02 September 2008

Social Media Task Force Reaps Rewards

A newspaper has revealed that a team dedicated to boosting its social media presence has helped its website score an 8% increase in page views.

The four-person task force at the Chicago Tribune has distributed content through a variety of new channels to draw in traffic, according to the Huffington Post.

One of their first actions was the creation of the character of Colonel Tribune to become the face of the newspaper on sites including Twitter, Digg and Facebook.

And as well as bringing traffic to the main site, the Tribune said the strategy is producing good story leads and helping journalists keep in touch with their readers.

“Essentially, social media gives us a year-round, real-time focus group to monitor conversations and keep us in tune with what consumers are thinking,” noted Bill Adee, head of the task force and associate managing editor for innovation.

Representatives from the Tribune were at the recent newspaper industry convention in Chicago, where they discussed their social media initiatives in detail.

Professor Jane Singer was at the session at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication convention and here’s her summary of the main points:

“Daniel B. Honigman, social media coordinator for the Tribune and the Colonel’s creator, sees the character as a ‘Web ambassador’ and a way for people to interact and engage with the paper.

For instance, the Colonel recently hosted a meet-up, which around 50 people attended. The character also serves as a point person for news tips (which Honigman forwards to the appropriate journalist).

However, the Colonel is hard to find on the main website. Honigman said the marketing department does not know what to do with him.

He emphasised the need for detailed metrics to enable the sales staff to sell social media, notably to optimise the potential to bring different audiences to advertisers.

Other social media bits from the Tribune:

* Honigman said bookmarking (for instance, through digg.com) has been the most successful social media strategy for driving traffic. Popular ‘diggs’ are highlighted on the home page.

*The Tribune also has several hundred fans on Facebook, and one reporter is particularly active on Twitter. Honigman says Second Life is no longer worth the effort for a newspaper company.

* Bill Adee pointed out that social media functions such as bookmarking are handled by newsroom staff at the Tribune, in contrast to The New York Times, where those functions are the province of the marketing department.

* Along with ‘most popular’ and ‘most e-mailed’ stories, the home page includes a ‘Hot Topics’ button, which offers links to Chicago Tribune stories related to the most popular items on Google News and Google Web. Adee says this tactic helps boost the site’s SEO.”

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