As detailed by Digiday’s Lucinda Southern, the FT, which has invested heavily in its digital efforts, grew the number of followers on Instagram from 40,000 last year to over 286,000 today.

And it has strong momentum, with thousands of new followers being added every day.

What has enabled the FT to grow its follower ranks on Instagram so substantially? The answer: “chart porn.”

Southern explains:

Last week, for instance, [the FT] posted two charts and one graphic to the platform. One on Microsoft’s share price reaching an all-time high since since its IPO was the most liked Instagram image of that day with 1,400 likes.

It also featured a graphic on how debates have historically affected the U.S. presidential campaign and a chart on the space journey of the Schiaparelli probe.

These are a mix of charts taken from the paper, or made specifically for social media, which have a different color-scheme and a black background.

The FT isn’t trying to translate its Instagram content to referral traffic to its site, at least directly. Instead, the FT is trying to differentiate itself by using a platform like Instagram in a unique way.

“It’s important to make sure we’re not just joining in with what other publications are doing, that we have our distinct voice and identity,” FT social media journalist Jake Grovum told Digiday.

That approach seems to be resonating with Instagram users.

For example, a graphic detailing the world’s busiest airports by passenger traffic generated over 1,300 likes in a day, and a video animated chart showing US household income in 2014 dollars had produced more than 15,000 views within 24 hours of being posted. 

Success in unexpected places

According to FT’s Grovum, “we post things that are not necessarily Instagram-friendly, like a chart on how US and UK bonds have performed.”

But is it possible that companies like the FT are making assumptions about what’s Instagram-friendly and not?

After all, if the FT’s content is attracting attention on Instagram, and even occassionally topping its daily charts for likes, it’s hard to argue that the content isn’t Instagram-friendly.

Instead, it seems more appropriate to argue that the demand for a wide variety of content on Instagram, including charts, has been underestimated.

That could be good news not just for publishers like the FT, but for other players in the financial services industry, including firms like Goldman Sachs, which has its own in-house content studio producing digital content intended to help the financial services giant connect with the public online.

Obviously, the ROI calculus for financial services publishers and firms using Instagram isn’t as straightforward as the calculus applicable to consumer brands.

But that doesn’t necessarily matter given that for many of these entities, higher brand exposure and public engagement have significant value in and of themselves.