by Niamh Kirk
If a picture can paint 1000 words, then Instagram should be as vital a social distributor as Facebook for news companies. But for many Irish publications, Instagram is little more than a laborious afterthought. Given the power of images to add depth and insight to a news story and the sheer size of the international Irish Instagram audience, the social network should be high on any newsrooms priority list.
It will not drive traffic back to the website, but it can help to enhance brand identity which is a challenge for online news titles. More so than any other social platform, Instagram facilitates brand promotion.
Photojournalism published on Instagram has a profound capacity to shape perceptions of a story and of the news publications. Whether it is a ‘papped’ photo of an ungroomed celebrity caught out by a long lens or a carefully curated set of gallery-quality photos from the world’s most artistic, and experienced photographers, Instagram says something powerful about who you are as a news publication.
But it is not only the body of work as a whole that can say something, the right image posted on the right day can also make clear editorial statements. The image of the Statue of Liberty as immigration laws are reformed, the destruction of Aleppo as the UN discusses their borders; yes, one image, especially when it is posted at the right time, can say a lot.
Where to channel resources is a hard choice for social media managers – but those who neglect Instagram are ignoring a powerful outlet for both the brand and for the photojournalists who contribute to stories.
Many companies already know this. For socially savvy titles, Instagram is a representation of the publications character. It allows a title to showcase their quality, providing powerful insights into ongoing stories and can be a successful addition to both news bulletins and long form journalism.
So, without further ado, here is some of the best from Ireland and elsewhere.
Irish independent – (followers 6,333) – This is probably the best Irish news site on Instagram. It is kept up to date, hosts some good images and it uses them to distribute news bulletins. It seems to be in keeping with the international titles best practices.
Irish Farmers Journal – (followers 4,083) – The IFJ posts a mix of content and it’s inconsistent. But it is up to date and many of the original images are provide a glimpse into different aspects of Irish farming throughout the year. From calving and lambing seasons, caring for sick animals in the home, the ploughing championships and the movement against TIPP are all documented on the account. Unfortunately, they are interrupted by random memes, and clipped posts from other social media.
RTE – (followers 11.8k) – Here for the ‘front pages’ posts alone, the rest of the page is lovely landscapes. Why is The Guardian or Times UK always in there?
Irish Post – (followers 1,222) – The sports page for the Irish Diaspora website posts old sports photos, they found a good way to use their archive of pictures that fits in well with the nostalgic, Instagram aesthetic.
TheJournal.ie – (followers 732) The Journal take a different approach to Instagram using it offer a window into the newsroom. They do not usually carry photojournalism but images of the day to day lives of journalists in the publication.
The Irish Times Do not post often but it is always pleasant when they do. There is a mix of content from hard news like the images of Apollo House, sports, culture.
CNN – (followers 2.9 million) – CNN post about 3-4 images a day and focus largely on the US, but they are all related to high profile news stories and powerful live images of events as they happen.
Time Magazine – (followers 3.5m) – TIME posts about ten images a day focusing on American affairs but also some international stories. All the Time images are weighty in some regard, whether it is the American flag used as a hijab or a timely placed glorious image of lady liberty after one of Trump’s misogynistic statements. TIME know how to deliver news and make powerful and timely editorial statement with images in a way that few others have yet achieved.
Washington Post – (followers 564k) – WP have multiple accounts and differentiate between the main newspapers account and their dedicated space for pure photojournalism. None the less, the images on each are wonderful and come with a short explainer about the photo, news story and the photographer.
New York Times – (followers 2.2m) – The NYT posts distinctly international images and some of the most beautiful from around the globe. There is a mix of clear unbridled photojournalism artistry with images of landscapes, cultures and portraits as well as spectacular images of hard news stories.
Al Jazeera – (followers 576k) – AJ post about one image a day but they select something that makes a statement. Powerful and provocative, it could depict the ostentatious wealth in Dubai or the inside of a raft taking refugees across the Mediterranean. This account is an insightful extension of the al-Jazeera work on social media.
AP – (followers 183k) – The newswire services, of course, has immense photojournalism resources, but the selection of images on its Instagram accounts says so much by themselves. Like a daily global photo exhibition.
Reuters – (followers 1m) – Similar to AP they have huge global resources feeding into this page but still only post about three images a day.
So, what are the best practices we can take away from the world’s best?
- Use your archive, it’s just sitting there gathering digital dust.
- Post the best you have on any given day it doesn’t have to be a stream, but a curated gallery of three or four striking images.
- Use it to speak about your brand identity.
- Use it to add depth, emotion or human interest in a story that is already in the public consciousness.
- Explain what the photo is about or how it is related to a story, including the date, location and photographer.
- Move beyond landscapes, urban shots or basic portfolio, professional photographers and excellent armatures are already doing a lot of this.
- Represent a wide range of stories that the title covers, from human interest, and celebrity news to political and social affairs. Just make sure the image are good.