How Al Jazeera English uses Instagram to grow followers - Reuters News Agency

How Al Jazeera English uses Instagram to grow followers

A look at how Al Jazeera English uses Instagram, one of the fastest growing social platforms

By Ella Wilks-Harper | Apr 06, 2018

This article forms part of a series where we go “behind the strategy” of the world’s most successful media companies.


Instagram hit over 700 million monthly users last year, widening its lead over Snapchat to become one of the fastest growing networks in the last two years. For publishers, the platform offers a chance to experiment with mobile-friendly content and features such as captions and geo-tagging.

Reuters News Agency spoke to Hasan Patel, planning editor at Al Jazeera English Online, to explore their approach to Instagram.

There’s a team looking at ways of really pushing content onto Instagram”

Hasan Patel, planning editor, Al Jazeera English Online

Though Al Jazeera English is yet to see an ‘immense’ impact since Facebook announced changes to its news feed, the network is turning its attention to Instagram and other platforms, such as Twitter, to grow followers. “There’s a team looking at ways of really pushing content onto Instagram,” explained Patel.

Managed by photo editors Sorin Furcoi and Showkat Shafi, the network’s Instagram account has amassed over 713k followers.

Leveraging photo essays commissioned for the website, the editors update the platform at least twice a day with pictures and short text stories. Since last year, the total number of followers rose by over 140k.

Let’s take a look at three current initiatives that Al Jazeera is using to grow followers on Instagram…


1. Mobile-friendly captioned Stories

Since its launch last August, Instagram Stories has 150 million daily active users, according to Jim Squires, director of market operations for Instagram.
For International Women’s Day, Al Jazeera English showcased a series of captioned-pictures of women leaders around the world on their Instagram Story. As readers clicked through the Story, the captions changed to illustrate the lack of female heads of state worldwide.

Captioning has helped in terms of engagement. What works is when the content that we direct people to is mobile-friendly.”

Hasan Patel, planning editor, Al Jazeera English Online

The story was further enriched by a link to a mobile-friendly story on Al Jazeera’s main website.  Senior producer Sukru Oktay Kilic said, “Stories with links in the last slides usually generate 400-1k clicks”. 

Unsurprisingly, at Reuters 85% of the top 100 videos taken by our clients from last year, between May to June, were captioned.”

2. Providing journalists on-the-ground Insta access

“Video is becoming more and more of a priority,” says Patel. “The content has to be mobile-friendly, it has to complement Instagram or you can lose the person.”

Consequently, journalists are being encouraged to generate “Stories” ideas which allows for video and live footage. On some occasions journalists on-the-ground are given direct access to Al Jazeera English’s Instagram account.

“We try and make sure that if our reporters go out and do the story, that they shoot in such a way that would be friendly for Instagram,” explained Patel.

“Video is becoming more and more of a priority”

3. Re-package highly-engaging original content

A key part of Al Jazeera English’ Instagram strategy is to showcase original content. One way of doing this is by repackaging stories on Instagram that have done well on other social platforms.

Over two years ago, Al Jazeera published a captioned-video of Pakistani firefighter Mohammed Ayub, who taught poor children for 30 years. Ayub’s story was viewed over 9.7 million times on Facebook.

This March, the story was was re-packaged and cut shorter for Al Jazeera English’ Instagram account and was viewed over 56k times. Though the story did not reached millions of view highlighting that there is still an appetite for original mobile-friendly content.

Interested in finding out more about the advantages of captioned video? Access our video services & create visually compelling stories.