The Importance of Instagram for International Student Recruitment

400 million people use Instagram every day

April 27, 2017

There are a lot of really good university Instagram accounts. In fact, most university social media efforts now include Instagram. It's as ubiquitous as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

With more than 700 million monthly active users, Instagram is massive. Ask a room full of people if they use Instagram and most do. Students, staff, and everyone except my parents are on Instagram. It's a social media juggernaut.

In the 2017 International Student Survey from Hobsons, Instagram received particular attention in terms of the connection between number of followers and international student enrollment.

According to Hobsons' research, there is a connection "between the popularity of a university’s social media channels, and the number of international students they recruit."

As noted in the report, "this kind of analysis demonstrates correlation but not causation." However, Instagram did come in third as the channel that is most used by prospective international students.

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While not related specifically to international recruitment, another Instagram stat that cannot be ignored is the fact that 200 million people use Stories on a daily basis. Stories is Instagram's blatantly copied functionality that mirrors one of the most popular aspects of Snapchat.

Regardless of the creative theft that is Stories, Instagram's version of daily, semi-ephemeral content is flourishing. While a lot of universities are using Instagram for posting photos and videos, the number of institutions creating daily "Insta" Stories is increasing. And, it's a certainty that universities that hope to recruit more international students will undoubtedly become more strategic with Instagram Stories and specific international recruitment oriented content.

Speaking of Stories...Oregon State University (11% international student enrollment) has a fantastic Instagram presence (clearly I am slightly biased*) and that includes a frequent use of Stories. A new OSU logo was released this week as part of a rebranding effort and the Instagram story that accompanied the launch was phenomenally good. The countdown at the beginning of the story let you know that something big was coming. You couldn't help but keep watching to see what happened next. Plus, the build-in of the new logo with vibrant photographs clearly illustrated the meaning of each individual element:

It's pretty clear that Instagram benefits from being part of Facebook's app empire. Adding 100 million new users in 4 months is quite the feat. With institutions scrambling to increase (and even maintain) international student enrollment it will be interesting to see what happens when/if Mark Zuckerberg and company are able to get China to allow access to Facebook's stable of apps. If that happens, the number of Instagram users will skyrocket. Instagram would become even massively more important for international student recruitment than it already is.**

* I completed my masters degree at OSU, started one of the first university admissions blogs in 2005, and worked there as an academic advisor from 2007 to 2010. #GoBeavs

** Of course Snapchat might usurp Instagram in the battle for users/engagement...or some other as-yet-to-be-developed app will come along and capture our attention. And, don't forget about Weibo or WeChat...


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