We talked to the Head of Social Media and Digital at CNN’s Spanish language network about reaching readers effectively around the Spanish-speaking world.
Juan Andres Muñoz was in his bedroom when he first tweeted news of Osama Bin Laden’s death to hundreds of thousands of followers of CNN’s Spanish language network, CNN en Español.
“I remember I was at home, and back at that time we didn’t have a lot of people working on social – I doing a lot of the tweeting myself. I saw emails coming in, and everything indicated that it would be a big big story. As soon as it was confirmed by CNN, I tweeted immediately from the main CNN en Español account.
“I tweeted that from my room. It went all around the Spanish-speaking world, and ended up being one of the three biggest breaking news tweets on the event.”
That experience confirmed to Juan just how effective social media could be in spreading news and information.
Because of the highly engaged nature of his the CNN en Español audience, platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been critical in allowing the digital team to build a significant audience online.
Based in Atlanta, Juan, who is the Digital and Social Media Director at CNN en Español, works with reporters across the Spanish-speaking world, with major presence in Bogota, London, Miami, Mexico City, Argentina and Spain.
The global team collaborates via Google Hangouts, and work with an advanced social media monitoring set-up (including NewsWhip Spike) to stay on top of the stories and trends getting attention online every day.
There’s an editorial meeting for the team at 9.30am, in which journalists discuss stories they’ve been checking and finding online. Juan says every meeting is an opportunity to try to make sure they’re connecting properly with their readers.
“We choose the stories that are going to make a difference for the audience. We try to be as curated and as focussed as we can. We have come to learn that media outlets tend to publish too many stories, and as I always question my team, at the end of the day, how many stories do you actually remember?
I want those stories to come from CNN en Español – we want to tell the stories that people remember at the end of the day,” says Juan.
After their 9.30 am meeting , Juan’s digital team opens the daily 10am CNN en Español editorial meeting with their story suggestions for the day, underlining how much of a central a role they play in the organisation’s daily output.
The potential of social video
It’s their goal to bring to the network’s coverage, both on TV and online, the stories that their readers are talking about. As part of that strategy, Facebook video is something that CNN en Español are looking to use effectively.
“I think videos are getting pretty strong engagement. Some of the stories still get traction, but we’ve noticed it takes more effort to get the numbers we get with video just with stories”, Juan said.
“If you see a video that catches your attention, you’re probably going to stop. The power of moving images is huge. It’s human nature that you’re more than likely going to stop.”
As for the format, a short clip with a powerful beginning is critical to most viral success.
Juan points to the example of a video that the social media team produced in the aftermath of the recent Ecuador earthquake, on April 16th.
[fb_pe url=”https://www.facebook.com/CNNee/videos/10153538471927644/” bottom=”30″]
The video now has 9.4 million views, and was shared 290,000 times.
Where possible, the social team also tries to integrate with the network’s TV side. While traditional TV clips are less likely to work when just cut and uploaded to Facebook, Juan says that there’s an opportunity for other clips to work well on that social platform.
“We’re also trying to identify the behind-the-scenes videos from TV that can work on social.”
The results seem to be paying off on Facebook. CNN en Español’s main Facebook page attracted over 3 million Facebook engagements on their posts in the last 30 days. In March, a month of high drama on the US political circuit, there were over 4.2 million interactions.
‘Assertive Journalism’ first
There’s a guiding principle for the digital department, one that they try to use to inform their output and distribution each day.
“We have developed this idea of something called ‘assertive journalism’. It serves as an acronym for anticipation, service and interaction. They are the three keys of the information that we try to produce. We try to anticipate what’s going to be a trend before it happens. For that we use social signals, our editorial judgements to think ahead.
The second one is service. We truly believe journalism is useful, and people should find it helpful to make their lives better. Finally, interactive, and by that I mean what readers tell us about, what they talk about, is very important to us, and we try to meet them in the social networks and interact with them in different ways.”
The interaction part of the CNN en Español digital approach encompasses a broad range of fronts.
The team uses messaging services to collect user-generated content from breaking news scenes, and a social trends group is tasked with making sure that the newsroom is constantly up to date on the stories and posts gaining traction online in real time.
As part of the ‘touching’ element of CNN en Español’s approach, the team have two new broadcast trucks dedicated to getting to stories on the ground.
It’s an effort to connect with people where they are physically, says Juan.
“I’ve seen how popular the CNN brand is. When you go to cover a story anywhere in the world, the reaction of people is amazing.
“Whenever we get close to stories, it’s fascinating to see the reactions. I wanted to see that more in the US. This is an effort to get our journalists on the ground, and to be on the road chasing stories.”
Inside the two trucks (one on either US coast), a live streaming studio, desktop workstation and 50 inch monitor with vital digital tools including NewsWhip Spike allows the team to monitor trends in real time.
— Juan Andres Muñoz (@jamcnn) May 18, 2016
‘Stay agile and aware’
The main advice that Juan has for audience development teams at other sites is simple.
“Follow the same journalistic principles that you have for any other work you do. That’s essential. Use social media in a way that respects the audience.”
In addition, the need to experiment and stay agile and aware of new platforms and opportunities is key.
“Experiment a lot. Sometimes you talk with journalists who 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 already.’
I think you always have to be on the lookout 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.”