Why should I use Instagram for my school?
We'd like to make an argument. Instagram is the most important platform for your school's social media strategy. Why? Unlike Facebook or TikTok, the power of Instagram lies in its ability to attract everyone. It is the social network that spans generations. We're talking Gen Z's to Boomers and everyone in between.
- 1.074 billion average monthly users
- 30 minutes: average time spent on Instagram
- The number of users increased by 22.9% from 2020 to 2021.
- 18-34 year olds are the most active age group on Instagram.
- Instagram is now the most popular social media platform for following brands.
Teachers on Instagram
- 82% of teachers are on Instagram.
- Teachers are on Instagram every day for at least 15-60 minutes.
- 90% of teachers follow peers on Instagram.
Parents on Instagram
- 68% of mothers use Instagram daily.
- 49% of fathers use Instagram weekly.
- 59% of U.S. millennials are active users on Instagram and 1 in 5 mothers in America are millennials.
Gen Z on Instagram
- 33.3 million Gen Z’s are on Instagram.
- 65% of Gen Z’s check Instagram on a daily basis.
- There are more Gen Z men on Instagram than any other generation.
- Adult Gen Z women (ages 18-24) make up the second-largest female demographic on Instagram following closely behind millennial women.
With Instagram, relevance matters more than network size or trending popularity. Facebook, for example, may have a larger global user base than Instagram, but it also struggles to attract people under 30. Conversely, TikTok may be the most popular trending social app, but their largest age bracket is users ages 10-19. It struggles to attract older generations.
That’s why Instagram is the sweet spot—it’s where your audience lives. Teachers check Instagram every day for at least 15-60 minutes on average. Likewise, 68% of moms and 65% of Gen Z students use Instagram daily. More than half of all teachers, millennial moms, and Gen Z students check Instagram every single day. All this makes Instagram a microhub for your K-12 community. It’s a space to connect with teachers, staff, parents, and students.
Recruit teachers through teachers
With teachers actively on Instagram, it's the best place to engage with your teachers and ones that could work for you. In other words, it's the best social media platform for recruitment.
When you think of recruitment for your job openings, you probably think of job postings on listservs. Even when you have a table at a job fair, you’re probably utilizing the same approach across the board: telling people what it’s like to work in your schools. But have you considered using social media as a tool to recruit teachers?
First, think of your audience. Most people now entering the teaching profession right out of college or a graduate program fit right into Instagram’s target demographic. Per the Pew Research Center, over 70% of adults under 30 used Instagram in 2021—with 59% of all Instagram users reporting logging on to Instagram at least once per day.
Many of your prospective teachers already have a presence on the app. Even veteran teachers looking for a change are most likely on Instagram, given the platform’s growing popularity. It now trails only Facebook and YouTube as America's favorite social media channel.
Of course, it’s not just about getting in front of your audience. Breaking through the noise and capturing someone’s attention is tough on any social platform, but Instagram’s ability to put compelling visuals front and center is one sure way to help your school's stand out.
So, how do you showcase your school culture in a single image? Maybe you share a snapshot of one of your classrooms. Take your audience behind the scenes and showcase your teachers mentoring one another or helping students after class.
You want your audience to come away from your school’s Instagram account with a better sense of what working in your district looks like and what your values are. That’s so much easier when you post scenes from those closest to the action, as opposed to graphics and news updates from the central office. The best Instagram content is organic and unplanned—a real snapshot into your schools.
That’s why teachers should be your primary brand ambassadors to recruit other teachers. When you allow your teachers and staff to share the moments they’re capturing with your social media team, you let prospective staff see your schools from the vantage point of those who know it best.
What’s more, there is an opportunity to empower your teachers directly by having them take control of your school’s Instagram account every once in a while to walk your followers through a typical day. User-generated content is a great way to inject authenticity into your Instagram feed while showing some appreciation for your staff at the same time.
