How Instagram Has Emerged Out Of A Global Pandemic As A ‘Go-To’ Platform For News Content

Change of Instagram

Oh, what a year 2020 has been, from swarms of locust, floods, bush fires, socio-cultural movements and not to mention the global pandemic that paused any and all plans that we had for the year.

Ever since January 1, we’ve heard the go-to phrase of ‘this is an unprecedented year’, and with news changing on the daily, breaking news happening constantly, and updates that impact our daily lives from travel to just leaving our homes, being informed has never been quite so important.

So how have we accessed this news? Stayed up to date?

This ‘unprecedented year’, has seen a greater shift in consumption habits where we’re accessing news information, specifically with millennials and Gen Z. Although we may still use a favourite news app, there’s been a massive rise in news materials across social platforms. But, has there been a standout platform?

Twitter has long since been the OG social network for news and information, the daily of journalists and the media. Facebook then stole this crown by opening up video and allowed the ‘new media’ wave of brands onto the feed only to pull back the reigns about 18 months ago for well-documented reasons.

But Instagram? It never really made an attempt for this newsy space. This is a platform that prides itself on placing a glamour lens on the world around us, one that rewards engagement and never really became a place where media focused its attention.

But gone are the days that social media is being used just for pretty images, funny videos and sharing your life with friends, families and in some cases strangers. The world has become a smaller place, with more visibility on world politics, socio-economic movements, business & environmental causes, and Instagram has been at the heart of this in 2020.

The change of Instagram starting to happen pre-COVID, when we saw users benefit from the product features that allowed feed posts to be shared as stories. This was significant for 2 reasons:

  1. Typical news posts in-feed don’t get many likes or comments
  2. There was no ‘share’ button as per Facebook or RT button on Twitter

As Instagram continuously grew, now with approximately 1 billion people per month accessing the platform,  publishers saw the potential opportunity and began to experiment. When their efforts received positive results, they realised that maybe the elusive millennials and Gen Z might not be as opposed to receiving news on the IG feed as they first thought.

And then COVID happened.

Instagram engagement skyrocketed on news content, from daily feed posts of ‘case’ updates around the world, breaking news, to ‘live’ broadcasts to WHO and National Health Ministries and news carousel updates of a media’s daily headlines. Hugh engagement for news posts, on this once ‘pretty’ platform changed the way people were consuming content on Instagram, and what media channels were choosing to post.

A recent study showed that of 18-24 years old, over 25% of respondents used Instagram to access news content, in comparison to only 17% using newspapers. Media outlets are no longer just relying on their publication, they see the need and benefit of getting their story and the key facts distributed as quickly as possible across their own social accounts.

Instagram Feed Posts
Instagram Feed Posts

So, what did we find at Lovin HQ?

Lovin Dubai is a fun, energetic lifestyle platform – we’re about our community, from what we see, think, eat, drink and do. We have a mantra, it’s at the heart of who we are, and it’s pretty simple; Lovin your life. But during COVID, this mantra was really difficult to live by, with breaking news happening daily and fear-mongering all too familiar.

But one thing that was still the focus, the Dubai community. It was important for us to use our platform to ensure the correct information was getting out there, that people had the news as it was happening, and that everyone reading Lovin Dubai or accessed our social channels could live their lives as best as they could in this ‘new normal’, and Instagram become the standout platform for us in 2020.

We saw major shifts in our platforms, with more people sharing and consuming our Instagram breaking news than ever before. With major shifts in where people were consuming information and what they were wanting access too.

 Lovin Dubai follower growth in H1 of 2020
Lovin Dubai follower growth in H1 of 2020 (source: crowdtangle)

This was further shown by how Instagram was being used by some of the largest news publications in the region, from Gulf News to Khaleej Times, the interaction rates on Instagram are telling in terms of how people are consuming information.

Instagram interaction rates 2020
Instagram interaction rates 2020 (source: crowdtangle)

The benefit of Instagram is that it provided people with bite-sized information that was straight to the point, that could be shared via stories and to friends, ensuring that everyone had true visibility.

The headlines weren’t click baity, or about fear-mongering to get engagements. People were scared enough. It was simple direct messaging that people could share and understand.

A lot can be learnt from 2020, and the power of social media has been reinforced once again in a time when visibility, honesty and transparency is key.

And the standout performer, Instagram.

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