Local Publishers Invest Resources into Facebook

Should Local Publishers Invest Resources into Facebook?

Facebook says it’s investing $300 million into local news, but should local publishers invest resources into Facebook?

When it comes to audience engagement, there is no questioning Facebook’s influence. With more than 2.3 billion monthly active users, Facebook now accounts for roughly 24% of all referral traffic to content publishers. Those figures are particularly impressive when looked at in comparison to other social networks, like Twitter, which accounts for just 3% of all referral traffic to content publishers

Facebook is a powerful resource for publishers looking to bring new readers into the fold. Decoding the best tactics and strategies for using Facebook to build an audience and increase reader engagement is a field unto itself. Still, the question remains, should local publishers invest resources into Facebook?

From a local publisher’s perspective, investing resources into Facebook can mean a few different things. It can mean spending the time it takes to fully utilize all of Facebook’s audience engagement tools, and implementing the best strategies for post promotion. It can also mean investing financial resources, including running paid advertising campaigns on the platform, and even hiring an in-house social media editor to create and publish posts on the platform.

From where we stand here at Web Publisher PRO, the answer is clear. Local publishers should absolutely be investing resources into Facebook. The platform’s size and power make it an obvious choice for publications looking to boost outreach. Although there is some debate over just how much power Facebook has over the local news industry, we believe that publishers are leaving money on the table when they ignore social media entirely.

Certain parts of Facebook’s platform may be more beneficial for publishers than others. For example, publishers seem to be having particular success with Facebook Video as of late. Facebook’s video tools are easy to access, and publishers that regularly publish video on Facebook (either pre-recorded or live) tend to have higher levels of engagement on their pages than those that do not.

Best Practices for Local Publishers on Facebook

While the decision to invest resources into Facebook is an obvious one for local publishers, questions still remain over how best to take advantage of social media for the purpose of improving audience engagement.

Facebook publishes its own set of best practices for publishers, but frequent changes to the platform’s News Feed algorithm that de-prioritize local publishers’ content are forcing publishers to take it up a notch.

Local publishers have two primary goals when it comes to Facebook. First, they want to get people seeing their content. Second, they want the people who see their content to click through to their websites.

Attracting views on Facebook alone isn’t enough for publishers looking for sustainable revenue. Whether the publisher’s business model is based on subscriptions or digital advertising, loyal on-site readers are still a requirement for success.

With that in mind, we recommend that publisher’s post excerpts of recent articles on Facebook, but still require readers to click-through to read the content of those article in their entireties. Headlines should be written in a way that leaves readers wanting more, not telling the complete story.

The savviest local publishers are finding creative ways to keep the readers who’ve found their publications through Facebook coming back for more. For example, local publishers are adding sign-up boxes on their Facebook pages, where people can sign-up to receive email newsletters. Regular email newsletters keep visitors in the loop, regardless of what future algorithm changes might have in store.

Publishers who are using Facebook as a way to foster loyalty should be encouraging readers to leave more comments and otherwise contribute to their publications through the social media platform, as well. For example, publishers could promote the top comment of the week in a separate post, or publicly thank frequent commenters on their social media profiles.

Because sharing is such an integral part of Facebook’s platform, publishers should consider rewarding readers who “share” their content by entering them into drawings or giving away a certain number of free subscriptions each month.

Investing in Facebook means coming up with a comprehensive strategy for deciding which types of content to publish on the platform. Rather than posting every article on Facebook, and inundating people’s News Feeds, we recommend that publishers post only their best work. By only creating Facebook posts for articles that are likely to get shared, publishers boost their position in Facebook’s algorithm. Facebook takes into account a publisher’s level of engagement across all posts when deciding how to distribute content, which means publishers who post indiscriminately, and get very few reactions, could be hurting their brands in the long run.

Questions to ask before investing resources into Facebook:

  • Why are you using Facebook?
  • What are you hoping to get from the platform?
  • Is paid advertising required to achieve your goals?
  • What is the absolute maximum you are willing to spend for reader acquisition?
Social Media Plugins for Publishers

Top 7 Social Media Plugins for News Publishers

Most Americans get their news through social media. So how do you make sure your news stories are being seen front and center? The easiest way is by adding social media plugins to your WordPress website.

If you’re a publisher with a WordPress website, then social media plugins can help you encourage readers to share your content on their own social channels, which increases your website’s visibility on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Roughly two-thirds of Americans now say they get their news on social media, according to Pew Research Center, with much of that content coming from the links posted by their friends, family, and other people they follow. When you find a way to get people sharing your stories on their own social media profiles, you expand your network and build awareness among consumers who could become regular readers, or even paying subscribers.

Of course, despite the upside to encouraging social sharing, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in this situation. To get the most bang for their buck, news publishers need to look at which features the top social media plugins offer and which mechanisms those plugins use to encourage readers to click “share.”

Here are 7 of the top social media plugins being used by news publishers right now.

Top Social Media Plugins for News Publishers

1. Monarch
The Monarch social sharing plugin was developed by the WordPress theme designer Elegant Themes, but its features and functionalities go beyond just aesthetics. With Monarch, publishers can choose from more than 20 social sharing networks to display on their websites, usually beside articles and other editorial content. Monarch’s plugin stands apart in its ability to let publishers create automatic sharing pop-ups that can be triggered by timed delays, such as when a reader reaches the end of an article or when a reader is about to click away from the website. Monarch actually offers six different automatic pop-ups and fly-ins, each with its own triggers, along with tools for displaying social follower counts and a dashboard for tracking stats and other data.

2. Sassy Social Share
Sassy Social Share is a simple plugin for news publishers who want to increase the number of times their articles, videos, and other content are shared by readers on social media. Sassy Social Share connects with more than 100 social sharing and bookmarking services, including Reddit, Pinterest, Whatsapp, and Tumblr. The plugin is GDPR compliant, and it is compatible with Gutenberg editor. It’s also compatible with myCRED and AMP, and it supports HTTPS enabled websites, although it does not work on local servers. The plugin includes free icon customization options, as well.

3. Social Snap
Social Snap calls itself the ultimate WordPress social media plugin. The plugin gives publishers full control over how and who shares their content on social media platforms. In addition to giving publishers a way to create and place customized share buttons anywhere on their websites, the plugin lets publishers choose from more than 30 social networks and apps when deciding where visitors should be allowed to share content. The way that shared content is displayed on the reader’s social media profile can be controlled by the publisher. Social Snap’s plugin also includes a share counter tool that tracks and displays share counts via API and click tracking.

4. WordPress to Buffer
For news publishers who use Buffer to schedule posts and analyze article performance, the WordPress to Buffer plugin is a no-brainer. One of the most recommended social media plugins for news publishers, the WordPress to Buffer plugin will automatically post scheduled articles, posts, pages, and custom post types to a publisher’s Buffer account for scheduled publishing on social networks. Like Buffer, the WordPress to Buffer plugin supports all the most popular social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. With the upgraded WordPress to Buffer Pro, publishers have access to additional features, including multiple, customizable status messages and separate options per social network.

5. Social Warfare
Like most of the other social media plugins on this list, Social Warfare’s WordPress plugin boasts an impressive number of social sharing buttons for publishers to choose from, along with the ability to select where those buttons should show up on any webpage. What really helps Social Warfare stand out, though, are the premium social sharing options available to publishers with Pro licenses. Pro license holders can customize how their content is shared through social media. For example, Social Warfare Pro users can decide exactly which images, titles, and descriptions appear when their content is shared on Pinterest or Facebook.

6. Yoast
Although Yoast is primarily known as an SEO plugin, the company’s WordPress plugin includes features designed to help publishers attract more visitors from social media platforms. For example, publishers with Premium accounts can see what their webpages will look like when they are shared on Facebook or Twitter, including whether the headline fits and whether the image that displays matches the article content. Another option, frequently used by news publishers, is to set a template to ensure any content posted to social media stands out and looks professional.

7. Better Click to Tweet
Publishers who have the goal of making it as easy as possible for readers to share their stories on Twitter can use the Better Click to Tweet plugin. The plugin gives publishers a way to create Click to Tweet boxes, which can be easily inserted at the bottom of articles and other website content using a short-code in the format. Better Click To Tweet gives users the maximum number of characters possible by working alongside other plugins to automatically shorten URLs. Advanced users, including developers and publishers who are comfortable with CSS, can take advantage of Better Click to Tweet’s custom styles and advanced options, like using nofollow links and eliminating the URL from tweets.

Social Media for Directory Publishers

The Ultimate Social Media Checklist for Directory Publishers

If you’ve got a solid SEO strategy in place and your online directory still isn’t ranking highly in Google search results, then a lack of social media awareness could be to blame.

