When to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat

By Jessica Berger

Hessische Niedersächsische Allgemeine (HNA)

Kassel, Hesse, Germany


Distributing journalistic content isn’t as easy as it was years ago. There are too many news offers, especially on the Internet. Media companies can’t expect people will subscribe to their newspapers or buy their newspapers in the morning at the kiosk.

Publishers have to be there where the audience is — and that’s on social platforms.

Each social media platform has different strengths.
Each social media platform has different strengths.

According to The Statistics Portal, 2.5 billion people around the globe will be social network users in 2017, and the number will grow in the coming years by using mobile devices. Nowadays, it’s all about shares, tweets, and likes.

But what are the characteristics of all these platforms, and what content works on which platform? Here are some ideas for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Of course, there are a lot of more networks—WhatsApp, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, and more — but I will focus on these platforms because each has its own unique selling point.

What content works on Facebook?

It’s the biggest social network of all! Facebook has 1.28 billion daily active users. Nearly every media company has its own official Facebook page. You can share nearly everything on Facebook: texts, links, photos, videos. From breaking news to a photo with a funny slogan or a live video from a big event in your town, Facebook’s advantage is the great diversity and the news feed algorithm (even if not all people like it).

But with the algorithm, every post searches its own target group because Facebook selects the most relevant content for the user, which means users won’t see every one of your posts. So, you can (and should) post a lot and varied content. Moreover, you can easily stay in contact with your users via groups or events.

Also, Facebook’s reactions are great for journalists: You can see easily which content people like, and you can understand very quickly what content resonates with your users’ emotions (using the love, wow, and sad reactions, among others).

What content works on Twitter?

The clear answer? Breaking news.

With 140 characters, there’s not a lot of space to tell long stories, but that’s not Twitter’s purpose anyway (which has 313 million monthly active users). It’s about telling the most important facts as compactly as possible — news from your town, news from companies, and more. The network is deemed to be serious.

Twitter is an important network for journalists worldwide: They can give users news, and Twitter is the best platform to receive fast information when something happens. In times of terror attacks, Twitter has proven to be the fastest news source.

Journalists aren’t the only ones using this platform — even politicians, organisations, and public authorities use this platform to distribute their messages. For example, during the rampage in Munich in July 2016 or during the recent attack in Manchester, Twitter was used for the dissemination of information.

 What content works on Instagram?

Instagram is the place for beautiful photos. The network, with its 700 million users, is not a typical journalistic tool, but with Instagram you have the chance to reach a lot of users and give your journalistic work another perspective.

As a journalist, you have access to locations where users can never go, and you meet many different people in interesting places, so show these special moments. It makes sense to have one topic for your Instagram account: The best sides of your country, special people, food, your products, or beautiful landscapes.

And one more reason to use Instagram is user-generated content: Ask people to tag their pictures on a set topic; for example, use your newspaper’s name or another hashtag you determined (that could change every month). The interaction can be amazing! For example Adobe uses only users’ photos on Instagram.

A few posts per week are enough. Instagram is not the platform to post dozens of photos every day (even though the network has an algorithm like Facebook, too).

What content works on Snapchat?

Snapchat is the “youngest” network and has a strong entertainment focus. Videos have a dominating role, and people love videos, especially in social networks.

Snapchat (which has about 160 million daily users) offers closeness between publishers and users with a playful lightness. Using short videos and photos, you can show your users what’s going on in your company (from your morning briefing to conferences and lunch) and give another perspective on the topics you cover.

For example, an editor can share the most important news of the day, or one employee can show your new product — people love to see who is behind the scenes (the keyword here is infotainment). On Snapchat (with all its stickers, filters, and funny editing options), you can tell great stories in a different way — from breaking news to entertainment every day.

Social networks are an important part in the media business. By using these networks, you can show different facets of your company, and you can reach users of all ages and users who aren’t in contact with you yet. Social platforms should always be a fixed component for good journalism.

About Jessica Berger

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