The importance of listening to your social media channels

One of the traps we fell into when dipping our social media toes was to think purely about publishing.

It’s what Archant has done for generations and, to be fair, we’re pretty good at it.

So when Facebook brand pages came along (I’m not even going to go near those initial practises of setting up a brand as a ‘person’) we thought what a great way to publish more links to our web content.

Then came the magical idea of creating RSS feeds to populate those pages. Fantastic, job done. We could just sit back and watch the referral traffic to our websites rise.

Not only that, but Facebook users love to like, share and comment on posts. Great! They’ll start doing it on our automated posts as well. This just keeps getting better.

Obviously, the startling leap in web traffic and awesome comments didn’t materialise. We started to get wiser; to get our heads around what these new-fangled platforms were.

And what are they? They’re places for people to connect and interact.

This week, I’ve read pieces describing Facebook as a party and social media as a cocktail party or town square. And you wouldn’t turn up to a party and begin to shout in the hope that someone might eventually choose to listen to you. (You might do that in the town square but you’d probably end up being driven away in the back of a police car)

So, how does this apply to activity within Archant? Well, here are a couple of examples of how we’re listening and then even using it to generate extra content.

The first example took place last Friday evening via the @EDP24 Twitter account.

We’d been asked to look out how we could generate some extra print sales via our social media accounts.

We agreed on a strategy and began to implement it but it soon became apparent that our tweets were failing to hit the right chord.

I could embed a whole conversation between a few @EDP24 followers (if the embed server was working) and the account itself but it would go on for too long. The gist was that the promotional style posts were not appreciated.

“You have to earn your place in a timeline” said the excellent @Brays_Cottage, who is absolutely spot on.

Responding through the @EDP24 account, I thanked the followers for their feedback and my line manager and I had a conversation about the posts on Monday.

I don’t think the promotional message was the problem – it was the fact that they were written in a ‘Super Soaraway Sun’ style which isn’t a genuine method of interacting.

Hopefully, we’ve learned our lesson and it proves just how important it is for brand accounts to listen as it is to publish. You don’t simply push, push, push through your individual account so why should your brand account be any different? It’s still taking up the same space in a newsfeed or a timeline so it most definitely does have to work at earning that space.

The second example is of how we’ve used audience comments to generate extra content. A particularly engaging Facebook post will be cause for a decent debate so why not share that debate on our own websites?

The recent planning application by supermarket chain Morrisons in north Norwich generated some good comments so we did this with them. Well worth it, even if it did receive the perfectly-crafted response from ‘biglingers’, one of our lovely, lovely website commenters 😉


Joey Barton taking the pass on Twitter

Not many sports journalists (I used to be one) have written the short sentence: Fair play to Joseph Barton.

But I had to smile today when Barton took to Twitter to poke fun at himself.

Yesterday, football journalists and fans were giggling at his ridiculous ‘Allo ‘Allo post-match press conference video. You were just waiting for him to use the words ‘shot’ and ‘pass’.

But today he showed he can have a laugh at his own expense. This was his first tweet of the day:

I am still not a fan but this is further proof of just how influential social media can be when it comes to perceptions.

Barton will have gone up in a lot of people’s estimations with his tweet. Just two simple, powerful words.

Learning some #hashtag lessons

We tried something last week and it kinda worked; it kinda didn’t.

In the lead-up to the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, we had a bit of a brainstorm and came up with the idea of building a new storyline through Twitter.

After a bit of thought I put together a plan for the #bondstory to run over the course of a few days. Search for the hashtag and you’ll see that the level of engagement was pretty high and I was happy with the final result.

We began by asking for a title and followed it up with requests for names for Bond girls and the main villain. We then had a break for the weekend which, looking back, probably did not help phase two of the plan which was to try to build a plot.

We then asked for locations and for users to complete a sentence relating to why the villain wanted to take over Norfolk. This was followed by requests for gadgets and finally a theme tune.

I documented all responses into a Storify.

Obviously, it was intended to be a bit of fun and we had only positive responses albeit from a small sector of the @EDP24 audience.

We learned lessons from the small project which will be useful to us in the future.

Good things: We picked a hashtag that did not have material allocated to it and the majority of users included it in their tweets.

The audience saw it as a fun element alongside the daily news headlines from the @EDP24 account.

The first two days saw particularly good engagement and we had some very creative suggestions from our followers.

Bad things: After those first two days we took a break for the weekend and it was difficult to re-energise followers.

Some of the questions in phase two were also too open. We asked for new Bond gadgets but that takes a quite considerable amount of thought. Twitter thrives on quick conversations so build that into your planning process.

How about you? Have you tried new projects on Twitter and, if so, how did they fare?

A new job, a new challenge

Some big events in my life have taken place this year.

In June, I married the love of my life and, in July, we had the holiday of a lifetime in Tanzania. Earlier in the year, I’d been behind the launch of a new community platform – iwitness24 – for Archant (working with the great guys from Citizenside) and, on my return from my African honeymoon, I started another new job. That’s the third in a year.

All of those three roles have been to do with development so they’re pretty cool. And the new one poses possibly the biggest challenge of them all.

Since mid-July I have been Archant Anglia’s Social Media Manager and it has thrown up a crazy amount of challenges, some of which I will aim to share with you on this blog.

As a company, we have had it in the back of our mind that social media is something we should be not only focusing on but excelling at.

Yet, rather surprisingly, we have never had a properly-formed social media strategy. For example, Facebook pages have been created for our titles across Anglia…and then simply left to be filled with RSS feeds. Where’s the social in that? I hear you ask.

To my amazement, some big brands still mimic that now and believe that promoting the fact that you can like their Facebook page means they’re ‘doing social media’. Whatever that means. They’ve probably never thought about the need to talk and listen to their social likers.

Would they open a shop and then simply ignore customers when they come in to talk to them about products? I highly doubt it.

Anyway, with the odd exception, that’s pretty much what Archant Anglia had been doing with their Facebook pages and that’s a topic I will come on to in a later post.

Obviously, social isn’t just Facebook and, to be fair, a lot of our journalists use Twitter very well although we still have the tendency to view it more as a publishing platform than a conversational tool.

We’re keeping it simple to begin with and looking to improve the use of these two main platforms before we start delving into the world of LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr etc.

There are some major, major internal barriers ahead for us as well and, while I will not name names, I might nod to the odd person standing in our way and will, hopefully, be able to share what happened and how we overcame those barriers.

I would be very interested to know how other Social Media Managers started out, how they approached their strategy and what lessons they have learned as a result.