Having established our own Facebook page earlier this year, Affinity Express is well aware of the site’s incredible popularity. In fact, Facebook is the most visited site in the U.S., with more than 500 million users worldwide.
One of our key market segments is newspapers and multi-media publishers. We’ve been providing print and online ad production for several years and, more recently, launched social media services. The implication for our clients and prospects is that Facebook might already have more reach in the community than any other media outlet, including local newspapers. But rather than competing, Facebook can be used by newspapers as a very viable (and affordable) short-term solution to boost traffic and page views for their websites and generate new revenue from advertisers).
There is no denying that Facebook vies for the attention of local audiences and is changing the way people are finding and consuming news. As Chris Treadaway (founder and CEO of Lasso and author of the upcoming book Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day) aptly puts it: “One minute spent on Facebook is a minute not spent on another web property. As a result, publishers need to go beyond building better websites to create engaging content that can appear on Facebook.
Embracing Facebook has numerous benefits. It enables publishers an ability to reach a huge audience. It also allows readers to share and discuss content and, the more it is viewed and shared, the more likely it is to obtain links. Newspapers can learn who is reading, sharing and engaging with their content. Plus, Facebook reaches a younger audience. The median age of a newspaper subscriber is 51 years old while the median age of a user who likes articles on news sites is 34 years old. How many more advertisers targeting this demographic could you sell in your market?
Sharing content through social plug-ins is a critical step to getting more traffic but many publishers have not yet realized their full potential. Jeremy Porter writes about the top 25 newspapers on Facebook and even some of them have not gotten it completely right. The New York Times has five times the Likes as The Wall Street Journal (although The Washington Post recently announced their “Network News” initiative, integrating Facebook into the paper’s website). Facebook seems to be a lower priority for The Star-Ledger, which has only 450 Likes (as of this morning). The Detroit Free Press is the only newspaper in the top 25 that doesn’t have a vanity URL (a customized URL as opposed to one automatically assigned by Facebook–for example, ours is http://www.facebook.com/affinityexpress).
Most of the top 25 newspapers on Facebook do have a link to Twitter or Facebook from their homepage, with many integrating several of Facebook’s tools into their websites, giving users the ability to Like content or sign in with their Facebook accounts. As Porter points out, USA Today is one of the only newspapers not to have a “friend us on Facebook” option on its homepage. How does your newspaper stack up against the top 25?
Affinity Express President of Advertising Services David McTarnaghan notes that virtually all our newspaper clients include social media as part of their suite of digital advertising services, which includes display ads, emails, directory listings, Facebook fan pages and LinkedIn accounts. “Publishers are trying to create as many touch points with people who are interested in buying as possible,” David explained.
Looking ahead, newspapers now need Facebook developers and experts who can help them target social media-savvy audiences. The Search Engine Journal points out that certain types of content work better on social media (e.g., breaking news and controversial topics). It is also important to create a venue for discussion for it to be “social”: remember to ask for comments and also to respond to them. On another front, Facebook can be used to promote events. Perhaps most importantly, newspapers can and should customize content to boost subscribers or engagement because relevance is a central theme to both the content shared on social networks and in publications.
“Most newspapers need help in executing their social media strategies. They have been focused on print for so long and now there is incredibly fast growth of new products. The lack of skills and capacity to meet the demand for digital services is causing a strain,” David tells us. “I know of one publishing group that uses 12 different vendors to produce all the online services offered and that is a real management challenge.”
Ultimately, Facebook offers newspapers a ready-made audience that is already connected to their desired local demographic. Publishers need to recognize the importance of tapping into Facebook’s community because it is where their readers are finding, sharing and discussing the types of content that the newspapers seek to champion. We tend to agree with the pundits who say that those newspapers that don’t recognize the potential of Facebook will decline quickly. In today’s media environment, complete understanding of social media is necessary for publishers of any kind to modernize, grow and survive.
How is your newspaper using social media today? Have you succeeded in making Facebook and Twitter work for your publications? Let us know what strategies and tactics you’ve developed.