The number of readers driven to Reach regional websites from Instagram grew by more than 500% in 2020.
The UK’s largest regional publisher increased its followers across its 50 Instagram accounts by 40% year-on-year according to CrowdTangle figures provided by Reach and Instagram.
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Reach also generated an additional 30% in website referrals by cross-posting Instagram Stories to Facebook Stories, after tailoring the content to fit the format and tone of each.
Reach began a new push to grow audience and revenue from its 50 regional Instagram accounts in January 2020.
Dan Russell, Reach head of social media and engagement, said: “The challenge was to leverage the platform in a way that would encourage account growth but also improve click-through rates, which we need to make the time and effort worthwhile.
“There are still challenges to overcome but I believe the strategy we have put in place is sound. This is only the beginning.”
The strategy came after 18 months of testing different ideas on individual Reach titles, before bringing all the best practice together.
“We took the best parts from Manchester Evening News’ design and lifestyle content and looked at what type of stories worked generally across all our portfolios,” Russell said. “We did this by creating a Google Analytics dashboard which shows us the top-performing stories for clicks from across our network and cross-referencing this with interactions.”
‘Significant’ Instagram audience growth across network
Manchester Evening News, Reach’s biggest non-national title, had 75,000 monthly readers from Instagram at the start of 2020 which grew to 320,000 by the end of the year.
Belfast Live grew from having 4,000 click-throughs from Instagram to its website in January 2020 to around 100,000 per month a year later.
Reach said all of its regional titles had “significant” year-on-year growth and the vast majority grew every month of 2020.
“Across all of our accounts, we now reach more than 21 million people who engage positively with our content on Instagram and click through to our websites at an increased rate month after month,” Russell said.
The strategy included a focus on how to tell impactful stories in creative ways, testing different types of stories and sharing many that had been deemed not to work on the main Facebook or Instagram feeds according to a schedule of what content works best at which times for each title.
Next steps include utilising better data tools to get more specific and actionable insights on what works, and doing more with Instagram Reels, the platform’s 15 or 30-second video format launched last August.
Russell said: “The Liverpool Echo is starting to experiment with Instagram Reels to see the impacts on account growth and Instagram Story reach. We have a huge range of quality content which should fit the format, so we are hoping for some good results.”
Reach has previously shared the results of its experiment with Facebook Instant Articles, which found the mobile-friendly format can help stories get seen by a third more readers.