Educators and school leaders are increasingly asked to do more with less. As a technology company, Microsoft Education is uniquely positioned to provide school districts with tools that can give educators the most valuable finite resource they have back—time to focus on students’ individual needs. This requires us to create a regular stream of product updates, news, tips and tricks, and educator stories across all their social media platforms to keep school leaders informed and up to date.
As 2022 approached, we noticed our audiences shifting their time spent on social media to Instagram more than ever, and we wanted to connect with them on a human level more than we could on any other platform.
Our goal was to grow our Instagram community, not only in numbers of followers, but also in engagement, sentiment, and organic reach, by utilizing Instagram’s various posting formats, engagement tools, and a content mix that ranged from product updates all the way to humorous and nostalgic content that showed our community that Microsoft Education understands their world. Even more challenging, we had to achieve these goals without any paid support.
Audiences flocked to each of Microsoft Education’s social media platforms to consume specific types of content. They went to Twitter for brand news, Facebook for events, LinkedIn for professional opportunities, YouTube for education discovery, Pinterest for inspiration, and TikTok for lifestyle content. The content strategies for these channels reflected not only the audience’s expectations, but also the native platform tools of each. Between posts, carousels, videos, stories, highlights, and reels, Instagram gave us the widest variety of formats to create a hub that brought the broadest range of content to our community. And with native engagement tools like polls, mentions, link stickers, quizzes, and more, we could interact with our followers far beyond the comment section.
We knew achieving our goals would require us to create a variety of processes to regularly develop the breadth of this content. We quickly implemented a hero, hub, help model into our workflow. This allowed us to view our content calendar and strategically categorize our content and processes. We understood Microsoft’s business objectives for the year and the key beats that Microsoft Education needed to hit. So, we created a long-form process for those hero moments that gave us time to research and produce the content that would be most impactful. To add additional support leading up to those hero moments and to keep our audience regularly engaged, we created a monthly process for developing our hub content. This gave us a chance to create recurring themes, characters, and lifestyle content that we’d leverage throughout the year. However, we also knew that we needed to create daily content that was additive for educators and school leaders. This content ran the gamut, from punchy and informative static and animated posts, to carousels that dove deep into technical content, to videos that motivated and informed, to reels that spoke to the education lifestyle...all the way to quick Instagram stories that kept us timely and consistent. We managed to create an incredibly wide range of content that helps this brand stay fresh and surprising to our audience. Creating a week’s worth of content on a week ahead of time cadence may seem daunting, but it allows us to stay relevant with social media trends—with an educational spin. More importantly, it allows our social media managers to see what our educators are talking about so that we can adjust our content to complement the discussion.
Finally, by putting an emphasis on lifestyle content that focused less on Microsoft’s products and more on what it means to be a teacher, we gained the trust of our audience in a new way. By doing this, our Instagram presence changed from a predictable place to find marketing content about education products to a place where teachers felt seen and understood. Our channels became a place where educators from around the world could find community.
Because Microsoft Education is marketing to teachers, school leaders, and IT decision makers, our audience pool is somewhat limited, but the resulting increases we saw were still remarkable. As we shifted our focus and strategy in mid-2021 and 2022, we were able to organically add 124,000+ new followers on Instagram, a 79% increase from the previous period. Our total reach grew by 28% without any paid support. Our efforts to increase engagement using Instagram’s various posting methods and built-in engagement tools were incredibly effective. We published 20% more Instagram stories leading to 46% more story taps and 50% more story replies. And between 2021 and 2022, 7 of our top 10 engaged posts were those that were focused on lifestyle and creating relatable, feel-good moments for our audience.
Most importantly, it’s what we can’t quantify that makes us most proud. We’re constantly seeing individuals in education feel pride in their profession, connect with others, and discover tools or tips that will ultimately help them create more ah-ha moments for their students.
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