Video now accounts for almost half of time spent on Facebook, and Reels is the largest contributor to engagement growth on Instagram, according to Facebook’s Q2 earnings report.

The opportunity for local media in this space is significant, notably seized by Record-Journal in Meriden, Connecticut, which has been posting Reels since January 2021. Engagement and reach has more than doubled since the start of the year through videos posted to Instagram and TikTok. In June, Record-Journal reached 30% more Instagram accounts than in May, with Reels consistently reaching more non-followers on Instagram than any other post type.

Reels consistently reach more new audience members than any other type of post on the Record Journal Instagram.

With a goal to drive users to the site and convert them to paying subscribers, Engagement Editor Ashley Kus tested several approaches on Instagram and TikTok — inspired, in part, by Record-Journal’s participation in the Facebook Accelerator focused on reader revenue, as well as successful examples from around news media social accounts.

These methods yielded new, loyal audiences keen to engage on Instagram and TikTok.

Post consistently (and at the same time and day for certain content)

Record-Journal has seen success with posting a Things to Know video every Monday morning to both Instagram Reels and TikTok to help followers prepare for the week. Predictable content series can lead to growth in audience, engagement and views.

“We’ve reached non-followers with Reels and it’s our hope that we can convert them to followers with this consistent posting,” Kus said.

This is an example of the weekly things to know Reel posted on Monday mornings.

“Newsify” current trends on the platform

The team strives to capitalize on emerging viral trends by incorporating them into the videos. This includes just-released pop songs and formats and filters native to the platforms.

“I am constantly looking at trends on TikTok and thinking how can I make this news-related? How can I newsify it?” Kus said.

Promote site visits with a call to action

At the end of Reels and TikToks, Kus said she and reporter Faith Williams will promote the website.

“We always have a call to action to the site,” she said. “The site is most important — getting people to our site.”

Use Instagram Stories to solicit newsletter signups through the question box sticker

Kus said she solicits newsletter signups at least once a week in Instagram Stories.

“We got more aggressive with Instagram Stories in the last year,” Kus said. “We’re posting multiple Stories a day, we’re promoting our posts, we’re asking questions and we’re counting down the event coverage.”

One Record-Journal Instagram Story that used the question box sticker to ask for the follower’s email address and got five new newsletter signups.

Enlist local freelance blogger-influencers to produce and share news content to a broader social media audience

Record-Journal recruited five well-known Connecticut bloggers, including two that have four times more followers than the news company’s Instagram account. The influencers provide food and drink and lifestyle content for the Record-Journal site and social media, which they also amplify to their own followings on Instagram and TikTok.

Some bloggers drive traffic from Instagram to through the swipe-up feature in Stories — a feature the Record-Journal Instagram account has not unlocked, as it has fewer than 10,000 followers.

Local blogger and influencer @LunchwithLinds posts shareable content.

Cross-promote across products to boost views and followers.

The TikTok QR code and Instagram handle appear in the Wednesday Food and Drink section of the newspaper to help raise awareness and increase followers.

Digital embeds of Instagram Reels and TikTok videos on the site showcase related Record-Journal social posts and can increase the frequency at which users see content.

Improve website referrals with a dedicated page linking Instagram posts to content.

Kus enabled a tool called LinkinBio from Later to showcase the latest Instagram feed posts, which displays image tiles linked to the corresponding article. The change enabled the first significant increase in site traffic from Instagram.

“I’ve seen a big change, with an average of six clicks per post. The highest has been 16-23 post clicks,” she said. “We are getting traffic from Instagram and we can track it much better.”

Know the platform audience’s tastes and preferences.

This pasta salad recipe TikTok video went viral and used a newly released popular song.

Through experimentation and analyzing results, Kus has found the content and formats that are most popular on each platform and posted accordingly. Since the start of the pandemic, she said, she’s noticed more Millennials on TikTok, making it easier to get Instagram users to watch the additional content on the newer platform.

5 Record-Journal series on Instagram Reels and TikTok

Record-Journal’s creative, personal formats for weekly news rundowns, trending recipes and behind-the-scenes explanations have broadened the brand’s exposure and garnered engagement — views, likes, shares, and comments. Some of the most popular series on Record-Journals accounts include:

This is News Dog.
  • Things to know: A briefing posted Monday mornings to TikTok and Instagram Reels, coinciding with print and site content. The text-and-image based video is a brief rundown of 8-9 local newsworthy events, issues and opportunities, paired with popular music.
  • Latest news: A quick 15-second rundown of headlines posted daily to TikTok and hosted by Ashley Kus or reporter Faith Williams. (100-400 views). Kus said she found this series did not perform as well on Reels.
  • Recipes: An integral part of Record-Journal’s food and drink vertical, recipes popular have gone viral on the RJ Food and Drink TikTok, and some translate successfully as engaging Instagram Reels.
  • News Dog: Ashley’s dog is an unofficial mascot and huge fan of Record-Journal, which garners engagement from animal- and news-lovers.
  • Influencer videos: Freelance content contributors who are Instagram influencers have started sharing contributed TikTok videos, which Kus said she reposts from the Record-Journal account or “duets” — a split screen experience with both accounts.