If you're aged 18-29 it's unlikely you need to ask what Instagram is - according to research by Pew, over half of Internet users between these ages use the photo-sharing social media platform - over 300 million globally (more than Twitter). And half of those use it every day.
The sheer numbers and youth of Instagram users (and there are many users under 18 -this site suggest that half of 11-16 year olds in the UK use it weekly) mean that schools should at least think about using the platform as a key way of sharing pictures and (up to 15 second) videos, especially when looking to recruit at 16+.
However, there are a few issues that make it more difficult for schools to use than for example Facebook or Twitter. The first is that Instagram is an app for true 'Millenials' - designed for smartphones and tablets. Once you've downloaded the relevant app onto your Apple or Android phone, you can see your pictures on a computer, but you can't easily upload the ones you took on your school's DSLR. That's obviously not a problem for the teenager whose life revolves around their smartphone, but it means changing the way you shoot.
The second issue is that many schools feel uncomfortable about staff logging onto school accounts on personal devices to share photos (although equally many schools are doing this with sensible safeguarding policies in place now, especially for Twitter).
The final issue is that of time - many schools are already struggling to find the time to handle website updates, Facebook and Twitter as well as their ongoing non-digital communications. However, Instagram is closely integrated with Facebook (who bought the platform for $1 billion in 2012) and you can also share photos with Twitter, Tumblr and Flikr (although Twitter doesn't appear to like celebrities doing this).
If you think you'd like to try Instagram, there'a quick guide to setting up, manging and running your account below. Marketing Advice for Schools doesn't have an Instagram account (we don't do enough pictures!) but please follow goodnewsfromschools - or just let us know how you get on by leaving comments below!
A quick guide to setting up your Instagram account
1. Visit the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android) and download the free app.
2. Once installed, you'll see the first screengrab - you can either sign up by email or log into an existing Facebook account. We'd always recommend using a school email account.
3. Click the right hand icon at then bottom of the screen (the one that looks like a person) and edit your profile - add a logo (you have to be able to access the image from your phone) and basic details about your account. The second screengrab show the page set up for GoodNewsFromSchools - the feed we use to share best practice in school marketing.
4. You can then search for people and organisation to follow with the magnifying glass icon - among the many celebrities suggested is the National Geographic feed (third screengrab). It's worth following a few non-controversial organisations and other schools to get ideas of the best pictures to post. UK schools that use Instagram include Bablake School (bablakeschool), DLD College (dldcollege) and Adcote School (adcoteschool), while Sewickley Academy (sewickleyacademy) is a great US school to follow.
5. If you're ready to share photos, click the centre icon. You can choose from photos already on your phone ('gallery), take a new photo ('photo') or a 15-second video ('video'). You can of course also switch phone cameras and take a '#selfie'...
6. Once you've taken your photo or video you can then use one of range of inbuilt filters and other settings to edit the photograph (screengrab 5). The filters are one of the attractions of Instagram - you can give your picture the look of a 1970s Polaroid or turn it black and white.
7. You can then write a short caption and add hashtags (using # as with Twitter) and location information. You can then either send it to all your followers or just selected people by selecting 'Direct'. You can also share the photo with other social media accounts or save it to Flikr for use in other applications.
8. Once you're happy with the process, let people know about your account and they can share your pictures.
9. As with all school use of social media, make sure you agree and follow safeguarding guidelines - for example using a school email address to set up the account, not giving out full names of students, and not following student or parent feeds.You should also note that Instagram has a minimum age requirement of 13, so you should not promote your account to students under this age.
10. Finally, as with all social media marketing, make sure you evaluate how the platform is used - both in terms of level of activity, and the impact it has on important organisational objectives - student and parent satisfaction, retention, and recruitment.