That’s been Apptegy’s approach to our Instagram account. We think of Instagram as a window into our company culture and use it primarily as a recruitment tool. If you scroll through our feed, you’ll see people working alongside each other, having fun with coworkers, and showcasing their personalities. There’s rarely an explicit explanation as to why you should work here, and that’s the point. You have the opportunity to let people take a peek behind the curtain, rather than just describing the value of working in your schools. It’s showing versus telling.
It’s safe to say that Instagram isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and neither is your K-12 community. Families, staff, and teachers are actively here. So, how do you begin building your school’s brand on Instagram?
Know: Understand your brand and tell your school’s story
Unlike other social media platforms, Instagram is uniquely suited to visually tell your school’s story. When you pull up a brand’s profile, you get an immediate snapshot of their personality, values, and culture. You don’t have to scroll far into their feed to get a sense of who they are.
Facebook and Twitter work a bit differently. There’s more text to sift through. And while each platform has its rightful place in your school’s social media strategy, Instagram’s visual nature can play to your brand’s advantage. In fact, the human brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text—which means, if we had our preference, we’d choose images over text any day of the week.
The layout of your profile plays a key part in this. Your profile’s grid-like visual layout is like a storybook—you don’t even need to read the captions to get a sense of a brand’s values and culture. Profile Highlights take you a step further. Raw, real-time, short bursts of video content give you a peek behind the curtain into the day-to-day activity of the brand. Bios and captions are just icing on the cake. Your Instagram profile condenses who you are into a small space, making it easy for people to catch on to your school’s brand identity with little effort.
And with new Instagram features like Reels and Guides, the possibilities for telling your school’s story are endless. That’s why Instagram has the power to change the way people feel about your school if you tell your story right.
Craft the right story
Before you start telling your story on Instagram, you have to know what your story even is in the first place. For brands, including your school, this comes from your brand identity. If you want to have the most success with Instagram, you need to make sure that you fully understand your brand identity and have your core message and visual assets built. For more information on how to craft your school’s brand identity, check out Chapter 2 in our Comprehensive Guide to School Marketing.
Once your brand identity has been established, you can start crafting your story. A great story can sometimes come from the most unexpected moments, like a turn of phrase you hear walking down the hallways of your school. Maybe it comes from observing a sentimental moment between a student and teacher. The best stories on Instagram are crafted by taking the invisible things—seemingly small moments—and making them visible.
When you start by telling small stories through videos, pictures, and Reels—stories that reinforce your identity and values—you begin to craft a larger narrative. With Instagram, you have all the time and space to world build your school’s brand.
The best stories on Instagram are crafted by taking the invisible things—seemingly small moments—and making them visible.
You can make the most out of Instagram when you truly immerse yourself in your schools. It means getting into the psychology of your people and your district. When you immerse yourself in your K-12 community, you understand it on a deeper level—and deeper understanding means better stories.
At Apptegy, we aim to understand our people on a deeper level in order to represent them well on Instagram. It’s one reason why we don’t outsource to marketing agencies or freelancers to create videos or content for our social media channels. We know how we talk and how we feel. We know our peoples’ interests outside of work, our values, and those unique attributes that make us different.
There’s an unspoken cultural language that can only be understood when you are fully integrated into your community. For school leaders, that means picking the right people to represent your schools on Instagram. It means designating a social media point person, videographers, and photographers you trust who are willing to go into the classrooms and school hallways to truly see and experience your schools. They’re the people who show up to events and game nights. Be particular about the people you choose to craft your narrative. Make sure they not only know but understand your school district and its unique strengths.
Be the purple cow
That’s really what immersion boils down to: knowing your community so that you can represent them in an authentic way. When you’re telling your story, you don’t want it to look or feel like anyone else in your surrounding districts.
Take Seth Godin’s purple cow theory. When you’ve seen one cow, you’ve pretty much seen them all. Therefore, if everyone is a cow (metaphorically speaking, of course), be the purple one. In other words, make a concerted effort to be different and stand out.
We’re going to dive into some social media best practices for schools in the sections ahead, but at the end of the day, we want you to do what feels right for your district. If creating Highlights doesn’t feel right (maybe you want to leave a little mystery), don’t do it. If your school is focused on the arts, consider laying out your profile grid in a creative, more artistic way like the profiles below.
