It's no question social media is an important part of most college students' lives. But of all the social networking sites out there, Instagram is the one college students use the most, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey.
That's why many brands whose target audience includes young adults have taken to Instagram. After all, when it comes to choosing which social platforms to spend time and resources on, it's a best practice to go where your target audience goes.
Fortunately, the social media folks at colleges and universities worldwide have taken note. We were excited to see many of them posting awesome Instagram content -- shots of campus buildings, live-action photos of sports games, colorful graphics promoting school-sponsored campaigns -- on a regular basis.
When it comes to posting a diversity of Instagram content, Colorado State University covered it all -- and everything came out beautifully. We had a hard time choosing from the multitude of adorable pictures of their mascot CAM the Ram, which included playful captions such as "Our mascot is cuter than your mascot." They also did a great job with campaign graphics, like the ones below on ending hazing and promoting their sweepstakes, the grand prize of which was a trip to Cancun.
Located in scenic Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth's campus has a lot to work with -- and their social media team doesn't sell it short. Their Instagram account is chock full of breathtaking, high-definition pictures of their campus in every season and at every time of day. We love the drone shots they used to show their campus from a new perspective.
Liberty University's Instagram is a great mix of beautiful campus shots and photos of students, staff, guest speakers, and other members of the Liberty community. When it comes to posting photos of people, they don't rely on generic group pictures of people hanging out around campus. Instead, they post photos of people that appeal to followers who don't know the person or people in the photo, like the one with the championship ring below that can ignite school spirit in any student or alum. Check out how they brand each photo with their logo for anyone who might regram.
University of Cambridge in England has mastered the art of photo editing. Most of their Instagram photos are landscape photos of areas around their campus, but check out how they've edited them to intensify the colors and bring out the details in each photo. We also love how they frame their photos, like the building through the archway and the quad through the window below. You might see certain buildings or areas every day, but when you're taking photos, think about the unique and interesting ways you can photograph them.
Arizona State University lets its school pride shine through its Instagram account, which features a lot of content related to their sports teams. They do a great job of creating cool graphics for game day announcements, and we love that they include all the relevant information both as text in the graphic and in the caption. That way, anyone who wants to regram doesn't have to copy the caption, too.
Adolfo Ibáñez University is located just beside the beautiful Andes Mountains in Chile, giving them a lot of great scenery to work with for campus and city shots. They do a great job of capturing the closeness of the mountains to the school in photos like the regram in the one below. We love how the social media team there credits regrams not only in the caption, but also in the photo itself using the Repost & Regram App. They also use their Instagram account to highlight cool student projects, like the bicycle below that won some of their students a top entrepreneurial prize. They could've chosen to post a photo of the bike in the lab or on display, but instead, they chose to post a particularly cool photo of it outside and at night, probably borrowed from the students themselves. This version of the photo
Here's another example of a college Instagram account that publishes cool, new perspectives of their campus. We love the theme of their logo in front of a blurred background, like the keychain and the branded leaf below. Alongside gorgeous, high-definition photos of all different parts of campus and student life, they have a few epic shots sprinkled in -- like the one on the bottom right of a student who climbed a mountain with a WVU flag. #casual.
The University of Sheffield's photos boast a high level of sophistication we should all aspire to achieve. In addition to playing with perspective and color, they also play with angles and lines in a lot of their photos. Take a look at the photo on the top left: It features two buildings, one old and one new, but it takes a second to see the new one because of its reflective glass exterior. The photo at the top right is a cool bird's eye view of students studying for exams, and it features a lot of lines and rectangles of different shapes and sizes. We were also big fans of the colorful graphics they post, like the "Good Luck" graphic on the bottom left.
AUB does a lot of things well on Instagram, but what we liked in particular was what they've been doing with their 150th birthday celebration for the school. To celebrate its history, they've interspersed more typical posts with old photos taken in black-and-white, which they've marked with "AUB/LIBRARY ARCHIVES" right on the photo to indicate that it was taken from their archives. In the captions of each of these photos, they encourage students to send a modern version of the exact same photo by posting it with the hashtag #myaubstory or sending it to a specific email address they set up for the campaign. In addition to this cool campaign, they periodically post beautiful graphics to wish students well for the holidays, like the graphic below for the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha.
