How Popular Science Uses Video to Find New Audiences on Social Media
A conversation with Mallory Johns, engagement editor at Popular Science and Folio: Show speaker.
Mallory Johns is no stranger to image-based social media. At Popular Science, where she serves as the engagement editor, she oversees the editorial calendar across the brand’s social media channels, execution, management and measurement; develops partnerships with brands and influencers, and much more.
Although smaller in size than the brand’s Facebook and Twitter audiences, PopSci‘s growing accounts on image-based social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat provide opportunities for Johns and her team to promote the brand and engage new readers.
Here, she shares some ideas from PopSci‘s strategies for engaging with audiences on the two platforms.
Folio: In general, what are your goals when it comes to publishing on Snapchat and Instagram?
Mallory Johns: In general, our goals are two-fold: 1) Brand awareness, and 2) Influencing the next generation of scientists, science writers, and curiosity aficionados. Across both platforms, we’re providing our community with a chance to go more in-depth with our articles by engaging with curiosity-inducing graphics and videos. And more specifically on Snapchat, we use that platform to get weird, whether through our semi-weekly series PopFriday or through takeovers with our editors.
Folio: What are some ways PopSci uses Instagram to engage its audience? What kinds of posts seem to perform particularly well?
Johns: PopSci‘s Instagram feed is nearly 100% video. We focus on sharing short videos around specific content buckets, so our community knows what to expect when they come to our feed—for example, most Fridays they can expect to see cool videos about flora and fauna, for example.
We also have a robust archive—featuring well over 144 years of stories and scientific curiosities—and without fail, these posts are top-performers for us on Instagram. Additionally, our community loves to see anything about space or mind-blowing creatures.
Folio: How have you approached using Instagram Stories?
Johns: We think of Instagram Stories as entirely separate from our Instagram profile, so we use Stories for two things: 1) To highlight the work of scientists in the field through account takeovers, and 2) To breakdown a feature or trending article—highlighting key elements—to direct our community back to our site to read more.
Folio: What’s your general approach when a platform comes out with a new service or feature like that?
Johns: In terms of jumping on new features or service, I’ve always been an early adopter, and I firmly believe in experimentation, seeing what works, and either iterating or moving on. Social is a fast-paced industry and to succeed, there is an element of risk-taking involved.
Folio: What are some ways PopSci taps into Snapchat for engagement? Does the content offered there differ from Instagram, and if so, how?
Johns: We will often cross-post content from our Instagram Stories to our Snapchat Stories because we’ve noticed a lot of overlap between the two communities, but we do host a semi-weekly, Snapchat-exclusive show called PopFriday, where we show off short science experiments.
Johns: Both platforms have their hang-ups, but one of the biggest challenges is conversion—Instagram (and Instagram Stories) makes it a little easier, since they provide robust tools and analytics for driving traffic, but Snapchat is another story entirely, and our focus there is more on servicing our community with content they can’t get on popsci.com (or anywhere else).
Folio: What are some ways you bring new audiences into your Snapchat and Instagram channels?
Johns: Specifically for Snapchat, we’ve found a lot of success tapping into our +1M-member Twitter community—whenever we’ve produced a new PopFriday segment, we blast it out to our Twitter community and near-instantly see anywhere from 20-30 new followers.
For Instagram, we’ve seen a lot of success utilizing website real estate to promote Instagram-only campaigns. Most recently, we launched a pretty hasty Instagram campaign for the solar eclipse—72 hours out from the event—and we managed to rack up 300 submissions within 24 hours after the solar eclipse, and I highlighted the best submissions in an on-site gallery.
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