How Academics Can Use Instagram to Build Community

Should I be on Instagram if I’m an academic?

Instagram is a popular social media platform for graduate students and postdocs. The science community also has an active following. But, not a lot of academics are using it to share their work.

Are you on Instagram?

In my last post, I introduced you to Instagram, and a bunch of other social media platforms.

Here’s a rundown of this visual-based social media platform.

  • Instagram has more than 1 billion monthly active users.
  • People love Instagram stories, their Snapchat-like post that lasts 24 hours.
  • Reels, Instagram’s TikTok-like video post, was released in 2020.
  • Instagram isn’t just for photos. It’s for videos and text. You can even share the music you like through Spotify.
  • There are posts, which stay on your profile, and stories which last a day.
  • You can share longer videos to IGTV (up to 10 minutes).
  • Follow people to see their posts and stories in your home feed.
  • Discover new topics and people with hashtags, or through Explore.
  • Bookmark your favorite posts to save them.
  • You don’t have to be a great photographer to be on Instagram. You can share selfies, stock photos, or snapshots with your phone.
  • There are fun filters, fonts, colors, and stickers for Instagram stories.
  • Instagram is my favorite platform for academics and researchers. I think it’s a great way to find your community, and actually start conversations.
  • It’s an especially good platform for graduate students and postdocs to connect.

This is my blog, The Social Academic. Here, I share advice for your online presence, like social media and websites.

Today, I want to tell you a bit more about how you can use Instagram to network and find your academic community. Learn how to find people with similar interests on Instagram. I’ll chat about all the cool interactive things you can do.

Then learn my top suggestions for reaching out to new people on Instagram by downloading my free guide.

Are you ready? Welcome to The Social Academic.

Subscribe to The Social Academic blog.

I suggest these 3 things to find your community on Instagram

Hand holding up three fingers to represent three

Finding your community on Instagram is a slower process than you might think. But it’s also a more organic one.

When you come across someone who is a good fit for your network

  • they are in your field
  • their content is related to your interests
  • you know them personally
  • you met at a conference or event
  • you admire them

it’s a good idea to give them a follow if you like their content.

Here are 3 things you can do to find your scholarly community on Instagram.

#1 | Update your profile to share who you are and what type of content you share

In Instagram for Academics, I give the basics of what your profile needs to connect with your community.

  • Your handle should be something recognizable. I usually suggest your name.
  • Your bio should tell people about who you are and the content you share.
  • Your profile photo should be personable. Your friendly face works best.

#2 | Find hashtags that relate to your interests and follow them

Did you know you can follow hashtags on Instagram? This makes finding your scholarly community easy.

When you follow a hashtag on Instagram, you see the top posts in that hashtag in your home feed each week.

Its one of those algorithms where the more you interact with posts on a hashtag, the more hashtags it will show you.

For instance, if I watch all the stories in #AcademicLife on Instagram, they’ll show me the stories for #PhDLife or #Professors in my home feed too.

And, you can always search out the hashtags you follow by going to your profile, and your Following list.

You can include up to 30 hashtags on an Instagram post, like #PhDLife, #AcademicsOfInstagram, and #GradSchool.

And you can have up to 10 hashtags on a Instagram story. Though I don’t often see stories with more than 1-2 hashtags (if any).

You can follow as many hashtags as you want, here’s how.

Pro Tip: When it comes to hashtags, you want to look at them to see what is typically posted. If you see a lot of businesses posting or content that’s not relevant, that’s not the hashtag for you.

#3 | Introduce yourself on a regular basis using the hashtags you find

I train academics and researchers on best practices for social media. My first question to people is…

When’s the last time you introduced yourself?

Introducing yourself on social media is a friendly way to say hi to your audience.

And it’s a great way to start conversations with people who’ve connected with you, but weren’t sure how to reach out.

My online course teaches a bunch of ways to introduce yourself on social media because I recommend you do it every month. More if your audience is growing quickly.

Here’s an introduction post of mine.

View this post on Instagram

Hi, I’m Jennifer 🙂⠀ ⠀ It’s nice to meet you! Here are a few things about me.⠀ ⠀ What do you do as a communications strategist?⠀ ⠀ I’m all about the best ways to communicate who you are and what you do online.⠀ ⠀ I create plans and systems that help decide what, when and how to share information for it to be the most effective. And my focus is communication online (like websites, social media, and scholarly communities).⠀ ⠀ I train academics and researchers on best practices for your academic life online.⠀ ⠀ What’s your favorite social media platform?⠀ ⠀ Instagram! 💟 I love how many friends and people I’ve met here that impact my real life. I love connecting with academics and learning about your lives.⠀ ⠀ Where are you from?⠀ ⠀ I grew up in Massachusetts. I really miss the seasons now that I’m living in the deep south, Louisiana. Now I’m surrounded by oak trees (which I love) 🌳 and big bugs (which I don’t). But we’re hoping to relocate to Colorado in the Fall.⠀ ⠀ What’s a fun fact?⠀ ⠀ When I was in high school, I seriously considered going to college for voice. I’m good at singing. I practiced opera for a long time, and loved choir.⠀ ⠀ I’m really uncomfortable with acting, and didn’t want to travel extensively for work. That lifestyle just wasn’t for me 😊 But I still love singing! Especially in the shower.⠀ ⠀ What are you watching?⠀ ⠀ I’m watching a lot of reality TV right now. Partly because it’s on a lot in the summer. But also because I’m obsessed with Love Island UK 🥰 I watch it every day.⠀ ⠀ What are your summer plans?⠀ ⠀ My summer plans are all work related, like finishing my online course, Create your Personal Academic Website. But I’m also relaxing and practicing self-care.⠀ ⠀ Last summer I was just starting my business, and seriously burned out post-grad school. This summer is more about doing what’s best for me.⠀ ⠀ It’s so great to meet you 👋😀 Introduce yourself in the comments with your name, and something fun about you!

