As Facebook makes an ever greater push to win the second screen, TV stations are increasingly leveraging its massive audience and actionable analytics to drive viewership and make smart programming decisions. In my position as the social media strategist for San Diego’s ABC 10News, the ABC affiliate owned by The E.W. Scripps Company, I’m always looking for ways to drive audience to our on-air and digital products, enhance storytelling and amplify our reach via Facebook.
Here are some of the best practices we’ve developed.
1. Promote the stories that have “social legs.”
We produce a lot of content every day for both broadcast and digital, but not all of it goes on our Facebook page. We review all content and then select the stories with “social legs”—i.e., a likable (in the Facebook sense), talkable, sharable or clickable element that will drive engagement and therefore reach.
We rely on the numbers to tell us what people want, not just gut. For example, police sketches of suspected criminals don’t seem like a natural fit for Facebook—they’re not pretty pictures, or particularly likable. But we find that these posts create 12.3 percent more Facebook stories than the average post. Follow the data, experiment and adapt.
2. Don’t just go for the easy like.
We all know that viral videos and heart-warming tales do well on Facebook, but we’ve found that only highly shared stories effectively drive page likes. Our most shared stories tend to involve local children, especially missing children or potential dangers to children.
For example, one of the biggest drivers of page likes this year was our coverage of Hannah Anderson, a San Diego teen who was kidnapped. We got thousands of shares on each post and saw daily new likes spike 2.3x above average. More importantly, we provided our community with the important information they needed, which is core to our company mission to do well by doing good. More so than with the simply viral content, our audience rewards us for this important service by Liking our Page.
3. Save traffic for TV and Twitter.
News, weather and traffic are the mainstays of local TV news, so it stands to reason that Facebook would follow suit, right? We’ve found that posts about traffic get about half the engagement of your average post. Routine freeway clog-ups equal low engagement, so we only post traffic content to Facebook if it has become major news (a main freeway is shut down) or there’s another compelling social reason to post—like the Easter Bunny getting pulled over.
4. Don’t be a tease.
Local TV stations are very good at hooking your attention by promising the unbelievable story coming up after the break. But when you try to translate this technique directly to Facebook, it falls flat because there’s nothing to likable, talkable, sharable or clickable. Zero engagement = zero reach = zero tune in. We only tease stories on Facebook if there’s an engagement play.
For example, we had a recent story about a woman who confronted a mom who left her kids in the car in near 100-degree weather, and caught it all on camera. In our post promoting the story on the 5 p.m. newscast, we asked a question that could be answered in a few words. These closed-ended questions get more comments because they’re easy to answer. We ended up with over a thousand comments, likes and shares each—and more importantly, over 162,000 people saw the post, driving tune-in for the broadcast.
5. Be agile across platforms.
We operate as a local news provider on three platforms: broadcast, digital and social media. We aim to use each of these platforms to drive to the others. In the example above, in our 7 p.m. newscast we mentioned the high engagement numbers to drive people back to our Facebook page to join the conversation.
Additionally, after the story first aired, we edited the post to tease to the website rather than the newscast. That one post generated about a quarter of the page views we usually get on our website in an entire day. By the way, the story originally came in as a tip to our Page!
6. Leverage the names and faces of your station.
Our anchors and reporters are an integral part of how we engage with our social community. Our on-air brand is delivering major news that doesn’t waste viewers’ time, which means we have little time let them get to know our reporting team on a personal level. Facebook has become the place where that happens. Each member of talent has their own Facebook page where they add personal perspective, share candid moments (to the extent that they feel comfortable sharing and under certain restrictions), talk about community appearances, and above all are themselves. That commitment to authentic engagement has increased overall talent Facebook fans by 42% in the past four months.
It’s an exciting time to be part of local TV news as Facebook increasingly offers the tools and data to help broadcasters understand and engage their audiences. Stay tuned!
Rachel Globus is the senior social media strategist for San Diego’s ABC 10News, which is owned by The E.W. Scripps Company. She was previously the social media content manager for U.S. top 20 site eHow.com. Follow her on facebook.com/rglobus or Twitter: @mediajunkette.