Instagram Content Strategies

Instagram for Publishers: How to Drive Traffic & Engagement

Think Instagram is just for millennial influencers? Think again. Instagram is increasingly being used by top media publishers to drive awareness and increase engagement on their web content.

Interest in Instagram across all demographics has surged in recent years. Although the image-focused social platform was once used primarily by people in their teens and twenties, it has now moved into prime time. In doing so, Instagram has joined an elite group of top social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

As of 2019, 67% of 18-to 29-year-olds say they use the Instagram platform. Some are posting their own images on a regular basis. Many more are using Instagram to follow their friends and the brands they love.

Digital publishers are finding ways to harness the Instagram platform, too. Publishers are posting behind-the-scenes videos of reporters working in the newsroom and previews of articles before they hit the web. They’re even hosting collaborative giveaways meant to draw awareness within the communities they serve.

Mid-size magazines and niche blogs have become especially popular on Instagram. In an analysis of the top 20 publishers on Instagram, the social media analytics firm NewsWhip found that 35% were sports-focused and 30% were celebrity news-focused. Other verticals that are gaining in popularity on Instagram include fashion, entertainment, music, and general interest.

How Publishers Use Instagram

Instagram Stories

By far, the most popular Instagram feature for publishers to use is Stories. Instagram Stories launched in 2016. Instagram’s attempt to capitalize on the momentum that Snapchat was gaining through the Stories format worked, and publishers flocked to the platform faster than ever before. Instagram Stories is full of features that publishers can take advantage of.


Publishers who are looking to build better relationships with their audiences can post polls on Instagram Stories. Polls can gauge audience opinions on everything from article topics to potential new website features. Publishers can also use polls to understand how their audience is reacting to important articles or news events.

To use the polls feature in Instagram Stories, upload a photo or video relate to the topic, click “Poll” under the “Stickers” tab, and add the poll to the photo. Enter any question you want, and then wait for the responses to start rolling in.

Here are some examples of poll questions that local news publishers can ask:

  • Which team are you rooting for in the football game? Team A or Team B
  • Should City Councilor X be recalled? Yes or No
  • Which fast food restaurant should the town get next? Chick-fil-A or Taco Bell
  • Are you interested in receiving coupons from local businesses? Yes or No
  • Which topic would you like to see more coverage of? Sports or Arts

Video Content

The biggest mistake digital publishers make on Instagram—besides failing to be active on the platform at all—is not posting enough video. Video performs much better than photos across much of social media.

Videos don’t need to be polished to generate engagement. In fact, research shows that off-the-cuff video content, including live coverage of breaking news events, performs exceptionally well for publishers on Instagram.

If you do plan to post more photos than video, make sure your photos are engaging. Publishers can use photos to highlight the best parts of articles on their websites. Photos of breaking news events and special features also perform well.

Posting schedules can be useful on Instagram. Not only do they help to ensure that content is being published during the times when audiences are most receptive and engaged, but they also keep busy publishers posting at regular intervals. Regularly posting content that generates engagement is one of the ways that publishers can improve their position in the Instagram feed.

Tools for Publishers Using Instagram

Instagram offers a number of photo editing features for users, but publishers who plan to use the platform to encourage audience engagement should also look into more advanced solutions.

Here is a list of third-party apps, services, and plugins for digital news publishers that use Instagram:

  • Instasize – Instasize is a mobile editing app that publishers can use to add embellishments and filters to their photos.
  • Intagrate – Intagrate is a powerful WordPress plugin for creating posts from Instagram media.
  • Later – With Later, publishers are able to visually plan, schedule, and analyze their posts on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
  • Lightroom Plugin – With Lightroom Plugin, publishers can post photos directly from Lightroom to their Instagram accounts.

To learn more about how to optimize your presence across social media, check out this list of the top social media plugins for news publishers.