You guys, the last month and a half has been SO BUSY! What with School Library Month, and Spring Break, standardized testing, AND the start of heavy research season, it has been busy busy at our library. But I’m finally back to blogging. Today I’d like to talk about how to build an Instagram account that students will want to follow.
Last year I challenged myself to start some social media pages for my HS library. At several student’s request, I decided to try my hand at Instagram. I had never used Instagram before, so tackling it was a big deal for me. Now, a little more than 1 year later, our library has over 1100 followers, most of them students. My students LOVE following the library insta, and they are VERY VERY proud of the fact that, as they say, “geeze, our library insta has more followers than most of the students have!”
In fact, our insta even had a special “shout-out” in our 2019 Senior Variety Show last weekend. They named an entire skit “@gvhslibrary” (our insta handle) and mentioned the # of followers several times throughout the skits. In the fall, during our Mr. Great Valley pageant, “Guess the Number of Followers the Library Has” was even one of the trivia contests! Being featured on the library insta has become a badge of honor, and students commonly come in now and say “Miss Bogan can we be on the insta!?” In the halls I’ll overhear students crowing to each other “Did you check the library insta today, I’m on it!” Students have even asked me to post announcements on our insta for them (such as the date prom tickets go on sale, the times different clubs meet, sports teams fundraiser info, etc) because they know that so many students follow and will see the message.
Our library insta has become an incredibly powerful community building experience at our school. The students feel more connected to the library, even when they are not in the library itself. They feel connected to me as an information provider and support resource, and they feel more connected to each other as the library insta provides a digital common space for them. Running this instagram account is time consuming, but it has been so worth it. The experience is one I would wish for every other school librarian!
Because my foray into Instagram has been so successful, fellow librarians and teachers frequently ask me how I created an instagram that so many students like to follow. So this post is for everyone who wants to know. How EXACTLY did I create an instagram that students love to follow?
- Kelsey’s recipe for a successful library instagram
- Flatter their vanity
- Post OFTEN
- Be funny & silly
- Keep the focus on students – post things THEY would want to know
#1 – Bribe them (lollipops work)
Ok, the first thing you need to do is get students to start following you. This can be surprisingly difficult. One way to do this is to advertise as much as possible for your insta. Some ways I did this is by putting my insta handles on bookmarks, including it in my email signature, posting signs around the library, advertising on the morning announcements, etc. But the thing that really worked was…..well, it was bribes.
Last year, between February and April we only had garnered a few followers. I decided to use the month of April, School Library Month, as an excuse to launch a strong and over the top bribe campaign. All I did was offer a daily prize giveaway (using sandwich baggies full of dum dum lollipops). To win, you just had to be following the library insta, and just had to comment on that day’s post. The first couple days we only had about 6-8 people commenting. But once their friends saw them winning baggies of lollipops the word spread quickly. We started scooping up followers by the handfuls, and by the end of the month we were having about 50 students commenting on the posts each day. By June we had about 450 followers.
i also do a “lollipop day” every time we hit 100 new followers. I just put a bowl of dum sums out to celebrate each time. Students love it and it o my costs me about $12 in lollipops.
#2 Flatter their Vanity
Let me tell you a secret……. our students are VAIN! Most of them LOVE LOVE LOVE to see themselves highlighted and reflected publicly. Because they are the social media generation, they are used to, and comfortable with, having their pictures shared. They like it. To them it is a way to gain status. So one of my super secret tricks to maintaining an insta they like to follow? Its simply to post pictures of the students. Post a large quantity of pictures and post them frequently. The #1 reason my students follow our instagram is because they enjoy being featured on it, and they enjoy seeing their friends and classmates featured on it. It’s really as simple as that!
#3 Post Often
This one is pretty self explanatory. To maintain an insta that students love to follow, you have to post pretty frequently. You should shoot for posting AT LEAST 2-3 times per week. I actually try to post several times a day. Naturally I don’t always hit that goal, but I try. I know some of you are panicking right now and thinking “Several Times A DAY!? Is she NUTS!? Who has time for that!!!!!?” I hear you. I absolutely do. But if you want to establish your instagram as a robust digital extension to your classroom, then it will need to become a priority. Just like, if you want your physical library to be welcoming and comfortable, you have to make an effort to prioritize taking actions to make it so (greeting students as they come in, learning their names, circulating and interacting with them). So, yes, you will need to make room in the schedule to prioritize your instagram account. BUT it doesn’t have to be difficult! And the posts don’t have to be fancy. The awesome thing about instagram is it’s picture based. You can snap and post a picture in under a minute.
