8 Social Media Tips to ‘Awe’ and Grab Your Audience

“Sign I’m getting old: An invite to the local ‘swingers’ group now means taking my kids to the neighborhood playground.”

I saw that on Facebook this morning—made me feel that my time wasn’t wasted for checking, although other than that quote, it really was. Are pet videos in again or was this just a special week? Really people, though I guess these are my “friends.”

Social media can be simultaneously amazing and silly. Jeremy Phillips, COO of StrategyEye in London, told me a funny story about his 11 year-old daughter this morning, how she and her friends have become photo curators on Instagram. The parallel is that, like him, they combine original and non-original content—photos in this case—to build a coherent stream and attractive overall collection—and then they wait for the likes. Phillips said they get “plunged into despair” if they don’t get them, but usually do. They like that Instagram rewards what you do rather than who you are. “They’re becoming really keen editors,” he said.

Hard to give advice on a platform that 11 year-olds may be better at than we are, but that’s the world we live in. Here are tips I’ve read recently. The first four are from a good article by Lauren Jonas on the Association Media & Publishing site.

1. “Storify things like live events, milestones and Twitter chats.” Jonas gives an example here from the American Public Health Association that looks very engaging.

2. “Create photo/video contests — could be as simple as awarding a Starbucks gift card to the tweet-of-the-day at your conferences and events.” That’s a really good idea to get more people tweeting.

3. “Create a meme or series of infograms—two simple tools are piktochart.com and canva.com.”

4. Jonas calls connecting current events to your company “newsjacking.” How can you connect with the World Cup? Perhaps it’s financially, or the global nature, or the terminology. (I had to red-card my colleague today.) Audiences like topical and current.

5. Jonas also recommends Facebook as a news aggregator (along with Twitter). Barry Judge, CMO of LivingSocial, is now “grabbing the products that we think will sell well off our site and then typically we’ll use Facebook to get people interested. His example was Dotzila Bluetooth Shower Speakers. “Essentially what we do is we figure out from our own users who’s buying, then we find similar audiences on Facebook and sell it to them.”

6. Awe will get reactions in your social media postings. Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, studied 7,000 New York Times articles to see which made the most emailed list. “Awe gets our hearts racing and our blood pumping,” Berger said. “This increases our desire for emotional connection and drives us to share.”

7. Amy Maclean, editor of CableFax Daily, says they have a daily social media and planning meeting for editorial and marketing. She joked that if only marketing read their publication they might not be necessary, but said that meetings involve “more than not just getting enough comprehension. We do it informally every day at 10:30 a.m and keep it to 15 minutes. It’s really just to let people know what you’re doing that day.” Maybe editorial has some time to help marketing with a blast or tweet. “We reluctantly started it but now it’s a highlight.”

8. Jonas also is very high on blogs. I think most people are. Carl Landau of Niche Media, an event company, says they are pivotal for building an event’s audience. He may start a specific blog for each of his events. One thing to remember is that blog posts can be short, they can link to a video or story, they can be a photo, etc.

One of my favorite art bloggers posted just this the other day: “A hidden portrait has been unearthed beneath Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece ‘The Blue Room.’” He gave a link, and it was an interesting story. Something simple like that keeps me checking his blog every day. So don’t fret about having to always do a 600- or 700-word post. You just want to be engaging and consistent.

Those 11 year-olds shouldn’t have all the fun.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.


Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 .

New Global Audience Data Points Publishers in Right Directions

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism recently issued its global Digital News Report for 2014. There are success stories—in Germany, leading publisher Axel Springer recruited over 150,000 subscribers for its premium service BILD Plus in its first six months; the editor credited it to their “multimedia storytelling and our very own journalistic BILD content.” But overall, Reuters’ data says that only about 10% of online users pay for some digital news in most countries.

In honor of the recent World Cup, here are 7 items that caught my eye.

1. Important goals. Brazil at 22% had the most people paying for online news last year. The U.S. is at about 11% while the UK only 7% (although almost half of that 7% now pay through a subscription; 40% of Americans paying for news do so through a subscription). The overall proportion of those paying for news who have an online news subscription has grown from 43% to 59%.
Takeaway: While subscriptions seem to be growing, the number of individuals paying for online news is not. Thus the importance of lead generation.

