Social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, are no longer just ways to tell your friends what you just ate or to share photos from a party. Media, journalists, and publishers are leveraging social media to drive web traffic, build communities and develop content.
"Those publishers who don't use social media will eventually go away," said Michael Crosson, Publisher of SocialMediopolis.com, a networking forum for professional social media marketers. "There are very few publishers who don't have an online presence, and the ones who survive and thrive are those who know how to use social media the most effectively."
According to Sheigh Crabtree, Vice President of Audience Development at Perfect Market, a company with patented technology that helps publishers increase revenue, publishers can no longer just expect their audience to find their articles through print media.
"The news group needs to reach out to whatever platform readers are getting content from," Crabtree said. "You need to find out where is the best place for you to go to break the news and how can you ensure that your readers will find it."
Crabtree's consulted researchers to help her to plan social media efforts. A study by the Web tracking and analysis company Woopra found that among Social Networking sites, Facebook drives 68% of web traffic, while Twitter drives 25%, and Linkedin sends 4%. Facebook has roughly 500 million active users, while Twitter has 145 million registered tweeters.
Crosson believes it is important that publishers learn how to effectively use social media in order to deliver their product to the largest audience. Social media should be well-executed, useful and well-moderated.
"It was in delivering a well done, well moderated, useful group that attracted others to share it and send out word to their friends," Crosson said of the Social Media Marketing Group he created on Linkedin, which now has over 95,000 members. "Having a better product at the end of the day will always make you more successful."
Facebook Fans, Discussions and Likes
Since Facebook drives the majority of web traffic, publishers are establishing their presence on Facebook through fan pages and groups.
To expand the reach of her Facebook page, Debra Eckerling, the creator of WriteOnOnline.com, a website for writers, posts on the Write On! Online Facebook wall at the beginning of each week to ask writers what goals they have for the coming week. At the end of the week, she writes posts to see if they've accomplished those goals. During the week, she also posts a more open-ended question for fans to discuss.
"I use the Facebook fan page to start conversations and to get people to share what they're working on," Eckerling said. "If someone is posting on your page, their friends will see that on their wall and it will help expand your reach."
According to Crabtree, it is useful for publications to update the content on their Facebook pages throughout the day and to create an environment where readers and writers can engage in discussions.
"You can see subscribers' discussions and engage all day," Crabtree said. "You want to grow your audience because, if you have a loyal readership, they can actually help you as a writer. You can request information about a story you're writing, or they can comment on your story and give you advice."
"Facebook allows authors to engage readers on a more direct and personal platform," contends Crabtree. By engaging with readers on a platform like Facebook, authors can learn how to modify their content to attract a larger readership.
Media sources can also attract fans to their Facebook page by installing a Facebook widget called "Fan Box" on their website. "Fan Box" allows readers to see updates on the fan page and "like" the fan page directly from the publisher's website.
Twitter, Linkedin and Other Social Media Tools
While Facebook might drive the most traffic of social networking sites, Eckerling believes that to create a social media presence, authors need to be active not only on Facebook, but on the next biggest web traffic drivers, Twitter and Linkedin.
Eckerling posts content Monday through Friday, which she then tweets about and posts on her Facebook fan page wall. She has also linked her Twitter page to her Linkedin page to maintain a presence on Linkedin without having to update posts on Linkedin.
With the "Twitter Facebook Application," writers can have their tweets automatically appear as their Facebook status and on their wall without having to individually update both sites. Likewise, it is now possible to link a Twitter page to a Linkedin page, by checking the Twitter box under "Network Updates." Writers can configure their setting so that every one of their tweets appears as their Linkedin status or so that only tweets that contain a "#in" are posted on their Linkedin page.
Schedule Tweets, ReTweet, Follow on Friday and Hash Your Tags
Eckerling recommends tweeting five to six times a day. Yet, instead of tweeting every hour, Eckerling plans her tweets for the day using HootSuite, a Social Media Dashboard that allows users to schedule updates to Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and other social networking sites without having to be constantly connected.
While Eckerling tweets every time she posts new content, she said that to extend her fan base and community, it is also useful to retweet other content that she finds interesting. Every time a user retweets a post they have read, they are sharing this post with their followers and alerting the other user that they have shared his or her post. By doing this, they can foster relationships with other Twitter users.
Another way to recommend other users is through Twitter's "Follow Friday," notes Crabtree. "Follow Friday" occurs every Friday, when users can recommended other interesting users by posting their recommendations and adding #followfriday to the Twitter post. The # makes the phrase a hashtag.
Hashtags are used on Twitter to categorize posts. When users add a "hash" (#) followed by the tag to their tweet, it allows anyone who does a search for that hashtag to easily find that tweet. Popular hashtags are listed on hashtag.info
A way to build a community of experts on Twitter is to join a Twitter list. According to Crabtree, it's good competition analysis to join a list to see what stories have already been broken in a specific beat and what the competition is writing about. She adds that it is also a good way to "make friends" in a specific beat and get ideas that can help spark a story.
In order to create the largest traffic, it is also useful for authors to have a presence on other social sites like Digg and Reddit, which are two of the major social news websites that allow readers to share content over the internet. To engage with readers on another level, authors should create their own blogs. One way to do this is to use Tumblr, which allows authors to create a free blog. Crabtree sees this as becoming a real trend in social media.
"If you're looking for the largest audience and largest traffic, you should be involved in other websites," Crabtree said. "The more people that share my article, the more likely it is that it will show up at the top of the Google search engine."
Social media use by publishers on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin is not just a passing fad.
"Social media is absolutely going to stay and become even more embedded and transparent in all the web services we use," said Crosson.
Author Jamie Goldberg is a senior at Pomona College, intern at Wireless and Mobile News and administrator of the Wireless Mobile News Facebook page
Editor's Note: Since Wireless and Mobile News established a Facebook presence, page views increased 20%. Facebook is the 7th referral site, and Twitter is the is 12th referral site for referring Wireless and Mobile News visitors.
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