Many directory publishers are under the impression that organic traffic alone is enough to sustain their businesses. That may be true in some cases, but the vast majority of directory publishers need to step it up with a solid social media strategy if they want to build momentum and generate sustainable revenue from their websites. The challenge in creating an effective social media plan is often knowing where to begin.

Building a social media profile for a traditional local business, like a restaurant or a clothing store, is easy. Plenty of tools are available to help small business owners do just that. But directory publishers have a unique set of challenges as the owners of online businesses, and specific goals that they need to reach before they can consider their social media efforts a success. Getting profiles set up across all the major social media channels is just the first step.

If the thought of scheduling posts on Twitter and running ads on Facebook leaves you feeling overwhelmed, or if you’re not even sure which social media tasks you should be doing in which order, then keep reading for a step-by-step social media checklist designed specifically for directory publishers.

First Steps for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers who are still in the earliest stages of creating a social media strategy should begin by completing the following tasks:

  • Creating profiles across all relevant social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn
  • Ensuring all branding, logos, and images are consistent across social profiles
  • Promoting new social pages with links on all directory pages, as well as in any email newsletters
  • Researching the best posting times to maximize post views based on target demographics and the social media channels you’re posting on
  • Promoting new social pages with paid advertising campaigns

Daily Social Media Activities for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers should be doing the following tasks every day:

  • Replying to comments across all social media channels
  • Monitoring mentions of the directory on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
  • Reviewing the established posting calendar
  • Researching industry-related keywords and hashtags

Weekly Social Media Activities for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers should be doing the following tasks at least once each week:

  • Brainstorming new content and updating the posting schedule for the week
  • Visiting competitors’ social media pages and tracking which of their posts are receiving the most interaction
  • Reviewing any paid campaigns and tracking the results

Monthly Social Media Activities for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers should be doing the following tasks on a monthly basis:

  • Collecting monthly statistics across all active social channels
  • Analyzing which strategies are working and which are not
  • Comparing monthly page statistics against competitors’
  • Researching upcoming industry events and related news items that could be used on social channels

Quarterly Social Media Activities for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers should be doing the following tasks at least four times per year:

  • Reviewing branding and remedying any inconsistencies across social channels (for example, updating profiles with new logos or company descriptions)
  • Evaluating the past quarter’s KPIs
  • Setting goals and defining KPIs for the next quarter
  • Using a tool like SEMrush’s Social Media Poster to understand the demographics of your Facebook audience
  • Running audience analysis to ensure the right demographics are being targeted with any paid campaigns

Our goal in creating this social media checklist for directory publishers is not to make anyone feel overwhelmed. By making these tasks a regular part of your routine, the hope is that you’ll be able to easily stay current with the latest trends and be more likely to reach your target goals, whatever those goals may be.

video content

The Latest Video Trends in Hyperlocal Publishing

The shift toward video is accelerating, as reader demand for video content on hyperlocal websites continues to grow. In order to keep pace, publishers need to get creative about how they adjust their content strategies to account for the latest video trends.

Internet video traffic already makes up more than 69% of all global consumer internet traffic. By next year, that figure is expected to grow another 11%.

In her 2018 Internet Trends Report, digital evangelist Mary Meeker took it one step further, predicting a sharp rise in mobile video usage and the emergence of new types of video content.

For hyperlocal publishers, that means the time to start researching the latest video trends and investing in online video production is now.

What are the latest video trends for hyperlocal publishers?

1. Sounds-free videos
Publishers love to put their top reporters on screen, or have them talking off camera as they narrate videos and discuss the day’s latest events. But video analytics show that relying too heavily on audio is a mistake.

Videos played on Facebook, Instagram, and a number of other social video platforms, have the sound switched off by default, and incredibly, 85% of video views on the Facebook platform are played with the sound off.

Creativity goes a long way in overcoming this obstacle for hyperlocal publishers. For example, publishers can use overlaid text or captions to let viewers know what their videos are about without having to turn on the sound. An even better idea is for publishers to start creating videos that rely more on images than audio to tell their stories in a dramatic way.

2. Viewers prefer digestible content
When the social media monitoring service NewsWhip looked at the top 50 video creators on Facebook, the company found that just five were news publishers. Looking more closely at those five news publishers, and the types of videos they post, provides insight into which types of news videos are most likely to spur viewer engagement.

