Chloe Burroughs is an Open University (OU) graduate who’s since launched a new study skills training business to help other students achieve what they’re capable of. While working towards her degree (a first class business degree with honours, no less) Chloe developed a secondary set of skills – essay writing, assignment planning, motivational styles etc – which she has compiled into a series of strategies and tactics for not only helping others pass their assignments, but also to achieve higher grades. And remember, many OU students, just like Chloe, work full-time while studying so finding time, let alone the time to get great grades, is no mean feat.
I bumped into Chloe on the ‘Instagram circuit’ while running The Open University’s two-month pilot – we are both using and following the hashtag #openuniversity and commenting and liking the same content. One of the nice consequences of immersing yourself in an online community, is that you make friends. So I touched base with Chloe and asked her if she’d mind sharing some of her content on our page. I also asked Chloe a little about her business, her use of Instagram and what, as an OU graduate and potential postgraduate student (yes, she’s planning on coming back for more), she thinks of the OU account and how we could improve it.
When did you start using Instagram and what do you like about it?
I set up my account in February 2016 but started using it regularly in May 2016. I love the versatility of Instagram. I can share simple quote images which are great for motivation and add some colour to my profile. I can just share images or I can give value to my followers with longer captions. I try to give advice and tips in all my captions. I can also share behind-the-scenes images of my study space and of my personal life.
The portfolio style of Instagram allows me to build up a story of me. As I’m a personal brand rather than a company I think it’s important for me to share all sides of me, not just the study skills training aim of my business. So I try to add in personal images a few times a week not just those related to the business.
You’re working on building your own business – how is Instagram helping to develop that and what other channels do you use? How do you find Instagram compares to them?
Instagram is the most successful tool I’m using to build my blog. The hashtag system allows me to find new followers a lot easier than on Facebook. Around 75% of my email subscribers have found me through Instagram, either by following me after I’ve commented on one of their posts, or by finding my posts by searching through related study hashtags such as #openuniversity.
I’ve started using Pinterest which, at first, seems similar to Instagram but is in fact quite different. I’m using Pinterest as more of a search engine, posting blog post images and images overlaid with advice to get traffic for my blog. I think visuals are a great way to build my brand and Pinterest gives my business a more professional side whereas Instagram allows me to build relationships.
I want to start using Twitter too once I have Pinterest figured out and running smoothly. I think that could be great to share snippets of advice and also build relationships with students and influencers. I haven’t tackled Facebook yet but that’s also on the plan as I want to create a free Facebook group to offer support to OU students who feel a bit lonely studying by themselves.
As an OU student and follower of us on Instagram, a) what have been your favourite posts so far, and b) what sorts of posts would you be interested in seeing going forwards?
I’ve enjoyed the posts about different OU graduates. I think that’s a great way to showcase the incredible mix of people studying with the OU. I also enjoyed the recent video (18th December) with a study tip from a recent graduate. Posts that involve other students are a great idea – like your ‘feeling festive’ quick video last week. It can feel lonely at times studying with the OU so future posts could include those that build community.
What do think the OU’s Instagram account is missing?
To build community, perhaps you could start themes for the account? Lots of Facebook groups I’m a member of have a theme for each day. Followers begin to learn the themes for each day and look forward to the posts. Possible categories could be:
- Motivational quote
- Quick feature of a current student
- Study tips – from the OU or other students
- Feature an OU employee or tutor – include a photo and a few sentences on what they do
- Share an OU resource – such as the magazine or a study skills page. (You can create shortlinks with bit.ly that you could include)
- Share your study space – using the #ouselfie tag or similar
- Engagement day – where you ask questions or ask for a tag e.g. tag your study buddy, or tag someone you know is studying hard. This could grow the audience.
How important do you think branding is on Instagram?
I think branding is very important, I’m still working on mine. I don’t think branding is just about images and colour schemes – even though I’ve decided on these. I think it also relates to the voice of your brand. I don’t want my voice to be that of the expert telling students what to do. I want to share my experiences and give advice but explain ‘this is what worked for me’, you could try it too.
I think corporate accounts need the visual elements of branding as Instagram accounts with a clear style and theme are more appealing. But they also need a clear aim and voice. I can’t remember who said it but there’s a quote like, ‘branding is what other people say about your business when you’re not in the room’. I try and follow this advice and keep my style clear but my voice consistent.
What’s more important to you – showcasing great pictures and videos or great stories with less polished photographs and videos? Or striking a balance?
I think this depends on the audience. I don’t want to come across as too polished. I want to come across as relatable to my audience and as a friend of theirs. So my photographs show me as a normal person, trying to work on her laptop while eating some chocolate. Again, this depends on the brand. Casual may not work for brands that want to only convey professionalism and formality.
Social media can come across as too perfect and I think audiences are starting to wise up to this and crave something a bit more real. This doesn’t mean images or language has to be very informal, but behind-the-scenes photographs, personal stories and funny images could be interwoven with more formal content.
As an OU graduate what do you want most from your university’s Instagram account?
I would love to become more involved with the OU as a graduate but am not entirely sure of the opportunities. Perhaps these could be highlighted. It would also be great to hear more about people who’ve completed postgraduate study with the OU. I definitely want to further my studies next year sometime so would enjoy reading others’ stories.
What are your Instagram top tips?
- I try and make best use of the hashtag limits by including between 20 and 30 with each post
- I try to follow the formula give, give, give, take. I try to stick to the ratio of around three posts giving value or telling my story to every one post that asks my audience to do something e.g. click on a link, tag a friend, answer a question… etc
- I use the one link IG allows us in our bios – I update this with each new blog post and try to send my followers there
- I reply to every comment on my posts
- I always engage with my followers by liking and commenting on their posts
- I try to stick to my blog’s colour scheme for my tip/advice posts.
Free resources and find out more
Oh, and if you’re studying, take a look at Chloe’s free downloadable/printable study planner – its sure to set you off on the right foot as we enter 2017.