Social media is a powerful tool when it comes to higher education marketing. Prospective students are already spending their time on social media, but they’re also using it as a tool for vetting their top schools and see if it’s a match. Your social media is an opportunity to showcase what your school has to offer—from academics, faculty, student life, athletics, and more—in an authentic and relatable way. And Instagram for young people is the king of social media, with 72% of teens using Instagram and 67% of young people ages 18-29 on the social media platform.
It’s one thing to understand the power of social media marketing for higher education—but it’s another thing entirely to execute. So, what does a great higher education Instagram account look like? We did the digging for you, and here are 10 of the best university Instagram accounts we’ve found this year.
What makes a college Instagram account stick out?
Instagram is a powerful tool for storytelling and engaging your prospective students—and universities have it at their complete disposal. Your prospective students are using social media to essentially vet your school and determine whether they see your school as a potential fit. Instagram provides ample opportunity for engagement through posts, stories, highlights, reels, IGTV, and Instagram Live. All you have to do is take advantage of these features to tell good stories and drive superior engagement.
So what makes a university Instagram account perform well and influence your prospective students? We conducted research of the top 100 MBA Instagram accounts to answer this question, and we uncovered a few key findings.
First, your Instagram needs to show off what your school really has to offer—and that’s career-building opportunities. Our researching found that posts about careers have the 2nd highest engagement rate at 3.4%, and posts about internships follow closely behind with engagement rates at 3.3%.
Second, your account needs to show off your campus. Your students want to understand the environment they will be in for the duration of their higher education career. Our research found that posts that featured college campuses have an engagement rate of 3.1%.
And finally, your account needs to leverage powerful storytelling. You have the opportunity to directly speak to and influence your prospective students through live updates, videos, trending posts, and more—all you need to do is creatively take advantage of this direct channel.
1. Dartmouth College
Engagement Rate: 2.94%
What Works: Dartmouth College boasts Ivy League status and a beautiful campus in Hanover, New Hampshire—and the university is not afraid to show either off on its Instagram account. And it works for them! Through stunning photography, Dartmouth showcases what students will be able to experience through attending and everything the campus has to offer.
Takeaway: Invest in quality photography to show off what you’ve got.
2. Colorado State University
Engagement Rate: 3.63%
What Works: Colorado State University is a public land-grant research university in Fort Collins, and dominates their Instagram strategy with high-quality photography, IGTV videos, reels, highlights, and stories. They do particularly well with beautiful and informative reels that educate current and prospective students on the best study spots, or informative posts with beautiful photography that point to a link in their bio for more information.
Takeaway: Use your feed to educate and inform.
3. Tippie College of Business
Engagement Rate: 4.18%
What Works: The Tippie College of Business, also known as simply “Tippie”, is a business school located in Iowa City, Iowa and is one of the highest-ranking business schools in the United States. Tippie College’s Instagram overflows with creative and engaging content—from throwback film photos of alumni to posts featuring Tippie’s beloved matriarch and patriarch Amy and Ken.
Takeaway: Be creative and have fun.
Read next: How to Attract Students for MBA Admission
4. Harvard University
Engagement Rate: 1.08%
What Works: Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in beautiful Cambridge, Massachusetts and the oldest institution for higher education in the United States. Harvard does an excellent job of staying current and posting in line with trending events. For example, they posted a feature of their previous students that were in the Olympics.
Takeaway: Stay relevant and chime in on current events.
5. Liberty University
Engagement Rate: 2.81%
What Works: Liberty University is a private Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, and while there is a physical campus, most of the university’s students are enrolled in online courses. Liberty University successfully engages both their prospective students and alumni by showcasing the legacy their school carries. Liberty University regularly posts photos of alumni and their families visiting their campus, and paints a picture of what prospective students could be a part of, themselves.
Takeaway: Paint a meaningful picture.
Read next: How to Recruit Transfer Students
6. Arizona State University
Engagement Rate: 2.11%
What Works: Arizona State University is a public research university in the Phoenix area, and ASU is one of the largest public universities by enrollment in the US, with a strong online program. ASU makes excellent use of their school’s colors to create a cohesive Instagram theme that speaks their school’s brand and appeals to prospective students. They switch up the type of content they post on their feed, provide resources and education in their highlights, and tie everything together with their school’s hashtag, #GoDevils (a great way to involve students and gather user-generated content).
Takeaway: Create a visual theme to tie your feed together.
7. West Virginia University
Engagement Rate: 2.81%
What Works: West Virginia University is a public, land-grant research university with its main campus located in Morgantown, West Virginia. West Virginia University has a particularly impressive highlight called “Tour”, in which current tour guides show Instagram users around the school as if they were getting a real tour. Instagram highlights, by definition, are bite-sized and more authentic versions of the more produced videos you may have on your website — perfect for Gen Z prospective students.
Takeaway: Make your highlights interesting and engaging.
8. The Wharton School
Engagement Rate: 1.19%
What Works: The Wharton School is the business school of the University of Pennsylvania, a private Ivy League research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Wharton School does a great job of leveraging its hashtag, #MyWharton, to collect user-generated content and real stories from current students and alumni.
Takeaway: Use real stories to engage and influence prospective students.
9. Georgetown University
Engagement Rate: 2.93%
What Works: Georgetown University is a private Jesuit research university in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Georgetown University adds a unique element by regularly featuring their real-life school mascot, Jack the Bulldog on their social channels.
Takeaway: Unite your audience with a mascot.
10. Texas Tech University
Engagement Rate: 2.64%
What Works: Texas Tech University is a public research university in Lubbock, Texas and is the main institution of the five-institution Texas Tech University System. Texas Tech excels at using reels to maximize their account’s impressions and entertain their audience.
Takeaway: Use all the features Instagram has to offer.