Three magazine publishers winning at Instagram

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Instagram as a platform may not be the biggest traffic driver, but magazine publishers are finding unique ways of using it to push their brands.

For publishers Playboy, Natural Health and GQ, for example, Instagram has quickly become an effective new way for them to reach readers as they flip through their phones. Magazine publishers collectively have 20 million followers on Instagram, according to a new report from Magazine Media 360, which analyzed the social media feeds of 166 magazine brands.

Here’s how a few of those publishers are making Instagram work.

Natural Health Magazine

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Natural Health has seen its Instagram follower account double to nearly 20,000 over the last year. The magazine, which posts three times a week, has an Instagram feed that offers a mix of inspirational quotes, photos of new health food products, and shots of people exercising.

“Our staff is living the brand and is personally aligned with it. We’re not just creating a magazine,” said Laura Kalehoff, Fit’s pregnancy and natural health editor-in-chief.

Kalehoff said that Natural Health’s Instagram success is largely a byproduct of the magazine’s rethinking of how social media fits in with its overall editorial strategy. Rather than assign Instagram to a single social media editor, Natural Health made it the job of its entire editorial staff, which collectively adds photos from their own lives. She said that that this adds a level of authenticity to the product.

Kalehoff added that Instagram also gives readers a more constant connection with Natural Health, which only publishes every two months.

“The goal is to show readers that Natural Health isn’t just a product that comes in mailbox once a month or something that you pick up at a drugstore. Readers what want that constant communication and express it everyday,” she said.

GQ

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With 1.2 million followers, GQ is the fourth most-popular magazine publisher on Instagram, according to Magazine Media 360. As with Playboy, GQ’s content formula lends itself well to visual platforms like Instagram, which it uses to post photos of men’s clothing, accessories, and celebrities that visit GQ’s offices.

“We got on Instagram early and have been continually evolving what we do on it. But what’s been consistent is that we see it as a chance to ‘open up the brand’,” said GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson.

Nelson said that GQ has also used Instagram to drum up hype about its upcoming issues. With its July issue, which featured model Emily Ratajkowski, GQ used the #ratatuesday hashtag, which Instagram users used to submit photos and video to be a part of the conversation. The #GQ hashtag itself has proven to be pretty popular, with 1.1 million mentions on Instagram, Nelson said.

GQ has also used Instagram to experiment with hyperlapses and other video content, though videos tend not to perform as well as images.

“We feel like we should be making the most of Instagram’s capabilities,” Nelson said.

Playboy

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Photos of scantily clad women work as well on Instagram as one might expect. Consider Playboy, which has attracted 1.6 million Instagram followers since it started using the platform in 2012. That makes it the second third most-popular magazine publisher on Instagram after National Geographic and Vogue.

“It’s really about about fishing where the fish are,” said Playboy svp of digital media marketing Robin Zucker. “We are on multiple platforms. Facebook is a key driver of traffic, but Instagram is all about engaging with our audience in another way. “

Zucker added that the Playboy brand works well on Instagram because it’s inherently visual — and that goes beyond just photos of women in gym gear and bikinis. The house that Hef built also uses Instagram as a way to offer people a behind-the-scenes look at the Playboy brand itself, with photos from Playboy parties and content from the magazine’s archives.

Theres also a major lifestyle approach as well. The recent launch of Playboy.com, for example, has given Playboy’s Instagram account a stronger connection to the restaurant and nightlife content the site is creating. Playboy recently used the account to feature Lockhart Smokehouse as one of Dallas’s top-ten BBQ restaurants.