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Picture: Tash Salmon (above)


The Reuters Digital News Report 2020 showed that across all age groups, the use of Instagram for news had doubled since 2018, and predicted that it would overtake Twitter over the next year.

Since then, we have also seen the launch of Instagram Reels (its answer to TikTok as a platform for short social videos). So with more features to play around with and more reasons to double down on an Instagram stategy, you might be thinking: 'how do I revamp my Instagram account?'

Earlier this month, print and online newspaper i announced it had doubled its Instagram following in the space of a year. Journalism.co.uk emailed social media editor Tash Salmon to learn how she did it and her future plans for news distribution on the platform.

Consistency is key

"My first order of business was to post in a consistent and focused way, as Instagram hadn't previously been a big priority for the social strategy," Salmon says.

From her previous role at Metro.co.uk, she knew that it is no use posting loads one day and then nothing the next - you want to be posting at least once a day to build audience habits and expectations.

The followers and engagement came in almost straightaway. Social media is unpredictable though and those results easily come and go. The key is sticking to your vision of what the account should look like - even in those weeks where you do not see a viral hit or the engagement is down.

Content is king

Keeping your posts in line with your news brand is also important, and that is where you can rely on what has always worked for print and other social media platforms. But you must understand the differences, too.

For the i, the tagline has always been 'the essential daily briefing'. Salmon focused on transforming that goal to an 'Instagrammable format‚ÄĚ.

"The vibe of Instagram as a platform is positive - but don't be afraid to be informative," she advises. "Our Instagram account is a lot more fun than our Twitter account."

Deciding which stories are repackaged from the print editions has a lot to do with her own news judgement, the available assets and ’social instinct’.

"I think other people who work in social media will know what I’m talking about," she says, adding that you can expect a lot of trial and error before you have this locked down.

"We’re a digital and print operation at the i, and I always wanted our Instagram to reflect both of these. So I may use something from the website from a member of the digital team but I’ll also check the paper every morning to see what pictures have been published."

All metrics matter

The 10k followers milestone is a sign of going in the right direction, and Salmon puts that down to consistency in engagement, reach and posting. But as a news business, she is buoyed by the click-through rate to the website which is on the up.

Paying attention to which themes and topics go down well with your audience is also key to ensure you are delivering on those interests.

"For example," she says, “as a politically non-partisan publication we cater to an audience with a range of political views, but then they also love animals and historical discoveries. So our top posts range from 2,000-year-old scrolls found by a volcano to the excellent political commentary offered by cartoonist Ben Jennings."

Stories drive engagement

In December 2019, she decided to test out an Instagram Stories strategy based on strong results from Metro.co.uk. The idea was to take advantage of the news cycle around the general election and get followers to send in their questions. It was the first time she put a reporter, politics writer Chloe Chaplain, on camera.

"It successfully showed the potential of the account and I’ve never looked back. Sharing across to our Facebook stories means we’re reaching thousands of people every time we post."

The account has recently launched its #iexplained series which tells news stories by specialist reporters in the Stories format, too. For¬†example, housing correspondent Vicky Spratt explored ‚ÄėNo-DSS‚Äô rental¬†policies in this way.

"I really wanted to take advantage of the amount of talent we have on our staff at the i and knew I had to package all that knowledge up in a way that was engaging for our Instagram audience."

Working from home

The #iexplained series was borne out of the current 'working from home' situation. Salmon said that the team has embraced the new dynamic which came as welcome reprieve in many senses too.

"It kept a level of authenticity that is so important on Instagram, telling and showing our stuck-at-home audience that we we’re stuck at home too."

Does Reels matter?

This is the big question at the moment. Salmon said the new feature has yet to find its feet and define how it can differentiate itself from TikTok. While she did not promise that we would see any dance videos any time soon, she said it could be an extension of the #iexplained series.

"I’m still just a one-woman outfit at the moment, but I'm always happy to try out innovations on social platforms and see if we can fit them into the trajectory of the i's social growth and presence."

Want to master the art of Instagram? Join Sue Llewellyn on 21 September 2020 to learn how to up your Instagram game and come up with new ideas and inspiration. Find out more here

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