5 Universities Winning at Instagram

Photography continues to prove itself as an intrinsic part of any successful school communications program, and Instagram is an obvious way to reach a massive audience on a regular basis. Having a large school or a winning athletic program isn’t a foolproof method to building a successful Instagram account (although it certainly doesn’t hurt). Like any marketing tool, schools are identifying an intended audience and posting content that resonates with that constituency. Engagement, as measured by likes and comments, is still a better yardstick of your social media presence than number of followers.


  • Most of the schools are employing hashtagging both as a branding and a discovery mechanism.
  • Many schools are overlaying text onto some of their images to brand as well as convey a message
  • Schools are generally not experimenting with video.

Here are 5 universities that are succeeding with Instagram.

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan (@uofmichigan) has one of the most consistently branded feeds. The school’s “M” appears frequently and with accompanying text with school approved typeface. The visually cohesive feed strikes a good balance between campus life, athletics, and appeal to alumni.

University of Wisconsin – Madison

With an enrollment exceeding 43,000 students and a successful athletics program, UW-Madison (@uwmadison) has all the raw potential to build a large Instagram following. And in that respect, they have succeeded with nearly 50,000 followers on the social media platform. But along with a celebration of sport, the feed also has more intimate images like this one of a candlelight vigil for the Pakistani school massacre.

University of Florida

The average marketer might balk at the presentation and visual inconsistency of the University of Florida’s (@uflorida) Instagram feed. But 42,000 followers makes it clear that they have a strong understanding of their audience. The feed is abound with hashtag references to #gatornation and an affinity towards the orange and blue school colors. The approach might not resonate with every school, but it’s working for the Gators.

I said…

A post shared by University of Florida (@uflorida) on

Harvard University

Founded in 1636, Harvard (@harvard) has both longevity and excellence to fuel their Instagram feed. Alongside fun images of The Game (the annual football contest against Yale), are historical images of Yo-Yo Ma as an undergraduate in 1974 and Oprah Winfrey accepting a W.E.B. Du Bois Medal.

Stanford University

Considering that Instagram was created by Stanford (@stanford) graduate Kevin Systrom, it’s probably no surprise that there’s some campus pride behind the over 53,400 followers. Like many of the other schools, Stanford features a wide range of campus activities and scenery, but with a few key differences: 1) the posts are very light on text, 2) the photographs are of very high quality.

Maintaining a visual feed of fantastic photos not only connects students/alumni with the school, but also make the feed something to look forward to for aesthetic reasons alone.

Monday morning at #Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center. Credit: Julia Ama (@jujuama), '16

A post shared by Stanford University (@stanford) on

Visual communication is critical for any organizations, and universities are no exception. Strong imagery combined with a solid image management system (e.g. Libris) provides many more opportunities than before to create touch points with your desired audience.

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  • Reply
    Joshua Yetman
    September 27, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Also working the Gram – St. George’s University!

    • Reply
      Kristin Twiford
      September 27, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      Love it! Definitely a feed to check out, especially since you guys have such a gorgeous setting to work with!

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