WKRG Tops In Mobile-Pensacola Social

Nexstar’s CBS affiliate leads the Mobile, Ala.-Pensacola, Fla. DMA in total social actions over the last six months according to Shareablee data, while Sinclair ABC affil WEAR bypasses the station with slightly more fans/followers. An aggressive adoption of Facebook Live over the past few months has given WKRG the edge, its news director says.

WKRG is tops in Mobile, Ala.-Pensacola, Fla., among local media in overall social media actions over the last six months according to data from audience insight firm Shareablee. The Nexstar-owned CBS affiliate had more than 1.9 million total actions in that period, about 33% of the market’s overall 5.8 million actions.

Trailing behind it is Sinclair-owned ABC affil WEAR with over 1.3 million, though WEAR swings back to claim the market’s highest number of fans/followers at over 308,000.

On individual platforms, WKRG leads Facebook, while WEAR topped Twitter and WYCT-FM had the best performance on Instagram.

WKRG News Director Chris Best says his station began a Facebook Live blitz several months ago, and that has made all the difference.

“It’s woven into our culture,” he says. “Pretty much everyone in the newsroom is trained in how to do it.”

Best estimates that WKRG runs half a dozen live streams on a slow day and often many more. Facebook Live is a key part of its everyday coverage plans and often informs broadcast coverage decisions as certain stories strike a chord with online audiences.


Recently, for instance, a story about a woman attacked by her own pit bull became a viral hit. WKRG live-streamed the dog being removed from the house, and the video’s comments section exploded into a debate around the dangers or virtues of the breed. The video had more than 80,000 views and 1,800 comments and led to an on-air piece that was, in part, about the story’s own virality.

Live streams and on-air product converge in other ways, too. When the state’s governor recently resigned in scandal, for example, news cameras were staked out all over the statehouse to cover his final departure. A veteran WKRG political reporter had put herself where other cameras couldn’t go at the back door, however, and she had the exclusive shot as the governor left the building, one that was soon picked up by WKRG’s air.

Best has a few key moves in his Facebook Live playbook that have served the station well so far. First is frequency. “Do it often,” he says. “Let the viewers know it’s in your toolbox.”

Length is equally important. Streams that run only a few minutes won’t catch on, so Best advises to let it run at least 10 minutes to allow the viewership build up. “If you have 2,000 viewers, you try to keep it going and don’t let that audience go,” he says.

On the flip side, if only a couple of dozen viewers are staying with the feed, it’s probably time to kill it.

Best also says that stations don’t need to feed a stream with talk the whole time. People will watch a live breaking news scene unfold without unnecessary chatter laid on top of it. But that said, he advises keeping a constant eye on the comments coming in to make sure you’re addressing concerns or questions as they arise.

To those who might be skeptical of WKRG’s snug embrace of Facebook Live, Best emphasizes that it’s a key part of an endless strategy to drive viewers back to its own web, apps and air. “We have a digital-first philosophy, and the reality is we need to be where are viewers are,” he says, shrugging off cannibalization fears. “What I’m more worried about is somebody being there when we’re not.”

Best adds that for all Facebook Live has done to help WKRG vault its local position in social, he’s also ready for changes to drop in the near future that will call for a strategy pivot.

“It’s Facebook Live now,” he says, “but in six months it might be something else.”

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