Many of the social media strategies and recommendations in place for news organisations make the assumption that every publication has a social media team (or a dedicated social media manager) that can spend all of its time creating content specifically for various social channels and engaging with audiences there.
In reality, that’s not always the case. Many companies split up the work of managing socials amongst various people who have to balance those responsibilities with other daily newsroom tasks. Consequently, more formal social strategies can fall to the wayside.
For many reasons, Instagram can feel particularly daunting to manage without a dedicated team. With Facebook and Twitter, it’s all about the copy, which is what newsrooms inherently do well. But Instagram has turned into this beast of an app that prioritises videos and reels and stories — the types of content that take a ton of time and resources to produce and don’t often have a very good ROI.
If the task of keeping a consistent posting schedule on Instagram seems impossible, here are a few tools and strategies to use to grow engagement on the platform that only requires a few hours a week. By making these changes, we at The Winnipeg Free Press were able grow our following on Instagram by 40% in just over one year. And no, we still don’t do reels!
1. Use a scheduling tool
One of the first things we looked into was investing in a scheduling tool, and it has made a huge difference. It allows much more flexibility in terms of employee availability to build the content and makes future planning much easier for both grid content and promotional-style story posts, such as ads for newsletters or upcoming projects that require reader submissions.
Scheduling tools also often include data and analytics similar to what you’d find with Instagram insights, so it’s an added bonus to have a second way to track engagement.
2. Take advantage of eager newsroom staff and existing content
If there isn’t someone dedicated to producing content (related to lives, stories, videos, and reels specifically), put a call out to editorial staff and see if anyone is interested in getting involved. You’d be surprised at the pitches and ideas that can come from a simple, informal ask — often from younger staff members who are incredibly literate on all social platforms and ready to volunteer.
Right now, we have a video series entirely created and produced by our food reporter, which has become quite popular. Additionally, we’ve seen lots of engagement with our video components from harder news stories created by our photojournalists that would have otherwise only lived on our paywalled Web site.
3. Set priorities based on audience preference
Setting priorities is a key step in any kind of project or workflow development, but it’s especially important when resources are limited. On Instagram specifically, the current pressure from the app is to throw a ton of time into creating reels and videos. And while that may be important for an influencer or a retail brand, for most other users, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.
If that’s the case for you, bump videos and reels down to the bottom of the priority list under the “nice to have” rather than “need to have” category. After years of looking at audience data and analytics, we know our Instagram audience turns to our page for arts and entertainment coverage, food, profiles, and long-form features, as well as news stories that are watercooler conversations — so that’s what we post.
For breaking news updates, our audiences know to go to our Twitter or Facebook pages. The lesson we’ve learned here is that you can’t be all things to all people in all places when resources are limited, so listen to your audience and let that guide your priorities.
4. Make your own rules
You’ll hear a lot of talk about “the algorithm” this and “the algorithm” that. Really, the takeaway is simply Instagram makes up its own rules that are incredibly hard to keep up with so just do what works for you.
Do you need to post every day? Not if it’s going to be a huge strain on resources. Post every other day or weekly instead. Just keep it consistent.
Do you need to do videos and reels? Only if you want to or you think that format is the best way to share specific information.
Do you have to go live? No, you don’t have to do anything!
Here’s your permission to do what you want because “the algorithm” messes with even the most professional Instagram users (though there are plenty of posts online about how to “work with the algorithm” if you so choose).