Follower count, post count, engagement, and average users of different Lehigh University Instagram accounts. (Graphic by Arava Rose/B&W Graphics)

Behind the profiles of Lehigh Instagram accounts


A search for “Lehigh University” on Instagram reveals many accounts — from the university itself, to clubs and organizations on campus, to each of the colleges. Each accounts’ content and following varies, which may lead viewers to wonder who runs them and what their goals are.

Social media has become a marketing and communications tool for academic institutions, including Lehigh. It can connect the university with prospective students and inform alumni and current students of the latest news.

With numerous social media accounts running under iterations of the university’s name, there is a wide variety of marketing strategies employed that result in varying visual aesthetics, levels of success and audiences reached. 

Taylor Stakes, marketing manager of University Communications and Public Affairs, said the main Lehigh social media accounts follow a concise strategy: get the word out about Lehigh, showcase campus life and campus beauty, and share student stories and profiles. He said the university channels are primarily geared toward prospective students.

The university uses its social media accounts for three purposes, Stakes said: as a recruitment device for prospective students, a storytelling device and a way to communicate with current students, such as with emergency alerts.

“We try to tailor our messaging to prospective students,” Stakes said, “but also we’re very aware that current students are still active in following our channels.” 

Jamie Fischer, ‘23, marketing intern for University Communications and Public Affairs, organizes the “This Week at Lehigh” Instagram story posts, the “Takeover Thursday” story series and analytics for the channels. 

As an intern, Fischer said she helps ensure social media content represents the brand voice and relates to students.

“They’re definitely trying to make the voice of the accounts more relatable to students and more current,” Fischer said. “It’s been really fun hearing the team brainstorm and (thinking) of ideas that will actually be engaging to real students.”

Regarding the colleges’ social media accounts, the Office of Communications and Public Affairs takes a hands-off approach.

Stakes said the colleges are the ones on the ground communicating their messages directly.

While the Communications and Public Affairs Office will offer advice regarding brand standards and brand guidelines, Stakes said they allow the colleges to communicate messages of their choice. This ensures there isn’t oversaturation of content coming from multiple Lehigh University accounts.

Out of the five colleges’ Instagram accounts, the College of Engineering has the largest number of followers, something the engineering marketing and communications team credits to its team of student interns.

“We feel like there’s really no better ambassador to students than other students,” said Chris Larkin, director of Marketing and Communications. “There could be no more influential, credible voice out there for tomorrow’s college students than today’s college students.”

Maegan Anderson, the team’s digital marketing specialist, said every semester, 12 to 15 engineering students are hired to post “authentic, student-based” perspectives on their life at Lehigh, from classes to campus events. These students are given access to the college accounts with the freedom to post stories on their own accord.

She said because students spend so much of their time consuming the media, they have a good gauge on what a genuine student voice sounds like.

“We sort of curate more than we manage because as soon as that content feels like it’s coming from the marketing office, kids can smell it a mile away,” Larkin said. “They’re just way too savvy of a consumer group… I could try to fool you, and it would not work.”

The College of Business Marketing and Communications team works directly under the dean of the college. With the team’s position in the dean’s office, Rob Gerth, director of Marketing and Communications, said the ultimate goal is to connect with students, alumni, parents and prospective students.

Gerth said the shared content covers research, student stories, content for the graduate programs and a general view of the college and its resources.

“Reputation is exactly what we’re concerned with,” Gerth said. “People, students, alumni, faculty and, in general, the public just getting a good impression of us. That’s what we focus on.”

The business school’s marketing and communications team has three full-time employees, Gerth said, so they alone cannot cover everything that happens in the College of Business. There are separate social media accounts run by departments and graduate programs, which help to cover content for the College of Business.

Gerth said they are particular about what projects they post.

Sarah Barnett, web content manager for the College of Business, said leaning on the main university accounts helps them navigate their lack of resources. 

“If someone’s interested in TikTok (for) the College of Business, we may not have enough content, or we might not have the resources to manage it at this time,” Barnett said. “But, if we want to send people somewhere, we can send them to the Lehigh University one, which is great.

Other colleges are less developed when it comes to social media operations.

Carson Snyder ‘23, a social media intern for the College of Health, said there is no full-time employee in charge of the college’s social media channels.

“Right now I work under three different people, but they just let me manage all the accounts, and I don’t really run anything by anyone,” Snyder said. “They really give me the freedom to do whatever I want with it. Maybe a little too much freedom, but it’s really up to me.”

Emily Collins, media relations specialist for Lehigh University, said in an email on behalf of the College of Health, the college uses Instagram and other forms of social media to share college updates, stories and events. 

She said students within the college, like Synder, are active in managing the accounts, and the college is looking to hire a communications manager this year.

Snyder said their main goal is to build the student population for the college’s undergraduate and graduate programs. To do so, they’ve made it their focus to connect with as many people as possible across all their social media platforms and provide updates on the college.

In an email from Rob Nichols, the director of Communications and Marketing for the College of Arts and Sciences, said the college hired a social media manager last fall.

We are in the process of working on developing an Instagram strategy,” Nichols said in the email. “We didn’t have a social media effort that included (Instagram) due to lack of staffing.

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