In the absence of links, how do publishers approach Instagram? We look at some different uses, from native storytelling to brand promotion. 

Instagram can be a confusing platform for publishers.
It specialises in images and short videos that don’t send users to external sites.
However, as a platform for distributed content, its value is clear. 27.6% of the US population is expected to use Instagram at some stage in 2015.
Because Instagram doesn’t really drive traffic, and practically all engagement takes place directly in the stream, publishers’ use of the platform gives us an interesting insight into what a distributed content model might look like.
Here are some of our favourite examples of publishers using Instagram in imaginative and engaging ways.

1) Photographic Gallery

Here’s use of Instagram at its most simple – that of photographic gallery.
Of course, every Instagram account is an image gallery, but some are inherently better placed than others.

Not surprisingly, one publisher that does very well with this is the National Geographic. Their landscape photography goes down extraordinarily well on the platform, routinely attracting hundreds of thousands of interactions. By carefully choosing award-winning photography for their Instagram feed, they make sure that they are making the most of their share of real estate on the mobiles of their 20 million plus followers.

NatGeo instagram

2) Distributed Content Platform

Publishers can tell stories directly on Instagram.
Many readers will be aware of distributed content specialists NowThis, whose Instagram feed is a stream of perfectly-formatted stories.
BBC News is another publisher that aims to tell entire stories through Instagram video.
Their Instagram updates allow users to get the message of the clip without turning on audio. Easy-to-read captions sum up the story, meaning that anyone without earphones can still understand the essence of the post.

3) Building on Existing Reporting

Traditional storytelling formats can be incredibly wasteful of relevant content. Consider the number of photos taken of an interview subject that don’t get space on a website, despite the fact that they’re all likely to be hugely popular with fans of the subject in question. Instagram is the perfect home for these unused images.
The New York Times make use of this on their Instagram feed. When promoting a forthcoming story on teenage pregnancy recently, they posted photos of the people they talked with for the story.
NYT social content
Approaching Instagram as an extension of your reportage means that you’re making more use of your content, and are providing an alternative point of entry to potential readers that might never otherwise visit your site.

4) Community Engagement

In a recent Q&A on this blog, the Social Media Editor at the Huffington Post Canada, Ron Nurwisah, said that his team’s experience of the platform showed them that engagement rates can be very high:
“The one thing that has struck me is just how positive the community on the platform and willing to give their time and share their photos with us.”
The Huffington Post Canada run a project called ‘Canadagram‘, which profiles a different Canadian Instagramer each week.
Similarly, the Chicago Tribune uses an Instagram hashtag -#trib2015 – to source pictures of the city from their followers. The best each week are posted to the Tribune’s blog, Instagram and Tumbr accounts.
Chicago Trib instagram
It’s a smart, fun and easy way of building a connection with potential readers, some of whom could be hearing of your brand for the first time on Instagram.

 5) Brand Promotion

Media brand-building can be a tricky area. How do media brands go about letting new readers know what they’re about?
This is a use case well suited to Instagram, and seems to work particularly well for fashion and lifestyle focussed magazines, such as Vogue. Look at the engagement around this recent photo of the cover of their magazine:
Vogue cover instagram
Strong stories can have resonance on any platform, as proven by Vanity Fair’s recent photoshoot with Caitlyn Jenner. The front page had nearly 50,000 likes on Instagram, and trended across Facebook and Twitter. 
In this way, Instagram seems to be giving the traditional ‘front page’ a new lease of life.
PS – If you’re interested in what’s trending on Instagram, stay tuned for an important announcement from NewsWhip in the near future…

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