When you make it a priority to be authentic to your school’s brand and strengths, most of the time you’ll wind up looking different from other schools. And that’s a good thing. In fact, for this reason, we encourage you not to look at your competitors’ Instagram pages. The main takeaway is this: Be the purple cow in a sea of black and white. Because when you’re different, people notice you. And once you have their attention, that’s when the real fun begins.
Create: Use advanced Instagram features
to stand out
Now that you have a framework to tell your story, the next step is to create it. Unlike other social media channels, Instagram gives you many different avenues for content creation. You can reach your audience in your Live Feed through a standard Post, or engage with them through Stories. For events or big announcements, you can go live and directly interact with your audience through the comments section.
The possibilities for content creation are endless. Most of us are familiar with the basics. We’re not going to touch on every tool but just know—there’s a lot you can do within your school’s Instagram account. For this guide, we’ll focus on three advanced features and teach you how to use them in creative ways to stand out.
Increase engagement with Carousels
A carousel is a series of up to ten photos in one Instagram post. What makes carousels so powerful is that they allow you to tell a larger story. Since you have up to ten images to work with, it’s easier to build a compelling narrative.
Take this Apptegy carousel, for example. You get a sense that this group is on an adventure in the mountains. The first picture shows the group pointing to the mountains: That’s where we’re going. The pictures in the middle show the journey. The last picture shows a few of them at the top of the mountain watching the sunset.
Do you see what we mean about telling a larger story? It’s easier to build a narrative when you have multiple images to work with, and you don’t even need words to do it.
Additionally, carousels call the user to take an action. With carousels, users have to swipe to see the next photo. It beckons you to actively participate with the brand. Once participation starts, it’s hard for us to stop. We’ll scroll until we see the last photo. This built-in desire to finish what we started is a psychological phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik Effect. It may be the reason why Social Insider claims carousels perform better than other forms of Instagram content in terms of engagement. In their study, they found that carousels score higher engagement rates (1.94%) than single-image posts (1.74%) and video posts (1.45%).
Here’s an example of the Zeigarnik Effect. We have a lot of people at Apptegy who are avid music lovers, and we’ve built a lot of friendships over this shared interest. So we decided to re-create our favorite music albums and lay them out in one continuous grid design.
By bleeding the images into the next photo, it makes seven images look like one long, continuous photo. That makes it almost impossible for the viewer not to swipe through. The best part is that you don’t need complex software to do this. You can use free apps like Canva or SCRL, which provide pre-made design templates for Instagram.
This is just one example of applying the Zeigarnik Effect to carousels. There are plenty of other design ideas to explore. The point is, carousels are built for engagement. If one of your Instagram goals is to increase engagement rates, this is an optimal feature to explore.
Capture Stories like a journalist
Instagram Stories are short posts that disappear from your profile after 24 hours. They can take the form of videos, graphics, or simple text. You can also reshare another person’s Instagram post on your Story. Stories make it easy to share content in real-time. They are usually less edited than other forms of Instagram content, which gives them a raw and transparent quality. If you don’t want certain Stories to disappear after 24 hours, you have the option to feature them on your profile under your bio. These collections of Stories are called Highlights.
Since Instagram Stories happen in real-time, they make the viewer feel like they’re not just seeing or witnessing the brand—they’re experiencing it. Stories add a level of immersion that you just can’t get with other forms of content. Plus, they require little to no preparation ahead of time. You don’t have to create a storyboard; the story is happening right in front of you. All you have to do is find the story, whip out your phone, hit record, and share with all of your followers—instantly. It’s videography from the lens of a journalist.
Since Instagram Stories happen in real-time, they make the viewer feel like they’re not just seeing or witnessing the brand—they’re experiencing it. Stories add a level of immersion that you just can’t get with other forms of content.
When you look at our People Highlights, you can see that most of our Stories take place around events. Whether we’re cheering on our fellow team members at the Little Rock marathon or flaunting our festive holiday sweaters at our Winter Workshop, there’s always a micro-story to capture and share with our Instagram followers. With GIFs, music, filters, and more, you can customize your Story with fun features that align with your brand.