2. Halftime analysis. What are the reasons for signing up and staying with online news? In The U.K., about 43% said they signed up because it enables access wherever and whenever they want, but only 32% stayed for that reason. The quality of the editorial was more important for why people stay—31% joined for that reason but 36% stay because of it. Other reasons: 17% sign up and stay for special offers; 35% sign up because it’s a brand they prefer for news but then 44% stay for that reason.
Takeaway: According to this study, the #1 reason people keep an online news subscription is broad range of coverage.

3. Set pieces. About37% of survey respondents said they access news on a phone at least once a week, and 20% said they primarily access news via a mobile device. “People talk about smartphones and tablets together, but the smartphone is really the disruptor,” said digital strategist Nic Newman, one of the co-authors. He noted that tablet users tend to skew older. “It’s so much more mobile, and so much more personal.”
Takeaway: Optimize your emails for mobile.

4. Corner kicks. Does your audience use social media for news? Most likely. Over a third said they have used Facebook for news in the last week (37% in the U.S.), while 15% have used YouTube and 9% Twitter. WhatsApp is a growing news tool at 6%; a third of the respondents in Brazil, Italy and Germany use it on a weekly basis. The fact that each country has its favorite social media makes it more challenging to draw in those readers, Newman said. “It makes it very difficult if you’re trying to be a global publisher,” he said.
Takeaway: Keep your Facebook presence up to date and approach each country separately.

5. New formations. Tablet users are roughly twice as likely to pay for news in both the U.K. (14%) and U.S. (19%). They did find a significant correlation with Apple tablets—that the owners are much more likely to pay for news than those on other tablets, especially in the U.S.
Takeaway: Don’t give up on the young. The people who said they are most likely to pay for news (who never have) are those in age group 18-24 (13%) followed by those 25-34 (12%).

6. Check the replay. Wrote Reuters Institute director of research, Robert G. Picard, “A major emerging strategy is the acquisition of video rights to help drive acceptance of paid tablet and smartphone services. The general press are producing more distinctive video content using their own journalists as well as offering news clips…”
Takeaway: Do video. I just read that, for some uses, the iPhone is the best way to shoot video; it’s unobtrusive and people are comfortable around it.

7. Group play. The membership model is “being pursued by news providers whose users have strong psychological links to the organization. Readers of the Guardian in the UK, for example, are less interested in subscriptions for general web access, but more interested in memberships because of their connotations of community and association. Consequently [the Guardian] is exploring revenue streams based on membership and live experiences, and close engagement with readers on all platforms.”
Takeaway: The more benefits and touch points you can provide to your audience, the better your retention will be.


Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 .

Leaked NY Times Digital Report Gives Publishers Much to Consider

The leaked 96-page, digital innovation report from The New York Times has a lot to offer for publishers on both sides of the Atlantic. A special task force was given 6 months to look at the Times’ digital strategy and decide how they should proceed. With a little help from Nieman reporters, here are 14 questions for IIN publishers based on the report.

Are you…

1. Taking full advantage of your model? “I don’t think we really understood the power of the data and the audience understanding that came with the subscription model,” said The Financial Times’s C.E.O., John Ridding. “We’ve been able to build a system of understanding our readers.”

2. Spending less time working on your homepage? That’s okay. They are becoming less important. “Only a third of our readers ever visit [our homepage],” the Times report said. “And those who do visit are spending less time: page views and minutes spent per reader dropped by double-digit percentages last year.” Our recent conference has a very nice homepage with rotating slides, informative blog posts, tweets and quotes. But I send people directly to the schedule page, the attendees list or the registration page—saves a click.

3. Paying attention to your audience’s online habits? I’ve written before here that in some ways it’s easier to start from scratch as a digital entity than transform from a print one. (See Buzzfeed or Huffington Post.) The report says that “the vast majority of our content is still published late in the evening, but our digital traffic is busiest early in the morning. We aim ambitious stories for Sunday because it is our largest print readership, but weekends are slowest online.”

4. Thinking enough in digital terms? This is a really interesting quote: “We should [be] thinking as hard about ‘second hour’ stories as we do about ‘second day’ stories.” Digital involves such a different mindset. Apparently, the Times keeps its innovations to certain desks: graphics, interactive news, social, and design. They are not integrated enough with places like news and sports.

5. Involving your IT and digital people in overall strategy? “The reason producers, platform editors and developers feel dissatisfied is that they want to play creative roles, not serve roles that involve administering and fixing. It would be like reporters coming here hoping to write features but instead we ask them to spend their days editing wire stories into briefs.”

