Interview: BBC News social media editor Mark Frankel talks Instagram

Mark Frankel is the social media editor of BBC News. He managed a team of audience engagement producers and writers who post regular content to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Instagram.

I’m interested in Instagram, and why the BBC is so keen to explore this platform for news.

90% of Instagram’s users are under 35, and with 600 million of them every month, it casts shadows over its competitor Snapchat.

Mark addressed the demographic straight away.

“Instagram skews heavily towards a younger demographic – and audience we often find harder to reach and to interest with BBC News.  As a broadcaster we have lots of fantastic visually engaging content that we know will appeal if presented in an appealing way on Instagram. It’s a great opportunity to build brand awareness for BBC News in this space.”

“It’s a great opportunity to build brand awareness for BBC News in this space.”

Creating content is all very well, but how is success measured?

Business accounts can see some live analytics that include impressions, reach, engagement, likes, comments and bookmarks for individual posts and stories, as well as more general information about followers like gender, age range and location. But exactly how you read this information is dependant on your need.

Mark pointed out the use of links in Stories, and driving traffic back to BBC News.

“Until recently there was no opportunity for publishers to gain referral traffic via Instagram.  Although links can be added now to live stories we measure success by looking at a range of engagement metrics – from video views and likes to volume of positive comments and the retention rates of audiences through a live story.”

I asked Mark whether there was a particular feature he would like to see brought to Instagram. He said: “I’d prefer Instagram to focus on giving us more insight into our audiences than building new features. For us the biggest win is seeing and understanding what our audiences like and don’t like.”

“For us the biggest win is seeing and understanding what our audience like and don’t like.”

I mentioned Snapchat at the start of this article, and the relationship between the two platforms is of bitter rivalry. But from a news organisation point of view, which is easier to use?

“Instagram is a little more intuitive to use than Snapchat and more geared up for professional publishers than Snapchat. Having said that, Snapchat is playful and irreverent and we need to work harder at making our stories appealing there.”

And to the future. From an obersvaetional point of view, the news on social media trend at the moment seems to be ‘less presenter, more text’.

“Yes I agree with that.  My sense is that we will also be moving away from publishing to apps and into publishing through conversational bots in the years ahead.”

You can find Mark Frankel on Twitter @markfrankel29.

An example video post from BBC News, looking into the possibility of space tourism. Note the lack of presenter, and use of text to tell the story, combined with the caption give the most context in the most suitable way.