Tag Archives: Open University

Recipes for success: Instagram and cross-posting

I do like a little bit of creative problem-solving. And here’s an example… (and it’s no coincidence that I’m posting this on a Wednesday!)

Instagram’s visual nature makes it different to fellow platforms like Facebook and Twitter. But this doesn’t mean cross-posting (posting the same content on more than one platform) won’t work. Personally, I’m not a fan of simply posting identical content on multiple platforms. It’s lazy, for starters,  and the same key messages can – and should – be optimised for different channels. But there is an overlap.

For example, at work (The Open University) we’d been posting regular #WednesdayWisdom posts (every Wednesday in fact, go figure) on both Instagram and Twitter, developing a very simple quote-on-a-block-colour-background-with-logo-in-the-corner style for both: square for Instagram, rectangular for Twitter. And we were getting good engagement on both platforms.

So how could we do this more efficiently – posting the same content in two different places but optimised for both? In comes IFTTT, a series of ‘recipes’ you can set so if you do something to A, something will also happen to B.

Rather than posting twice on two channels, I wanted to see if we could use an IFTTT recipe to auto-post an image from Instagram directly onto Twitter using a single hashtag, saving time and helping to drive traffic from Twitter to Instagram. You can do this via Instagram directly but it posts the image as a link, meaning you have to click the link to see it, rather than embedding the image for all to see.

In principle this was a simple idea. In reality, it caused three problems:

  • Firstly, finding a style that would complement both Instagram’s square layout and Twitter’s wide layout.
  • Secondly, finding a way to optimise that style to work for mobile Twitter (quotes on a regular 1024 x 512 pixel Twitter card will be chopped off when viewing on a mobile. 700 x 400 pixel works well on mobile if you want to avoid any chopping.
  • And thirdly, how to write a caption in our current Instagram style with up to 30 hashtags which would also fit Twitter’s 140 character limit.


The first and second issues were tackled by creating multiple layouts and testing them on Instagram and Twitter mobile, over and over again, until we found one that worked for both.

The same post on Twitter showing the Instagram layout works for Twitter mobile.

The third issue was solved by posting a short caption with two hashtags: #WednesdayWisdom (the whole reason for doing these posts as it’s a popular hashtag) and #OU, the hashtag set up via IFTTT that enables the auto posting to Twitter. Any image we now post on Instagram with the hashtag #OU will automatically post to Twitter. I then posted the remaining hashtags, to aid search, in a comment below the original Instagram post. Job done.

These #WednesdayWisdom posts are now created in batches of 10 and loaded onto scheduling tool Buffer. The get good engagement on both Twitter and Instagram, and posting in this way helps us to promote our Instagram account – which we’re actively trying to grow – weekly on Twitter.

This method could also be used for other department’s social media too, posting an image of the OU in Scotland’s Edinburgh office, for example, but setting up an IFTTT recipe for it to autopost to the OU in Scotland’s Twitter account, helping to drive traffic to the corporate Instagram account from different Twitter accounts, and therefore different audiences.

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The end of the first semester…

First comes the stress, the panic and the constant waking in the night to write ideas down, then comes a wave of relief on completion, followed by panic that it’s not right, then the underlying worry until you get your mark. Yes folks, MA assignments bring with them a rollercoaster of emotions. And it’s not like you can ride the wave of relief for too long either…  before you know it another one is lapping at your toes, threatening to drown your social life and sting your brain cells.

Despite the workload and constant fear of failure I’m really enjoying being a student, particularly as I got to see campus for the first time last week. Having been a student since September, albeit a distance learner, I had yet to tread foot on BCU soil.

That said, I have email contact with my fellow students and know they’re only an email, text or Facebook message away. I speak regularly with my tutor and, equally, know numerous ways to quiz him if I get stuck or need support. As a distance learner I digest my learning via a series of weekly AudioBoos, video clips or filmed guest speakers, presentations on Slideshare and blog posts, as well as a long reading list and time spent dabbling with the very tools we’re learning about. It’s a very practical, just get on and do it, type of course, and that’s one of the reasons I like it; there’s a lot of flexibility in the way I tackle my study and that’s appealing. As someone who works full time and also likes to cling onto a social life and other hobbies, it’s important to be able to fit study around everything else.

For some, distance learning may feel isolated but I don’t feel that way. I’ve made an effort to attend some of the courses and conferences with my fellow students – so at least I know what they look like and where they are if I want to chat – and because I work at The Open University, the kings of supported distance learning, perhaps I feel more at ease about the process of independent study and less physical hand-holding.

And I think, so far, BCU are doing a pretty good job – particularly as it’s the first time they’ve offered the course via distance learning. Some of my fellow students are doing it full time, others part time, and just three of us via distance learning. But we’re all in similar boats, doing our best to stay afloat.

What I do miss, perhaps, is the sharing of experiences which most likely happens during weekly tutorials. I don’t know, for sure, because I have never attended one. And my learning journey may suffer slightly for it. But for now, I’m just getting on with it.

I’ve just slaved over my second assignment of semester one, which ate up a lot of time, and I’m now full of dread as I await the result. It’s worth 80 per cent so I need this one in the bag. But soon I’ll have other assignments to focus on as semester two rolls around – and the whole process starts again.

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