They also don’t have to be immediate. You can save up a bunch of posts and dole them out each day. For instance, maybe on Fridays you make sure to always snap 5-10 pictures. Then you can post them one at a time over the course of the next week. And it can be simple things like snapping a pic of a new display, a box of new books, a motivational quote, a poster in the hallway, a teacher’s “currently reading” sign, a message you wrote on your whiteboard, etc, etc. I like to carry my phone with me at all times so I can snap & post as I go. I literally will be posting to instagram as I walk down the hall on my way to wherever I’m going. My staff & students have gotten used to me having my phone glued to my hand at all times lol. Actually a student impersonated me in our variety show last month, and her gag (as me) was always having her ipad out to take pictures lol! It was hilarious.
#4 Be Funny & Silly
Don’t be afraid to be silly! Use your instagram to entertain your students as well as to educate them! Posting funny things is a great way of hooking them. One thing I did was create humorous research & fake news related memes. I saved a bunch to a folder in my cloud, & whenever I don’t have anything else to post I’ll post one of those. I’ve also just started two new regular features which use humor to highlight books. One is called “Honest Lit Crits” whereby I post humorous criticisms about classic literature. The other is called “BookSnapBookChats” whereby I use a silly filter to record a video of me doing a 30 second book talk.” I post new ones each week to my Instagram Stories & then save them in the Highlights on my profile page. Funny quotes, students being silly, pop culture references, etc are all good ways to add entertainment to your insta. Here’s some of my examples:
#5 Keep the Focus on the Students
One of the most important things that goes into establishing an instagram the students want to follow is to always keep the focus on the students. The focus of our instagram is kept on the students first, the library second. The instagram is a place to celebrate, entertain, connect, inform, & serve the students. To that end, I try to snap pics of the students as often as possible, whether they are in the library itself or not.
I’ve made it a habit to ALWAYS have my phone with me so I’m always ready to snap photo ops as I come across them. The other day I was walking down the hall and I saw students setup to give a celebratory send off to our students attending the Special Olympics. Luckily I had my phone and was able to video record the celebratory send off. I posted it to the instagram and all the students who weren’t involved in the send off still got to experience the event! I attended the Senior Variety Show last weekend and posted tons of pics of students performing. When students come to the library to check out books, I snap pics. When students are studying together, when they are playing games, drawing, coloring, I snap pics. When classes are doing funny ice breaker activities in the hallways, or when I’m co-teaching an awesome research lesson, or when students spontaneously decide to help me by sorting through our markers to separate out the dry ones, I snap a pic. When a student has just finished creating their Prom-posal poster, or recording on the green screen, or won a game, or is happy with a test score, or got accepted into their dream college, I snap a pic. The point is, if you want to build a digital extension to your library community, try to be ready all the time to snap the pic.
I also try to post things the student would want to know. For instance, students LOVE that I ALWAYS post the special schedules. So, when there is a two hour delay schedule, or a weird testing schedule, or anything that deviates from the normal schedule, I always post it on the instagram. Students have come to know they can rely on finding that info on the insta when they need it. I also post reminders about upcoming school events, notices honoring the sports teams or clubs that have competed in various competitions, reminders about upcoming tryouts, prom ticket sales, club fundraisers, etc. Anything that relates to the school and the students, really.
I think a lot of library instagrams are used specifically for advertising library resources & services to the students. And I absolutely do that too, but it’s not the main focus of my insta. I try to keep the majority of my posts focused on celebrating and informing the students. Then I sprinkle other library resource posts in, here & there. I think of the library instagram as a gigantic, living, breathing yearbook. Just like students love getting their yearbooks, and can’t wait to see which pictures get featured in the yearbook each year, they will look forward to seeing your instagram posts, as long as the main focus is always on them. Just be sure you have the students permission, and be sure their parents have signed the photo release forms that schools usually demand before you post their pictures.
Last week I offered a 2 hour PD to my staff called “Social Media Boot Camp” for those teachers who wanted to learn about social media and the various “do’s and don’ts” of using social media as an educator. You can find the powerpoint here, for your reference.
Use other apps/tools to use in conjunction w. instagram to strengthen your posts
- Canva – use to easily design graphics to post to social media
- Repost – allows you to repost things in instagram and give proper credit
- Picstitch – allows you to “stich” pictures together into mosaics so you can post multiple pictures via just one post.
- Boomerang – allows you to create 5 second video clips that move back and forth continually.
- Slo-mo & time lapse – IOS devices have the slo-mo and time lapse options within the normal camera app. These are fun features to use on your videos.
As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions!