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Using Instagram to Reach Students

College Possible’s Navigate program serves students across Minnesota using a tech-connected coaching model that utilizes phone, email, text and social media outreach.

This year, three coaches based in College Possible Minnesota’s office in St. Paul engaged over 300 students around the state in the college access process. “Coaches send out newsletters to students and communicate via text and email frequently, and obviously phone calls as well, and that’s standardized among the team,” said Navigate Program Coordinator Lane Holden. “Where we found a lot of variation was with social media.”

The Navigate team researched best practices for reaching students via social media and landed on Instagram as their platform of choice since many students already use it.

“We know we can text our students anytime, but this way we can be in the content they’re already looking at,” said Lane. “We’re more accessible.”

Now, as part of their outreach to students, Navigate coaches plan and post Instagram stories, photos and videos throughout the week.

“I think Instagram has given us a space to have a more peer-to-peer relationship with our students,” explained coach Marah Walker. “Where the Flagship program coaches have that face-to-face contact where they can be goofy, we just don’t have that because we only have students on the phone for so many minutes a month.”

Navigate coaches aim to post often enough that they are consistently showing up in students’ social media timelines, giving reminders about things like scholarship deadlines or sharing funny stories about their own college experiences.

“It’s been fun,” said coach Adela Steffen. “Thinking about different ways to engage students or just pass along really quick and easy material.”

Students have responded well to the Instagram outreach with nearly 80 juniors and 60 seniors following the accounts.

“A lot of the students who look at our stories are the same people that are more actively engaged,” explained coach Diamee Yang.

The Navigate team also worked with 180 Degrees Consulting, a student-run consultancy for nonprofits at the University of Minnesota, on strategies for engaging students through Instagram.

“When the U of M looked at the first few months of our posts, they said that we had a lot more views and likes when it was more personalized, like pictures of the coaches,” said Diamee.

The Navigate team sees many potential areas where this work can grow, and they are excited about some great practices that they will continue next year with students over Instagram.

“I think the stories and pictures have given us the ability to give students an insight into the fact that we are people,” said Marah. “It gives them a way to see that we’re excited and happy to be here in a way that the curriculum phone calls might not necessarily convey.”

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