‘…Content That Encourages Habit-Forming Behavior’; Instagram Proving a Path to Revenue and Engagement

“…in just a few short years, [social media] creators have been able to bulldoze outdated practices and find new ways to reach audiences,” Candace Amos, deputy editor, social media, Los Angeles Times, once told us. Now it’s Instagram in particular that seems to have become a vehicle for new ideas and a revenue-plated path for media organizations.

“Our team has two ‘wings.’” Travis Lyles, deputy director, social, off-platform curation at The Washington Post, told Rachel Karten last week for her Milk Karten newsletter on Substack. “We have what we call the ‘core social’ team, which encompasses Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Telegram. And then we have the Instagram team, which is about 8-9 people focused on IG…”

Karten’s first response—as would be ours—is “Wow.” “We currently average about 10 posts per day, but that fluctuates on a daily basis depending on how newsy a specific day is, and any project work that we plan to promote,” Lyles went on. He then talks about how the Post was one of the first publishers to add text on design and photo posts, and then start doing carousels and vertical video.

The Post now has 6.2 million Instagram followers, hoping to turn them into new subscribers. Their style is photos or graphics with headlines embedded into them. Click on the image and a 2-3 paragraph synopsis of the story pops up, ending with how to get to the original article. For a story on how to cut your sandwiches—it has to be diagonal, apparently—they finished with this: “To watch this soul-gasping sandwich sin, tap the link in our bio.”

Here are 5 more tips and uses for media organization Instagram:

Promote your content. In a recent Instagram post, the Military Officers Association of America features their heartwarming magazine cover photo with the headline: Victory for Veterans: Troops, lawmakers, military families and you help secure toxic exposure benefits for millions. In the comments we read: “Have you read the October 2022 edition of the Military Officer Magazine yet?” Other posts promote their Digital Retirement Guide, President Biden signing the MOAA-backed PACT Act, and the July Magazine’s focus on Space Force. In a poll we did of our association group, Instagram was named by respondents as the platform that their audiences engage with them most on.

Attract a younger audience. The Economist has “developed templates for our Instagram feed that provide a sample of our articles, charts, podcasts, and films, while they provide a clear, authoritative, understandable entry point to our journalism—particularly for younger audiences (two-thirds of our 5.8 million followers are aged 18 to 34),” writes Liv Moloney, their head of social media, on the INMA site. They “set a rhythm of eight posts a day… We wanted to devise content that encourages habit-forming behavior and referrals to The Economist’s Web site and app. It was also essential to harness analytics to learn how to reach different types of readers and, ultimately, our next generation of subscribers.” Instagram’s link-in-bio feature has “driven several million referrals to our Web site and a marked uplift in subscriptions and registrations.” They’ve also run promoted posts and sponsorships for Instagram stories. Moloney credits their trustworthiness, visual abilities and superior data journalism for their success.

Get sponsorships for interviews. In fall 2020, Alexis Redmond—then director of career management resources for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); today she is senior director of their student association—developed an Instagram Career Portal Live, where she interviewed members about their career journeys. “The development process for each episode is about four or five hours per speaker and no real costs,” she said at the time. “Now we’re in a situation that we’re going to be able to do it with vendors. Our sponsorship team valued the offering at $2,500 per episode, and for this year, they have sold seven already. We’re always being innovative. What new ways of presenting content are out there?” Read more here.

Establish your tone. “I think voice and tone on social for news organizations is incredibly important and something that we think about a lot and take very seriously,” Lyles said. “It can definitely differ on different platforms. Our TikTok, for example, has a much different tone than our Instagram, which is much more serious. It starts with thinking about who you want to be in that space, measuring it out in detail and then zeroing in on that with each post or action. But then also reflecting on those actions to make sure they align with who you want to be.”

Answer audience questions. To celebrate reaching one million followers on Instagram, Vice World News journalists responded to audience questions about what stories and regions they want to hear more about. The questions were sent through the Instagram Stories ‘question’ button, and it is still ongoing. This connects the audience on the platform with the journalists in a much more personal way. The journalists also get to see where their followers are and what is concerning them, while also creating appealing content.



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