Digital Publishing Platforms
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Instagram, TikTok, Telegram: Insights for publishers

Useful insights from experts on the dynamic social media scene for media

The social media scene has had a uniquely vibrant year – with more digital transformation in store. It’s easy for publishers to get overwhelmed. But fast-growing social media – especially Instagram, TikTok and Telegram – all offer exciting opportunities for media ready to develop their own approach.

What social media should publishers pick, how to adapt content to platform requirements, how to attract new audiences and monetize them… Experts answered those questions and more.

The Fix gathered the main insights from the ninth session of #MediaRevolution conference on emerging social media.

Maria Leonova, Chief Marketing Officer at hromadske. “TikTok in the bigger media picture. Why it can be useful?”:

  • In 2020Ukrainian digital media hromadske launched their TikTok account to expand to new, younger audiences.
  • The goal was to combine the entertaining TikTok format with serious social issues. To do this, hromadske opted for the Vox Populi format – short video surveys of passers-by answering a single question. 
  • The strategy worked. Vox Populi videos went viral on hromadske TikTok and gained a million views in only 4 weeks. Now the number of views is over 3 million monthly.
  • Making video content doesn’t require huge resources. hromadske has three people on the TikTok team, including a TikTok host and part-time cameraman and a video-editor.
  • You can reach an “unlimited” number of people on TikTok without spending money on commercial promotion. But you need to spend time to understand the TikTok standards and rules and talk in “users’ language”.
  • Publishers can build a loyal following on TikTok quite quickly compared to other social media. Platform users appreciate creativity, experiments with new formats and brands promoting values and views they share.
  • TikTok does not yet offer direct monetization tools. But there are ways to monetize the platform. You can call for donations, promote merchandise, sell native ads… Some countries are also eligible for TikTok Creator Fund grants. (This currently covers the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy).
  • The key to success is finding your own distinctive style that reflects what your media stands for. The content should also be engaging and recognizable for millions of viewers. This is not an easy task – but the effort pays off quickly.
  • Follow the platform agenda and try to “catch the wave” of buzzing TikTok trends to help your content go viral.
  • Keep in mind that TikTok was not designed for serious discussions. Trying to share videos on issues like war or revolution can be recognised by TikTok algorithms as aggressive and be banned.

Kevin Young, Head of AudienceThe Economist. “How to find, acquire and retain the next generation of readers”:

  • The Economist adapts its content for Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram. The publication uses customised approaches for each platform.
  • The media outlet sees Twitter as a news service for promoting media content. Journalists focus on increasing the rotation of new articles and renovating old content via this platform.
  • The Economist’s strategy on Facebook is sharing no more than one link per article over any 24 hour period. It also makes sure to highlight only the strongest and most relevant content, so algorithms can spot it and share it with more users.
  • The Economist uses Instagram as a “shop window” for its news content sharing illustrations, animations, audiograms, data and video content etc. The media manages to transfer more than 1 million users to the website and the app from Instagram monthly.
  • Instagram content is easy to promote across other social media platforms. For example, The Economist puts relevant Instagram links into Twitter threads or Facebook posts.
  • The Economist has just 9 people in its SM team across all platforms. What helps to make more content of a high quality is engaging a wider editorial team in SM content production as well as crowdsourcing.

Zakhar Protsiuk, Co-founder and Editor at The Fix. “How media can use Telegram as a distribution platform”:

  • Telegram is a pop-up messenger with 500 million active users (and growing). It is well-known mostly in the Central and East European market.
  • Telegram positions itself as a go-to platform for intimate communication and content distribution through chats (personal and group) and channels. 
  • Unlike most social media, Telegram has a chronological news feed. So audiences and content producers can rely on the order of what they see or post, while other platforms are unpredictable.
  • The platform is famous for its speed, ability to work on low bandwidth and the algorithms that avoid government intervention into media life. Telegram became extremely popular among Belarusian journalists during the Internet shutdowns in 2020, becoming basically the only platform for news exchange.  
  • Most channels in Belarus have significantly grown during this period. One of the popular Belarusian channels NEXTA Live channel reached 2 million subscribers within a couple of months.
  • Some Western media also successfully started their activity on Telegram. For example, Bloomberg’s strategy to publish 2 posts every day led the media to 1.7 million views in January 2021.
  • Unlike Twitter, Telegram has a higher level of entry. It’s a much more structured platform that allows users to quickly switch from channels to chats and requires a significant time and effort to build a community. But Telegram communities have proven to be one of the most engaged across all SM platforms.
  • Before creating a Telegram account, media have to set clear audience goals and strategy and, of course, develop a recognizable style.

This piece was originally published in The Fix and is re-published with permission. The Fix is a solutions-oriented publication focusing on the European media scene. Subscribe to its weekly newsletter here.