6. Taking enough time to strategize? ‘We just don’t do strategy,” the report quotes. “The newsroom is really being dragged behind the galloping horse of the business side.” The day-to-day can be so overwhelming. If you don’t get away, then it can consume you. Assign a separate task force to look at your future. “…it took a group removed from the daily flow of the newsroom—NYT Now—to fundamentally rethink our mobile presentation.”

7. Collaborating enough? Sales and marketing. Marketing and editorial. IT and editorial. “Increased collaboration, done right, does not present any threat to our values of journalistic independence.” The Times does not do personalization well. “It’s possible we’re using the entirely wrong algorithm,” said Boris Chen, a data scientist on The Times’ personalization team. But editors, he said, must help him understand what is wrong so he can create a better alternative.

8. Putting on enough events? “There is no reason that the space filled by TED Talks, with tickets costing $7,500, could not have been created by the Times.” Use your brand to create events. Most publishers will tell you that events attract an audience that’s different from your subscribers. “NPR has made its journalists the centerpiece of shows that travel to large concert spaces in cities and college towns.”

9. Incorporating social media into your day-to-day work? ProPublica reporters submit 5 possible tweets when they file stories, and editors meet about social strategy for every story package. Reuters constantly looks for underperforming stories to bolster. “Our journalists want maximum readership and impact but many don’t know how to use social media effectively,” the report said.

10. Making clear who is responsible for social media? “Right now, they are unsure of whether spending time on social represents doing work or avoiding it.” Film critic A.O. Scott is torn between engaging with readers and moving on to the next story. “It raises the question, when is pushing it forward the better substitute for doing more work?” “At The New York Times, far too often for writers and editors the story is done when you hit publish,” said Paul Berry, who helped found The Huffington Post. “At Huffington Post, the article begins its life when you hit publish.”

11. Fully tagging your editorial and structuring your data? “…we floundered about for 15 years trying to figure out how to create a useful recipe database.” The Times spent “a huge sum to retroactively structure the data” and that still costs them in search.

12. Jumping on ideas that succeed and repurposing enough content? Mashable plays up this quote from the report: “…we rarely think to mine our archive, largely because we are so focused on news and features.” They also point out that the most popular Times online story ever was a quiz that determined where the reader was from based on how he or she talked. But it did not lead to a quiz template.

13. Connecting enough with your audience? “Deepening our connection with [readers] both online and offline is critical in a world where content so often reaches its broadest audience on the backs of other readers… Our competitors are launching new products or features as betas, and then using vital feedback from readers—rather than another round of internal feedback—to improve.

14. Planning enough around your best stories or information? “I don’t feel like we sit down when we have a big project, a big story, and say, ‘How do we roll this out?’” said one top editor.


Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 .

Five Trends Reflect Opportunities of Digital Age

Here are five growing trends that I’ve come across lately. It’s reassuring to see that the SIPA 2014 Conference will be covering all of them.

1. Better cooperation between IT and Marketing. I saw this prediction on the International Data Corporation list of 2014 predictions for CMOs: “Innovative CMO and CIO pairs will throw out the rule book when it comes to IT’s support of Marketing.” “Buyers are evolving their purchase practices faster than vendors are changing their marketing practices. It’s not a matter of doing the same things better. The [CMO] cannot avoid broader responsibility as the digital customer experience bursts traditional boundaries,” says Kathleen Schaub, vice president of the IDC CMO Advisory Service. With the new focus on data, CMOs will need their IT colleagues more than ever. Heather Farley, divisional president, Access Intelligence, LLC, and Rob Paciorek, senior VP/CIO, Access Intelligence, will present the The New CIO/CMO Partnership.

2. A better understanding and usage of data. That same IDC list predicted this: “By the end of 2014, 60% of CMOs will have a formal recruiting process for people with data skills.” SIPA 2014 will have sessions on Informing Decisions With Data with Jim Cowart, director of audience development, Meister Media, and Brett Keirstead, vice president, sales, Knowledge Marketing; and Strategies to Grow Your Data Business with Brian Crotty, CEO and president of OPIS and Russell Perkins, founder & managing director, InfoCommerce Group Inc. “The right data leads to the right content leads to the right outcome,” said Keirstead.

3. More merging of professional and social. SIIA puts on local networking sessions for its members and prospects called INFO Locals. The Austin, Texas, organizers decided to make theirs a Meetup group called SIIA INFO Local: Data, Content and Information Services. Meetup is a worldwide organization that brings people together with similar interests, from biking to sewing to marketing. For their first dinner, Austin got 26 responses and it looks like—from the pictures—about 15 attendees, with titles like chief quality officer, senior project manager, director of marketing, software engineer and digital content editor. Starting a Meetup group costs all of $72 for 6 months. The famous SIPA roundtables will be the place to explore social media’s large role in this new merger.

4. More SIPA publishers putting on successful live events. At the Bank Safety & Soundness Advisor, publisher Aaron Steinberg runs a huge conference for credit union directors and CEOs “with a publication tied to that.” Chartwell has their big Customer Experience Conference in October. Magna Publications has two for teaching professors this year and one for student leadership. Pro Farmer has their multi-live-event Midwest Crop Tour. Diversified events range from Accounts Payable employees to Administrative to Fine Food Australia. Carl Landau of Niche Media will be speaking on Making the Most of Your Live Events. Another good session will be Mobile Strategies with Joe May of Pro Farmer and Ryan Willumson of Industry Dive.

5. More publishers going the member route. Pro Farmer has three levels of members: Classic, Preferred and VIP. Diversified has a successful model as well. AIS Health has many options for their publications and other services, but to log in the question they use is, “Already a member?” Business Management Daily has various options for their customers. Vantage Production has a “Join Now” invitation. Adam Goldstein, associate publisher, Business Management Daily, and RD Whitney, executive director, Diversified Business Communications, will present Membership Models for Additive Revenue. And Nancy Brand, director of operations, Chartwell, and Torry Burdick, VP product marketing, Vantage Production, LLC will present Onboarding and Retention: Find Them, Keep Them, Make Them Love You!

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.


Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 .

Tips on Metrics, Globalizing, Social Media and Length of Posts

The speakers for next month’s SIPA 2014 Conference stand among the most knowledgeable in the industry. Here’s a sample of informative posts from their company websites.

1. Measuring the right metrics can be extremely valuable, so the ePublishing blog gives four to keep track of.
- Length of engagement – “the more accurate representation…”
- Unique visitors and size of audience: “You can segment this data around the writer’s individual audience and topic areas.”
- Return readership: “It’s important to reward content that will bring someone back and increase the chances they’ll register, subscribe or buy.”
- Amount of content produced: “…it’s important to find the sweet spot where quality is not compromised, but quantity is honored.”
Thomas Chaffee, president & CEO, ePublishing, will speak on Optimizing Your Content Management System with Dexter Steis of Natural Gas Intelligence and Andy Swindler of Astek. Another session will be Sales and Marketing Metrics.

2. A recent post on going global from Real Magnet tells what you need to consider.
- Does your database support multicurrency? “By utilizing an AMS/CRM that has a multicurrency feature, foreign exchange rates are automatically handled…You can also promote products in the local currency.”
- Does your website support multilingual content?
- Are you adhering to international spam laws? Canada will have strict new email marketing regulations starting in July.
- Are you able to validate international addresses? “Investing in technology that can easily validate the addresses in your database can help solve deliverability issues and help decrease shipping rates.”
Tom Pines, president of Real Magnet, will present Marketing Automation for Publishers with Mari Mullane of Inside Mortgage Finance.

3. On the Newstex blog, Susan Gunelius writes about research on the ideal length for various posts.
Ideal tweet length: 100 characters
Ideal Facebook post length: less than 40 characters
Ideal Google+ headline length: less than 60 characters
Ideal email subject line length: 28-39 characters
Ideal title tag length: 55 characters
Ideal domain name length: 8 characters
Larry Schwartz, president of Newstex, will co-present Licensing and Distributing Your Content with Jonathan Hoy from ABA Publishing.

4. A post on the Melcrum site says that sharing photos internally among employees can be a good thing.
I like the idea of posting a new employee’s first-day photo. “Embarrassing? Maybe, but it’s a great way to get your employees familiar with new starters quickly.” The article also recommends a photo to recognize a good achievement. “…sharing their success via an image will help the broader organization more deeply relate and engage with that message.”
Victoria Meillor, CEO of Melcrum, will present a Melcrum Case Study in Business Model Transformation. Robin Crumby, co-founder and executive director of Melcrum, will co-present Lead Generation: The Art & Science of Finding, Nurturing and Selling to New Names with Dan Oswald, CEO of BLR.

