Student Marketing: 5 Universities Crushing It With Instagram Captions

When it comes to student marketing, the difference between the good and the great is often the copy. Having someone on staff or working with a trusted copywriting specialist is a must to consistently score creative wins with your audience.

Nowhere has that been more evident in the last few years than on Instagram. However, due to the platform’s reputation as a ‘mainly visual platform’, captions are often considered as an afterthought - if at all. 

Those who can realise the power and potential of a well-written and well-formed caption are in a better position than most to maximise the effect of their Instagram content.

Below we’re going to shine the spotlight on 5 schools who are doing exactly that, and what you can do to follow suit.

How to write a caption for Instagram

Before we get into that, let’s first look at how to write a caption for Instagram. You should always start by considering your target audience. This should be clear in a broad sense if you have created a social media strategy with defined audiences by channel.

Going down a level you should then ask yourself, what do you want them to feel when they see/read your post? What action should they take afterwards?

Here are a few more things to consider to really get your Instagram captions to connect, as well as 5 great examples.

Give your audience more context

You may feel that your picture speaks for itself but remember that your followers do not have the background knowledge you have nor the patience to connect the dots for themselves. Leave nothing up to chance. When it comes to good copy, clarity beats creativity. If in doubt, write a clear and concise caption explaining exactly what you mean to say.

Here are three points can keep in mind when creating a context caption:

  • Simply describe the image to your audience.
  • Be clear about why you’re sharing this and why you’re sharing it now.
  • Leave your audience with a clear call to action.

Keep captions short and sweet

Above we mentioned being concise. This cannot be overstated. Yes, Instagram does allow up to 2,200 characters, and there may be times when you want to experiment with longer captions for variety (see promoting alumni engagement below), but day-to-day you should be trying to use as few words as possible.

Stick to your tone of voice guide

Every marketing department should have a documented tone of voice guide. This helps your school’s communications department remain consistent no matter who is crafting the text or on which channel. Tone of voice guides are not only useful for Instagram but for other social media channels, web pages and newsletters too.

Use hashtags and emojis (but not too many)

It’s understandable that as a university or online learning platform you want to maintain a certain level of maturity. But remember, Instagram is a place where it’s ok to be a bit more casual. If it fits your tone and message, feel free to make use of hashtags and emojis - just don’t go overboard.

Stimulate engagement

While gaining likes on beautiful image posts is all well and good, as an institution you would probably like something more such as a request for information or tap through (if it’s an ad). Be sure to ask questions, make a bold statement, or tag in influencers or collaborators.

Don’t be afraid to explicitly tell your audience what you would like them to do in certain situations. We go into this in more detail below.

1) Using captions for events

Starting strong, this image and caption combination from Sheffield Hallam University covers all the points mentioned above. It provides context, is short and sweet, sticks to a tone of voice, uses branded hashtags and emojis, and stimulates engagement.

The image element uses a carousel to advertise individual open day dates, whilst tapping into the spirit of the event by showing a parent enjoying the campus with a potential student.

In just three short paragraphs the caption explains, entices, and ultimately invites us to their upcoming undergraduate open day.

Bonus point: Pairing the target audience of the open day with the appropriate social media channel for their social media strategy (i.e., undergraduates to Instagram) is also well done.

2) Communicating a programme offer

This three-paragraph text from the University of East Anglia for their Primary and Secondary PCGE programme is simple and elegant. The perfect example of a well-formed caption.

Firstly, it touches on the aspirations of its target audience. Secondly, it quickly delivers its value for interested students. Thirdly, it wastes no time telling us where we can sign up to take the first step in a rewarding career.

3) Appreciating employees

What’s better than showing your community you appreciate them? Whether it’s administrative staff, your student population, lecturers, or student union officers like in this post from Staffordshire University.

We could have picked a few good examples from the West Midlands institution but pulled this one from their feed due to its easy-to-read paragraph breaks, engaging copy, minimal but effective use of emojis, and tagging of collaborators.

The caption then concludes with a call to action, inviting its audience to meet the subjects of the professionally taken picture in person at their next event.  

4) Promoting alumni engagement

Arguably the true measure of a university or learning platform is the quality of its graduates. If you have a community of motivated and successful alumni to connect with, you have been truly blessed. 

In this post and caption the University of Southampton promote an upcoming webinar with two graduates linking into their environmental focus.

While this caption is longer than others mentioned in this list, it is for good reason. Occasionally it is necessary to use a few more words to do justice to the story or experience your subject can share.

When highlighting alumni success, don’t be afraid to craft longer form captions to capture the interest of your audience.

5) Celebrating a milestone

University rankings are a big deal, so when you break into the top 10 worldwide you want everyone to know about it. In this caption Imperial College London proudly shares the news but doesn’t go overboard. It is clear they still stick to a defined formula.

Over a few short paragraphs they use a smattering of emojis, some branded hashtags, include a quote from the university president and create a call to action.

Using these examples as inspiration, it’s time to start thinking about how you can utilize the power of the Instagram caption.

Don’t forget, if you need assistance crafting the perfect post or building out an Instagram strategy that converts, Words On Brand are here to help.

In the meantime, be sure to sign up to our newsletter for monthly advice on higher education copywriting straight to your inbox.

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