Instagram and TwItter Usage PractIces of Journalists



Social networks and applications have been at the center of our lives for a long time. Applications such as Twitter and Instagram dominate the mobile screen usage reports we receive on a weekly basis. So much so that we read these applications just before going to sleep, and open these applications when we first wake up.


There are various answers to the question “Why do we use social networks?”. One of these is the desire to keep up with the agenda. According to the 2021 Digital News Report by Reuters Institute, 40% of us, as Turkish citizens, use YouTube in order to follow and share news while 34%, 34%, and 30% of us use Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook & WhatsApp respectively. So, what do journalists do on these media channels? How do they share their news? What reaction does their news receive? What is journalists’ reach? And how are production and presentation patterns of news in social media shaped?


This research, in the context of the questions above, focuses on the use practices of social networks by prominent journalists on Twitter and Instagram as of September 21st, 2021. The aim of the research is to understand whether these journalists make use of special methods in the way they use social media as well as to explore the differences regarding the content, form, and target audience of the posts between different networks, if the journalist is both active and popular in more than one social network. In order to achieve this, comprehensive research was conducted to examine the way 50 of the most followed journalists use their Twitter and Instagram accounts (the most followed 50 actors in the both channels were examined).


The highlights from the research are as follows;


  • Recognition in the traditional media is mostly reflected in the follower counts in social media. Journalists who are recognized well thanks to traditional media dominate the list of most followed journalists on Twitter and Instagram. 


  • Journalists who mostly produce political content on Twitter are among the dominant figures. They are followed by journalists mostly sharing tabloid, sports, theology, art, and culture contents.

  • Of the 50 most followed journalist accounts on Twitter, the majority were male (n=39) while only 11 were women. 


  • While journalists who share content on fashion, gossip, astrology, culture and art and travel make the list on Instagram, the ones that focus mostly on political content are still followed the most. These political journalists (12) are followed by journalists who are moderators or hosts on a TV programme (11) and gossip journalists (8). Journalists focusing on theology (4), fashion (3), travel (3), sports (1), education (1) and astrology (1) also make the list on Instagram. 


  • 56% and 76% of the observed accounts on Twitter and Instagram respectively share the information regarding their affiliated newspaper, YouTube channel, or institution in their bios.


  • While 88% of the observed accounts use Twitter for sharing both individual and professional content, 8% use their account only for individual posts, and 4% of them show the patterns of professional use. On the other hand, our analysis shows that Instagram is mostly used for individual/personal sharing. While 70% of the observed accounts use Instagram for sharing individual content, 20% of them use their account for sharing both individual and professional content. Only 10% of journalists use Instagram for professional purposes only. 


  • The Twitter disclaimer “views are my own, do not reflect the position of my institution” is not as common as it used to be. Journalists rather use “personal account” title on their accounts. 


  • When the interaction and follower rankings of the most followed journalists are compared, it can be seen that the most followed journalists are not among the most interacted journalists. A similar pattern can also be observed on Instagram. In other words, it seems that there is no meaningful relationship between the follower count and engagement rate. 

  • The common characteristics of all the most followed journalist accounts on Instagram is that, in addition to promoting their professional works, they are in a structure that puts their self-branding at the forefront, give importance to interaction, do not avoid personalization, and also share experiences and the moment. 


  • While 60% of the observed accounts on Twitter promote their self-branding, they also give importance to engagement, personalization, and sharing of the experience and moment. 36% of the accounts, on the other hand, can be called promoters since they routinely share their work.  Only 4% of the examined accounts have an approach that could be called humorous. 


  • Although the rate of audio material shared by journalists on Twitter is low, visual materials (such as videos, photographs) are shared frequently.


  • It was observed that the most followed journalists don’t tend to pay attention to Twitter features like Spaces. 


  • Audio material sharing on Instagram is low probably due to the nature of the medium. Existing audio material consists mostly of podcasts and song link posts. Many of these are shared in the form of stories with hyperlinks. 


  • The analysis of the Instagram bios reveals that only 46% of the observed accounts describe themselves as a journalist or author. While 32% of them don’t include any profession/social role in the bio, 20% of the observed accounts identify themselves with more than one profession/social role. Among these, the notable ones are public figures, influencers, travellers and counsellors.