A post shared by The Academic Designer (@higheredpr) on

Introduction posts can be fun!

  • Say hi, and introduce yourself by name.
  • Share a short bio.
  • Then, tell people a bit about you.
  • I like to include a fun fact or detail each time.

So, when’s the last time you introduced yourself on Instagram? Give it a try, and use some of the hashtags you found.

Introduction posts on Instagram tend to have really high engagement rates. That means that a lot of the people who see your post are likely to engage with it in some way.

To help boost that engagement, ask a question at the end for your audience to answer.

Pro Tip: Include your favorite hashtags in the 1st comment of your post. Remember, you can add up to 30. So for introduction posts, I recommend you do a bit of hashtag exploration!

I hope you’re finding this post helpful so far! Enter your email below to get The Social Academic right to your email.

Subscribe to The Social Academic blog.

Like, comment, and other ways to connect with your audience

Like, share, follow

If you’re just lurking on Instagram, you’re probably having a good time, but you’re not engaging your community.

Liking a post doesn’t mean as much anymore. Instagram is experimenting with getting rid of the like count feature altogether.

And that scares a lot of people and businesses. People worry, how will people know to like my post if they can’t see how many people liked it already?

There are types of engagement on Instagram that matter more. They’re more effective for you making real connections.

Let’s talk about how to engage your scholarly community on Instagram.

Understanding how people can engage with Instagram posts

Video post from @HigherEdPR Instagram

There are several ways to engage with Instagram posts, and some are more effective ways of connecting.


To like a post on Instagram, you can double-tap the image on the post.

Or, you can tap the heart icon just below it.

A like is the most popular type of engagement you can have with a post.

When you like a post, the poster is notified that you liked it.

Sometimes that will prompt them to check out your profile.

Most of the time, it makes them smile, and close out of the notification.


A comment is a much better type of post engagement.

When you comment on a post, it generally shows people you’ve taken time to read it.

If your comment reflects that you read the post, they also know you’ve taken time to consider it.

When you reply to someone’s post with a comment or question, it is a great way to start a conversation. And they can choose to like and reply to your comment.

People like to reply to comments. So it’s a great way to start a conversation.

Try asking a question, or saying what you like about the post.

Subscribe to The Social Academic blog.


There are two ways to share an Instagram post.

If the user has set their post to public, you can share it directly to your story using the envelope icon.

By doing this, your audience sees that you recommend this post.

And, you can add text, or even sticker GIFs to the story.

You can also share the post directly with a friend this way.

You can also use a 3rd party app called Repost to share a post. But, there are some guidelines to follow.

You must always ask permission from the original poster. A quick direct message usually works.

Not asking permission can be a copyright violation. And may break Instagram’s Terms of Service.

When you receive permission, be sure to tag them in your post, and in the photo itself.

Instagram stories are so popular right now, let’s talk about engagement

Instagram Stories panel of 4 examples

Instagram stories are so popular, over half of Instagram’s billion monthly active users watch them. Here are different ways to engage with your audience over Instagram stories.

Ask a question

Using Instagram Questions, you can ask a question or invite questions.

One thing that is popular right now is Ask Me Anything (AMA), where you invite open questions from your audience.

You can also respond to this type of story.

Polls and Quizzes

Stories are a great place add polls or quizzes.

There are traditional polls, which allow you to ask your audience to choose between 2 options.

Emoji sliders are another way to engage your audience in Instagram stories.

It’s a type of sliding scale poll that helps you gauge how your audience feels about something.

And, there are quizzes, which allow up to 4 answers.

Pro tip: you can use these to ask questions about anything! I even use the quiz feature as a poll, with a little caption like “no right answer.”

Start a chat

A brand new feature that is being rolled out on Instagram stories is chat. You can use this to host a public chat, by inviting anyone who sees it.

Or, you can invite people to a private chat.

Video and going live

Video is a great option for Instagram stories. You can shoot video up to 15 seconds for each story post.

A great way to generate longer video is by going live.

When you go live, your audience is alerted so they can tune in.

And, you can save the video when you’re done to share it to IGTV, YouTube, or Facebook.

Not everyone is comfortable with going live, but it has really high engagement rates. So it’s worth trying out once.

Subscribe to The Social Academic blog.

Share a reminder

You can share a reminder in your Instagram stories that your audience can save. Like if you

  • have an event coming up
  • are planning to go live
  • plan a public chat

By tapping on your reminder, people can choose to be notified when the timer runs up.

This is a great way to let people know about an event they can participate in.

Learn more about sharing stories on social media.

Get help managing your online presence in academia

Sign up for a 1:1 social media consultation for in-depth Instagram training.

Want to learn social media at your own pace? Join my online course for professors and researchers.

Guides and Advice Articles Instagram Resources for Grad Students Share Your Research Social Media How To's The Social Academic

Jennifer van Alstyne View All →

Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help professors, researchers, and graduate students manage their online presence. Jennifer’s goal is to help people share their work with the world.

Check out her personal site at https://jennifervanalstyne
or learn more about the services she offers at

%d bloggers like this: