A Q&A With the Telegraph's Head of Social Media

November 9, 2015

Written by NewsWhip

This week, we talked to the Daily Telegraph’s head of social media and SEO. 

Formerly better-known as a UK print giant, the Telegraph have become a force to be reckoned with online. Commanding over 6.2 million total engagements on their content in September alone, telegraph.co.uk is one of the the most-read news sites in the UK. In May, they reached 100 million unique monthly visitors for the first time.
James Carson is the Telegraph’s Head of Social Media and SEO. We talked to him about his role at the Telegraph, the importance of social media in driving traffic to the site every day, and how his team are using Spike to stay on top of the stories that matter.

What Does Your Job at the Telegraph Involve?

I’m the Head of SEO and Social Media – it might seem quite broad, but I consider these two things to be interlinked as digital distribution points, which each have their own best practice tactics. In a very shortened summary I manage a team focused on driving traffic and optimising for news SEO (what people are searching for) and framing/selling for social media (how people share it) – this also includes working with editorial teams to plan their content according to how people search and share.

What’s the Importance of a Social Media Team in a Newsroom Like the Telegraph’s?

We have a major role in deciding what can be distributed and how that should be done. So in terms of driving traffic, social media is very important – and it can be the key ingredient in making articles into virals. Of course, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the outstanding journalism The Telegraph’s editorial teams produce.
We’re a sort of buffer team at the start of the production process – here are key trends, and this is how we frame an article to match these, and and the end this is how we should sell the story on a certain platform. The latter can take up many variations of course, because there are lots of different platforms – and the understanding of the nuances within each of reflect the specialism of the team.

How are You Measuring Success and Engagement on Social Media? Which Metrics Do You Find Helpful?

Primarily I’d say what gets traffic back to our site that’s most important – that’s where we make money after all. So you might say clicks are our number one objective, but this is intertwined with other metrics like shares, comments, RTs etc. I think native metrics (likes, comments, shares) are slightly superficial when judged in isolation – so what if my story got a RT, did anyone bothered to click?
[bctt tweet=”I think native metrics (likes, comments, shares) are slightly superficial when judged in isolation – @mrjamescarson” via=”no”]
But another argument is that all social media has some sort of enhancing reach effect. Facebook video, for instance, has little commercial value for us right now, but it still massively enhances our overall reach, which can then drive clicks.

Does the Telegraph’s Paywall Have Any Impact on the Social Media Teams’ Work?

The way the paywall operates just doesn’t make any difference to how we distribute on social or on search engines.

How are the Telegraph Using Spike?

We use Spike on top of other data tools to find out what’s really going on in the ocean of Internet content. It’s very useful for real time tracking of stories that are gaining traction – it’s probably possible to make a poor representation of what Spike does using a clever combination of RSS, Twitter trends and onsite data, but what Spike does brilliantly is bring this altogether in a comprehensive and user friendly way.


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