July 1, 2016 By FTI Consulting
What a week it’s been! Last week we mentioned that social media (Facebook Live, in particular) were something of a go-to resource for reporting on the calamitous market conditions post-referendum as a way of breaking developments coming in fairly rapidly from what seemed like all directions. But this week (and over the weekend) that deluge of updates seemed almost a trickle, as a political drama unfolded juicy enough to leave any House of Cards fan salivating. At the point when Labour MPs were dropping like flies and various critters – Crabbs, Eagles, Foxs – were stepping into the fore social media really was the only way for journalists to break stories, with details going out in tweets and Facebook posts before full articles could even be a thought.
An alternative way of seeing this outpouring of social media activity and rampant race for breaking news dominance is a competition for market share. After all, there were some immediate winners following the vote and the political drama of this past week: British newspapers. Papers (and news outlets more generally) typically employ a ‘reach and return’ approach – reaching out to audiences using social media and hoping they click back to the website (and, eventually, hopefully, buying a subscription). Over the weekend subscriptions surged. The Financial Times reported a 600 per cent increase in subscriptions after opening up its trialling model over the weekend, letting users read all of the FT content their hearts desired to stay informed about the economic and political impacts of the referendum while reporters and breaking titles like fastFT cast their shiny hooks in front of viewers.
Why am I blathering on about this? Because, as usual, there are lessons to be learned for those companies/campaigns/organisations/narcissists who have high ambitions for their digital presence. The FT has seen significant increases in subscriptions after moving from trialling to metering (taking down your paywall for certain events rather than offering 4 free articles per month); the reason being that 4 free articles might give a user a taste of your quality journalism but doesn’t form a habit. This is a worthwhile strategy for any company that wants to use social media to amplify a newsroom or those with structured thought leadership programmes. How do you make sure that someone comes to you for insights, particularly around events or on certain topics? Be visual. Be informative. Be the first on the scene. Get your audience into the habit of coming to you for perspectives and brand advocacy will surely follow.
Facebook has, yet again, tweaked its News Feed algorithm but this time with some potentially stark implications for brands and publishers alike. Perhaps as a pull back from journalism after the conservative news controversy or perhaps because users’ engagement has waned as more content on their feeds has become branded and impersonal (or perhaps both), Facebook is now offering more prominence to content from friends in your News Feed. Facebook was already challenging from a brand perspective – making the edict ‘pay to play’ stick for branded Pages – but now may be even more so and for news outlets as well as companies, preferring users take a word-of-mouth approach to spreading updates or perspectives with each other. This is slightly conflicting news as the platform, meanwhile, is developing a Snapchat-style Featured Events offering, with collated videos from specific events or places (Twitter is getting involved in this game now, too) and new updates to Facebook Live like remote dual broadcasting (so you could, potentially, run a live interview with two people in different locations). With uncertainty the word of the moment on Facebook and beyond, we’ll be keeping an eye out on Facebook’s next move for you.
More from the media world. A kind of cool idea from the Washington Post seems to be developing. The paper used Slack – a popular internal communications tool gaining serious traction with newsrooms – to start a group called Pay Up, which is a private discussion forum for women in the tech sector to share stories and perspectives on gender pay equality. The paper keeps pretty tight control over membership – there’s a form to be filled out, ugh – but the group is edging its way up to 500 members (remember, this is a single topic for a single gender in a single industry). Similarly, the US’ National Public Radio has a (private) personal finance group on Facebook with over 10,000 members. Both outlets attest they do little to guide the discussion, simply building the forum and setting it in a direction. The rest is user discussions and occasionally some user generated content to be used in stories. We’ve heard clients before talk about online forums and setting up ‘clearing houses’ for information or views regarding a specific sector. It’s worth keeping tabs on these examples (and the technology used) when thinking about this approach.
Twitter targets smaller businesses with launch of Dashboard [TechCrunch]
The new political battleground: Grindr, Instagram and Vine [Mashable]
Twitter’s new ‘searchable stickers’ sounds terrible, but it’s actually really smart [TheNextWeb]
How Facebook’s ‘People You May Know’ Section Just Got Creepier [Forbes]
These Are Job Seekers’ Top 3 Priorities Right Now, According To LinkedIn [Fast Company]