New tricks: Know your audience – whether you’re on Twitter or in print

January 28th, 2010

I recently started writing a social media newsletter for the Austin American-Statesman’s newsroom. I posted the first one, which was about responding to readers, here. Here’s the second one, edited slightly to make sense as a blog post.

Got a great question last week from a staff member:

“This may sound like trivia…. but, I’m wondering what posting on Facebook has received the most comments? People are always asking me…. what should they post to get a lot of responses?”

It’s not trivial at all. The answer is a bit nuanced, though, so stay with me:

Readers, of course, are all different and they consume their news in various ways. Based on my experience, however, I can stereotype them some based on the metrics we’ve seen:

* Print readers. They have some time to read in-depth stories and are looking for good investigative journalism and longer-form stories.

* Newspaper Web site readers. In general, they are interested intensely in local news (and Longhorns sports), and will click in droves on juicy crime stories. A lot of these readers come from the search engines to our site (not through the front page). On most days, the majority of the most-read news stories on are crime-related.

* Social media consumers. They are not as interested in the juicy crime stories as our average online reader. Several times, we’ve had crime stories that were pulling in big-time traffic online. However, when I’ve posted on Twitter and Facebook, those stories would flop. Instead, these consumers are seeking immediate-impact news that affects them personally. Since social media is a two-way communication tool, I’ve heard about it, too. Often, the only public responses I’ve received are, “Why do I need to know about that poor kid’s murder? Stop being sensational.”

Why the different responses based on medium? I think it’s because people who use social media began and maintained using the services because their friends and family are there. Social media is more “me centric” than the rest of the Web. They hang out on Facebook and share things that impact their own lives, such as their kid losing a tooth or the latest cute pics of their dog. Journalists who are pushing news are invading that territory. We’re welcomed as friends if we’re playing along – giving them news that is immediately useful to them. We’re annoying intruders if we don’t realize that’s what they want.

The staff member had asked about the comments, and I’m not dodging that – I’ve seen that the social media posts with the most comments also are the ones that are read the most, so they go hand-in-hand.

My advice: When you post on Facebook or Twitter about your beat, you should be sharing stuff that you’d otherwise share with friends (even if you didn’t work here).

Robert Quigley

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Entry Filed under: Metrics,New Tricks,Newsletter

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  • loritodd

    Robert, I think you could take what you're already producing for the Statesman (this internal weekly update) and get other newspaper social media folk to subscribe to it. The Statesman is one of the best examples of old media using social media. I am sure others would love to subscribe and hear what you have to say. I am forwarding this to my friends at the Miami Herald :)

  • Robert Quigley

    Thanks for the idea. I'll ponder. Meanwhile, they can subscribe to the blog :)

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  • vharres

    Rob – Thanks for this piece. I'm going to share it with a few people. You make a very good point about not assuming your audience is the same on all your channels. I think this is something that PR folks need to think about when offering content.

  • Robert Quigley

    Thanks Vicky
    Glad it's a help. Thanks for spreading it around.
    – Robert

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