5. From Industry Dive’s 25 Social Media Tips for Media Publishers…
- Share well-written and original, feature-length articles. On average, our feature-length articles get far more mentions and re-tweets than our shorter “briefs.”
- Schedule your posts. You can’t be expected to sit around all day waiting for the perfect moment to tweet. It’s easier to pre-schedule your posts with services like Hootsuite.
- Track your social media traffic. Add UTM strings to the end of your tweets and Facebook posts to track social traffic via Google Analytics.
Ryan Willumson, Industry Dive co-founder, will speak on Mobile Strategies with Joe May from Pro Farmer.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.


Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 .

Spacey Interview Leads to Thoughts on Modern-Day Mentoring

“Send the elevator back down.”

Those words were spoken by House of Cards star Kevin Spacey in an interview on the Studio 360 radio show Saturday. He was quoting the late Oscar-winning actor Jack Lemmon, who served as a mentor to Spacey, who played his son in the film Dad. Spacey said that Lemmon was very concerned with helping the next generation of actors.

This morning I heard a similar sentiment from Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells in an interview on ESPN radio. He recently advised Steve Kerr, a current NBA announcer in line to become the next coach of the New York Knicks. Parcells said that he was helped as a young coach by luminaries of the day like Tom Landry and is proud to pass that on.

One always-pleasing picture at a conference such as SIPA 2014—exactly a month from today!—is the conversation between an experienced publisher or marketer and an up-and-coming person in that field. That’s one reason why it’s so important to send people of all levels to the conference. It’s a chance for them to establish relationships with peers and professionals from other companies. (And perhaps attend a great Marketing Boot Camp!)

But the idea of mentoring relationships has been flipped a bit in our industry. So much of what we do relies on technology—and to a growing extent, social media—and it’s younger people who have lived that world. When I think of young people in this business I’ve gotten to know—a Rachel Yeomans, Jenny Fukumoto or Nancy Brand—I do offer advice, but easily get that back in information on Twitter, mobile and SalesForce.

I came across a good article Friday on the CNN Money site titled “5 Mentor Mistakes to Avoid” written by award-winning journalist Katherine Reynolds Lewis. She comes at it from the viewpoint of a person-seeking-a-mentor, but there’s good advice for both sides.

Her #1 mistake to avoid is having a mentor just like you; that’s a good concept in general for meeting people at a conference. Seek out colleagues in different areas. Of course, you’ll talk to your friends, but tell yourself you need to return with 5 new connections.

#2 is avoid asking for general help. If you approach a speaker after a session, come with a definite question or purpose in mind. Reynolds Lewis also wants you to share outcomes, so you can ask that speaker, “If I try this, can I check back with you to get your feedback?”

#3 is avoid wasting time. “The time is the biggest issue and the commitment. It is a big commitment,” says Roz Alford, principal of ASAP, an IT solutions company. “There has to be accountability on both sides.”

#4 is what I mentioned above: Avoid thinking it’s a one-way relationship. Jack Lemmon got a deep sense of pride from seeing Kevin Spacey succeed and similarly, Season Crawford of MMI, in a recent Member Profile, credited the people she first worked with for the entrepreneurial nature they instilled in her. But today, good business relationships are a traffic-heavy, two-way street, no matter the ages. Get to know a Joe May from Pro Farmer (presenting a session on mobile), Brand from Chartwell (onboarding and retention) or the young and entrepreneurial Andy Swindler, president of Astek (optimizing your CMS).

The #5 mistake is forcing the relationship. Talk, exchange cards, then emails, maybe run into that person again. And perhaps you’re in a modern-day mentoring relationship before you even realize it.

Send the elevator back down? Probably meet on the third floor in appliances and computers might be the better line for today—though it’s not nearly as lyrical.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.


Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 .

Audience Info May Give You Best Social Media Advice

Yesterday, I was going through LinkedIn’s new Facebook-like homepage and saw a few great posts from a colleague/friend who I had emailed a couple weeks ago and heard nothing back. So I wrote her through LinkedIn and received a nice response back in about an hour. Another friend I see on Facebook all the time—guess where I’ve had the most luck reaching him?

The best thing you can do is get information from your audience, Rachel Yeomans, senior marketing manager for Chicago-based Pear, told me late last year. What platform(s) are they on? What do they look to get out of social media? How do they use it? Do a survey, poll the group on your forum, put a link on page one of your publication, call them up.

“It’s a much better way to be confident about your decisions,” she said. “That will then define who you are as a company [social media-wise] and the audience you’re trying to reach.” Here are some fairly surprising social media success stories from SIPA members for four of the big platforms: [Read more...]

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