Go to University of Nottingham's Instagram account and you'll scroll through an impressive display of beautiful campus photos. We love the creativity and variety in these shots: Note how they play with light, shadows, and color so that no two shots of the same building look too similar. We also love how they post photos that highlight their school's and city's histories. For example, the photo of the inn below is accompanied by a bit of trivia in the caption: "Did you know that Nottingham is home to the oldest pub in England?"
The University of Rochester lets its personality shine through its Instagram photos. The photo of the empty campus square at bottom left, which "quotes" the square, was part of a three-part photo series during the school's winter break that showed how much the school was missing all its students. The folks here also have an ongoing mascot photo campaign, where they have students snap pictures with their mascot all over the country, which they then share with the whole community.
Texas Tech does a lot of really great stuff with their Instagram account, but what really makes them stand out is their videos and their seasonal content. They post a lot of short, simple videos that inspire a lot of Likes -- from their football team running onto the field before a game to the Texas Tech NASCAR racing on the track. Their seasonal content is top-notch too. Check out the playful, Texas Tech-themed conversation hearts they posted for Valentine's Day and the pumpkins carved for Halloween, both below.
UNSW does a great job mixing beautifully framed, artistic photos and more real-time ones, like the photo of their rugby team below that they regrammed from @unigames. They also do a great job creating informative graphics, like the simple one below accompanied by the caption, "5 days until UNSW Open Day! Tag your Open Day photos with #unswopendayand we'll print them for you at our Open Day photo booth!" This is a perfect campaign for college kids, who love to put photos up on their dorm room walls. (Want to create a graphic using icons, like UNSW did in the one below? Check out our list of 135 royalty-free icons here.)
Boston University does a great job of adding humor to their plethora of high-end photos of campus and student life. We love photos like the "Hire Me" graduation photo below, which is worthy of a regram regardless of whether or not you know the graduates in the photo. We also love that they promote the best content from #AwkwardBU Twitter campaign on Instagram alongside relevant photos.
The buildings at the University of Barcelona are gorgeous, both inside and out, and Instagram is the perfect platform for their social media team to showcase all that great design and architecture. Their strength lies in the variety of these photos: Even if the photo is taken of the same, say, hallway -- as in two of the photos below -- they were taken at a completely different angle and at different times of day with different light. These folks also create fun, lighthearted graphics to promote some of their events, like they did with the "Vespres UB" event below. Notice, too, how some of their photos are branded with the "Universitat de Barcelona" logo -- a nice touch for anything that might be regrammed.
While Georgetown's Instagram account includes plenty of high-definition photos, we love that a lot of their photos have the look and feel of well-framed photos taken from an iPhone. This could be because they, like many other colleges on this list, post a lot of photos submitted to them by members of their community. We also love that they post in real time and in a chronological manner, making their feed read kind of like a photo journal of a specific time. The #HomeSweetHilltop collage below, posted over Homecoming Weekend, is a great example of a timely photo. Another example is a photo of the Pope in Georgetown during his visit.
Alongside beautiful, high-end photos of campus and student life (are you seeing a theme here?), one of our favorite themes in Penn State's Instagram photos are their "love stories." These are photos of couples that met at Penn State, whether it's one alum proposing to another (as in the photo at bottom right) or kissing at graduation after starting to date during freshman orientation. These photos are accompanied by each couple's brief backstory, and always inspire a lot of well-deserved Likes and "aww"'s.
Australia National University nails the whole "breathtaking landscape photo" thing. Every single time. Their Instagram feed is an inspiring collection of photos of campus, student performances, and even detailed, up-close photos of animals found in the area. The common theme? Beautiful uses of light and shadow and reflections, as you can see in the photos below.
Which college Instagram account is your favorite? Share with us in the comments.
Originally published Oct 19, 2015 6:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017