With 20.6m followers, Vogue International has a thriving community on Instagram.

But the team's focus isn't on numbers, but rather on engagement, explained Hannah Ray, head of social strategy and storytelling, Vogue International.

Hannah Ray, Vogue International

“You just meet people through their images – visual communication breaks down a lot of barriers,” said Ray, noting that community is in the very DNA of the social platform.

By widening Vogue's social audience, its newsrooms around the world also increased its inclusivity in a space where, Ray explained, people pay less attention to gender or geographical differences.

One of the ways Vogue International gives its followers a voice is by featuring their first-person narratives, allowing them to tell stories in their own words and images. Vogue’s editors are there not to dictate but to facilitate the social media storytelling.

"We wanted to give young people a platform to speak," she said.

This approach opened doors to younger audiences to get involved, with the magazine proactively featuring topics that are of interest to the Generation Z, such as diversity, gender fluidity, identity as a young person, sustainable fashion and body positivity.

Screenshot of a post on @Vogue Instagram account

One part of the editorial strategy was to identify what stories are of interest to the followers, and than finding young people who represent these communities.

“Engagement is one of the most important indicators of success,” said Ray who is collaborating with Vogue's network of editors internationally on improving and growing their Instagram presence.

Having their followers commenting on the stories, saying a particular topic or image resonated with them, and sharing it are among the most important factors that the publisher uses to measure their social media success.

For a more personal approach, Vogue International's Instagram account includes IGTV stories that feature people talking in first person, speaking directly to the camera from their point of view.

It gives the followers the feeling of an exclusive, 'VIP' sneak peak behind the scenes. The three main formats for these stories are Vogue Backstage, Vogue +1 and Vogue First Look.

Screenshot of a post on @Vogue Instagram account

"Instagram was made for people, not for brands. And a lot of media brands struggle with this idea of ‘how do I act like a person’?” said Ray.

She recognised though that it is tricky for a brand to use profiles that were made for people to follow others, comment and share.

Vogue International has a very different approach to Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat. Ray said there is no one-size-fits-all – a successful way of using social media means making an effort to understand people.

"We don't use social media to attract younger followers. Younger people are there and we go to social platforms to connect with them.

“This is very symptomatic of the media industry in general. We misunderstand what social media audience engagement is about.”

Indeed, how many journalists and editors took time to genuinely understand how people interact on Instagram or Facebook? How much time they have spend on the platform themselves to have a personal experience of how people could be involved in a storytelling process?

"We have lost the 'social' of the social platform and many in our industry think about it as a distribution channel.”

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