You can also use Stories for recruiting prospective staff and teachers. By optimizing your Highlights section, you can make a case for why your district is a great place to work and what prospective teachers and staff can expect from your schools. This could be a perfect complement to a careers page or section on your district website.
Show, don’t tell with Reels
A Reel is a vertical video formatted for Instagram. Instagram Reels were created in response to TikTok’s. They’re similar in the sense that both allow users to create short-form videos and apply special effects like music and filters.
Because of the effects component, Reels tend to look and feel more polished than other forms of video, like Instagram Stories. It empowers users to be the directors of their videos.
Reels allow you to take a simple message and deliver it in an engaging way that grabs attention. For example, instead of creating a standard graphic to promote our careers opportunities, we decided to push people to our careers page through a Reel.
This six-second Reel took us 20 minutes to execute and record. All we needed was an iPhone, a sharpie, and a few pieces of paper. And yet, there’s a lot of thought packed into it. Viewers get a sense of our space through the background colors on the different walls. They know that if they work for Apptegy, they’ll feel a sense of purpose in what they do. Lastly, there’s a call-to-action in the last frame, encouraging people to check out our careers page and apply.
When we posted a single-image careers graphic a few months before this Reel, it reached 849 accounts. Our Reel, on the other hand, reached 1,093 accounts and received over 1,400 views. That’s the power of taking a simple message and delivering it in a creative way.
Reels also enable you to show your audience who you are through engaging video, rather than just telling them. Take school values, for example. If respect is a school value, the default is to communicate that through words by bringing up your district’s values in staff meetings, parent-teacher conferences, or in the “About Us” section on your website. Reels, however, empower you to take your values a step further by showing your community what respect looks like in action. When your audience can see clips of students respecting students—and staff respecting staff—in short, digestible videos, your message becomes more impactful.
Here’s a practical example of this concept. A big part of Apptegy’s Instagram strategy is to showcase our culture as a tool for recruitment. We have a lot of folks at Apptegy who enjoy third-wave coffee. It’s not one of our values (yet), but it’s certainly become a big part of our culture. It’s also an opportunity for us to build connections with one another in the morning.
Our Morning Coffee Reel gives you a sense of that part of our culture without us having to say a thing. You see the pour-over process and all of the fun mugs in the cupboard. The viewer can easily assume that this is a company that values good coffee. Again, we plugged our careers page in the last clip, keeping our goal (recruitment) top of mind.
To summarize, Reels open the door for creative messaging. These are just a few practical tips on utilizing Instagram Reels to show who you are and tell your school’s story in a different way without using words.
Engage: Bring delight through customer service techniques
As you gain momentum with Instagram, the window of opportunity is open for your audience to directly engage with you. Any time you engage with your audience through social media channels, you’re practicing what marketers call “reputation management.”
Reputation management is a critical component in your school’s Instagram strategy. It’s the voice of your school, and arguably the most undervalued technique in social media. Simply put, reputation management is the act of influencing how your audience thinks and feels about your brand online by directly engaging with them. Practically speaking, it is replying to comments, messages, and reviews online. Any form of direct conversation with your audience through social media is considered reputation management. Schools usually assign point person(s) for this task—to be the brand ambassador and to represent the school’s voice online.
The problem that we often see with schools is that reputation management is viewed as just another school PR task. It’s checking your school’s Instagram account once a day and replying to likes and positive comments. Maybe it’s moving detractor conversations to a private space (or simply ignoring them and hoping they go away).
Schools don’t need to be convinced to do reputation management. You already know it’s important—and to some degree, you’re probably already doing it. But knowing how to approach reputation management with strategy and intention? That’s another matter entirely.
In order to stand out from other districts, schools have to work extra hard to create memorable experiences with their community on Instagram. That means being quick to reply, gracious in your response, and authentic to your core.
