FRONT OFFICE WITH MARY COLLINS

How To Make The Most Of Social Media

Traditional media must recognize that having a social media strategy is essential for remaining competitive. Stations can’t take advantage of their ability to deliver a large base of engaged consumers to advertisers if they themselves aren’t engaging in the type of social media campaigns that we’re seeing at the network level. In addition, social media is quickly replacing email as a form of interacting with consumers, particularly when it comes to 18-34 year olds.

While the shift from measuring eyeballs to measuring engagement was expected to signal the decline of television’s relevance, a funny thing happened on the way to the digital media forum. As it turns out, the medium that knew how to compete for eyeballs in the analog world also has a lot to offer marketers looking to engage consumers through social media. 

Not only does television viewing still dominate primetime activity, the multitasking that occurs during TV watching is largely focused on television programming. As USA Today’s Jefferson Graham reported earlier this spring, the most popular apps for people watching television are the ones that allow them to share their ideas with friends or vote on the outcome of a reality TV show. 

In fact, Graham noted that the social media research firm Trendrr found that posting comments about TV shows on Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms grew 194% from April 2011 to April 2012.To give an example of how many households are represented by this growing phenomenon, Graham observes that “CBS says it has 160 million followers; ABC, 86 million; CW, 50 million; and NBC, 48 million.”

What I found particularly instructive was the following comment in Graham’s column from Mark Ghuneim, CEO of Trendrr: “If you had to hire a marketing company to get one million people to talk about your show, I don’t know what it would cost,” he says. “Here, it happens organically.”

This viewpoint was shared by a number of presenters at MFM/BCCA’s Media Finance Focus 2012 whose job is to connect advertisers with digital media solutions that can deliver a measurable return on their investment. 

“They wish they were you; our clients are looking for a social media solution and they need traffic in order for their investments in social media to have any value,” advised Nick Ring, co-founder and COO of social media management company Engaging Social.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

Ring and John Klingelhoets, the firm’s CTO, spoke with our annual conference attendees about the work they have been doing with TV stations to optimize the effectiveness of social media campaigns that are designed to boost viewer engagement levels for both the station and its advertisers.I thought you might be interested in seeing what they recommend based on their experience in this area.

Their advice begins with encouraging traditional media businesses to recognize that having a social media strategy is essential for remaining competitive. Stations can’t take advantage of their ability to deliver a large base of engaged consumers to advertisers if they themselves aren’t engaging in the type of social media campaigns that we’re seeing at the network level. In addition, social media is quickly replacing email as a form of interacting with consumers, particularly when it comes to 18-34 year olds.

According to Ring and Klingelhoets, there’s a common myth that everyone sees everything that is posted. The average person on Facebook has 130 friends and each of them posts an average 2.5 times per day, resulting in more than 325 posts. That’s not including the number of instances where friends are posting their likes and shares.

For this reason, Facebook uses the EdgeRank algorithm (affinity X weight X time decay = EdgeRank) to govern what is displayed (and how high) on the News Feed. Facebook measures affinity between users and pages by monitoring their interactions, which include such actions as likes, comments, clicks, shares and wall posts, as well as anything else that can be measured tangibly. 

Using this measurement, companies that infrequently send feeds and updates can be rated lower than if they never posted. Alternatively, a company’s EdgeRank can be penalized for sending too many updates. For example, hourly updates can reduce the weight of individual messages by stifling how much time was available for sharing it before the next message was posted. 

Timing is another consideration for increasing the effective use of posts. Social media activity peaks at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.The average post falls off the list after about three hours, according to the experts. 

In light of these findings, Engaging Social recommends that its clients post messages at 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. to ensure their message are available during the peak usage periods and are then refreshed as the interest in them declines. “Let users do the work and it will increase your score,” Rink advises. He also suggests that stations use their Twitter accounts as a more effective social media tool for posting updates more frequently.

With respect to content, the research finds that the top four drivers for fostering engagement involve asking questions, posting photos and videos, providing links and effective text; while the top three forms of corresponding engagement by viewers will be expressed in comments, sharing and likes. With their experiences in writing engaging news headlines, media companies have a distinct advantage in posting the type of headlines and copy that can attract attention and foster reactions and sharing.

“Don’t send it and forget it,” Rink advised. “Be sure to monitor the activity and respond to questions. You need to keep it sustained or your page will tank.”

Added Klingelhoets, “Think of social media the way you think about SEO [search engine optimization]. You are out to drive engagement. It’s how you incent people to come and see your content.”

Ring and Klingelhoets also described examples where stations are harnessing their ability to attract mass audiences in order to drive engagement and sales for their local advertisers. In one instance involving a $10 gift certificate, a local restaurant gained 500 fans on Facebook and in the first week of its on-air promotion had more than 200 of them come in and spend an average of $37.   

Christine DiStadio, director of dgital media at Belo Corp.’s KHOU Houston, shared a number of additional examples on the ways stations are incorporating social media into their ad sales offerings in her guest column How To Make Social Media A Revenue Stream, which was featured in TVNewsCheck’s Sales Office section. As DiStadio observed, “Businesses don’t necessarily need a social media profile on every social media platform. They need us to help determine what combination best delivers the audience they are trying to reach.”

It’s also interesting that we are hearing about these successes in social media marketing at a time when there is renewed speculation about the value of local broadcasting. While I will leave the conversation about the broadcasting’s value to the public interest to others, I can’t help but be reminded of its sustained value to local economies since its inception. A medium that owes much of its early history to entrepreneurs who recognized its ability to sell goods and services can thank our current generation of entrepreneurial-minded executives for showing its continued, and perhaps even greater, relevance in the digital media world.

I am very interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic. In addition to the comments section here on TVNewsCheck, LinkedIn users can post them under the “Using Social Media” discussion in the Media Financial Management Association group. On Twitter, include @MediaFinance in your tweet.

Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary. Her column appears in TVNewsCheck every other week. You can read her earlier columns here.