How to Use Instagram to Promote Your Station and Engage Viewers

While the weather is cooling down for most parts of the country, Instagram continues to be a hot topic in newsrooms from coast to coast. Instagram isn't all about #BRUNCH! photos. The popular social media network is an incredibly valuable revenue driver to, among others, the fashion, online publishing and sports industries. So how we can best leverage it in local news?

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The Power of Instagram

Instagram’s user base has doubled in size over the past two years with more than 500 million monthly active users; 300 million of them are active on a daily basis. Instagram is popular with women, yet its male user growth is slightly outpacing female users. 

Instagram’s users enjoy more substantial engagement. Roughly 2.2 percent of Instagram users engage with a brand. That sounds low but considers this: on Facebook engagement with brands is .2 percent. On Twitter, it’s less than .1 percent, according to Forrester.

As it relates to local news, Share Rocket has found that Instagram has eclipsed Twitter in terms of engagement and trails only Facebook.

What affect can this have for your station? 70% of Instagram users have reported looking up a brand after engaging with them on Instagram. Taking that into account, recruit-to-view can be tough. Unless it’s an incredibly compelling story, it’s very difficult to gain much traction and engagement on promotional and RTV posts. Think about it: requesting viewers to put down their phone and either watch TV or set the DVR is a big ask.

The problem with Instagram, of course, is that there is no clickable link in a post, only in the profile section. This makes it difficult to drive traffic directly to a specific story, newscast or landing page. But this is worth reiterating: it can be one of the most effective branding tools for your station.

How to Use Instagram at Your Station

Create a Great Profile

It’s important to create a great profile featuring on-brand photos that immediately communicate who you are and what it is your Instagram profile is all about.

What do you want your feed to be about? Beautiful imagery? Graphic images? Memes? Instagram is visual. Like a magazine editor would, it’s smart to consider the overall look and feel of your station page. Is there a certain hue you want your images to have? Will you add hashtags and station messaging on your photos? These are important considerations to discuss before you dive in. Pay attention to your color palettes and fonts. You want some brand cohesion.

Write an engaging bio to explain who are you, where you are and appeal to your target audience. The tone you use in your profile goes a long way in imparting what your feed is all about.

Leverage your link. Right now, the only clickable links on Instagram are in your bio. This doesn’t have to be a static thing. You can always update this to a landing page, video page or live stream in addition to your homepage.  

Have fun promoting your Instagram account. This promo from ABC15 in Phoenix strikes the right tone for the platform and gets viewers excited about engaging with the station on Instagram. 

What to Post on Instagram

Before we talk about what to post, we must focus on being consistent with our posts. Just like we are on Facebook and Twitter, consistency is key on Instagram. Most brands post daily. Union Metrics found that the average 1.5 posts per day. Interestingly, there is no correlation between higher frequency and lower engagement. This means that unlike Twitter, you don’t run the risk of “clogging someone’s feed” if you post more than two times per day.

Breaking News? Let’s get this out of the way. Do we want to post certain breaking news images on Instagram? In the traditional sense, probably not. Car crashes, tragic fires and things of that nature are tough on Instagram. Think of the space. The currency of Instagram is a  heart. Showing a heartbreaking image of car-crash is something no one wants to "love".

Instagram is a happy place and, to that end, breaking news can be as well. If one of your local teams just won a championship or a company breaks ground on a gorgeous new building that will add a positive impact to your local economy, those are smart stories that can work well in the space when beautifully crafted.

Talent Takeover post from @WSOCTV

Talent Takeover – enlist an anchor or reporter to take over the Instagram account one day. This is a great strategy for an event in your market: Opening Day, the first day of training camp, a parade, things like that. You can also organically promote and backsell the takeover on your newscasts.

Showcase Your Broadcast Product – have you had a high-profile guest on one of your shows? Use Instagram to showcase that with a photo of the celebrity. WBRC’s Instagram account features photos of celebrity guests on Good Day Alabama.

Showcasing Celebrity Guests on @WBRCNews

These are outstanding opportunities to promote programming and offer additional nuggets of information about a guest. TIP: be sure to tag that individual so that he/she has the opportunity to re-share the post.

Off The Air – give viewers a glimpse of what life is like in a newsroom and in the studio. Instagram Stories is a great vehicle for doing this in that you can have a member of your team deliver an authentic, guided tour of the station. Did a reporter or anchor have a birthday or baby shower? Sharing those photos result in highly-engaged posts.

Iconic Images In Your Market – your videographers are some of the most talented photographers in the market. How are you leveraging their skills? Encourage them to shoot some beautiful images (still or video) of iconic buildings and landscapes in your market: Reunion Tower in Dallas, the Space Needle in Seattle, Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, etc. Tag your photographer to give him/her proper credit and be sure to use the appropriate hashtags for your market. In the previous Dallas example, #Dallas, #DFW, #NorthTexas, #OakCliff #DowntownDallas are all appropriate.

Leverage Hashtags – speaking of hashtags, make them work for you. Hashtags are incredibly valuable. They’re a powerful search tool. Hashtags allow users to find content and accounts to follow. Track Maven found that posts with more than 11 hashtags tend to get more engagement.

National Day Memes – who doesn’t love National Donut Day, National Hug an Anchor Day or National Pumpkin Day? Leverage those days. Get your digital team to create some fun, engaging and on-brand graphics to celebrate those days with the appropriate hashtags.

Celebrating National Coffee Day on @WBRCNews

The great thing about these “National Days” is that you know what they are years in advance. Your digital team can create a collection of posts in a day.

User-Generated Content – this is an instant engagement opportunity. Encourage your viewers to share photos with you to be featured on your Instagram account. This is a win on a couple fronts: it draws attention to your profile and gives viewers something sharable. Anyone who is featured on your brand page will likely re-share the post on multiple platforms.

The Takeaway

WBRC Digital Marketing Manager Jenna Beach reports that the station has seen triple-digit growth since January 2016 thanks to a clear and targeted strategy that focus, mainly, on positive images.

“We’ve just got to keep finding those posts that people enjoy and make sure we’re posting more often,” Beach tells me.

That’s the key: monitor your metrics, hits and misses. Keep offering posts that your followers enjoy and you’ll enjoy a nice return on your Instagram efforts.  

Looking for a more robust Instagram strategy discussion? Please contact your SmithGeiger consultant for a strategy session.

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