All of this can be achieved if you approach reputation management through a customer service mindset—going above and beyond to provide support and ultimately delight to your audience. When reputation management shifts from school PR duty to a customer service opportunity, that’s where the real magic begins.
So, what exactly is customer service and how can it be applied to reputation management on Instagram? Here are a few key traits of good customer service and how you can practically apply them.
“When reputation management shifts from school PR duty to a customer service opportunity, that’s where the real magic begins.”
Use authentic language
When we talk about customer service, one of the first techniques that must be mentioned is authenticity. Millennials and Gen Z’s demand authenticity and they know how to spot it. For your Instagram audience, that means young teachers, first-time parents, and students.
If we approach authenticity in the context of reputation management on Instagram, it all comes down to language. Language is key because you don’t have body language to support authenticity (a fallback we rely on for in-person conversations).
The power of authentic language lies in intentional informality: intentionally engaging with your audience with a casual tone. It’s about replying in a less scripted manner so your audience can sense the human behind your school’s Instagram account.
If professionalism and sophistication are core values in your school, this may feel like a threat to your brand. But the truth is, when authenticity is done right, it actually elevates your school’s brand identity. It’s possible to be professional and still be casual and authentic. And it’s encouraged. As we like to say at Apptegy, you can do both.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is one great example of intentional informality. Herve Humler, president of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, said this about their approach to authenticity:
“We focus now on authentic, unscripted conversation and interactions with the customer. In the early days when putting together this hotel company and growing it globally, we scripted almost everything. You’d hear ‘my pleasure’ repeated everywhere you went in the hotel because that was part of the script. We have evolved from that today and now encourage our employees to be themselves. To conduct interactions with utmost respect and courtesy, but in a way that is natural to their personality and the warmth of their caring natures.”
Once you have authenticity down, the next step is to add personalization. Think about how it feels when the barista at your favorite coffee shop remembers your name—or, even better, your order. You feel seen, but more than that, you feel valued. And when you feel valued, it’s natural to want to advocate for that brand. They’ve won your loyalty because, unlike other brands, they made you feel special. It may sound cliche, but it’s true and it works.
People can easily be won over by small acts of personalization. When it comes to reputation management on Instagram, it’s more than just using someone’s name (though that’s a start). Any brand can use your name, and most brands do. You have to take personalization a step further.
One way to do that is not saying the same thing twice. Have you ever stumbled upon an Instagram post and noticed that the brand responds to everyone with almost the exact same reply? It feels fake, like it’s not a real person speaking. It makes you think that maybe they’re just copying and pasting their responses. This isn’t going to turn you into a detractor for their brand, but it isn’t going to make you an advocate either.
As you engage with your K-12 community on Instagram, make sure to add variety in your response. To apply this, go back and look at your five most recent responses. If they sound the same, or you sense a pattern in your replies, that’s how you know you need to add more personalization.
A great example of using personalization is using your name in your reply. This is something we’ve seen with a few marketing brands we follow. SEMRush is a trailblazer in this.
This strategy may not make sense for everyone. But for a large school or a school district with multiple people running the Instagram account, this extra touch of personalization could lead to a memorable experience. And that memorable experience has the power to turn someone who’s indifferent about your brand into an advocate for your school.
Pro tip: Don’t just use their name in your reply. Use their name AND yours. Sign your reply with your name. That level of personalization and authenticity creates a memorable experience with your school, and that experience can turn someone who’s indifferent about your brand into an advocate for your school.
Respond: Turn detractors into advocates with crisis management
Another critical component to reputation management is crisis management. Most of us cringe a little inside when we hear these words. That being said, it’s a key part of your overall strategy on Instagram.
To be clear, crisis management is a marketing term, and should not be confused with a crisis situation happening at your schools. A ‘crisis’ for your brand, like a negative message on Instagram, is not as threatening or critical as a school crisis. Simply put, crisis management is a proactive approach to handling a negative situation with your school on social media.
Crisis management situations on social media are never fun, but bear with us here. There’s hope. At Apptegy we talk a lot about turning neutral people in your district to advocates. But the power of crisis management lies in the fact that when it’s done right, it can even turn detractors in your schools into promoters of your brand.
