How the Financial Times uses Instagram Stories as a traffic driver

The Financial Times has been steadily cultivating a following of younger, new audiences on Instagram after giving the platform renewed focus in 2016. Since then, it’s been linking back to its site through Instagram Stories, driving traffic and ultimately subscriptions.

The FT posts between two and four Instagram Stories a week as a self-contained narrative based on a published piece. Previously, the FT told Digiday that Stories on dense topics like bitcoin and discussions on interest rates that were a dozen clips long typically got a completion rate of 50 percent. But getting the production to a standard the FT is happy with has taken time to perfect.

“Instagram’s status as a visual-heavy platform means it takes a great deal of creation and production to do well. It’s not like doing a Facebook post or tweet, where something can do well without a significant time investment,” said Jake Grovum, acting head of social media. “The nature of what works on Instagram means that it is a time-intensive platform to work on.”

Before Instagram Stories, the platform was limited to driving traffic back to publisher sites. Increasingly, media companies like the BBC and National Geographic are using links in their Instagram Stories to funnel audiences to their properties, mostly newsletter sign-ups, where they have a more direct connection and can monetize audiences more effectively.

Outside of Stories, the FT’s posts on Instagram are distinctive because they don’t often relate to published stories. In the last year, three of the top 10 most engaged with Instagram posts linked to stories, the most popular about how Meghan Markle will bring a “breath of fresh air” to the royal family, with nearly 13,000 likes and 150 comments. Daily posts from the FT photo diary — in line with Instagram’s conventional style of beautiful scenes globally — do well, like this image of fighting on the Gaza Strip, with 6,000 likes and 400 comments. Sketches from the FT’s in-house illustrators and charts also see high engagement. The FT developed a social-specific chart style with a black background to stand out on the platform, and the publisher can see in the analytics that people save them to their profiles to refer to later.

An FT Instagram post from May 4

The FT has 700,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 4 million followers on Facebook. The Instagram account is growing at a clip of 5,000 followers each week, according to Socialbakers data, thanks to regular posting from Grovum and five social media staffers split across London, New York and Hong Kong, who together usually post up to four images a day.

According to data from NewsWhip, the average number of engagements — likes, shares and comments — on the FT’s Instagram posts between April 2017 and April 2018 was 2,703 per post, far outstripping the number engagements on Facebook, which was 201. For other U.K. news publishers, Facebook typically remains the most engaged platform by post. Across the month, engagements on the FT’s Instagram content have doubled to 300,000 since last July.

Instagram tops Facebook engagement for the Guardian and Financial Times. Source: NewsWhip

Images: The Financial Times via Instagram

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