Publishers mastering the art of online conversation

By Sally Duros

Indie online publishers are mastering the art of online conversation.

“We don’t treat social media as a means to just push out headlines,” said Emily Lowrey, Founder and CEO of Magic City Post in Birmingham, Al.  “We will certainly share links, but we also write a fresh teaser for each story depending on the social media outlet – so what we write for Facebook is usually pretty different than what we write for Twitter.”

“We have a posting calendar, and we also have windows that we post in for all social media. We also have a quota on the posts we put through each channel daily,” Lowrey said.

Lowery’s approach is tailored to her needs and differs only slightly from advice offered by Kate Gardiner, founder and CEO of DSTL in a recent blog post.  Gardiner’s firm serves media clients including New York Public Radio and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (parent to Voice of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting).

“Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, G+, in that order. If it’s a techy story, post link to Techmeme. If politics, to Drudge or any other blog that might be interested,” Gardiner writes.

Gardiner advises three to five tweets per story with a structure following the now standard “Quote, Fact, Headline + Link.”  For Facebook, she advices at least one Facebook post a day and as many as one post per hour.

“Our etiquette is different on Facebook than on Twitter,” writes Lowrey. “With Twitter, we always thank anyone who retweets our stories and we spend a lot of time talking with our Twitter followers. For Facebook, we certainly do respond to posts too as quickly as we can. We also post things on our social media channels from other media outlets in the community, from bloggers and also from our audience.”

Virginia Citrano, editor at Myveronanj.com offered the insight: “I write individual posts for FB and Twitter. They are different countries and speak different languages.”

Gardiner advises publishers to go wild on engagement when they have the time.

Lowery agreed. “Our goal with social media is to get engagement from our audience because if you aren’t, then you just aren’t reaching very many people (don’t get engagement through likes, shares and comments and it’s highly likely you aren’t showing up in anyone’s news feed).

“Also,” she continued, “we don’t use Hootsuite because Facebook downgrades any posts ranking score if it’s scheduled through Hootsuite. If we had to, we would, but we also post directly whenever possible.”

From a practical viewpoint engagement begins with being a good conversationalist.

“Being in conversation with our community means listening as well as talking, and adjusting what we do and cover based on what we hear,” wrote Joy Mayer, a 2010-2011 RJI fellow of her work which focuses on engagement.

In her report, The Engagement Metric, Mayer suggests these tactics — among others — to foster conversation online.

  • Ask questions at the end of posts.
  • If comments don’t happen naturally, encourage staff to post the first comment.
  • Assign staff time to reading and responding to comments within the first 20 comments (or whatever makes sense for your organization).
  • Assign staff to stay involved in the content they have a hand in, taking note in and, where appropriate, responding within 24 hours to user reactions and questions.

To get more ideas for your engagement strategy,  download The Engagement Metric and check out Mayer’sIndies  later research, The Community Engagement Guide. 

Let us know how engagement is evolving at your site by leaving a comment below or Tweeting your ideas  at hash #mybxb. 

Sally Duros is a social journalist working toward the next generation of successful, credible online newsrooms. Connect with her on  and on twitter at saduros.

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