How to grow on Instagram without ads – Interview with Patricia Tiihonen from YLE

How to grow on Instagram without ads – Interview with Patricia Tiihonen from YLE

How can you grow engagement and reach organically on Instagram? We asked Patricia Tiihonen, the social media guru at Finland’s public service broadcaster whose @yleuutiset is currently the biggest news page in Finland.

Q: Patricia, what’s your number one advice on growing Instagram engagement?


First you need to think of your goals on Instagram: what is the main purpose, who do you want to reach, and what do you want to achieve. Then you can engage with the audience that you target very well.
We, for example, think about a 20-something-year-old woman living in the capital of Finland. We have a persona in mind when we create our posts: we know what topics interest that person, what worries them, how they like to engage with content on social media, etc.

Q: How does that reflect what you post?

Sometimes it’s hard to find appropriate content to post on Instagram for our target persona. We need to put a news story into new visual appearance and we have to present it like it’s done on Instagram – the visuals and the text around it need to reflect the platform.
Each social platform is unique and you need to adjust your content and how you present it accordingly. A good story is not enough – on Instagram you need good pictures to go with it too.

Q: Do your journalists post on that Instagram account?

Yes, but not directly. We often use our foreign correspondents for interesting content. We’ve had recently reporters based in Beijing and Barcelona, for example. When they create content it’s more authentic even if the posts aren’t broadcasted live, since we want to have a consistent look and feel. We also have real people moderating the discussion on our account. It’s a team of 3 very talented social media journalists doing this work: planning, creating and sharing the posts, as well as replying to comments in the feed and DM.
There is also a graphic designer who is a huge resource for the social media team. He is the AD behind the look and feel.

Q: How do you coach journalists to post on Instagram?

First we check their own Instagram profiles – that tells us a lot about how savvy they are, how well they can take videos and where they might need help. Video journalists of course know how to stand in front of the camera and talk but it’s quite different on IG. We talk about hashtags, locations and I check that they really know how to use their mobile phones camera. There is often a discussion about the journalists image too and how he/she sees the role on Instagram and how it is presented in the Bio.

I coach a lot of journalists on how to use social media in general – it’s become a really important tool for their careers since readers don’t want to follow brands but people.

Q: How often do you post on Instagram?

We post 40-60 Story frames per week and 1-2 feed albums a day. But we don’t do it just for the amount of it – we need to have good content with great visuals all targeted at a specific audience. It takes a long time to create each post. In Stories we work with video editing software to fade the text in and out. We also add interactions like mood bars, votes, polls, or forms to fill in.

Q: How do you work with links in Instagram?

Instagram is such a medium where people want to stay – they don’t want to leave the platform. We use links in bio of course so if people want to read more they can. But when we share stories in the feed, we write quite a lot about the news article in the description so you can get the gist of the news without leaving the platform.

In Stories, if we use multiple frames to tell a story, we add a link only to the first and the last frames. We also share the beef of the story right away – we don’t want to trick people into clicking on the link but rather earn their click through great content that they want to learn more about.

Q: What tools do you use to track the effectiveness of your Instagram posts?

Our social media editors love Instagram’s native analytics. We typically have meetings when we check them straight from the phone. We also get data from our analytics department and we use Falcon Social – so it’s a combination of various tools.

Q: Any parting advice for social media managers?

These days people usually start by buying ads but I think you should know how to do organic first. If you don’t know what people like to consume without being forced to through the ad, then you don’t know how to do ads. Plus, if you don’t have any organic engagement on your page, then it’s pointless to buy ads – they won’t help you grow sustainably.

Watch the full conversation with Patricia Tiihonen for more insights.