Illustration of hand using phone surrounded by social media icons

How to Leverage Instagram Stories to Increase Engagement with Potential Students

Jaime Escott -

Illustration of hand using phone surrounded by social media icons

Instagram has become an instrumental social platform in higher education marketing, because 72% of teens use it – surpassing Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter.

With Instagram as a frontrunner for young adults, your school should leverage the “stories” feature to captivate prospective students and engage them before they even step foot on campus. Considering 15-25% of story viewers swipe up to follow a link and engage directly with a brand’s website, Instagram stories are becoming a quintessential tool to engage users and drive action.

Therefore, it’s critical to leverage Instagram stories to increase engagement from prospective students. To achieve this peak engagement, we’ve put together a guide to follow when posting Instagram stories:

Selecting the Right Content

Keep It Tailored to Them

The first step to creating engaging Instagram stories is to ensure your content meets the mark for your prospective audience. You can create content for Instagram, but if it isn’t tailored to your potential students, they’ll click right past your story. This means it’s important to craft content that targets their needs, such as a video story that shows a group on a campus tour or multiple stories that share a “day in the life” of a current student.

By ensuring your stories are tailored to your prospective audience, you’ll build a relatable experience for them on social. 

Leverage User-Generated Content

Your stories should include content generated from followers that mention your school. This form of User-Generated Content (UGC) is an effective way to promote your school while also connecting with your followers. In fact, UGC-based posts shared to social channels see a 28% higher engagement rate than standard brand posts.

To leverage UGC, simply tag and repost your follower’s content. If an accepted student just posted a story with their acceptance letter, reshare it and tag them in the story. This type of story will give recognition to your followers, while also encouraging them to share more posts about your institution.

Tease Out Campus Happenings

Sharing stories focused on campus events and activities is a great way to spike a follower’s interest in your school. When they see a post about a new club meeting, sports tryout, or international student meet-up, they’ll see the unique offerings that your school provides. This could pique their interest to learn more about your school and what new students can join upon acceptance.

By showcasing a breadth of campus happenings through Instagram stories, your prospective students will be able to get a peek into what life could be like for them at your school.      

Promote Your Campus

Stories can be used to highlight your campus, the surrounding area, and popular spots on campus that make your school unique. You can share a mix of videos and static images in a story series that showcases your campus and all of its distinct characteristics.

Including snippets of your school’s virtual tour is an effective way to amplify your Instagram stories. Virtual tours bring viewers on an immersive experience around your school’s dorm rooms, dining halls, and academic departments. This becomes an effective way to reach prospective students where they are, providing them with quick access to view your campus in a matter of seconds.

Related: Make It Feel Real: How to Design a Compelling Virtual Tour for Your College/University

To effectively share pieces of your virtual tour on stories, include images or video snippets, along with a link that allows users to swipe to see more. This gives viewers a creative, clickable experience, engaging them throughout their time on Instagram.

Assembling the Stories

Use the Poll Feature

Your school can gain invaluable insights from your followers by using the poll feature on Instagram stories. This means you can ask your prospective audience a number of questions or yes/no questions that are tailored to their school search. For example, ask what aspect of school they’re most excited for, or hold a poll asking which branded sweatshirt they would prefer as a student. While the questions and polls can range in the ask, the answers gained will give some raw data and key insights into the perceptions of your prospective students.

The poll feature is an effective way to gain input from your audience, while keeping them engaged on social.

Include Location & Hashtags

When assembling your stories, be sure to include the exact location and appropriate hashtags. Once prospective audiences start actively looking at your stories, they’ll become more familiar with places on campus, as well as terms associated with your school through unique hashtags.

The location tag is an ideal way for your stories to go public, because it will show up in that location when searched. In addition, if a campaign is running called, “#DragonPride,” include this hashtag in your school pride posts to help reach a greater audience and create a more clickable experience for followers.

Get Creative with CTAs

It’s important to not just ask your followers to do something or click through to the next story. You need to entice them to click, with design elements and eye-catching features. This means rather than asking them to “click to see more,” you could include a GIF that has a fun animation arrow that makes it seem less of a demand and more of a fun interaction.

If your school has an event coming up, have the event organizer say to swipe up to see more, and have their hands motion it as they talk. Keeping the ask easy for followers will keep them engaged throughout every story. 

Maintaining Your Account

Respond to Direct Messages

If you’re getting direct messages sent to your school’s Instagram account, be sure to respond – and fast. Some of these inquiries might be from prospective students asking for more information about your school. So, be sure to stay responsive to messages in order to engage with followers and answer any questions that may arise. This form of quick engagement could be just what a prospective student needs in order to feel ready to apply.

Build a Highlight Reel

Instagram stories are quick, short snippets of content – only lasting 24 hours. However, Instagram allows you to keep your favorite posts (or all of them) accessible to your followers with the highlight feature. This tool is beneficial if you post stories that you want followers to be able to come back to. Therefore, add those stories to your Highlight reel on your school’s profile to give your followers longer access to them.

You can even customize the Highlight feature, which is helpful to attract prospective students. For instance, create a separate Highlight folder on your profile with a label intended for prospective students. This will entice that audience to click the content within the folder that best relates to where they are in the student journey. 

By adding your stories to highlights, your followers will be able to view the content at their own convenience – keeping them engaged on and off Instagram stories.

Driving Engagement One Story at a Time

As a top-ranking platform, Instagram is elemental in higher education marketing. And with Instagram stories, it’s become a platform to drive engagement within a matter of seconds. Prospective students can click through your institution’s stories, keeping it top of mind during their school search.

In order to keep them interested, select the right content, assemble the stories, and maintain your account. By following these steps, your school will be able to post stories that build memorable snapshots of your school and boost engagement for long term results.