How do you make sure that readers return to your content, again and again, on social media? We examine the importance of brand building for publishers in the news feed.
Here’s problem that will sound familiar to many publishers on social media: how do we build our brand so that readers feel a sense of loyalty to us in their crowded social feeds?
The concern for publishers is simple. If social media is to be a place to nurture loyal readers, then there has to be a way of encouraging people to come back to their content again and again, rather than simply depending on a small number of posts going viral. For many publishers, consistency is key.
A Pew Research report from February 2017 found that readers could successfully recall the source of a particular story they found online 56% of the time. But there were caveats. People who clicked more links were more likely to recall the source, and certain topics – business, politics and news reporting – had a higher likelihood to be successfully recalled.
This research points to a need for publishers to work hard to give social readers a reason to remember their brand.
What’s most important for publishers to remember is that the seemingly small social engagements that readers leave on their posts – likes, reactions, and comments – can have an enormous effect when taken as a whole.
On many social platforms now, particularly Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, publishers are rewarded for engagement with their content by being algorithmically favoured in news feeds. If a person likes your post, watches a video for a meaningful length of time, or clicks through to your website, social algorithms will retain that knowledge and surface posts from the relevant source, to the right readers. Sustaining and developing social engagement counts with content each week and month is an important way to make sure that your social audience returns again and again.
Making sure that your brand is something that readers will stop and take notice of is something that publishers need to get better at nailing down. Here are three steps that we’ve noticed tend to help publishers make sure that their posts become worth pausing for in social feeds.
1. Consistent tone and visual branding
Publishers don’t have a huge amount of control over how their content appears on social media. Without some thought, your post can look almost indistinguishable from any other post from advertisers, public pages, private users and competing publishers.
Because of that, it’s important to make sure that posts are identifiable as your own. The first way that publishers can maintain this is through the editorial tone they adopt on social media. Is your audience expecting quick news round ups, irreverent takes, or unexpected stories that delight and inform? Settling on what the audience expects is a huge help.
The second obvious area where publishers can try and control their identity on social media is through visual branding. While publishers are somewhat limited on how much they can stand out visually on most networks, there are ways of looking uniform and distinctive. On Instagram, BBC News mark their videos with distinctive watermarks and captions styles.
29 MARCH: Prime Minister Theresa May has triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, starting a two year countdown to the UK’s exit. Photo courtesy: Getty Read more: bbc.in/article50 #Brexit #Article50 #TheresaMay #UK #England #BritishPM #EU #Europe #trade #immigration @theresa_may #BBCShorts #BBCNews @BBCNews
On other networks, there are different levels of identification available, on videos and elsewhere. Ensuring that there’s a consistent theme across your pages and brands helps reinforce the source of the story.
2. Be timely – post when your readers will find the most value
There is little or no point in pushing out brilliant content if you aren’t aligning with the habits of your daily readers. Depending on who your audience is, you’ll need to post at different times.
For longer form features, think about when your audience would be most inclined to click and read through the whole piece. For videos, make sure that there’s enough of a gap between posts so as to give each post enough time to attract engagement – particularly with live streams.
In a recent analysis of the posting frequency of top publisher pages on Facebook recently, we found that ’s a lot of discrepancy in posting frequency. Some general news pages posted up to 100 times per day on their main page alone, while others preferred to post just a few dozen times. Posting frequency also changed based on post format,
If you have a varied output of content, there seems to be no real limit on how often you should be posting. In reality however, your posting frequency will depend on analytics analysis, the content cycle on a particular day, and what your audience is responding to in real time. Instead of agonising about the frequency of your posts, focus on making sure that every post will have to compete with other elements in your audience’s news feeds.
Also, look for opportunities where you can post more evergreen content. Anniversaries of significant events, Sunday round-ups and bank holidays are good chances to try and engage your audience with older content that might resonate.
3. Offer readers unique and strong storytelling
Here is the most important asset that any publisher should be looking to leverage; their own unique storytelling and perspective.
Giving the reader something that they feel was worth clicking to read, or watching for more than 10 seconds is what all publishers should be aiming for. To this end, keeping an eye on competitor pages and sites, and looking for the ‘white space’ in coverage around big events – the angles that no one else is covering – are ways to bring a unique element to your own coverage.
In a recent interview, CNN’s Director of Social Publishing, Ashley Codianni, told us that the strength of that network’s reporting was partially responsible for the 68% bump in Facebook engagements our data recorded over 2016.
“For starters, we go where the news is, and we’re able to show that with our reporters on the ground… this type of rawness, and the immediacy of covering a big breaking news story as it’s happening really resonates with our audience.”
There are signs that a consistent storytelling approach on social media yields results in capturing attention, and even subscribers. After testing different stories, Norwegian news site Aftenposten now drives 20% of its digital subscriptions through Facebook.