Instagram is one of the biggest social media platforms in the world, with over a billion users and counting. Although the platform is synonymous with influencers, younger audiences, marketers, all with curated feeds and creative video stories, Instagram is also a great platform for journalists, news organisations and publishers to harness and share content with a wider audience.
As a journalist or news organisation, you may think it is difficult to build an audience on Instagram. Asia Pacific’s Instagram strategic partner manager Nicci Meek dropped a number of jewels on how journalists, and publishers can maximise, build their brand and community on the social media networking platform during a Splice Beta session.
Meek says there are 500 million daily active story users, a feature on Instagram. And 1 in 6 accounts follow a publisher on the social networking platform, evidence to show that publishers have a great shot of connecting with audiences. But a key finding of Instagram usage and metric, is that profiles of people draw a higher engagement than brands. “Unfortunately for people who have business accounts etc, you have to lean-in on those individuals around you. Unfortunately, on the platform that is Instagram, everybody looks the same. As you are scrolling you are scrolling through the feed you’re not thinking to yourself, ‘ oh is that a sports team, is that a business, is that my aunt?’ You are just thinking “do I like that [Instagram post] or do I not that,” says Meek.
The National Geographic is the only publisher listed in the top accounts.
So what are some of the key things publishers and journalists should be doing to maximise their Instagram engagement and build a community? Instagram is built on two way interactions. It relies on the publisher showing that they are important to their audience. Meek says it is important as a publisher account to create account, engage with audience.But it is also a place where publishers have the opportunity to “personify” their profiles by allowing audiences behind the scenes. This allows users to connect emotionally with your account.
Meek says that Instagram Live is one of the most important tools for the Next Generation and it took off to a place the organisation never expected for all types of accounts. The number of Lives increased substantially during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
Why as a publisher do you need to do Live’s? Meek says this tool brings people together. The Live tool is very much “super in the moment, it’s personal and it’s the most flexible surface” aspect of the social media platform. Meek says publishers can repurpose their Lives into an IGTV. One of the perks of using Lives is that it is the only tool on the platform that sends push notifications. “ It lets you know when someone is going Live and it is a great tool for engagements,” says Meek.
One of the ways publishers can maximise on Lives and user engagement is for interviewing. Live’s has bespoke tools such as:
- Q&A sticker | Ahead of time, publishers can make use of the Q&A sticker on Stories and ask users to suggest questions for an upcoming Live session. When you do your Live, you can tap into the questions that audiences have asked you.
- Media Picker | You can use any image or video from your gallery and project it on your Live. When you make use of this feature, the presenter’s video screen will become smaller while the focus remains on the image/video presented.
- Live with | Meeks says this is another wonderful mechanism for interviewing.
In terms of best practices for Instagram Live’s, these are no longer re-shared to Stories, but are now shared within IG TV. The comments and questions are removed. You can give your Live a title.
Meek shared a sneak preview of a tool for Live’s that will be coming soon, which is is Badges.
But remember, to do the following ahead of your Live session:
- Give followers advanced notice using your page’s feed and stories. Always give people a heads-up. Make use of the countdown sticker to do this;
- Make sure you have connection for high quality streaming;
- If you want to save the Live recording (or Live with) with comments and likes, turn on the “do not disturb” mode and you can screen record the broadcast and you can keep that in your gallery.
What to do during the Live
You have up to an hour to host a Live.
- Turn on comment moderation to facilitate a positive community experience;
- Pin a comment to the top of your live to explain what you’re going to talk about;
- Go Live With a friend or fan — This is another opportunity for growth on the platform. When you go Live With, Instagram also prompts a notification to your collaborator’s followers.
- Try a Live Q&A — Meeks says either ask for questions during the stream or use the Stories Questions sticker to source questions before the Live begins;
- Use the Media Sharing button to share any video or image from your camera roll — Only you can see your camera roll when you use the media picker.
- Save your Live to your camera roll;
- You can share your Live to IGTV;
- Promote your IGTV video in Stories — Stories preview will autoplay the first 15 seconds of your video.
How to get started with Live’s
- Host a Q&A every week — These perform really well, according to Meek;
- Talk about (or give a sneak peek) of an upcoming project;
- Share tutorials — Behind the scenes
With all these, Meek says publishers should try put a person to it where possible. “Take time, and if you can use the same person, so that your audience can get to know that specific reporter or journalist,” says Meek. Doing this will help with building a rapport and audiences will go looking for that person on a weekly basis or depending on when you’re scheduled to go Live.
Strategies for your account
Finding new audiences
In your in-app insights you are able to see your audience break down. You can see the age break down of your audience. Meeks suggests that you focus on the first two or biggest age brackets. “Where people are trying to drive is the 13–24 audience and really Instagram is the place to do that,” says Meek.
The most followed accounts on Instagram are people. Meek emphasises this point again, to says, “Where you can try to find somebody in your newsroom to become the “face” of your account.” @NatGeo is the only publication to be in the 100 million followers club.
