Two-thirds of adults in the U.S. now get their news from social media, and younger adults are even more likely to name social media as a main source of information. While major media outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post have the budgets to hire social media strategists and take full advantage of the opportunities within platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, local publishers are often left to figure out how to build a social media strategy on their own.
More than just a channel for self-promotion or one-way communication, social media has the potential to become a tool for collaborative reporting and curating content, as well as an endless source of story ideas for local reporters looking for the next great scoop. For publishers who have figured out how to monetize social media, platforms like Facebook and Twitter can also become new sources of revenue.
What is a social media strategy?
The best social media strategies involve some combination of a comprehensive overview and a day-to-day action plan. For publishers, a comprehensive overview should be a written plan that includes the organization’s goals for social media—for example, increasing reader contributions, bringing in new subscribers, or creating a new source of revenue—along with a specific plan of action for achieving those goals.
Developing a social media strategy isn’t always as simple as it seems. Depending on the size of the publication, multiple departments may need to be involved. Marketing, sales, and editorial teams should work collaboratively to come up with a synergistic plan that improves efficiencies when it comes to the type of content being posted across whichever social channels the publication decides to utilize.
When should the sales department get involved?
Developing a social media strategy that’s solely focused on optimizing traffic to the publisher’s website is shortsighted. Independent publishers who are focused on the bottom line will want to get their sales and marketing departments involved in the process, as well.
Independent news websites can easily include sets of sponsored social media posts as part of the ad packages they sell, just as long as the advertisement is clearly labeled. Selling these types of packages will become easier as the publisher’s editorial and marketing departments execute their parts of the social media strategy and build up a large organic following across multiple social channels.
How can social media be integrated into the workflow?
A well thought-out social media strategy shouldn’t be a burden to reporters or members of the publication’s marketing team. One of the biggest mistakes publishers make is coming up with a strategy that reporters are expected to execute without providing those reporters with any tools or plans for streamlining those new tasks.
Integrating a social media strategy into the workflow for editorial, marketing, and sales teams usually means introducing one or more new technology platforms. From simple solutions like Hootsuite, which reporters can use to schedule posts on social media, to platforms like Sprout Social, which publishers can use to visualize publishing calendars, manage digital assets, and determine the optimal time to post on each social network, there are hundreds—if not thousands—of solutions to choose from.
Outlets that publish on WordPress have the additional benefit of being able to use plugins to streamline the social media workflow. For example, publishers can use the Instant Articles for WP plugin to efficiently distribute content on Facebook. SumoMe is another vendor with a WordPress plugin that makes it easy for web visitors to share a publisher’s content on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.
What are realistic goals?
While it’s true that social media can drive traffic to local news websites, publishers have to be realistic. Expectations should take timeframe and budget into consideration. An independent publisher who isn’t willing to invest significantly in social media isn’t going to see the same type of immediate results as a major news outlet with hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on sponsored posts across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
With a strong social media strategy in place, however, local online publishers can expect to see an uptick in brand awareness, website traffic, and positive sentiment among readers. These are all metrics that should lead to a positive return on investment, and they’re much more indicative of a successful social media strategy than the number of ‘likes’ or followers that an organization accumulates. Publishers who are getting their sales departments involved should also start tracking the number of sales inquires and leads coming in each month, as these figures should start increasing, as well.