Given the dominance of these three giants in the social media ecosystem, how do media IT professionals disseminate content and drive traffic to their own domains?
Affinity Group publishes such titles as Highways and Trailer Life for owners of recreational vehicles. This demographic, who tend to be in their 50s and 60s, are not your average social networkers. But when Affinity started its Good Sam fan page on Facebook, it quickly gained a following. More than 8,500 people signed up in less than a year.
“RV owners like to share information on destinations, what kind of rig to buy, where to stay, etc.; and there’s a lot of that going on between folks,” said Sue Bray, director of member benefits at Affinity and a member of the RV Hall of Fame.
Affinity uses its Facebook page to push members back to the Affinity Web sites for more information about events and programs promoted on the Facebook page. Affinity also has local organizations within the club that use the Facebook page to discuss their own events.
Billian Publishing Inc., publisher of Textile World, is still taking “baby steps” with social networking, said Jennifer Dennard, e-media marketing specialist at Billian. Dennard first started using Twitter to send weekly news items from TextileWorld.com, producing 10 to 12 tweets a day for that account, with the goal of increasing traffic to the Web site and boosting brand awareness. “Garnering new advertisers and subscribers will be a bonus,” Dennard said. “As everyone knows, ROI on Twitter is hard to measure at this point.”
Dennard discovered that the more she interacted with people on Twitter, the more they interacted with her. “It’s almost exponential,” she said. “I try not to ‘overtweet.’ I’ve found that I tend to glaze over when I see many tweets from the same account coming at me in quick succession.”
Dennard said she has since set up Twitter accounts for other Billian divisions, as well as Facebook pages and a single LinkedIn group, The Healthcare Intelligence Hub. Now when someone joins one social-networking group, Billian sends them an invitation to join the others.
Just as important as signing up fans or gathering followers, publishing executives say, is monitoring how activity on public social networks converts to traffic back to the media company’s own assets.
For example, everything Affinity posts to Facebook or Twitter has a UTM code attached to it that is trackable through Google Analytics, said Gretchen Lemaster, senior marketing director-acquisition and retention at Affinity. The metrics being tracked? Activity directed back to the publisher’s site from its posts, as well as the number and type of activities on its Facebook and Twitter pages.
Lemaster said Affinity never posts content just to look good. “We post, and communicate and educate with the intention of engaging our Facebook fans and Twitter followers with one another and, ultimately, with our brand,” she said. “They choose to come to us as a fan or follower, so we do all we can to deliver on that.”
Vicki Webb, IT Director at FMA Communications, publisher of The Fabricator, Green Manufacturer, and Practical Welding Today, is another conversion-rate believer. “It’s one thing to have a lot of followers/friends/links to people, but the ultimate goal is to engage them in our business,” she said.
FMA uses Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to get its message out. The editorial and marketing departments are responsible for the content, but Webb’s team provides them with ways to streamline the process. FMA’s Web sites have widgets that pull in related content (such as welding) and organize it for the end-user. “Content for the widget comes from our own Web site content engine, as well as from items that our editorial staff has tweeted about, blogged about or tagged in their social bookmarking accounts,” Webb said.
“Pulling content from multiple sources into these widgets helps our readers find a lot of useful information all in one place, plus it gives us the opportunity to repurpose our content.
As for whether the growing social media will end up being a competition for a publisher’s brands, Dennard said she thinks that could happen down the line. “One of our competitors has been using social media for quite a while and thus to a more advanced degree,” she said. “I have learned a lot by their example. So I’d consider it a great problem to have if our social media strategy becomes so productive that others want to follow our lead.”