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Wayne State University

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Apr 17 / Nick DeNardis

Our first 48 hours on Instagram

@waynestate on InstagramI’m a huge fan of “doing less better” and it’s a practice we embody here in the Web department. Social media is one of those activities that is far too easy to become over stretched. It’s a battle that we have been tackling for a while. With the responsibility split between three people we only have so much time, we pick our networks and strategies carefully. Not to mention we create as many tools as possible to manage tons of information and allow us to still be human online.

“We should be on ______ network”

We hear the question all the time, why aren’t we here or there and why not, it won’t cost us anything to start interacting. Unfortunately the cost of interacting is far more than most anyone realizes. Staff time, especially coordination, even if you spend as little as 30 minutes per day per network can add up to a five figure impact each year before you know it.

Instagram is an example of one of those networks we decided to leave off our list. It was a combination of audience (iPhone only) and the ability to automate. They did release their API some time last year which was one requirement but we still weren’t seeing the interactions we thought we should compared to our other networks.

And then came Android

That all changed two weeks ago when they released their Android client and added 10 million users in 10 days. They also topped the Apple App Store for the first time ever. Oh yea, and not to mention their $1 billion acquisition by Facebook. This started to get our attention and since the people who oversee our social media presence (myself and Jenn) are Android users we started to explore the content on a more frequent basis.

Although we don’t interact with every network out there, we always try to grab our username as quickly as possible. In this case I never registered our name, typically “waynestate”, when Instagram first came out and I have no idea why it slipped my mind. It was kind of a blessing the name was still available when I registered it last week Friday. For us it is important to ensure any network we are on doesn’t look dormant, because that reflects negatively on the university. Since the main way to find friends is to search existing networks we knew people would be finding us without us pushing them to.

The 48 hour case study

To my surprise just 8 hours after signing up we already had 15 followers and we didn’t even have a photo, bio, link or a single photo posted yet. As soon as I saw this I decided I needed to get on that. So late Friday I added all the basic information in to the account and started to look for photos to post.

That night I posted four photos which resulted in 18 likes and 20 more followers, which also got my attention. Throughout the weekend I posted a few more photos, and liked photos that I could find of campus.

The result was:

  • 9 photos posted
  • 86 followers in 48 hours (more now)
  • 62 likes on our photos
  • 0 comments on our photos
  • 79 photos liked by us

What we learned

Perceived popularity doesn’t always mean a product/service is worth spending your time on. I can guarantee if we jumped on the Instagram bandwagon when it first came out we would not have been able to justify sustaining it for the “limited” audience. Especially since neither of the people who would be maintaining it had a device that supported the app.

Capitalizing on the “buzz” can make an impact. Since the standard method of finding friends is by an existing social relationship and all new users are walked through that process as part of their on-boarding it is mutually beneficial to us and Instagram.

The Instagram community re-enforced our existing notion that content is king. The photos we posted with a deeper meaning got more of a reaction. People often describe Instagram as a “photo version of Twitter” but it is much more. Not every photo is worth a thousand words, but the closer you can get to that thousand the more of a reaction you will get.

I had a few questions about promotion of our account, we have not done any beyond Instagram itself. No photos have gone out to Twitter, Facebook or Flickr yet.


  1. Trevor / Apr 17 2012

    My wife is a big Instagram user – she noticed WSU was on it right away. Too bad they were bought by Facebook. Will be interesting to see if Instagram re-writes their terms of service / end-user agreement to force people to share their email address etc with Facebook.

  2. Michael / Apr 19 2012

    Great post, Nick, on an interesting opportunity. I’ll try not to be one of those “we need to be on _____” people.

  3. Keith / Apr 29 2012

    That’s an interesting case study Nick. Do you have a goal beyond creating a community? Also, where did you source your photos from?

    • Nick DeNardis / Apr 29 2012

      At this point our goal is pure engagement. We have seen a pretty consistent 10% engagement for each photo and we hope to keep that up. We have also been commenting and following up with students similar to how we use Twitter. We have some follower and engagement predictions that we are tracking and I hope to write up a follow up post in a month or so with our results.

      The photos are ours. They are either taken by me or one of the marketing staff members.

      Hope this helps.

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