Instagram User Guide
Instagram is the most visual of the main social media platforms, as the channel prominently features photo and video imagery.
Instagram has the youngest audience of the four major social media platforms, as well as one the fastest growing audience, with now over 1 billion monthly active users. With the growth of the platform, users now use Instagram for much more than compelling visual content, it has very much become a the primary social media network for many people.
Users go to Instagram to follow their friends and celebrities, but also companies and brands who have interesting content to share. For our purposes, think of Instagram as a way to showcase the most unique visuals from your department–almost like a living portfolio.
Note: If you need assistance setting up an Instagram Profile, please contact us – these guides assume a basic level of proficiency.
Setting up your Instagram Profile
There are a few things to keep in mind when creating your Instagram profile.
Your page’s name and handle (@name) should be simple and easily searchable for users – e.g. UChicago, not uofc—as this is how most users will find you on the platform.
Instagram, like Twitter, uses circular profile images, so make sure that the image you use will appear well in a circular crop.
Your page’s bio should be informative, but succinct. Try and encapsulate what your page is in one to two sentences.
Instagram also allows you to put a link in your bio. This can be a link to your department’s website, or if you’re promoting a specific event, you can post and include “Link in Bio” in your post description. For this feature, you may also want to consider using linktree (https://linktr.ee), which allows you to host a variety of links on a single page.
Try and include a hashtag in your bio as well. If you don’t have a unit-specific tag, simply use #UChicago.
Similar to other social media platforms, Instagram allows users to have both private and public accounts. Public accounts allow both followers and non-followers to view your page and engage freely with content. Private accounts can only be seen by followers, which increases privacy but decreases visibility.
Your Department’s Instagram Presence
What to post: Instagram’s audience is generally under the age of 35 – it’s important to take this into account when posting content to your Instagram followers. What type of content would a younger part of your general audience like to see? Keep this in mind when curating content for Instagram.
If there are specific ways you think your department could collaborate with the main University of Chicago Instagram page, please contact us.
The most common type of post on Instagram are regular photos – these are the kinds you see in your feed. Think of Instagram as a platform for “visual storytelling.” Some best practices:
When possible, use a square-cropped photo. This not only fits best in the feed, but your Instagram page automatically creates a grid of photos, all square-cropped.
Try and establish visual guidelines or a general theme for your page. While these post rules do have to be rigid, the goal is to establish some consistency in how and what gets posted to the company Instagram page. Establishing these guidelines will also help you decide what types of content should and shouldn’t be published on Instagram. Stick to similar lighting, style, or color palettes.
If possible, try and post at least 2-3 times per week. Instagram is a quick-moving platform, so you should post frequently to keep your audience engaged. Instagram’s algorithm isn’t completely based on chronological order, but it is more time-based than platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn.
On that note: be sure not to post too often. It is not a good idea to publish multiple times in the same day. If absolutely necessary–make sure to allow at least four hours between posts to maximize their impact. Instead of a second IG post, consider leveraging Instagram “stories” to draw attention back to your feed.
Captions on posts can range from short and witty to long and informative – whichever fits the particular post best. For example, a post highlighting a historical event might have a longer, more informative caption, whereas a glamor shot of campus might lend itself better to a short one-liner caption, punctuated with an emoji.
Hashtags can help users find your posts. Don’t go overboard, but feel free to add multiple hashtags to your posts so that more users can find them. When in doubt, always add #UChicago! You can include hashtags after your caption, or in the comments once your photo is posted.
Try and tag each of your posts with a location. Instagram’s geo-tagging feature is very robust, so you want to be included in any location searches when applicable. When in doubt, use “The University of Chicago” location.
Instagram may be known for photos, but it is also a popular video platform as well—Instagram introduced IGTV as a long-form content hub, and Reels for short-form vertical videos under 60 seconds
The maximum video length on an Instagram feed post is 60 seconds . Whether this means creating shorter videos or making a shorter cut of an existing video, take this limit into account. You can include videos in an Instagram post, or post separately to the Reels and IGTV tabs on your profile.
IGTV videos can be longer, but users will have to actively seek out the IGTV platform to watch. You can share videos from your IGTV account onto your main feed with a short "preview." At time of writing, we don't recommend building out a comprehensive IGTV strategy as long-form video is better suited toward YouTube.
When posting any kind of video to Instagram, make sure the thumbnail is representative of the content in the video, so that those previewing your profile will be more inclined to discover and engage with your video.
Another popular way to post on Instagram is Stories. These are shown in the small circles at the top of your screen on the main feed.
Stories only last on your profile for 24 hours, before disappearing (you can, however, “pin” these stories to your profile, so that users can see them anytime – just not from the main feed, and access them in your Instagram archive).
Stories can be more off-the-cuff, as they’re meant to be more authentic and real-time. They are also a quick and easy way to collaborate and build relationships with other accounts–similar to retweeting on Twitter.
Stories have lots of features you can add, such as GIFs, locations, hashtags, stickers and polls – if you plan on using Stories as part of your social strategy, we recommend experimenting with all of the different features.