Viral publishers share how to succeed on social

May 11, 2017

Written by NewsWhip

With our WhipSmart summit weeks away, we share insights from the industry leaders and innovators speaking at our conference. 

Everyday, journalists and content creators alike have to contend with shifting social media algorithms, deteriorating audience trust, and competition against the cat memes and viral videos out there.

There’s always another challenge to consider in this Sisyphean struggle. For journalists, how can they catch their audience’s attention? With fake news and hyper-politics making readers question the accuracy of what they digest, there’s a struggle there too.

For agencies and brands, how can you make your content stand out in a genuine way on social that doesn’t feel like advertising? How can you add value to your audience’s lives, and strengthen your brand?
But despite these challenges, there are certainly pioneers who are revolutionizing the frontier of social publishing. That’s why we decided to host WhipSmart, our inaugural summit bringing these leaders together for a day of insights.

As Paul, our CEO and Co-Founder announced Monday, “We organised this event because we see our customers doing incredible things with data and technology every day, and we wanted to create a forum where they could share their insights with one another.”

Many of our speakers are the pioneers of using data within their newsrooms and companies, driving real progress. With WhipSmart just a few weeks away, we decided to look at their top advice.

Ashish Patel

Ashish is the Senior Vice President of Audience Development & Insights at Group Nine Media (NowThis). NowThis has transformed social video, through its use of short, snappy, captioned videos. In a transformative move, the publisher did away with its homepage and now exists solely on native platforms. Here’s wisdom from Ashish.

On why social is their bread and butter: “I think many publishers see social as a starting point to drive readers into this walled garden of content that they have and that they monetise, and they’re seeing that it’s increasingly difficult to do that. For us, we’re seeing social as a starting and end point, where consumption happens in the feed.”

On audience-building and distribution: “One thing that we realised is that you can’t reverse engineer the relationship with your audience. I think what’s unique about our editorial here is it’s truly integrated with social.”

On measuring KPIs: “Engagement is the metric we optimise around, and specifically, sharing. We aren’t beholden to traditional Web 2.0 metrics, and to a certain extent it is definitely enviable. On the other hand, we’re dependent on the platforms and users to help us distribute our content. So sharing is our most important metric. We really want to create important, informative, good, shareable content on each of these platforms.”

Renan Borelli

Renan is the Director of Audience Growth and Engagement at MTV News. MTV first shook the world when ‘video killed the radio star.’ Today, MTV is tailoring its social pages to appeal to the niche interests of its widespread audience. An innovator, the media company continues to push the envelope, engaging its audience of Millennials who want to be on the cutting edge.

On measuring your success: “Metrics are the only way to figure out what’s consistently resonating with the audience we’ve built. Ultimately, our main goal is to make sure we’re getting our work in front of the right audience, wherever they might live.”

On watching the landscape: “We try to figure out the best way to package and socialize the really amazing work created by our writers and editors, whether it’s time-sensitive news of the day or longer, in-depth features. If eight websites all covered the release of Beyonce’s surprise album Lemonade, which was the most engaging piece? What drew the most shares? What had the best distribution?”

Steve Rubel

Steve is the Chief Content Strategist at Edelman, and is one of the movers-and-shakers in bringing brands into the social age. His podcast, Content Convergence, brought storytellers together to discuss the secrets of breaking through with content.

On finding the stories that go viral: “The stories that end up big start big. They get picked up quickly and get traction quickly. If you can have a platform that accurately gauges that early bump, then you can get people ahead of the curve of what the big stories will be in a few hours time.”

How your content creation can succeed: “I think increasingly, the audience are going to trust editors and journalists to be filters, to provide them with the stuff that they should know each day, and if you know which stories are getting interaction and are getting talked about, you’re going to be able to do that better. But you can’t just copy what works for some other publication if they’ve got a completely different audience. That’s important.”

Dan Mazei

Dan is the Senior Director of the Global Newsroom at Reebok. We spoke to Dan last year about Reebok’s success in creating a fast-acting, flexible brand newsroom. Reebok has joined recent pop culture moments in memorable ways, including Hillary’s pantsuitsthe Met Gala, and the Starbucks unicorn drink.

On deciding what content to create: “Everything is intended to inspire what we call the ‘fit generation’. Would this inspire the fit-gen? Would this raise their eyebrows? Whenever we’re encouraging people to push their limits, inspiration is a strong mechanism in that.”

On creating impactful content: “This is still something we’re learning from every day, there’s a risk of piling onto a heap of discarded content.” Dan emphasized the need to reduce ‘content waste’, much like the wasteland of human garbage in “Wall-E”.

On keeping your audience the priority: “We have to think like consumers. We have to ask ourselves, are we really doing this for the consumer? Our task is to get out there and have a conversation with the consumer.”

Maia McCann

Maia is the Editor-in-Chief at LittleThings, which is anything but little. The publisher is creating viral hit after viral hit on social media, through its emphasis on positive content. Maia gave us the scoop on what makes LittleThings so impactful.

On making changes in editorial direction: We recently pivoted and decided to include “meaningful” in our mission statement. It wasn’t a decision that we took lightly, and a bulk of what you’ll see on our page is still going to make your day brighter. However, recognized that our audience had a strong affinity for PSAs, and anticipated that they were interested in stories that touched on issues that they considered important and powerful based on their response to the story of Omran (7 MM views and over 8,000 shares).

On measuring success: What makes us unique is that we’re NOT optimizing for the “clickiest” version; we’re trying to create fully realized stories that our audience feels compelled to click, like, and share. I think of articles and content as presents. The measure of CTR tells us if we’re good at gift-wrapping, but our engagement levels tell us whether or not we’re good gift-givers.

On creating success: Viral content rarely comes from a “marketing guru” rehashing something for virality — most often, it comes from people speaking their truth. Real recognizes real, so don’t try and create a funny video that you think your audience will like. Create something you love, and that you would want to share with your network instead.

Meena Thiruvengadam

Meena is the ‎Global Head of Audience Engagement at Bloomberg, and Business Insider before that. Meena shared with us her predictions for 2017’s social publishing landscape at the start of the year.

On what newsrooms are facing with social distribution: “The challenge will be for each social network to distinguish itself among competitors that are increasingly similar in their offerings. I also believe that publishers will demand better measurement tools. That is, platforms will feel more pressure to provide performance data and the like.”

On how social platforms are changing: “I think we’ll see platforms increasingly resemble one another. Twitter has Moments, but Facebook is introducing Collections; Snapchat has Stories and Instagram was smart to create its own version; Twitter has Periscope, Facebook followed up with its Live offering.”

Get ready to whip it at WhipSmart

We’re just weeks away from WhipSmart, where we’ll bring these innovators together to share their latest insights with our 150 attendees.

We’d love to have you along, whether you’re looking to create captivated communities on social, master video storytelling, or share your brand’s story in new and engaging ways. Join us as we go deep on the secrets of social publishing, and all learn something new. Register here.

(If you’re a NewsWhip customer, reach out to your contact on our team for a customer discount. Spaces limited.)

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