Today, we’re speaking with the Essex Chronicle’s Digital Publisher Luke Jacobs.
Could you describe your company’s activity on social networks?
Our centre’s two newspapers, the Brentwood Gazette and the Essex Chronicle have separate accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Notably, the number of Facebook likes have grown to almost 9,500 for the Chronicle and more than 1,700 for the Gazette, which in turn opens our websites up to a new audience and drives traffic. For instance, one recent story, which attracted more 36,000 unique visitors, generated a massive 71% of its audience from Facebook. We use them to post news, pictures and competitions, and in turn we also use them to search for news stories, follow-up leads and tips. All reporters have access to the accounts to do this.
Even though we are first and foremost a newspaper, we have to vary the tone and content of our posts and tweets to make them more human, rather than just headlines, features such as caption competitions and appeals for weather/sunny pictures do well.
Also because of the increased importance of mobiles/tablets used by readers arriving at our content, we now tailor our posts to make them as shareable and mobile friendly – because the more shares, likes and retweets, the more traffic. Analysis has also shown us there are key times when people actually consume social media for news, which in turn can help us to plan for when to publish our stories on the websites and push them via social media.
Are there elements of your business now that would not have been possible without social media?
Although I wouldn’t go far as to say not possible, social media has certainly made things easier in a newsgathering sense. For example, recently when storms affected Essex a quick appeal on Facebook generated dozens of responses from people who had taken pictures. We were then able to quickly collate these into a gallery used online and in the Essex Chronicle. Similarly, whenever a crime/traffic incident takes place we can quickly zone in on certain Twitter users/locations simply by using a geocode or sign up and monitor Facebook groups to get local information. This would have been possible before but will have taken longer while the newsroom waiting for an email or a contact.
How has your relationship with your customers/clients changed with the dawn of social media?
Rather than changed it, it has also introduced the Chronicle and Gazette’s content to a whole new readership, some of whom would not generally buy copies of the newspapers. The penetration of the Chronicle’s Facebook likes is between 25 and 34, while the demographic of the paper’s circulation is older than that. For example those scouring their mobile phones for the latest news from Chelmsford or Brentwood know to check our Twitter feeds as we are the papers of record for those areas. We also have a lot of women and mothers who like and engage with our Facebook page, meaning we can tailor content specifically to them.
Which social media campaigns or accounts have really caught your eye recently?
Our colleagues at the Derby Telegraph ran a successful ‘according to you’ series, where they asked readers to come up with their favourite chip shop/picnic spot, before collating that into a list and republishing it. It proved a great way of engaging with readers and it is similar to campaigns we have also run. In terms of news, Buzzfeed’s Twitter account is always worth a look while retailers like Next and Debenhams seem to have sharpened up their social media activity to get more eyes on their products.
What have you found to be the most positive and negative aspects of using social media for your business?
The positives have outweighed the negatives. The contribution of Facebook to our year on year [traffic has seen a] 100%+ increase in daily unique browsers, and page views increase cannot be ignored. Also, from our point of view it adds a string to our bow as journalists as another way of communicating with readers, and is a great way of sparking debate and introducing views that may have gone unnoticed before
In terms of negatives, the speed of the platform means it can also be open to abuse, with readers quick to jump on any mistake or perceived slight without the period of reflection that would come if they were to send an email or letter.
What advice would you give to businesses looking to improve their social media activity?
What has worked for us is simply to talk to your audience rather than at them, consider provide exclusive content to followers/friends to encourage them to like or recommend your product. Use pictures in your tweets, and schedule content for a time when many prospective clients are likely to be looking for it.