Foreword Online

Ideas, information and industry news for collegiate retailers

A Comprehensive Guide to Instagram for Campus Bookstores

Posted by T.A. Nathan on 1/15/20 6:00 AM
Topics: campus bookstore, bookstore social media, instagram marketing for campus bookstores

No other medium lets you share ideas, expressions of art, photography and life events like Instagram. It is the premier image-sharing site for over one billion worldwide. It also provides a digital marketing resource for campus stores. Instagram creates a space in which you can share information like upcoming events, sales and merchandise. Instagram’s like and commenting features make it easy to not only share but also engage with students. 

However, effectively using Instagram can be tricky if you’re not sure what you’re doing, so we’ve created this comprehensive guide to enhance your campus bookstore’s 2020 digital marketing.

A Comprehensive Guide to Instagram for Campus Bookstores

Creating an Instagram business account for your campus bookstore

Before you can use all of Instagram’s marketing features, you must create a business account. Switching to a business account is not only free, it gives you access to Instagram’s suite of analytics and ad creation. 


Creating an Instagram Business Account

  1. Download the online application.
  2. Create an account by following the prompts.
  3. Tap or click on Edit Profile.
  4. Select the option to switch to a Professional Account.
  5. Tap or click Business.
  6. Follow the prompts to set up your business profile page. Be sure to review any contact information.


Create marketing goals for your campus bookstore

As we suggested in our Comprehensive Guide to Facebook for Campus Bookstores, it’s important to have a list of marketing goals that will guide your social media planning. Create a list of goals you want to accomplish with your Instagram account. If you need more foot traffic, create a goal and design posts that fulfill this need. Remember to make the goals realistic. 

To get started:

  1. Evaluate your store’s greatest need.
  2. Develop a digital marketing strategy to support your overall efforts to meet this need.
  3. Develop specific Instagram post ideas that will address this area.


Although a single post won’t create a line out your door, a well-focused message could guide more customers your way. These goals may change month-to-month, so revise your Instagram goals as often as necessary. Once you’ve written out a list of several goals, you’re ready for the next step.


Instagram marketing and posting guidelines

Instagram posts differ from Facebook or Twitter in that every post must have a visual element. That being said, this is where having a smartphone with a powerful camera becomes incredibly useful. Take photos of merchandise, books and anything you would like to showcase on your new Instagram page. 

Refer back to your goals and content calendar so you know what your photos need to represent. Is football season starting soon? Take photos of sportswear or an employee modeling that sportswear with a big smile. Is rush coming soon? Take photos of new textbooks and school supplies.


Writing quality captions

A large part of marketing on Instagram isn’t just creating high-quality inspiring photos. Knowing how to caption your images will do a lot of the legwork in spreading your posts and increasing engagement. Be brief and put the most important information first. This is because posts cut off with a read more separator after three-to-four lines. To view the rest of the post, users will have to tap the link. Without an engaging hook or putting the most relevant information first, followers won’t come away with necessary information.


Keep it brief and put important information at the beginning of your post.


Use verbiage that will motivate your audience to do something, such as visiting your website or going to your brick-and-mortar store. This can also be used as a way to encourage your audience to engage with the post. You could ask them to double tap your image to like it or comment with their favorite color. Likes and comments help increase the reach of your post. Asking questions like, “What kind of sportswear do you like the most?” or “Will we see you at our next rush event?” will prompt students to post answers in the comments. 


Know how to use #hashtags

Hashtags indicate the main topics of your post and image. Hashtags can contain single words, numbers and short phrases. They work like keywords that tie your post to a stream of similar content. Including these will display your post to anyone who searches or follows the hashtags you use. Make a list of the common hashtags used by your school and incorporate some of those into your Instagram marketing strategy..


Do not use spaces between words in your hashtag. For example, if you were to create a hashtag for a winter season sale, you would write #wintersale2019. 


Hashtags are a great tool to optimize your visibility in Instagram searches, but remember that a little goes a long way. Limit each post to four hashtags and place them at the end of the caption.

