WGAL Dominates Social In Harrisburg, Pa.

Hearst-owned WGAL has a walloping lead over its local competition on social media in the Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, Pa., market according to Shareablee data. Its news director says that maintaining the station’s brand identity as tightly on social as it does on air has given it the edge.

In the Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, Pa., DMA (43), Hearst’s WGAL enjoys a commanding lead. The NBC affiliate had more than 2 million of the market’s overall 7.6 million total actions over the past six months according to data from audience insight firm Shareablee.

WGAL had 26% of the market’s overall engagement in that period. Its closest rival was Advance’s with a distant 1.03 million actions.

On individual platforms, WGAL beat local competitors handily on Facebook and Twitter, but it was smacked down on Instagram by, which had over 91,000 actions there in the period.

WGAL also led the DMA in fans/followers with almost 356,000, though Media’ General’s WHTM (ABC) is nipping at its heels with over 333,000.

Daniel O’Donnell, the station’s news director, says a ramped-up use of video content on Facebook — particularly live streaming — is helping to move the needle. As to Facebook Live, which WGAL uses almost daily, he says: “We know almost instantly if something is delivering and working.”

O’Donnell cites local contributions to the Hearst-wide State of Addiction series as particularly strong performing videos, and heading into the summer severe weather season, meteorologist-led videos are also viewer favorites.


He says that the across the newsroom there’s a deep bench of solid hitters on Facebook, and that Hearst does a lot of social support and training to keep it so. Still, investigative reporter Susan Shapiro, who does a sideline in cooking posts, and morning anchor Kim Lemon, who posts often on personally-important issues, rise above.

“People who bring a little of themselves to the social platform stand out,” O’Donnell says.

As appreciative as he is of Facebook’s immediacy and engagement potential, however, O’Donnell is more reserved on its impact than peers at other stations leading socially in their markets.

“It hasn’t changed the basic things that work, which are good storytelling and reporting,” he says.

And while content does need to be made to fit specific platforms like Facebook, “your brand is your brand wherever it is.

“We are not one version of ourselves on air and another version online and in social,” O’Donnell says. “At the base of it, we’re just doing what we’ve done since we signed on air.”


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