One of the conversations I’ll be having with my new editorial leaders this spring in preparation for next year is how we can use social media more effectively. While my students spend their time using social media for their personal lives, that use hasn’t translated into them always using it effectively for our publications. Too often for my staff, social media has been an afterthought, but for next year’s staff, social media will be a part of every planning and publishing conversation.
Strategy #1: Get more Twitter followers and Facebook fans
We know from studying our analytics that Facebook drives the vast majority of our traffic, so it’s important that we continue our efforts to get more fans for our Facebook page. My staff currently has 1213 likes, a respectable number for a school with enrollment under 1000, but when I consider that the number has grown by less than 100 in the past year, and there were 225 new freshmen in the school this year, it’s clear there was an opportunity missed. Every year, my staff needs to make a concerted effort to get new people in the community to connect with us via social media. And I’m going to continue to offer the bribe of donuts for every 100 likes they get.
Strategy #2: Keep pushing content to our social media followers
Pushing content to Facebook nearly always results in a traffic spike, and we need to make sure that we push the content at key Facebook times. Our student body tends to be on Facebook the most between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., so that’s when we need to be the most active in distributing our content there. We also get a fair amount of traffic from Twitter, so we need to continue pushing stories there as well.
Strategy #3: Start micro-pushing content to specific followers
When one of our Twitter or Facebook followers is mentioned or quoted in one of our articles, we need to make sure we let them know that we’ve published the story by tagging or mentioning them in a social media post. Hopefully, then, that person will reshare or retweet the story and push our content to their friends and followers.
Strategy #4: Use social media for two-way conversations
Right now, my students regularly push our web content to our social media audience, but I want them to engage their audience and use social media as a place to gather story ideas and sources. Too often students pick interviewees based on convenience––they find others who are free during the same time they are, who sit next to them in class, or whom they’re already comfortable talking to. They could substantially broaden their base of interviewees by using the staff Twitter account to find sources, but we can’t engage the audience on Twitter until after we connect with them.
Strategy #5: Allow social media to be its own content delivery platform.
Instead of embedding Instagram photos, tweets, and Facebook feeds on our website, we’re going to work to understand how each of these platforms can be used effectively in its own right. During the big state championship game, we can embed our Twitter feed on our website, but our audience isn’t going to be refreshing our website hoping to read our Twitter feed. If they’re receiving our sports updates, their only Internet access is probably through a smartphone, and they’ll be checking Twitter itself, not our website. Likewise, our followers of Instagram don’t check our website for our latest Instagram photos — they’ll have already seen them because they probably check Instagram way more often than they check our site.
Because our audience is on Facebook so often, we’re also going to do more to deliver content there that doesn’t necessarily link back to our website. If Facebook is the best place to share a news update or a photo, then we’ll put it there rather than our website.
Strategy #6: Expand the reach of our Instagram account
We used to post a photo of the day on our website, but we dropped it this year after the photography editor realized how much more effective Instagram was. With Instagram, it only takes a matter of seconds to take a picture, caption it, and publish it––much quicker than the process of getting the photo onto our WordPress site. Instagram is built for a photo stream, so rather than trying to replicate this with our website, we’re letting our Instagram account be its own thing. As with any social network, the key is to get more followers in order to make it useful. We need to follow the Instagram accounts of any student in school, and hopefully they’ll follow us back. We will also cross-post our Instagram photos to Twitter in order to help build our base of Instagram followers.
Strategy #7: Continue running multiple Twitter accounts
We have a main Twitter account for our staff, but we also run a separate Twitter account for play-by-play sports updates. Our sports Twitter account has been one of our strongest uses of social media tools this year––it’s provided a way for real-time interaction and news delivery. This year, they did a great job covering the big games, but we need to expand this next year so that it’s not just about our big spectator sports. One night this winter my students were tweeting updates from two different sporting events at the same time, and this was a glimpse of what we need to do next year. I’d love to see them providing updates more regularly from more sports.
A Twitter account with too many updates can drive away followers, so we don’t expect its following base to grow beyond those who are interested in heavy sports updates. We’ll use our main Twitter account to retweet the final scores from our sports Twitter account to our broader audience.
Strategy #8: Remember to use our Google Plus account
My students aren’t interested in using Google Plus as a social network, but as the largest search engine in the world gives preference to links and stories that are posted here, it’ll be well worth our time to post links to our stories on our Google Plus account.
Strategy #9: Establish a Pinterest presence
We have a fashion page in our print edition, and occasionally we run a fashion story on the web, but Pinterest is a much better platform for writing and posting about fashion. And people who are interested in fashion are probably already on Pinterest, so that’s where we need to be too.
Strategy #10: Keep an eye out for emerging social media platforms
We need to watch for any platform that emerges among our audience. If we start to notice that our student body is on Tumblr, then we’ll need to go there as another place we can connect with our potential readers. While Vine hasn’t taken off with our students yet, we’re going to experiment with this new platform next year and treat it much the way we have Instagram this year. Its 6-second videos will be a great way to capture a sense and spirit of the school in a way that just isn’t possible on our website. While it won’t tell the full story, it will provide another layer to the rest of our coverage.