Soundbites and salacious quotes: How Fox News surged on Instagram

When Instagram made it possible to upload longer video clips this spring, one of the biggest winners was Fox News, a publisher that exceeds at soundbites.

The cable news network has driven a huge increase in user engagement on the Facebook-owned photo sharing platform, according to data gathered by Newswhip. In September, it drove nearly 3 million user comments, likes and regrams, up from just 900,000 in January. That nearly 200 percent leap far outpaced the growth at other news publishers, including Business Insider, Washington Post, and even BuzzFeed, though Buzzfeed drove more interactions overall (a category-leading 4.8 million).

The total number of interactions also launched Fox News past publishers including The New York Times (1.4 million), BBC (1.06 million) and CNN (1.02 million).

The success on Instagram is not an anomaly. Fox News readers are unusually engaged on Facebook, too: According to CrowdTangle, the content Fox New publishes on Facebook has an interaction rate 33 percent higher than average for the platform’s 50 biggest news publishers.

Facebook and Instagram are just two of the 15 social media platforms it posts content on regularly. And while the success on those two platforms stands out, both adhere to a strategy that’s applied across all of Fox News’s social channels.

“That’s been our strategy all along,” said Jason Ehrich, Fox News’s vice president of social media. “Communicating to our audience that if they see something on the channel, or on our website, they can expect to see something about it on the social platform of their choice.”

Being in the thick of a presidential election year surely helped Fox’s numbers, though Ehrich said that’s only part of the growth. “I can’t say politics is totally responsible for the uptick,” he said.

Instead, a key decision by Instagram may have played a bigger role. This past spring, it raised the maximum length of a video clip on its platform from 15 seconds to 60, a move that was especially beneficial for broadcast brands like Fox News and the BBC. NewsWhip data showed that in January, Fox posted published just 10 video clips to Instagram; this past month, it had uploaded 89.

Along the way, it’s learned it can upload not just moments that occur on its broadcasts, but things like cell phone too.

When Fox’s social team feels video is less than optimal, it will slap the newsworthy quote onto a stock photo, a strategy that’s also proven effective at drawing comments. “It allow people to interact with what’s been said,” Ehrich said.

A photo posted by Fox News (@foxnews) on

Publishers look to build big audiences on platforms for different reasons. Facebook can be a sizable source of traffic, provided one plays by its rules; on Snapchat Discover, publishers can stretch their legs as video creators, plus earn revenue from the lucrative ads Snapchat runs there.

For now, Instagram is just branding, for Fox News and for all other publishers, a chance to be present when people are engaged and exorcised about the day’s events. “We want to catch people wherever they are,” Ehrich said.

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