11 Instagram content ideas for newsrooms

By Paula Wethington

If you treat Instagram simply as a photo gallery with square images (and by the way, the photo no longer needs to be square); then maybe what you want is a photo sharing service and Instagram really isn’t for you.

monroenews_instagramBest9But Instagram is so popular and allows so many possibilities that I would currently recommend as the third piece for a newsroom’s social media efforts behind Facebook and Twitter.  In 2015, I dusted off a formerly inactive Instagram account for The Monroe News; and with a content schedule of only two to five images a week, I was able to add almost 3,000 followers in about a year! That’s in addition to having my own account where I posted both personal and assignment content.

Here are some ideas for newsroom account content.

  1. From the archives. You’d have to be a museum or library to rock this concept better than a newsroom with a decent photograph archive. Look at VintageTribune for examples from the Chicago Tribune files.
  2. Secondary shots and outtakes. You will have leftover photos after nearly every assignment that could find a home if there was just space in the main package. Use them on Instagram. You can also deliberately look for secondary shots; as a videographer will look for B-roll images at a scene. For example, a photo I took of basket of apples at a cider-pressing event was deliberately taken with the intent to post it on Instagram.
  3. Food. It’s well known that food images are popular on Instagram! Every time I’m at the county fair on a news assignment, I take a photo of my midway lunch to show off on Twitter. But that would do just as well on Instagram. Other suggestions include look for the bake sale treats at a school fundraiser, the fancy cake or dinner table setting at a reception, and the newsroom pizza on election night.
  4. Architecture. Take images of the courthouse, city hall, parks, churches and schools in your community; especially when the time of day or the seasons add to their beauty. An occasional series I did focusing on well-known landmarks became a huge hit on The Monroe News Instagram and drew in hundreds of fans.
  5. Weather. While Instagram isn’t practical for breaking news situations such as tornado warnings, you can build up an audience with weather scenes. Snow, rain, mud puddles, umbrellas, sunset at the lakeshore and even a thermometer image on a hot day are easy content ideas. Consider this: a video of a plow going down the street during a snowstorm is certain to get likes and comments!
  6. Sports. Sports reporters and photographers naturally look for game action to go with their news reports. But take a playbook from NASCAR’s social media and include someone who has a eye for features in your on scene coverage team. They’ll pick up on the activities of the pit crews, student sections, tailgate parties, cheerleaders and marching band.
  7. Fashion. Does your newsroom report on events where fashion and costume are part of the atmosphere such as a theater show, ballet, charity gala or pageant? Showcase the details of the crowns, gowns, tuxes and tutus with creative layouts and filters.
  8. Scenes of the newsroom or air studio. Show off your desk, the equipment you need to take on remote, the newsroom coffee mug collection, or a view of the control room during a newscast.
  9. Infographics. Simple pie charts and bar charts can work on Instagram. Just remember to keep the design simple and the message easy to grasp on a small screen. Save the larger and  detailed infographics for Pinterest, print media or your website.
  10. Pokemon Go. This game is so popular you really should include some of this content in your Pokemon Go Newsroomsocial media outreach. See if you can get a Pokemon to appear in your office or studio through playing the game, then save the screenshot. For example, I was able to get a Bellsprout to appear in The Monroe News’ parking lot and a Spearow to perch next to an antique typewriter in the newsroom.
  11. Share a promotional message. WDET, the public radio station in Detroit, has in its Instagram gallery photos of fans holding up a sign that explains “I support Detroit’s public radio station … ” Related tactics I used on the Monroe News Instagram account include photo of the newspaper’s front page when a high interest topics are featured; a picture of swag we gave away at the county fair; and the signs that promoted the 2016 Readers Choice contest.

Content is just the first step for running a successful Instagram account. I’ll share some of my other tactics in upcoming posts.

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Author: Paula Wethington

Paula has over 10 years experience working in a variety of digital and social media formats on behalf of a newsroom; and over 25 years total working as a reporter at newspapers in Ohio and Michigan.

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