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How Publishing Experts Measure Success on Social Media


By   |   May 25th, 2016   |   Reading time: 5 minutes Digital Journalism, Interviews

We round up some different takes on how to benchmark and measure social media success from the BBC, Economist, BILD and more. 

With so many platforms and metrics, one of the most useful ways of figuring out how to measure your content’s performance on social media is to ask others how they do it.

We’ve conducted a lot of interviews and Q&As with editors at leading digital newsrooms in the US and Europe. One of the questions we’re always interested in hearing their take on is ‘how are you measuring success on social media?’

The responses are always interesting and varied. Check some of them out below, and click the names for the full interview.

Using social media for audience building

Ian Singleton, BBC Sport: “Our following on Facebook is 80%-plus under 34, so social media is a key way to reach a younger audience. Because we are a digital publisher and a broadcaster, this has different outcomes for us. However, whichever the platform, a key part of our strategy is bringing people back to the BBC, be it an online piece of content or watching a TV programme.”

Denise Law, The Economist: “The overarching goal of the Economist’s social media team is to increase awareness, and ultimately, readership through social platforms. We believe there’s a whole universe of globally curious people who should be reading the Economist. They either don’t know about us, or they know very little about us. It’s our role as social media curators to go out to these people and say you should read us.”

Using Facebook Video

Jakob Wais, BILD: “At BILD we also constantly match our interests with Facebook’s. So when we saw Facebook going all in on Live, we decided to do the same. We actually used Live to build another niche topic based vertical. BILD Mallorca’s growth is completely based on live – and thanks to one very dedicated reporter on the ground.

BILD is a mass publication and our goal is to reach a broad audience, but doesn’t mean we can’t go niche as well.”

Mark Frankel, BBC News: “One of the learnings that we’ve had through testing live-streaming on Facebook has been just how high the quality of the comments have been. We’ve already determined that we will get a very engaged audience, from right across the world, and many of them are asking questions and raising comments that we can use directly in our news output.

So we can be answering them directly on the stream itself, but we can also surface the best of those contributions for later programmes. They give us a really good indication of what a social media audience is most interested in.”

Juan Andrea Muñoz: “If you see a video that’s catching your attention, you’re probably going to stop. The power of moving images is huge. You tend to react more to a strong image.”

Measuring Success of Content on Social Media

Denise Law: “We take data very seriously, in terms of how it can inform our strategy. So on Facebook for example, we have a two strike rule. If we test a format two times and it tanks, we will come up with a new format.”

Andreas Rickmann, BILD: “We aim for a healthy and lively community that loves to engage with our content. For us that means we don’t have the ONE metric that matters. Naturally we look at reach, shares, video views but also at referral traffic and Instant Article views.

The underlying goal is always to maintain a healthy growth across all platforms… Our aspiration is to combine data driven work with a journalistic point of view paired with a unique approach for each platform.”

James Carson, The Telegraph: “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.”

Michael Bolen, CBC News: “We want to see a combination of engagement, retention and click-throughs. We understand that a post on Facebook with 1,000 positive comments is not the same as one with 1,000 negative comments. We want people to visit our website, but we understand that not every post should be about driving to a link.”

Ian Singleton, BBC Sport: “Referrals are a key measure for links, while for native content a combination of reach and engagement is important. Throughout all posts, shares are a vital metric. We’ll also pay particular interest to the people we are engaging and who we are converting to fans of the page. This sits alongside other platforms which are important for us, including Twitter and Instagram, while we have almost 3 million followers on Google+.”

And the Importance of Experimentation

Juan Andres Muñoz, CNN Espanol: “Experiment a lot. Sometimes you talk to journalists that are fearful of social media, who don’t use it, or are kind of scared to adopt the newest technologies. They say ‘I already have adopted too many’. I think you always have to be on the look-out for new stuff. Not to use it as a gimmick, but to always be thinking about how to tell better stories with the tools available. That’s key.”

We will have a full interview with Juan on the NewsWhip blog soon. 

Now It’s Your Turn:

We’re running a social media survey to find out how publishers and marketers are adapting to social media.

We’ll publish our findings right here on the blog. Go ahead and fill it out today – it only takes 10 minutes.

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