In its analysis, NewsWhip found that the most successful news videos were short videos that were either feel-good or funny. Videos that were “quick” and “digestible” saw higher-than-average levels of engagement, as well.

3. Including video with social media posts
Video is still the most engaging format on Facebook.

In 2018, 92% of the most engaging posts on Facebook included videos. That’s a major change from 2016, when just 35% of the most engaging posts included videos.

Publishers should take heed of this shifting trend as they plan their social media strategies. Facebook posts that include a short blurb and image—often the de facto style for most news organizations—generate much less engagement than posts that include original video content.

4. Facebook Live drives engagement
Reporters working for hyperlocal news websites should be very familiar with Facebook Live. The live streaming video tool, which is built into the Facebook platform, offers a way to marry edited videos with real-time, live-streamed content.

Thankfully for news publishers, breaking news stories are among the most-watched content on Facebook Live. Sporting events, fires and natural disasters, and community rallies are just a few of the many types of events that reporters can live-stream as a way to bring readers into the action.

With Facebook Live, expensive cameras, and other recording equipment, are totally unnecessary. Reporters can start up their own live streams using nothing more than a smartphone.

5. Strong emotions equal strong performance
In an analysis of the top performing videos from news publishers, NewsWhip found that videos with strong emotions generated the most views and engagement. In these videos, the dominant emotion was either sympathy or joy (feel-good videos).

Local publications are ripe with stories about sympathetic figures—families in distress, school children raising funds, small businesses struggling to survive—many of which could make for excellent video content.

Publishers should be asking reporters to bring along video cameras when they meet with interview subjects, and recording their interviews or b-roll footage to include with future social media posts. Each of these videos should include a strong caption that shares the most poignant aspect of the story. (For example, “Watch this toddler hear for the first time with hearing aids.”)

Engagement data tells us that digital video, and mobile video in particular, is growing at an incredible rate. The sooner news organizations can get in on the latest video trends, by producing and distributing their own original content, the stronger foothold they will have in the fast-paced publishing community.

Audience development

Audience Development: 6 Do’s & Don’ts for Local Publishers

Audience development is about more than blindly pursuing eyeballs and clicks across as many platforms as possible. As more independent publishers move to generate revenue through subscription and membership programs, there’s been a renewed interest in cultivating the right type of audience—that is, a loyal audience that’s willing to pay for monthly subscriptions to their favorite news websites.

Just a small proportion of readers drive most traffic and profit to digital news outlets. According to data from Piano, a business platform for digital media, just 7% of monthly unique visitors drive half (50%) of traffic, on average. Piano calls these visitors “super fans,” but publishers know them as paying subscribers.

Although Piano found that there are 9x as many one-off visitors as loyal visitors on news websites, loyal visitors still generate twice as many page views. Importantly, Piano also found that when it comes to paid subscriptions, number of page views is among the best predictors of conversion.

Cultivating a loyal audience, and turning one-off visitors into loyal fans, is easier when your website covers a topic that readers feel passionately about, which is the case for so many hyperlocal news publications. But it still requires that publishers identify potential readers and find ways to ensure those targeted readers are reaching their publications.

Here are six do’s and don’ts to consider.

Do … utilize social channels to drive revenue.

There’s been a lot of talk about how Facebook’s news feed change will impact local publishers. Despite the changes, Facebook and Google continue to be major drivers of revenue for many local news organizations. Social media is often the first place where readers encounter an article, making this an important piece of the puzzle for publishers. Distributing content on social media means more than just writing tweets. In today’s environment, it means tending to comments, programming social media channels, and looking for new ways to take advantage of user generated content.

Don’t … forget to load up articles with multimedia content.

Multimedia content has been one of the keys to the New York Times’ success in audience development as of late. The Times frequently embeds documents, podcasts, maps, and interactive charts in its articles. For example, a recent article about the Harvey Weinstein scandal included an embedded statement from Weinstein along with a supplemental podcast. Although The Times is tight-lipped about the exact percentage of its articles that contain multimedia content, the number is at least in the double digits.

Do … consider a website redesign.

Of course content is always important in determining how long readers spend on a publisher’s site, but design shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Forbes increased its average website session length by almost 40% and increased impressions per session by 10% when it redesigned its mobile site in 2017. USA Today’s redesigned mobile site, with its Facebook-like appearance, increased the time spent per article by 75%.

