Measuring Viewer Impact With Social Media Tools

October 5, 2015

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It’s no secret that increasing numbers of Americans across all demographics are obtaining news from social media—mostly Facebook and Twitter. According to a July study from the Pew Research Center and the Knight Foundation, sixty-three percent of both Facebook and Twitter users find news on these networks. Compared to 2013, Twitter saw an 11% increase up from 52%, and Facebook was up 16% from 47%. While both networks have experienced similar increases, almost twice as many users rely on Twitter (59%) to follow breaking news, with 31% of Facebook users depending on the network for breaking news.

Tracking Impact with Social Media Tools

Many broadcast journalists are using social media tools to track the impact of their stories on social networks—not just how many people click a link or watch a video, but demographic information as well.

Facebook Insights, available to any business/public figure page with at least 30 likes, provides percentages of users who like your page for age and gender groupings, pulling the data from personal profiles. Geographical data is also useful for local television stations—city data allows a station to see where most of their followers are located. Meanwhile, TweetReach allows businesses to see who retweets their content.

Making Sense of It All

How to use this data? Facebook Insights and TweetReach can be compared to other data, such as Nielsen ratings. Do television viewers skew older or more toward a certain city in the viewing area than Facebook data? What does that mean?

Helping Advertisers Make Smart Decisions

Interpreting these differences can be tricky, but it can lead to a broader understanding of the station’s viewership. An older audience in Nielsen ratings can mean that younger viewers prefer getting their news online—but they can still be reached with ads on the station’s website, or pre-roll ads on video posted to Facebook. You can use this information to help clients make informed decisions about how they advertise with your station—and if you help them get better results, they’re more likely to place ads with your station in the future.

Social media tools can also impact which stories you post or promote on social networks. It may turn out that viewers who get most of their news from television love your station’s weekly gardening segment or economic report, but people following your station’s Twitter feed are more interested in sports scores. Meanwhile, Facebook users might be more interested in your political coverage. If that’s true, you might post or promote more stories about local candidates on Facebook and show more coverage of the local football team on Twitter.

Learning From Targeted Social Media Ads

Both Facebook and Twitter allow businesses to pay for ads or promoted content. You can see which posts were shared or re-tweeted the most to determine what kinds of stories to promote on the network. Choosing who sees your ads based on age, gender or interests is another benefit.

The key with both networks is to focus on fluidity in your campaigns. You might have a good idea of the target market you want for a story, ad for your station, etc. But audiences are fickle, especially in a fast-changing environment like Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook. You should always start with the best and most specific target audience possible, based on any previous research you have.

But resist the urge to choose “women in their forties who enjoy golf and travel,” set up the campaign, and forget it. Look at your numbers every week—or every few days, if time permits. Who shared each story? Did some videos get more shares than expected—or significantly less? Who is actually retweeting your content? Should you be investigating another demographic instead? What if women in their twenties end up retweeting more of your stories than women in their forties, even though Nielsen ratings suggest your viewers skew older? Should you focus on a different group with your online promotion efforts while continuing to cater to your television audience with the stories they want to see?

It’s also important to look at results over time. Just because a subject is hotly debated on social media one week doesn’t mean anyone will want to share a post about it next week. People burn out quickly on popular news stories—and nowhere is that more true than the internet. Looking at your metrics each day can show you when it’s time to start posting or promoting something else.

Experimenting with New Segments or Topics

Tracking what stories are shared the most and by who also provides valuable insight about where you should focus your energy—and how. Maybe a new segment on the news isn’t holding viewers’ attention—but Twitter followers rapidly retweet the video. You can reduce the amount of time in the newscast that you devote to a segment or topic—for example, making it a weekly segment instead of a daily one, or once a month instead of weekly—while frequently posting or promoting the segment video on social media after it airs. Cutting-room-floor type footage can be shared on social networks as fun extras, without giving the segment more time during the newscast.

[su_note]Learn more about the School of Broadcast Journalism at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.[/su_note]