5 Tips for the Best Instagram ROI

Investing time and effort into your social media strategies during commencement is not a new concept, but it can be difficult to keep up with the ever-changing algorithms and adjust to current best practices. The Facebook algorithm change of 2018 had social media managers everywhere updating their strategies, but the most recent changes from Instagram have not been as obvious. Instagram still prioritizes fresh, timely posts and serves up content based on the user’s profile activity.

Here are a few tips on how to get the greatest return on investment from your social media efforts.

Hang your hat on Hashtags

If you do nothing else, make sure to use hashtags strategically during one of your institution’s most highly searchable times. Though the platform allows as many as thirty hashtags, nine seems to be the ideal quantity for engagement. Combine commencement-specific hashtags with the other most popular tags for your college to garner the biggest reach.

Opinions differ on whether you should use a class year-specific hashtag or a graduate-specific one. There are benefits to both:


This class year-specific hashtag could have traveled with your students from their first touch as a high school student throughout their alumni years - aiding in affinity building and allowing consistency throughout the college cycle.


This graduate-specific hashtag has an exclusive quality, in that, it is only used a couple of times a year and can be used year after year on signage, etc. to save you money on additional graduation-related collateral.

Once you decide which is best for your college, use it often in all of your communications leading up to commencement day and then throughout the ceremony and subsequent festivities. Make sure it appears on signage and in the program so that family and friends will see and recall the hashtag throughout the celebration.

Hashtags are the absolute best way to encourage students and their families to not only share their photos but most significantly, link them back to your college.

Secure views with Stories

Instagram stories are by far the most popular type of content on the platform with 500 million daily users. While they supposedly do not count directly in the algorithm that determines feed position, they do keep your school front and center in your users’ story updates. Don’t sacrifice your feed for the sake of stories, but use stories to drive traffic to the feed.

Feel free to mix up the content - boomerangs, polls, questions, and more - but be sure to include a healthy dose of live stories as well. When you go live on Instagram, your followers receive a notification, and you will appear at the top of their story updates, so it’s just like offering them an invitation to join you at commencement. Additionally, receiving significant engagement within a short time range after posting is good for your ranking. Viewers are not expecting high-quality footage, but rather something simple, authentic, and in the moment.

For example, here are a few live options to consider for the hours leading up to the ceremony:

  • Show graduates how to properly wear the various pieces of their regalia
  • Graduates arriving and lining up in the staging area
  • Quick interview with the commencement speaker about their graduation day (ask them to mention in their social channels with the hashtag)
  • Words of wisdom from the platform party in the staging area
  • Quick thank yous from grads to their families and friends in attendance
  • “Man on the Street” interviews with the ceremony guests
  • Mascot putting on a robe and asking for help with situating mortarboard from guests or students

Encourage viewers to stay a while with Video

In addition to stories, including video in your Instagram feed is a great way to stop users in their scroll and allow for a longer period of engagement. As with stories, don’t get caught up in producing long and elaborate videos. Even something as simple as a hyperlapse of the ceremony setup or procession, or a Boomerang of the mortarboard tossing could be very effective.

If you do have the capability of creating a higher caliber video, plan to get the most mileage out of it by sharing it on other channels during commencement (social, print or web) or as a part of a larger marketing or public relations campaign. Capturing a hero story of a student veteran or someone with a unique story of overcoming great odds to graduate would be a great direction for this type of video.

Charm with Captions

The Instagram algorithm prioritizes engagement. Whether it be prospective students, current students, graduating seniors, their friends and family, or alumni, using your captions to spur engagement should be a priority.

  • Ask prospective students what they think would be most exciting about graduating from your college
  • Have current students tag a graduate they look up to
  • Ask graduates who they would most like to thank and tag them
  • Encourage friends and family to give their best piece of advice for a tagged graduate
  • Have alumni share their best memory of their graduation day
  • Be sure to mix these engagement-inducing captions with regular captions so you don’t get flagged for excessive engagement baiting

Take Advantage of the Time

Don’t wait until the day of your convocation and commencement ceremonies to post. You can tease the celebration in advance, highlighting events like ring day or the day that caps and gowns are delivered. Your posting should definitely increase leading up to the event as your viewers will expect it, and Instagram will not down-rank you for posting frequently.

According to Sprout Social, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays are the best days to post and the safest times are between 9 am and 6 pm. This should work out nicely with most ceremonies, but even if yours is scheduled outside this window, you can still expect great engagement if you follow the tips above.

Congratulations to the #classof2019 and congratulations to your social team on another amazing year!