We’ll explain how in a second, but first, let’s talk about why crisis management is important. More than 60 percent of people are unlikely to purchase from a brand if it has received negative social media comments. People are on the lookout for other people’s perceptions and experiences with your school. They look at your responses to comments or lack thereof. They watch how your brand engages with your audience on Instagram and form opinions based on that.
It’s important to acknowledge that most districts have at least a few detractors. We can’t please everyone, right? It might feel like these detractors vocalize their thoughts on social media more than your advocates do. The fact is, they probably do. According to Qualtrics, people are more likely to leave a negative review online than a positive one. For some districts, it’s the same individuals leaving the same negative comments or messages on Instagram, over and over again.
We’re here to say, these people don’t count. There’s a difference between handling a crisis situation with someone who has a legitimate concern and trying to please someone who’s looking for fault. An important part of crisis management is focusing your attention on the things you can control—the things you can make right or bring clarity to.
With that established, let’s say someone leaves you a negative comment and their concern is legitimate. The age-old question remains: to respond or not to respond?
Should you respond? Yes!
Unless you're dealing with long-time trolls, you should always respond. A Sprout Social survey found that when people complain and don’t receive a response in return, 40% will reach out through another channel. Additionally, 35% will never buy from the brand again. This makes sense. Have you ever voiced a concern to someone face-to-face and they ignored you? It doesn’t feel good. When you don’t respond to comments and messages on Instagram, one of two things are likely to happen. Either the problem doesn’t go away (they reach out through other channels) or you run the risk of gaining detractors.
So, you know you should respond to negative Instagram comments, but how do you do so? There isn’t an exact formula for the correct response, but there are a few best practices. Most of them are fairly intuitive, like being sincere and responding to comments quickly (within a few hours or within a day depending on your resources).
Move negative conversations to private spaces
There is, however, one crisis management best practice that we always recommend to school leaders: moving negative conversations to private spaces. This is important because private conversations give you more control over the situation. Moreover, it safeguards your school’s reputation—just in case the situation were to escalate in the comment section.
To do this, first, you need to leave a public reply. This ensures that the rest of your K-12 community sees that you’re not ignoring the person. Here’s an example of asking a person to continue a negative conversation in a private space. Feel free to copy and paste this response and use it in crisis management situations:
“Hi [First Name], thank you for bringing this to our attention. I’m sorry you had a bad experience with [elaborate on experience here]. Would you mind reaching out to us through a private message or through our email [email address here]? We’d love to remedy this situation. Thank you!”
This crisis management response doesn’t work in every situation, but there are a few key pointers you can take from it.
- Acknowledge the person by using their first name and thanking them for their feedback.
- Apologize on behalf of the school district for the bad experience they had (again, this is contextual. Not every experience warrants an apology).
- Give them your school email address or ask them to send a direct message through the school’s Instagram.
- End on a positive note, like with a “Thank you!”
Pro tip: It’s important to only share your contact information. Never ask for their personal information on public platforms like Instagram. This ensures that you’re protecting their privacy.
Here are a few examples of this concept in action on Instagram:
When crisis management is handled well on Instagram, it has the power to turn detractors into advocates of your schools. The same Sprout Social survey found that nearly half of people who receive a thoughtful reply to their initial call-out will turn to social media to highlight their positive experience with the brand. Additionally, 37% of people will share their good experiences with their friends. Crisis management on Instagram is not only a crucial component of reputation management; it’s an opportunity to win more fans to your district.
Instagram offers limitless opportunities to authentically showcase your school’s culture, values, and people. But don’t put yourself in a box with Instagram (pun intended). Your story is constantly evolving, so your approach to Instagram should too.
Keep experimenting with new strategies, like recruiting prospective teachers, or using features we haven’t mentioned in this guide. Remember, representing your school genuinely is more important than metrics and likes.
No matter what specific features you find work for your district, focus first on building relationships and curating memorable experiences and moments that accurately reflect your identity. One moment just might turn a vocal detractor into your district’s biggest fan.
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