Best Higher Ed Visual Campaigns on Facebook and Instagram

Date posted: April 30, 2014

In case you hadn’t heard, a picture is worth a thousand words and it’s also the most successful way to engage with your audience these days. Visual multimedia has taken over the internet – look no further than social media for proof of that.

Whether it’s the ridiculous virality of small and easily digestible videos on Vine or Instagram, the fact that Facebook is now integrating automatically playing videos into your newsfeed, or the rabid sharing of viral photos and memes on every social network available to us – we are living in an increasingly visual world. Visual campaigns using image sharing or curated video content are increasingly popular, as our attention spans wane and people are more and more reluctant to pore over written content.

This means that if your school hasn’t hopped on the visual campaign trend yet, you’re losing a large and valuable part of your potential leads. A 2012 study by Hubspot found that posts on Facebook with images garnered 54% more likes and a whopping 104% more comments than those that didn’t. A recent post from ICEF Monitor noted that up to 90% of initial brand assessment can be based on colour, and suggested comparing the conversion effectiveness of different colours on your website with A/B testing (comparing the control with the variation version using live traffic). “The wrong colour choice can have negative impact on the image of the product and the company. Global managers need to recognize that the different meanings associated with specific colours may facilitate multi-segment marketing opportunities,” observes Satyendra Singh of the University of Winnipeg.

As even minute details like the use of specific colours in images can affect engagement and sharing, there’s a gigantic world of possibilities when it comes to using the power of images in your higher education marketing. It’s no secret that images are much more engaging than words, but how do you leverage that engagement for your university’s marketing campaigns?

The Power of Instagram

Instagram social media marketingSource

Because of the rising trend of mobile browsing, having dedicated Instagram accounts for your university is a great way to engage with students. Since students are relying more and more on their mobile devices and eschewing traditional computer-based browsing, putting more time and energy into mobile-focused platforms like Instagram is becoming much more important. Iconosquare, formerly, is a web-based management tool for Instagram and in addition to providing great analytics about how your content is being viewed and shared it also helps you to better manage the creation and sharing of content with a ton of great features.

Diversify Your Online Presence with Multiple Accounts

While it’s commonplace to have a main Instagram account for you institution, the rising trend is specialized Instagram accounts for specific parts of your university. Whether it’s sharing sports photos on your university’s athletics Instagram account or debate videos on the student council Instagram page, people like photos and videos tailored to their interests.

Example: Dalhousie University not only has a main Instagram account for their university, but has several specialized accounts for specific purposes. Their Dal Residence Instagram account features pictures of residence staff and students, and curates real-life depictions of residence life. This not only encourages current students to share photos, but provides prospective students with an accurate and realistic look into what residence life is like. Transparency is a huge thing when it comes to higher education marketing these days, so encouraging realistic depictions of university life and getting students to participate is a great approach.

college social media

Power to the People: Encouraging your Students to Help Shape your Content

Getting your students involved is not only a great way to get new and exciting content, but to give them a sense of belonging with regards to your school. Letting users take part in your social media presence not only makes it more authentic, it makes it much more diverse as well.

Brock University encourages their staff, faculty and students to share university related photos on Instagram and use the #BrockU hashtag. They even facilitate the creation of new content by encouraging students and staff to submit university related social media accounts to them that they think should be included in the university’s list, and helping them to start official university-endorsed social media accounts. They also have Instagram accounts for things like their campus TV station and their student union, meaning there are even more avenues for students to engaged with the university.

Example: The University of Alberta even has a great campaign where they let one of their students take over the school’s Instagram account for day and curate content. It’s a great way to give a voice to your students, while getting great content and making them feel like they play a larger role within the university – plus it’s a great way to diversify the kinds of images you share!

university social media marketing

Don’t Forget About Facebook!

While Instagram is becoming increasingly popular, let’s not forget about the power of a Facebook page! The majority of content that engages people on Facebook these days is either images or video, with Facebook going so far as to integrate auto-playing videos into peoples’ news feeds. While it’s important to be sharing images on a regular basis, just sharing content for the sake of it isn’t going to help engage people as much as good quality content that’s focused on a particular subject

Facebook updated its newsfeed algorithm this year to show less text-only posts and more “link-share” posts from Pages. They noted that these posts get more engagement than by sharing links embedded in status updates “and they provide a more visual and compelling experience for people seeing them in their feeds.”

Example: The majority of posts on Concordia University’s Facebook page are accompanied by a relevant image. This means, not only are their posts informative and focused, but the addition of a provocative image means that more people will pay attention to the post. When the image, title and description are automatically pulled into the post, you could choose to delete the link in the status update box because the image and description are clickable.

social media marketing college

On average, their posts that included photos garnered many more likes and comments than simply text-based posts did. The presence of an image draws people in quicker, as people are informed of the topic of the post by the picture, which means they can make a quicker judgement about whether or not they want to engage with the post. Most students aren’t going to bother reading halfway into your 500 word Facebook post before deciding to continue – a visual cue helps them get to your content faster.

Use your Content in New and Unique Ways

Because Facebook now lets pages highlight specific posts – making them take up more real-estate on your page – highlight image-rich content to capture students’ attention.

Example: Concordia University did this when they were promoting their exhibition of student art.

social media images

Not only is it a great idea to promote an art-centric event by showcasing it with beautiful images, but because it’s larger and more visual than the other posts on the page, more people will react to it. However, you should be careful to limit your use of highlighted posts, because if the majority of your posts look like this, they’re not going to stand out as sharply. It’s a great way to use the content of your already existing posts in a new setting!

Always be sure to include a link on the photos you share on Facebook – even if it’s simply to your university’s website – because leaving out links is a missed opportunity when it comes to traffic. You could be directing more people to landing pages for specific programs or your request information page by sharing engaging and inspiring images with links.

Has your school or university been using more visual content on social media recently, and have you noticed a difference in the performance of your posts? Let us know in the comments!