Editor’s note: We invited staffers Jack Weaver and Travis Bodell of Lafayette High School in St. Louis to share what they’ve been doing with their staff’s Instagram account this year to make it successful. Their tips are below and you can find the staff’s Instagram account here: @TheLancerFeed.
1- Rack up followers and make your name known
It seems easier said than done. We’ve been there. Last year, we created our Instagram. The first couple hundred followers were easy. But then the new followers stopped coming in and gaining followers was no longer so easy. Between Orientation in August this year and the beginning of October, our followers soared and we exceeded 1,000 followers. With about half our student body following us, people began to recognize who we were. The rapid increase in social media activity and student interest can be attributed to three simple steps: Post, Promote, and Follow. If you want people to follow you, engaging and intriguing content must be on your page in preparation for the promotion process. Once your profile boasts an array of in-depth and eye-catching pictures, slideshows and videos, promotion can commence. We had a couple hundred stickers printed up that simply read “Follow Us” and included our username. We then handed them out, and pretty soon the stickers were seen around the school. The last step to this system is to follow back your student body. By doing this, you can also follow people who haven’t followed you yet. Of course, not every kid is going to accept your follow request. Even so, following people allows your account to become visible within your school’s online community.
2- Ditch the idea of a strict posting schedule
Yes, content scheduling and organization can definitely create a more exact, precise posting pattern. Sometimes, though, spontaneity is key. Our social media coverage often includes planned content, such as student features titled “People of LHS”. Relying exclusively on scheduled posts would be a bore. Encouraging the rest of our staff to live cover football games, post a picture from the event they’re attending on the Instagram story and featuring fun, student-engaging images allows a certain level of creativity on our Instagram that would simply be impossible if all our content was set in stone from the get-go.
3- Treat social media as one of many outlets for coverage
A proficient, effective publication is defined by its ability to intertwine different mediums. We believe the publication’s website should be given the same attention as the print edition. Social media should undoubtedly be included in the mix; doing so may actually benefit your other platforms. Content promoted on social media always receives more views than content that is not. However, be creative in how you choose to promote posts knowing that Instagram has no concept of including links in posts. At the same time, social media can work as a great source for short and simple posts that work better on Instagram rather than in an online or print story.
4- Know what you’re dealing with
To utilize Instagram to it’s fullest potential for your publication, you have to understand its perks. Compare it to Twitter: There are several differences in how you’d use the two mediums. Twitter has the ability to include direct links. With Instagram, the only link is in your bio. With Twitter, you have a limited number of characters. Instagram allows a couple thousand characters. Going off of this, some posts are best suited for Instagram while others may be better online, in print, or in a tweet. Constantly bombarding your followers with promotions to online stories where they have to go through your bio to read gets annoying, so be smart about how you use Instagram’s perks to put out quality and engaging media.
5- Check yourself
Analysing your online analytics can be a pain. With Instagram, it’s super simple and can give you incredible feedback on what’s working and what’s not. To start, your account has to be set up as a business account through Facebook. Getting this taken care of not only allows you to access analytics but also makes your profile look cleaner and more professional. Instagram’s built-in insights can display followers gained/lost, what types of people follow you (gender, age, general location), number of website clicks, and much more. Watching these numbers and taking notes on what type of coverage generates what type of traffic can help determine exactly what you need to work on and what you need to continue doing.
(This post was co-authored by Jack Weaver and Travis Bodell from Lafayette High School in Wildwood, Missouri.)