Design for Sharing
Meek says memes get shared 7x more than any other content on Instagram. As a brand, you should think through how you can drive reality, something really shareable. She adds that Instagram Stories are no longer just pictures, but are now “pretty information saturated”. There are numerous creative tools such as “linking to IGTV, feed posts, type whatever you want, repurposing photos etc”. “Don’t think about Stories as a silly thing… it’s actually a significant tool where you can share information and can link out to other spaces,” says Meek.
Instagram has what they call “Story School” where you can get all the tips and tricks of posting Stories.
Meeks says when you are thinking about Feed posts, think about posts that are worth sharing. “ You’re there to start a conversation and to get people inspired and get them to share your content with people. This content can be carousel posts, with multiple images; it can be a dramatic visual or it can be information saturated,” says Meek.
Invest in community
Meek says Instagram Live saw a 70% increase in the usage of Instagram from March to April 2020.
How are other “publisher” accounts investing in their communities? @TheShadeRoom tries to respond to every single direct message; American tv producer and director Ava DuVernay hosted a screening on the Aray page when her production company released episodes of “When They See Us”; Dallas News, started a Covid-19 newsletter by using the “close friends” tool to allow people to subscribe to that newsletter.
Fundraising is only available in some areas, @BonAppetitMag hosted a live dinner party to raise money for small restaurants. “You can do this through GoFundMe if you don’t have access to the fundraising tool on your Instagram,” says Meek. “They were able to connect with the community and it is also a content creation moment for them. Think about creative ways to fundraise during this time.”
Your profile is your brand real estate
As a journalist or publisher, you need to use this properly. It is one of the first things that users see when they come to your Instagram page.
- Stories: You have the “rainbow ring” that lights up to let people know you have new Stories.
- Bio: People only follow an account if they understand what you’re about. You can use links and also link to other accounts. You can also use relevant hashtags.
- Highlights: These are your main beats. They Sum up the main categories you post about.
- Grid: Do not obsess over your grid, says Meek. The grid needs to be there to let people know about your account, it does not need to be perfect. If you have Reels, you can delete Reels/IGTV previews on your main grid and just have it on one place and it won’t impact distribution.
Suggested anatomy for an Instagram story
Nearly half of Instagram’s 1 billion users use the Stories feature on a daily. Meek says the production consumption is moving away from feeds to stories. This is where you find the next generation.
A suggested anatomy for a story is this: Intro — 3 to 6 posts — Outro.
- Start with a selfie style intro; include location tags and use those interactive tools; use short punchy display copy throughout; use interactive tools such as emojis sliders, poll stickers etc
- Mix up visuals — photos, boomerangs, videos, screen grabs
- Embrace GIFS — Tip from Meek: If you swipe all the way down to filters, where the bunny ears are, there’s a search glass, this will open up your world to a ton of filters that you can use such as a green screen.
- Use a swipe up link
- Involve the community.
Use all surfaces on Instagram
This is the best way to increase your followers and for distribution. To get maximum reach you need to be using the different surfaces on Instagram. People use Instagram differently. “Make sure you’re talking to people on the different surfaces to let people know when you’ve created content.
- Feed — Highlights: It has to be a representation of what your account is about.
- Stories — Engagement; real life and can link out to other spaces.
- Live — It’s about being in the moment.
- IGTV — Story telling, it can be a little bit more produced.
- Reels — These are often short, entertaining videos. They are about entertaining and training — lean into a lot of new tools to create a new style of video that is a bit shorter. [Get yourself up to speed with this Hootsuite guide about Reels].
How often should I post and what should I post?
Here are a few suggestions from Meek.
- Feed: Post 1x per day — photos and videos and posts that prompt a discussion.
- Stories: Post 5–8x per narrative —content should include, but not limited to: in the moment updates; interactive stickers (your secret weapon).
- IGTV: At least 1x per week — series. Find a rhythm that works for your publication and stick to it. It doesn’t have to be super prescriptive. It is easy to serialise.
- Live: Do at least 1x per month —types of content for this includes audience Q&A and live selfie-style conversations.
“The key is to be consistent — post regularly at a cadence you can maintain. All this has to be sustainable. Mix photos and videos… If you’re going to try something new, the rule is to do it for at least three months for your audience to adjust,” says Meek.
What are some of the growth tactics you can implement?
On the platform
- Engage with other accounts in your space
- Cross-promote from your brand account
- Use hashtags and geotags to make content discoverable (use hashtags sparingly, find your sweet spot)
- Capitalise on moments relevant to your beat (create a series on events happening around you)
- Create content that’s easy to share (shares and saves are more important for feed ranking)
- embed your posts in on-site articles
- publicise your handle (speaker bio, on-air segments)
- Go viral
How to stay safe on Instagram
Make sure to use these tools to keep your account safe
- Make sure you have 2-facto authentication (not sure if the email you got form Instagram is legit? Verify a full list of the emails Instagram sent within settings > security > emails from instagram.
- Regularly check “emails from Instagram”.
- Turn on Comment moderation (located in settings > privacy > comments).
- Use “restrict mode” (protect yourself from unwanted interactions without the person knowing you’ve hidden their comments).
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