5 Tips for Teachers Using Instagram

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How can teachers use Instagram for professional development, networking and as a classroom resource?

According to comScore data, an average user … spends less than 3 minutes a day using Twitter on mobile devices. (Statista). In this post, I share my 5 tips for teachers using Instagram (as an alternative to Twitter) and for those who want to start using it as a medium for sharing ideas and professional development.


It is clear to see from the data, that Facebook still dominates social media use globally. For me personally, I’ve been a huge Twitter and Facebook user for almost 10 years, developing my Instagram and Pinterest use over the past 12 months. This chart compares selected social media platforms in terms of mobile user engagement.

Image: Statista

If we look at the following data, we can start to understand where our teenagers are ‘sharing content online’. This chart ranks the favourite social networking platforms of U.S. teens.

Image: Statista

Snapchat is clearly the number 1 for teens in the United States – I suspect this is also the case for teenagers here in the U.K.. So, in true ‘teacher-fashion’ and in-keeping with tradition (for being light-years behind the kids), below I share my 5 tips for teachers using Instagram so that a) I too can get up to speed and b) to grow @TeacherToolkit on Instagram.

In 2013, Facebook was still the social network of choice for teenagers. In 2014, Instagram took the throne for a while before being re-accommodated by Snapchat in 2016. (Statista)

5 Instagram Tips

I thought I was fairly social-media savvy with a strong Twitter profile, but over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to develop my use of Instagram to keep up with trends. According to Statista data, Instagram is:

1. Content

Once you have set up your profile – make sure you have a biography and a photograph – like any social media platform, it’s not just about how you use it, but what the application is designed to do. Post interesting content. Instagram is designed specifically for sharing photographs, so if you are using Instagram to share teaching ideas (including all the usual safeguarding disclaimers about students, names and permission etc.). High-quality photos with lots of colour get the most engagement on Twitter – and try not to overdo it with filter effects.

2. Hashtags

Using Instagram is very different to those who use Twitter. On Twitter, hashtags are used to join specific conversations and follow events online, whereas with Instagram, hashtag attribution within posts are deliberately added to increase engagement and followers. Unfortunately, some people take it way too far and photos/captions are bombarded with far too many hashtags that are not relevant to the image being shared.

3. Frequency

As with all social media platforms, it is important to share frequently. I started off a few times a week, and have gradually moved to one image per day – experimenting with video and all the other features offered inside Instagram. The ‘Explore tab’ offers popular photos and videos, tailored to you and according to the photos and videos that have been liked or commented on by people you follow. You can also find new users to follow.

4. Interact

As with Twitter, you can send direct messages to other users and as with any social media platform, to increase growth and usage, you must interact with others. Comment on other users’ photos – and reply to people too! Make them feel valued; send private messages. Upload videos and stories – a new feature that lets you share all the moments of your day (in a slide show), not just the ones you want to keep on your profile.

Instagram Stories, a new feature lets you share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile. It’s become so popular, it’s taken over Snapchat as a leading platform. Instagram is a place to share the moments, but now you can share your highlights and everything in between, too! It’s a good alternative rather than flooding your timeline and putting people off …

5. Experiment

For the past 10 years on Twitter, my journey has very much been experimental. I now aim to do the same on Instagram. Give ‘shout-outs’ to other users, offer freebies or just comment and share opinion. On Twitter and on TeacherToolkit.co.uk, I have reviewed resources and books in video and photograph, so using a range and type of content is not only an interesting way to share ideas, it’s a great way to connect with people. Note, as with all experimentation, trends come and go and everything eventually has an expiry date.


Connect with @TeacherToolkit on Instagram.

Advice For Students

If offering advice to students, do consider this:

“Instagram was highlighted as having become the vehicle most used for mean comments. Seven per cent of young social network users said they had been bullied on the Facebook-owned photo app.” (BBC News)

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