We take our first look at the top publishers and media brands on Instagram since 2016. Which news and interest publishers are driving the biggest engagements?
Instagram has emerged as a powerhouse for social media. Six in ten adults online use the platform, and it’s well-beloved by the kids of Generation Z as well. Last year it was reported that 89 percent of teens and young adults are on Instagram.
With numbers like that, it seems crucial that publishers use Instagram to distribute stories and build up a following. But how can you compete when celebrities and sports teams have the biggest followings?
Using NewsWhip Analytics, we looked at the top publisher brands on the platform to understand their success and the best practices. In our analysis, we considered only publishers of original content, who have domains/presences beyond Instagram and aren’t solely aggregators of others’ content.
Top Media Publishers
So which publishers are getting their followers double-tapping the most? We looked in NewsWhip Analytics to rank publishers by their total likes and comments in May 2017.
When we last looked at the top publishers on Instagram a year ago, we saw that National Geographic had driven 91.9 million engagements in a month’s time. Compare that to May’s 126.9 million engagements, a 38 percent increase.
This is even more notable when the amount of posts has stayed relatively consistent — 235 in the 30-day period last year and 266 in May 2017.
Bleacher Report too, has gone from 26.1 million engagements in a 30-day period last summer to more than 77.4 million engagements in May. It’s clear that engagements continue to grow for publishers on the platform.
Like we’ve seen recently, niche publishers are seeing a renaissance of social media activity. Of the top 20 publishers we looked at, 35 percent were sports-focused and 30 percent were celebrity news-focused. Other popular verticals were fashion, entertainment, music, and general interest.
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Photograph by @paulnicklen taken while on assignment in the Ross Sea for @natgeo. Towering love. // An adult emperor penguin stands almost 4 feet tall and hovers high above her chick. To witness the nurturing and loving behavior of an adult emperor is to witness true unconditional selflessness. Please #followme on @paulnicklen to see more of my new favorite images that will soon be hung in the @paulnicklengallery. //#gratitude #fineart
National Geographic accounted for the 114 most engaging posts from our top 20 publishers. The publisher incorporates its network of photographers into its Instagram captions, creating some personification behind the visually stunning content.
Top News Publishers
How do general news publishers stack up on Instagram, after these tightly-focused niche publishers? We filtered NewsWhip Analytics to only look at our database’s news category.
Fox News was the most engaging out of our general news publishers, with 7.7 million engagements in May. BuzzFeed News, in second place, had a distant 2.8 million engagements. Fox News also had the most comments, 416,000 comments to CNN’s 69,500 comments.
The publisher’s success could be due in part to its sheer output. Of the top ten news publishers, Fox News had 400 Instagram posts, compared to the top ten publishers’ average of 169 posts.
In NewsWhip Analytics, we can see that Fox News was clearly posting the most content to its Instagram account in May.
So what were the top posts for these publishers in May? Did the top posts pertain to hard news or soft news? Was the top ten, or even hundred, dominated by one publisher as National Geographic was in our previous list?
There’s a good variety of publishers here that made into the most engaging posts from our top ten news publishers. Only half of these were photo posts, which is an interesting change from what we’ve seen previously.
TIME appeared five times in the top ten posts for a variety of internationally-focused posts. In general, human interest stories, celebrities (especially the British royal family), and politics drove the most engagements for these publishers.
This post from CNN was the publisher’s top Instagram post of May, offering a positive moment in the aftermath of a horrific terrorism attack.
These publishers are also seeing success from breaking out their verticals into different Instagram accounts. The New York Times accounts for fashion and travel do well, with the fashion account driving more than 540,000 engagements in May alone.
Other Top Contenders
Beyond news publishers, magazine publishers and others that cater to specific readerships also have amassed audiences on Instagram.
We’ll be taking a closer look at some of these industries in the coming weeks, but it’s worth noting how focused publishers are accomplishing on the platform right now.
These publishers represent a variety of interests, from tattoos to food to country life. Even with such a breadth of topics, these publishers are stacking up millions of engagements a month.
Best Practices for Publisher Brands
So what can we learn from this look into the top publisher brands on Instagram? What are the best practices for media outlets on the platform?
1. Know your audience and hone in
The top publisher brands play to their followers’ passion by giving them exactly what they want. Vogue and E! News offer behind-the-scenes looks at favorite celebrities, while the New York Times tells stories in a snapshot and shares from its impressive archives.
The New Yorker’s top posts come from republishing its beloved cartoons on the platform.
2. Show something them new
TIME was able to replicate a piece of National Geographic’s success by using striking photos of far-flung places. This creates a bit of an “awe factor” and shows users something they don’t see everyday.
3. What emotions work best on Instagram
The content that works best on one platform doesn’t necessarily translate to other platforms. We’ve already seen that human interest or niche-focused are exactly what users seem to crave.
For news publishers, nostalgia works well, as does fostering sympathy and empathy. Our top news publisher, Fox News, seems to instill a sense of national pride through its content.
For the Shade Room, its “#positiveimages” theme drives its most successful Instagram posts.
4. Get your audience participating
Whether it’s sourcing content from your super fans, or asking your followers their opinion or to tag a friend, this tactic works.
The Stories format is shaking up storytelling on Instagram and Snapchat. Read more in our 2018 guide.