How The Economist found its niche on a visual platform

Here are the lessons we learned on Instagram

Today we reached the milestone of 1 million followers on Instagram. It’s a good time to reflect on how we have sustained the steady growth of our audience.

Cover Images/Matt Walker

The simple answer is people. The picture desk comprises a motley crew of science boffins, news hounds, art lovers and conservation warriors. As picture editors we have different tastes and areas of expertise, but what we share is the ability to spot a truly great picture among the reams of images we see every day.

A key element to our success on this platform has been staying true to The Economist’s editorial voice, by featuring a mixture of hard news stories with some more playful subjects. From the beginning our strategy was to spark intelligent debate among our followers, and occasionally surprise them. Through carefully curated images and informative captions, our Instagram feed has become a unique destination for the bigger picture and a visual interpretation of the brand.

Credit: Reuters/Jody Martin

Instagram is one of our fastest-growing social media platforms, with engagements rising nearly 70% year on year. The platform has enabled us to showcase the breadth of our journalism beyond what we are traditionally known for, which is our print content. At The Economist we strive to reach a “globally curious” audience and our Instagram feed is no exception. Our presence has allowed us to cultivate a younger audience, and we are proud to have an even gender split of followers.

Some of our most popular posts combine a striking image with a timely news event. The photo we posted of Bastille Day celebrations later summed up collective grief in the wake of the Nice attack. An image of composer Ludovico Einaudi, performing his specially composed “Elegy for the Arctic” in front of a glacier, was beautiful but also pertinent to conservation issues. In addition to photos, our feed also includes covers, cartoons, charts and videos to highlight the diversity of The Economist’s journalism.

Our Instagram feed

As Instagram rolls out new features we have taken the opportunity to experiment. Our Instagram Stories have been a successful addition, using photos and footage shot by Economist correspondents based in foreign bureaus. From protests in Jakarta and refugees in the Mediterranean, to huskies in the Arctic and the plight of Oregon’s forests, these stories showcase our correspondents’ in-depth regional knowledge. We’ll also be trying out live video on Instagram in the coming months (hint: if you’re afraid of heights you may want to give this one a miss!).

So over the precipice we go, posting more visual gems and innovating as we strive towards the next peak.

Ria Jones is digital and social picture editor at The Economist.