Instagram Follow Up 101

Instagram logo surrounded by flora

The Follow Up Pipeline 

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A graphic of many balls falling down progressively into many multi-colored buckets. To the right is text of the 5 steps of Instagram Follow Up listed below

Just as in-person contacts move from strangers to members of our communities by meeting us at tables, going to events, and becoming a regular attender of a small group Bible study or other structure, online contacts follow a similar trajectory.

Here are the 5 steps online contacts went through at the University of Utah during NSO 2020:

  1. Follow students via the chapter account 
  2. Send Introductions and Direct Messages
  3. Personally Follow Up With Those Who Respond
  4. Invite Contacts to Events and Meetings
  5. Help Contacts Become Regular Members

Let's go through these steps in more detail...

 

BEFORE YOU START: Over the Summer

Contact churches to share about IV at your campus. Ask for any youth contacts. Although there may be few contacts, a higher percentage of these students are likely to join a Christian community!

 

STEP 1: Follow Students Via Chapter Account

For this first step, try to follow as many students as possible from your chapter Instagram account. You can start with official university accounts, but focus on following people that are also following “Class of 2025” accounts.

Here's an example of one Class of 2025 account from the University of Florida:

a screenshot of the UF class of 2025 Instagram Profile

In this step, don't be afraid to set a large goal! For example, try to follow 1,000 students.

 

STEP 2: Send Introductions and Direct Messages

When a student does follow you back, send an introduction and a DM welcoming them and inviting them to fill out a contact card.

Here's a simple example message you can use:

“Hey, we are so excited that you’re coming to Example University. We know that this year has been difficult. We would you to join our fellowship <link contact card>. We would love to connect you to a student leader, so you have some connection before you get to campus. Can we get your phone number? Are you interested in that?”

As you follow students, expect somewhere between 10-25% of students to follow the chapter account back. And out of the group that follow you less would fill out a contact card. So that means, If you followed 1,000 students and 200 followed back, we would expect about 50-75 to DM back or fill out the contact card. This is why we encourage such a large goal for step 1!

 

STEP  3: Personally Follow Up With Those Who Respond
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Screen shot of Instagram DM thread: nterVarsity leader:Hey ____! InterVarsity is an on campus ministry group at Boise state, and we were wondering if you would like some cool stickers sent to you! If not, no worries at all :)  New student: awh that's so kind of ya'll, I'd love that!  InterVarsity leader: Awesome! Just send us your address and we'll get some stickers out to you! Also, yes we have a website, here is a link to get connected to InterVarsity. <link to contact card>

Student leaders should text or DM anyone who has filled out a contact card. The goal is to get to know each student as a person. Try sending a letter or small gift as well!

Here's a sample message that leaders at Boise State InterVarsity sent to incoming new students who followed them back. They were able to get 70 freshmen to respond with their interest in InterVarsity and mailing addresses. And sent them InterVarsity stickers and a hand written welcome card.

InterVarsity Leader: Hey ____! InterVarsity is an on campus ministry group at Boise state, and we were wondering if you would like some cool stickers sent to you! If not, no worries at all :)

New student: awh that's so kind of ya'll, I'd love that!

InterVarsity leader: Awesome! Just send us your address and we'll get some stickers out to you! Also, yes we have a website, here is a link to get connected to InterVarsity. <link to contact card> 

 

STEP 4: Invite Contacts to Events and Meetings

Now that you have started to build relationship, you can invite these new student contacts to join you for an NSO event or small group on campus.

 

STEP 5: Help Contacts Become Regular Members

Finally, a small percentage of these students will become members. If you started with 1,000 strangers that you followed, we would hope that 10 ultimately join your community. We think Instagram is a great way to cast the net widely and add to your in-person strategies to meet and welcome new students.

 

University of Utah Case Study

Fall 2020 at the University of Utah was unlike any other. Like all our campuses, COVID radically changed the tools available for outreach and bonding with new students.

Chasen and Kelly Robbins faced the pandemic head-on, inspired by Paul in Acts 16 they looked for God's open doors. Unleashed to be creative, staff and students turned to Instagram to create their "NSO tables" and "proxes." God brought them incredible fruit! The gospel is advancing and they had their best NSO season yet. The chapter grew from 50 to 80 students and conversions grew from 3 last fall to 9!

This is how they budgeted their time. The large majority was spent following up with students directly:

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Pic chart titled: "Time Spent Doing Online Instagram Witness" – Follow Up 50%, Creating Posts 30%, Engagement 20%

Here's how the pipeline worked for them:

 

Over the Summer

Chasen and Kelly called 40 churches to share about InterVarsity at the University of Utah and asking for youth contacts. This yielded 20 contact cards. Immediately, the chapter account and Chasen or Kelly followed these students and began DMing. Thirteen students checked out InterVarsity and eight students have become regular members this fall.

 

Step 1: Follow students via the chapter account 

Every day for 2 weeks leading up to the start of school, Chasen and Kelly followed students from the chapter account. In total, they followed 800 students.

 

Step 2: Send Introductions and Direct Messages

300 students followed @ivuofu back. As soon as a student would follow back, Chasen and Kelly would pause following to begin DM follow-up. They would message them, "Hey, we are so excited that you're coming to the U of U. We now this year has been difficult. We would love you to join our fellowship<link to contact card>. We would love to connect you to a student leader so you have some connection before you get to campus. Can we get your phone number? Are you interested in that?" 100 students didn't read the message. 150 saw it, but didn't respond. 50 responded via DM's. Of the 200 students who read the message, 90 filled out a contact card or gave their info via DM. That meant, some students filled out a contact card even if they didn't DM back!

 

Step 3: Personally Follow Up With Those Who Respond

The week before school, anyone who filled out a contact card was texted or DM'ed by a student leader. It was important to act on their promise to connect before they came back to campus.

 

Step 4: Invite Contacts to Events and Meetings

Students were invited to join worship nights at the U of U. From there, they were invited into small group Bible studies.

 

Step 5: Help Contacts Become Regular Members

After a faithful season of NSO activities, community building, and follow up, 30 students joined the chapter this fall. Praise God!

 

Resource Topic - Primary

Jamie Ladipo serves as the Associate National Director of Evangelism. She first got involved with InterVarsity at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA where she decided to follow Jesus. After graduation she moved to Kansas to begin planting InterVarsity in the state. She now lives in Minneapolis, MN with her husband Paul and son Toby.