Social Media

Media General Training Brings Social Uptick

Putting photos on Facebook posts and linking to stories in tweets may seem like Intro to Social Media for a newsroom, but Media General is finding that giving staffers a bit of formal training in those kind of site-specific maneuvers is paying off big. Diana Marszalek looks at what Media General is doing.  
NetNewsCheck,

Putting photos on Facebook posts and linking to stories in tweets may seem like Intro to Social Media for a newsroom, but Media General is finding that giving staffers a bit of formal training in those kind of site-specific maneuvers is paying off big.

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“In every market we’ve been to, we’ve seen improvement in audience engagement not only on our websites but also in Facebook and Twitter,” says Derrick Owens, the company’s digital media director, who is conducting digital media workshops at Media General TV stations across the country.

While pushing out content on digital media is old hat for local TV reporters, doing so correctly is not, Owens says. He set out to remedy that problem nearly a year ago.

After consulting with Worldnow, the CMS provider that also works with stations on maximizing digital platforms, Owens started hosting seminars at Media General’s TV stations. His objective was to prime reporters to post digital content that would drive users to station websites — the money-making platform in the mix — or keep users there longer once they arrived.

“We want to drive everyone back to the mother ship,” he says.

Success involves using a range of platform-specific techniques to boost engagement, he says.

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In creating website content, for instance, reporters should use the “plus-one concept,” which translates into adding another means of engaging users — a video or user poll for example — that will “enrich content, drive another click.”

Content varies with social media sites as well, he says. “They are each their own animal.”

For instance, photos engage Facebook users more than other content, including video, Owens says. In turn, it behooves reporters to post photos from their stories along with links to them on that platform.

Using hashtags correctly is key to optimizing Twitter, he says. Tweets sent at particular times are more effective at driving traffic, depending on the market, he says. That means common practices like, say, tweeting on Monday mornings at eight may not cut it any more, he says.

In addition, reporters are being trained to make their digital content more attractive to search engines, primarily by writing SEO-friendly headlines and captions to photos and videos as well as stories.

Owens says the effort is paying off, exemplified by the “explosive growth” in Web traffic that WFLA, the NBC affiliate in Tampa, Fla., has had since staffers took Owens’ primer in October.

As of April, the number of WFLA.com visitors already risen by 217%, according to comScore metrics provided by Owens. The number of page views grew by 179%; unique visitors by 183%, and video views by a whopping 798%, the numbers show.

Stations, including WFLA and WBTW in Myrtle Beach, S.C., are seeing an uptick in the number of users who find their websites through Facebook rather than traditional search engines, he says.

Owens says the change in the stats they are seeing prove that merely having a presence on the Web and social media is no longer enough for local news outlets.

Though the focus of his workshops may sound like basic training, Owens says, the reality is that TV reporters only now are coming to grips with the fact that pushing out digital content takes skill and a deeper understanding of each medium.

“First it was just to have a presence. Now we have to be the best at what we do on multiple screens,” he says. “We have to take this a lot more seriously.”

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