 206 posts.  Moreover, they have also effectively launched a popular hashtag within Instagram by inviting SFU alumni and students to join and show off their love for the university by taking a picture and tagging it with #SFUAlumniPride.  This alone has already generated 370 posts.

SFU is doing good work in this area and is probably ahead of the game versus other schools.  However, there does seem to be a deeper question here regarding social media in general and Instagram in particular.  What is it that a school is actually trying to achieve with their social media vis-a-vis alumni engagement?  Does generating extra alumni followers, likes or posts translate into helping achieve the strategic goals of the school?

I believe there are two common problems with schools’ social media strategies for alumni engagement.

Firstly I believe many schools simply treat their social media be it Facebook, Twitter or Instagram as an alternative to email.

Schools tend to use social media as an alumni communication tool rather than an engagement tool.

This one-dimensional approach misses both the opportunity to have a conversation with the alum individually but also of facilitating conversations between alumni.

Secondly, I believe many schools are failing to think about the value proposition to the alum in their social media strategy.  Yes, you have a captive audience, but what are you sharing with them and will it be considered valuable by them or not?

I don’t have all the answers but I believe these are the right first questions.  I also plan to share some initial ideas on how to use Instagram in a future blog.

We need to be using Instagram with our alumni but avoiding the old mistakes we typically commit when using social media.  Instagram has the potential to unleash huge alumni social media engagement. It’s now up to us to be creative in unlocking that value.

I would welcome your thoughts.


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