Don’t … do it alone.

There’s a reason why so many major news outlets are hiring audience development specialists right now. Expanding an audience and deepening engagement is hard work, and it isn’t something that most editors and website publishers can do by themselves. Outside experts can be brought in to teach reporters and editors the latest SEO strategies, along with the best tactics for utilizing social media, mobile apps, and engaging with readers in comments sections. Independent publishers should also be on the lookout for outside distribution partners.

Do … bring back the comments section.

Local publishers have had a tempestuous relationship with comments sections. On one hand, comments can grow unwieldy and they can be difficult to moderate. But from an audience development perspective, comments sections provide a golden opportunity to engage with readers and cultivate a loyal following. Comments sections make readers feel connected to the publication, they’re a fantastic tool for encouraging user generated content, and they can even be a resource for journalists looking for new story ideas and sources of information. For publishers using WordPress, a number of plugins are available to streamline the process of setting up and managing a website commenting section.

Don’t … get too caught up in page views

Page views and unique visits are valuable metrics, but they don’t paint a complete picture for news sites. When it comes to audience development, publishers should be looking at how many pages their visitors go through on average per visit. This is a more useful indicator of how interested an audience is in a news product, and it can guide editorial teams as they look for new ways to maintain their current audience and attract new followers.

If you’re interested in discussing how we can help with audience engagement and development, please reach out to David Walsh, Web Publisher PRO’s founder.

Twitter Strategies for Local News Publishers

5 Best Twitter Strategies for Local News Publishers

Facebook’s recent decision to prioritize family and friends over publishers in its News Feed is causing many news organizations to re-think their social media strategies. With an expected decrease in Facebook traffic comes a renewed interest in Twitter strategies for local news publishers.

Although Twitter is a fraction of Facebook’s size—the network accounts for just 3% of referral traffic to content publishers, versus 23% coming from Facebook—it still plays an important role within the larger information ecosystem. Twitter is most popular among highly educated Internet users, and 74% of its users get news from the site. That number has increased significantly in recent years, up from just 52% in 2013 and 59% in 2016.

Putting more resources into Twitter, and other social networking platforms means less reliance on Facebook for referrals, which puts publishers on more solid footing regardless of which algorithm changes Facebook decides to implement in the future.

Below, we’ve put together a list of the best Twitter strategies for local news publishers.

1. Be creative with article promotion.

It’s not enough to just copy and paste an article headline and link into a tweet anymore. The competition for attention across social media is too great. For maximum clicks and engagement, writers need to get creative in thinking of ways to promote their own work. A few ideas:

  • Paste the subhead from the article into the tweet, instead of the headline.
  • Tweet an interesting quote or an excerpt from the article.
  • Tag anyone who is mentioned in the article.
  • Pose an enticing question with a link for followers to find out the answer.
  • Include trending hashtags, just so long as they’re relevant to the topic.
  • Ask readers a question that’s related to the article.
  • Send a tweet asking for reader comments on a newly-posted article.

2. Schedule multiple tweets for each article.

The secret to generating traction on an article is repetition, especially on a platform like Twitter, where news can easily be scrolled through and missed altogether. Instead of repeating the same tweet multiple times, have writers promote each of their articles in several different ways. Try using the creative suggestions above as inspiration.

Here’s an example of how a single article might be promoted in three different tweets.

      • The first tweet about could be the article’s subhead and a direct link:
        “How every Senator voted on ending the government shutdown https://t.co/oLx3z6dewb
      • The second tweet could include an excerpt from the article:
        “The Senate advanced a temporary spending bill that would end the government shutdown. https://t.co/oLx3z6dewb
      • The third tweet could be an enticing question for readers:
        “How did your Senator vote on Monday’s spending bill? https://t.co/oLx3z6dewb”

3. Repurpose multimedia content.

Text-on-screen news videos and other forms of multimedia content originally intended for Facebook and Instagram should be repurposed for Twitter whenever possible. In addition to video, publishers should utilize images, GIFs, and polls in their tweets to maximize engagement.

A tweet that is sent without any visual content attached is a missed opportunity. Tweets with images have three to four times higher engagement rates than those without. Images that combine text layered on top of a photo or design perform the best, since they tend to slow users down as they scroll through their feeds.

