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Covering Elections on Instagram
Covering Elections on Instagram

Here are best practices for engaging Instagram audiences around an election; plus, what we learned from the 2018 US Midterms.

Written by Tess
Updated over a week ago

Instagram is a BIG place that over a billion people use. Half those people use Stories every single day. And did you know one in six people follow a publisher on Instagram? It's important to have an Instagram feed, Story and IGTV strategy to take advantage of all the different ways people engage on the platform.

To see what's working best around U.S. elections in particular, we looked at a list of 2000+ publisher accounts from Jan 1, 2018 through Nov 5, 2018 (the day BEFORE the midterms). What you’ll see here is a combination of top posts by interactions, highest overperformers and posts with a very high interaction rate. From these, we pulled out some themes:

1. Personality driven. Think people-drive vs. brand-driven. These highly-engaged posts weren't highly produced, they feature people talking directly to the camera and breaking the fourth wall, and they tend to lean opinionated and explainer-y. See @newsinarush, @irathethird, @vanjones68 for examples.

2. Text on images. No surprise here! Think about what stands out in the feed, yes, but also about what might stand out in Discover. (*This is where many people actually start out in Instagram!) This way, you can get the story right from the image vs. reading the whole caption first. This even works with video (Buzzfeed example.) KUOW also did a great job of keeping the conversation going in the caption, vs. repeating the headline. See @buzzfeednews, @foxnews, @kuow for examples.

3. Behind the scenes. Think about Instagram as a way to have your audience feel like they’re participating in the news creation process. It makes the brand feel more authentic and builds trust. Plus, it can be a really nice extension of what you’re doing on your own website. See @sfchronicle_design, @ajjaffe, @kaylaepstein for examples.

4. Audience-first. Whatever your niche, make sure you’re always keeping that audience in mind, and thinking about what they’ll respond to. Photos of the Obamas with midterm candidates did particularly well with specific audiences; especially featuring local candidates like Stacy Abrams. Women running and other big firsts were a big theme of the midterm election, and highlighting this on Instagram did particular well with female audiences there. And if you’re a local publisher, stay local! We saw that posts mentioning the home state or city did best. See @racerelatednyt, @thelilynews, @r29unbothered for examples.

5. Capitalize on tentpole moments. We tend to see spikes on social media overall when there’s a big national moment — this is where people are coming to find out what’s happening and what family and friends are saying about it. Be a part of that conversation — around the midterms it was March for Our Lives, the Women’s March and climate rallies. Bonus points for featuring young people, in particular, as well. See @theoregonian, @montereycountyweekly, @latimes for examples.

6. Get out the vote. Posts about voting tended to do especially well. Elections are always a good opportunity to think about UGC, and especially creative ways to do this around voting. It’s a fun and easy way to highlight your audience! See @windycitytimes, @dallasobserver, @fox5sandiego for examples.

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