Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Baking social into your journalism

At nearly every Amherstwire meeting, we start off with a presentation by social media editor Stephanie Ramirez, who pops our metrics up on the board. Google Analytics tells us which stories got the most readers in the past week (UMass Polo Team. Who knew?), and where those readers came from. (Facebook, mostly.) Then she takes us into our social measurements: Facebook likes and shares, Twitter followers and sharing. All growing, but how do we grow them more?

Each week, hopefully, anyway, we get a deeper understanding of the "social flow" of our stories, which ones "catch fire" and which ones don't, and we talk about why. Students pass around tips about how to get stories out there on Twitter, and other ways we might increase traffic.

The all-time record for social shares is Christina Gregg's Love Letter to UMass 2014, her graduation farewell, which was shared more than 5,000 times on Facebook and who knows how many on Twitter. Alums shared it with other alums and the rest is history.

Our publishing model has been: write the story then share it and see what happens.

But we might be looking at it the wrong way, I realized as I read today's Digiday post on the two popular data reporting sites, 538 and The Upshot.  We should probably be considering the social strategy as we develop our stories, at least for some of them. Granted, this post is about data reporting, but digital publishers of all types of content could learn from this post.

Here's the takeaway from Upshot editor David Leonhardt:

“We don’t think about how to take a print story and make it work on social. We just start by thinking about what works on social,” said Upshot’s Leonhardt. “The question is: ‘If you were going to produce a piece of New York Times-quality journalism that was designed for social, how would you do it?’” The answer, he said, is to start with content that is conversational and driven by numbers and visuals.


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