4. Take advantage of Twitter’s speed.

The best thing about Twitter is how quickly users can send messages. Encourage writers and editors to tweet live during breaking news events (including city council meetings) or give instant updates as they’re working on interesting stories. Twitter is the least time consuming of the social networks, from a user’s perspective, making it a great place for writers to share tidbits and behind-the-scenes anecdotes from their reporting that might not otherwise make it into print.

5. Use Twitter as a promotional tool.

At least once a day, send a tweet that encourages followers to sign up for an email newsletter or become a paying subscriber. Promotional tweets can be short and simple, but they should ideally include an image to attract attention and a direct link to a landing page or sign up form where readers can take further action.

Compared to some of its peers, Twitter is a much more straightforward social networking platform. That means writers and editors should be able to utilize it multiple times during the course of each day’s work. Gaming the system truly isn’t necessary, so long as digital news organizations are following the most widely accepting Twitter strategies for local news publishers.

Facebook for traffic generation

5 Ways for Publishers to Convert Traffic from Social Channels

How should publications convert followers on their social media channels into loyal readers on their websites? It’s a question even the most successful hyperlocal publishers have grappled with, as they search for successful strategies to convert traffic from social channels.

Finding an answer isn’t easy, in part because the social networks are working so hard to keep people in. Even while platforms like Twitter are promoting news streaming partnerships with major media outlets, and YouTube is adding breaking news to its homepage, local publishers are still left with the task of figuring out how to convert traffic from social channels and entice readers over to their sites.

Here are five strategies that publishers should implement to convert traffic from social channels.

1. Share early and often across social media.

Although Facebook is a dominant platform in terms of local news consumption, it’s hardly the only online channel that readers are visiting on a regular basis. The moment a new article goes live, publishers (along with reporters and editors) should be sharing the link across all their social channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and possibly LinkedIn. Ideally, links to stories should be shared according to a daily publishing schedule, with an average of 3 to 10 posts going up on the publication’s own Facebook accounts and by individual editors or reporters throughout the course of a day. Publishers should be tweeting at least five times a day and posting to Instagram at least 1.5 times a day for maximum exposure.

2. Post messages that are native to each channel.

Taking the time to learn about what readers on each channel are looking for, and how they interact with content online, can pay dividends in the long run. Changing up the tone and adding a compelling image that’s suited to the channel can result in an increased number of click-throughs and engagement. In fact, social media posts with images create 650% more engagement than text posts, according to research by Adobe. Instagram and Snapchat tend to have younger audiences than Facebook and Twitter, so the tone of posts on those channels should skew slightly younger. A quick looks at which posts are generating the most engagement on each social channel can offer some good insights into which type of messaging will be most successful.

3. Leave people wanting more.

The ideal social media posting gives readers enough information to be interested in an article, but not so much that they don’t have a reason to click-through for more information. The key here is to leave people hanging. The best way to convert traffic from social channels is to leave readers with a cliffhanger or a question that can only be answered on the publisher’s own site. For example, a tweet that’s promoting an article about a recent robbery might say, “Thieves broke into XYZ Toy Store last night. See what evidence they left behind. [LINK]” The message gives readers enough information to let them know what event happened, but still requires them to click-through to the website for the full story.

4. Share content multiple times—but don’t be a spammer.

The return on investment—or effort, in this case—is greater when publishers share articles multiple times. Content intelligence tools like Chartbeat are useful for understanding the ideal number of times content should be shared for maximum distribution. For publishers who don’t have an account, a simple review of analytics should suffice. Most publishers find that three is the magic number, as far as how many times an individual article should be shared across social media. But be careful. Posting outdated content, or spamming people by sending the same message twic, as a way to convert traffic from social channels is a plan that could backfire.

5. Join relevant groups or create new ones.

Online groups that center around shared interests can be an excellent place for publications to find and interact with readers would could potentially become loyal advocates. More than 1 billion people use Facebook Groups, so this channel can be a great place to begin. Join a few active groups centered around local issues—most communities already have groups set up to discuss neighborhood crime, for example—or start a new group. To successfully convert traffic from social channels in this way, publishers should set themselves up as sources of reliable, accurate information. In addition to building up their profiles within the communities they cover, groups on Facebook and LinkedIn can also be a great source for background information and ideas for future stories.

Social Media Strategy for Publishers

Building a Social Media Strategy – A Step-by-Step Guide for Publishers

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.