"Set clear goals and be strict with them" – How Finland’s national broadcaster uses social media

August 21, 2017

Written by NewsWhip

How is social media affecting international legacy publishers? We talk to YLE, Finland’s national public-broadcasting company to find out. 

Kalle Pirhonen works as an audience editor for the Finnish broadcasting company YLE.

We talked to Kalle about the role that social media plays in reaching his audience, and how careful analysis of data has allowed the site to develop their social media strategy.

Can you explain your role at YLE?

Kalle: I work as an audience editor for the news and current affairs department in the Finnish Broadcasting Company. I am using most of my time to sit in newsrooms or meetings trying to show concrete ways of how data helps make content better be it from social, web, tv or radio. It is a new role that I started in January 2017. My background is in content-making, not in tech.

My message is is that the time of just providing data is over, we need that too but that is not enough. The key is to transform the data into insight and actionable vision and run it down to all levels

When discussing audience insight and analytics, I try to be as clear and concrete as possible. No jargon. Lots of examples. This is really, really important. I could look at an individual journo’s most read and least read web stories and discuss what connects those. I could look at what connects the most read and the least read stories in a team. I could look at what connects any of our product’s successes and failures and discuss how to rethink strategy, concept. I could show concrete examples what to do when you have to make more content for a certain target group we have or even discuss media trends. My specialty is social media.

The audience insights team within the news department consists of me, a data analyst and head of audience insights in news but we co-operate with some other data or audience experts in our organisation. 

What does social publishing currently look like in Finland, and how important are social networks to YLE in reaching your audiences? 

Some publishers reach big and growing audiences in social and especially Facebook videos have evolved during the last few years when it comes to news. Some brands do Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube really well. In my opinion publishers nowadays realize the significance of social as a source of traffic well but the question of a strong omnichannel social media presence adding to brand awareness might be a bit more difficult to some, I mean not everyone is willing to look beyond clicks.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s Digital News Report 2017 stated that in Finland the number 18 to 34 year-olds who consider social as their number one source of news is growing rapidly. That said, internet news sites and even traditional media like newspapers and TV are still strong sources of news in Finland, more so than in some other countries.

To YLE, social networks are increasingly important, to reach new audiences and to be able to interact with people more. No matter the platform, people need to feel they are getting things from us in return for the tax they are paying.

To give an example, our biggest Facebook (news) account in YLE has an average weekly reach of 1–2 million which is quite good for a country of 5.5 million people and some 2 million Facebook users. The page publishes one Facebook video per five links and generates about 1.5 million clicks per month to our own website. 

You take the role of data in leading your social media strategy seriously at YLE. What are some of the interesting findings you and your team have had lately? 

One of my favourite lines is “know your audience”. Rather than to just look at what has been a success, it is perhaps even more important to learn from what is not working and that is what we have done (still could do more). We would for example look at a number of individual Facebook video demographics and see what combines videos that have reached certain kinds of audiences and then encourage to make decisions based on this. Same thing we do with articles as well.

To give you a more concrete example, I was looking at the retention rates of different videos of some YLE Facebook accounts about six months ago and noticed a change: a video with e.g. 100 shares would get much more views than a video with 1,000 shares. Previously, at least with us, shares alone would have dictated the success of the video but not anymore. The explanation was that the videos with smaller number of shares but higher number of views were watched longer.

There was a message there for us: Shares alone are not enough, focus on keeping the viewer interested all the time, not just the beginning. This was shortly after Facebook said they would give longer videos more visibility in the newsfeed.

As a broadcast company, what has your experience with social video on Facebook and other platforms been like so far? 

I’ve worked at YLE for five years and seen a huge change in culture: thinking strategy, making content or measuring success, people are not so much looking at only one platform but genuinely all of them collectively, and that is great. A holistic view is the modern way.

What advice would you give to other social media editors looking to build their audiences on social media?

No gimmicks, just set clear goals and be strict with them. Always look for better metrics because the ones we have now are just a glimpse of how people are really behaving. Always look for new ways of combining data and intuition.

Thank you Kalle, for sharing your expertise with us. For a look into the social engagement metrics of you vs. your competitors, take a free trial of NewsWhip Spike.

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