Use Instagram’s paid ads

Instagram makes it easy to connect with your audience through stories and sponsored ads. It’s also a good way to share upcoming deals or events with students. Stories are a photo or video posted in the heading of your main page. Stories typically last 24 hours, but you can also save the story to your page.

When selecting images or videos for an Instagram story, choose something that represents your campus store and compels students to visit. Use stories to promote upcoming events, current deals, and photos of the store and staff. Stories can humanize the campus bookstore and strengthen community engagement.

Set an advertising budget, and narrow down your target audience with “Detailed Targeting.” To do this, establish characteristics you want to target. For example, as a campus store, you could target students going to your university by selecting targeted interests like your university, its athletic teams, or fraternities and sororities.

Story ads

Story ads are quickly becoming the favored way for businesses to advertise on Instagram. These ads take advantage of the entire screen. They display a photo or video that embraces brand awareness and use a call-to-action to lead viewers to your website. Over 500 million Instagram accounts use story ads every day and one-third of all stories viewed on Instagram are business stories. 


Photo ads

These ads work similarly to normal photo posts. They contain a photo in landscape or square format. College store ads could showcase a photo of a new piece of merchandise or sports gear.


Video ads

Video ads give you 60 seconds to share your message. Be creative with your video and catch your audience’s attention. You could also use these to showcase a model wearing sportswear or to promote a sale. 


Carousel ads

Carousels are a collection of photos that can showcase multiple subjects or several different images of the same subject. Have a new catalog of school supplies for next semester? Use this ad to showcase each one in it’s own photo.


Collection ads

These ads allow you to provide several photos or videos that lead your audience to an item checkout. Through this checkout, they can quickly purchase the items showcased in the ad. This type of ad is great if you want to bolster your eCommerce site.


Ads in Explore

The explore section is a stream of content that is curated to the viewers interests based on images they’ve liked in the past. Explore ads show up in this section to build interest in potential followers. If you want to reach out to potential students or alumni, this would be a good way to reach them.


Create or add posts to your content calendar

Content calendars give you a tangible way to put your posts into action. One of the most important ways to establish yourself in social media is to post consistently. Not only does this help the algorithm recognize your content as relevant in the digital space, it also provides your audience with fresh new information. Consistency doesn’t have to mean every day. It could be every other day, every three days or even once a week. 


Whatever you decide for your schedule, stick to it. This gives your audience a designated time to expect the next piece of information to come their way. It also makes it easier for you to plan content in advance. We recommend that you determine the best posting frequency for your store based on your available content and resources.


Schedule your posts during peak usage hours on each social media site. For nearly all social media sites, the hours from around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. are the most active. Exact times vary from day-to-day and will depend on your audience. For Instagram, however, Friday at 10 a.m. is the best time to post for educational institutions, according to SproutSocial.

Instagram Insights

Instagram insights will show you how well your posts are doing. Knowing which posts do well is a powerful tool to help you ensure your marketing goals are being met. Those with high impressions, interactions, reach, profile visits and website clicks are the ones you will want to replicate for future posts.


Impressions: The  amount of times your posts show in viewer’s feeds in the last week.

Interactions: The number of interactions with your posts through likes, comments, etc.

Reach: The unique accounts who have viewed your posts

Profile Visits: The profile views you stacked up this week

Website Clicks: The number of times someone followed the link to your website from your profile


Instagram battle plan

Now that you know how to market your campus bookstore effectively on Instagram, it’s time to put it to good use:

  1. Create an Instagram business profile.

  2. Write out marketing goals for your Instagram posts.

  3. Make a content calendar and add posts to your schedule.

  4. Prepare some of your posts as ads to target a specific audience.

  5. Assess your analytics and find which posts work better than others.

  6. Create new posts based on these findings and return to step 3-4.

Don’t worry if your posts don’t get 100,000 likes and comments right off the bat. It can take time for your posts to catch wind. Encourage students to follow the store on Instagram through your other social media accounts and in the store.

Subscribe to Foreword Online to receive weekly updates with ideas, information  and industry news for collegiate retailers. Subscribe now


Related articles on Foreword Online

Article comments

Subscribe for updates

Share your experience

Contact our editorial team to set up an interview or to contribute a guest post.

Most popular posts