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Using Instagram Authentically Is The Key To Success

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Lila King, Head of Global News & Publisher Partnerships at Instagram, spoke with some of the top publishers on the platform about how they tell stories and build communities for millennials and Gen Zers on Instagram.

With 800 million monthly active users and a community of young people who spend more than 32 minutes a day on the platform, Instagram is a place for publishers to reach the next generation of their audiences.

In a Social Media Week New York session, Lila King, Head of Global News & Publisher Partnerships at Instagram, led a conversation with some of the top publishers on the platform about how they tell stories and build communities for millennials and Gen Z.

Instagram Stories

According to the panel, the launch of Instagram Stories in August 2016 was an important turning point.

Competing with Snapchat, Instagram Stories are pictures and videos that disappear 24 hours after being shared. After just one year, Instagram reported it had 250 million daily users of Stories, versus 166 million for Snapchat. In July 2017, 50 percent of business accounts created a story. Instagram also reported how, in their first year, stories helped increase the amount of time people spend on Instagram. Those under the age of 25 spend more than 32 minutes a day on Instagram, on average, while those age 25 and older spend more than 24 minutes a day.

With 3.2 million Instagram followers, Hayley Saltzman, Director of Social Media for news and media website Bustle, also celebrated the ‘new and shiny tool’ when Stories launched. With a focus on continuous testing with their audiences, this feature provided a way to show the people behind the brand. And, because so much of their content is in the “meme” format, Stories allowed them to use the personalities from within their own newsroom to connect with their audience in a more personal way. “Our goal is to humanize”, said Saltzman. “We want to generate the kind of interactions you would have with your friends”.

What makes for a good story on Instagram? Kerri MacDonald, Social Photo Editor of The New York Times asks two questions:

  • Is this visual enough?
  • Is it a great story?

User-generated content and best practice guidelines

If you strive to be a platform for youth, you need to hand the reins over to them,” said Sydney Mondry, Munchies Social Editor at VICE. The best way to ensure a successful Instagram takeover? Create and share best practice guidelines.

“Put your trust in others,” echoed Saltzman.

The New York Times and Bustle also have style guides and templates for Instagram, and other social media platforms, including image style, fonts, and overall tone of voice. Saltzman (Bustle) highlighted the importance of consistency here, “When you deviate from a recognized style, it affects engagement,” she said.

How many hashtags?

The big question! All panelists agreed they were personally more comfortable adding hashtags in comments, rather than in the caption itself. For food-related content, Mondry says 10 is the key to success. The New York Times style guide stipulates five hashtags per post. Bustle goes for five to ten per post.

Metrics that matter

In the feed, comments, likes and followers are key metrics. When it comes to Instagram Stories, completion rate is the key metric. Instagram’s Lila King confirmed that they see a better completion rate when stories start with a human face, since that gives context to the message.

DMs are also important. “They are the clearest indication that someone wants to have a conversation with you,” said King. “It’s the secret metric that matters”. For Bustle, they help drive the decision to keep doing a content series.

Authenticity is the key to Instagram success

The key to success with Instagram is to use the platform authentically. To participate in the feed in a way that your friends are using it, rather than being an overly branded intrusion.

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