‘Doing social media’ doesn’t just mean sharing your articles on Facebook and Twitter, and hoping for the best.
It’s about building your brand, getting audiences engaged, and even creating a community.
Each platform has different audiences, and you need to create a strategy to make sure you’re reaching the right people with the right content.
As all good journalists should, start with asking the Ws and H:
- Who are you targeting?
- How do you reach them?
- What content do they like?
- When are they online?
- Where are they?
Demographic information about social network users is available from organisations like Ofcom.
But it’s also worth doing an audit of your competitors – how are they using social media? What kind of engagement (likes, shares, comments) are they getting?
You won’t believe what happens next…
Clickbait headlines are designed to generate web traffic. Get people to click through from social media onto the website, to read or watch something that’s never as exciting as the headline suggests.
Well more web traffic can mean more advertising revenue. Or you get to present an impressive looking report to your managers saying ‘look how many clickthroughs I got!’.
But page views alone are not enough – the time someone is on that page, and if they leave your website without visiting any other pages, are much more valuable indicators.
Get people to visit your website, read your article, then want to read more? That’s success.
The Pool, like many news organisations, mainly uses Facebook as a place to share articles and get web traffic:
But if you really want to engage with your audience, you shouldn’t be afraid of giving away the crux of the story on their preferred social media platform.
If your business relies solely on your audience actually being on your website, then you need to find some more income sources!
Taking the story to the audience
The BBC has the luxury of not worrying about income sources to a certain extent, and that means they get to take some risks and experiment with different platforms.
BBC News was very quick to use Instagram for captioned news videos, but in the early days they relied on putting a short URL in the description for people to go and read the full story. Now you only need to watch the Instagram video. They also use Stories extensively.
Like The Pool, BBC News mainly uses Facebook to simply share links to articles.
The main BBC Twitter accounts normally post a combination of breaking news and sharing links to articles, while BBC journalists use the platform as a reporting tool – particularly effective for reporting from a developing story or from court.
But this year, BBC Africa did something extraordinary on Twitter.
Read the whole thread:
Plan, measure, analyse
Hopefully it’s clear that social media can’t just be an afterthought.
‘Editor, my article’s live on the site now.’ ‘Great, post a link on Facebook then.’
Instead, you need to integrate it into your story planning from the start. How do we want to cover this story on the site? Do we want video, audio, infographics, storyboard format? Who’s the main audience for this story, who’s going to be interested? Right, what platforms do they use? Do they like video? Great, we’ll cut a 45-second video with captions for Snapchat. Etc etc.
‘Editor, my story’s live on the site, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn now.’ ‘Great, time for the pub.’
But you can’t just leave it there. For a start – you need to be checking and responding to comments. You might even come across a follow-up, or you can add to and update your story throughout the day. You also need to know whether all this effort was worth your time and creative energy. When you have a business account/page/group/profile, you get access to analytics data about your posts. Who’s reading them, when they’re reading them, who’s engaging with them and so on. You can use that information to improve every single day and to set clear targets.
Facebook Blueprint is the company’s own learning platform, mainly aimed at advertisers, but it has some really useful guides to making the most of your Facebook Page and the analytics data you can access through it. Sprout Social has a free downloadable template you can use to do a competitor analysis.