Social Media Analytics Blog

Learning from the Best – The New York Times on Instagram

In February 2015 I joined quintly and soon I was looking for topics that are relevant in the industry of social media. After a bit of time spent researching and gathering information, I got the feeling that Instagram was a hot topic among businesses – and it still is. Back then, I was impressed by the work of The New York Times on Instagram. I read an article that interviewed Alexandra MacCallum and I found one of my first topics for a post. I analyzed the strategy the news corporation had on Instagram. Now, it’s time to have a look at them again. Is New York Times still “All in on Instagram”?

Rapid growth of interactions on Instagram

Back in 2015, NYT’s garnered interaction interactions on Instagram were impressive even though their total follower count was significantly lower than the corresponding Facebook pages of social media profiles such as @nytimesfashion. As Alexandra MacCallum commented in the Digiday article, New York Times decided then to go “All In on Instagram” by hiring a video team with the intention to create beautiful, informing and engaging content. A little more than one year later, this hard work has paid off. The average interactions increased by factor of ten. One year and ten months ago the average number of interactions received was around 500, which is now 5,000 (with peaks up to 15k interactions, as seen in our Post Table in the dashboard we used) – Kudos, Mrs. MacCallum and team!

Instagram Strategy

This shows the great potential good content can bring for companies in order to reach people everyday on their phones. In this specific case, the New York Times was certainly able to reach users they weren’t able in times before Instagram – young consumers. As Instagram users are not only young - they also tend to have more financial resources. If you take a closer look at the channels analyzed, you will notice that New York Times invests a considerable amount of time in the photo and video sharing platform.

Now, let’s try to understand how the New York Times utilizes Instagram, how they achieved this high number of interactions and perhaps draw some conclusions about the account you manage.

The use of filters on Instagram

The filter-time seems to be over: #nofilter. In my initial analysis I was able to reveal that filters are not used in over 95% of the posts. Having said that, this does not mean that images are uploaded as they have been shot but they rather look more natural, without using predefined filters. Taking a look at the timeline, it becomes obvious that at least a majority of images were tweaked a little in photoshop prior to posting.

Best time to post on Instagram for NYT

Since the rise of social media, one of the most controversial questions discusses what’s the best time to post. As we at quintly believe there is no rule of thumb answering this question, we trust the following numbers comparing posting times and received interactions for the analyzed profiles. (Sidenote: This is also possible for your competitors and benchmarks within quintly! So, sign up for a free trial to test this out.)

New York Times on Instagram

Important while working with this metric is the timezone you choose in the settings menu. In this case we chose NY time. As the New York Times has followers all over the US and the entire world, interaction patterns are not that clear as for a business that mainly focuses on one market. Still it reveals some interesting insights. The larger bubbles in the left metric visualize times when the analyzed profiles tend to post most frequently. It can be seen that at 8am NY time and between 2 and 4pm the profiles publish content most often. The bubbles in the right metric displays when interactions are achieved on the posted content. Peaks here seem to be between 2 and 6am.

Based on this information, it could be a good idea to test if one additional post in this time performs well or even better than the average. This does not necessarily need to be the case, but in some cases the interactions received are a good indicator when people from other timezones are online.

One post per day keeps the …

What is a healthy own post frequency in order to keep followers in the loop but without being annoying? To answer this question, you need to play around. Everybody needs to.

On vacation you have a lot of content to post, but does the third selfie at the beach in one week still perform as well as the first one among your friends? For me they don’t. For a personal account this is not really important as a like is “just” a like, but for a business, less engaged users can mean less clicks on the website which results in lower sales. Thus, businesses should keep an eye on the ideal post frequency.

Post on Instagram

In this particular time frame (10/10 to 11/21), NYT channels posted two times per day on average. But there are also days where they do not post at all. The question NYT times need to answer: Would I still receive a high amount of interactions on the posts on my “lay days”? If the team around Alex MacCallum detects that, it might be a wise decision to post on these days, too.

Top 3 emojis in NYTimesFashion Instagram strategy

Emojis are part of all our lives. They help us to express feelings on WhatsApp, Facebook, Slack and are also frequently used on Instagram. As these little images have become an essential part of our communication, we wanted to take a closer look at how NYT is using emoijs.

Emoji Instagram

In this case, we are looking at the time period from January 1 to October 31. Within these 10 months, @nytimesfashion posted 1,815 images and 81 videos. 246 of these posts included an emoji. The column chart above shows that the camera icon is more or less the only emoji being used. Cross-checking the timeline of NYT fashion channel, you can identify that these camera icons are used when sharing content from celebrity events. This underlines that Instagram posts are not posted randomly, but they are planned in advance and are part of a detailed strategy in order to position The New York Times on Instagram.

Hashtags on Instagram

To amplify your reach and categorize posts, the use of hashtags can be greatly beneficial, especially on Instagram. In our Hashtag Detection, here sorted by Total Interactions, it becomes obvious that “fashion hashtags” perform best. Hashtags such as street style, fashion and nyfw (which stands for New York Fashion Week) are the top 3 of all interactions.

While setting up and adjusting Instagram strategies, this information can help you gain insights on your competitors and benchmarks. Tracking, benchmarking and optimizing is a cornerstone of an analysis with quintly. This approach ensures not only measurement of your own channels, but also identifies areas you can learn from.

Hashtag use Instagram

In the case of NYT, this metric is important to see the performance of their different channels and identify hashtags that were able to amplify the reach of posts. Especially for smaller profiles, it is important in order to make sure they keep a healthy growth.

Interesting to note here: #NYTcooking garnered half of the interactions as #streetstyle with a significantly lower amount of followers. The NYT channel that covers everything related to fashion has 1.8 Million followers whereas the food channel “just” has 380k followers. That shows the hashtag used was really successful!

Learn how to approach Instagram Analysis correctly in this in-depth article. 


Tags: Instagram, Best time to post, Industry Analysis, New York Times, Social Media, Strategy

Julian Gottke

Julian is Communication Manager at quintly. With a master's degree in Digital Marketing he manages the company’s communication. He likes building relationships with interesting people and good stories.

Get in touch today to start analyzing and optimize your social media performance.