At Share Rocket, we’ve been tracking and gauging performance on social media in much the same way broadcasters do on-air – with ratings-based metrics – since 2014. However, we’ve never before utilized that data for an annual list of the top performers on social media in the United States, until now. In December, we began a month of work to crunch the numbers on more than 24 million total posts and nearly 2 billion engagements in an entire year across the nation to establish our first-ever Social Standouts top 10 lists. Today, we’re pleased to announce the top 10 anchors and reporters in our analysis. Wednesday, we will announce our top 10 meteorologists. Then, Thursday, we’ll close out with the top 10 stations in the country. Congratulations to all of our top performers!
There’s more than one way to win the social war for journalists trying to carve out their path in the new media landscape. That’s the biggest takeaway from our list of the top 10 TV reporters and anchors on social media in 2016.
THE TOP 10
#1: John Gray – WTEN
#2: Curt Autry – WWBT
#3: Frank Somerville – KTVU
#4: Chad Tucker – WGHP
#5: Shally Zomorodi – KSWB
#6: Nick Beres – WTVF
#7: John Snell – WVUE
#8: Jake Hamilton – WFLD
#9: Jay Towers – WJBK
#10: Gloria Ordaz – WLTV
Looking at the timelines of our top performers, there were at least seven or eight distinctly different approaches to creating a voice on social. Some are snarky with an edge, others are sweet and sincere. Some are all about so-called “Capital J” hard journalism, while others fill their feeds with Hollywood news and pictures of their pets. Some pour their souls onto the screen in long-form posts that tug at heartstrings, while others barely say a word unless asked and let their photos do the talking.
While each approach might hit the mark differently, all were proven to be successful in 2016. At Share Rocket, we judge success on social primarily by the amount of engagement an individual or a station can generate on social media. To us, those engagements mark a moment in which a follower’s focus is completely on the content at hand and they are responding to it directly. Those who can forge those connections and build a large social audience are also growing the size of the revenue opportunities on social media for their stations. Those who can’t may soon find themselves lagging further and further behind.
That’s why we want to underline what these 10 top performers did well in the last year and provide examples of what makes them great. As we noted recently, there is still time for local journalists to carve out their niche on social media, but it all starts with finding their voice on social. We hope our 2016 Social Standouts can provide some inspiration.
[For an explanation of the methodology used to create our 2016 Social Standout top 10 lists, click here. Although Share Rocket tracks performance on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the examples in the links of each entry are exclusively from Facebook because that social network easily produces the highest amount of engagement and provides more variation and creativity from post to post than Twitter or Instagram. However, the rankings of our top 10 lists are based on combined data from all three networks.]
While the last year of news may have made your social media pages feel like the most divided they have ever been, the best content on social has a tendency to bring all people together. John Gray is an expert at finding our common humanity, and it shines out as you scroll through his Facebook timeline. In addition to anchoring at WTEN, Gray is a weekly columnist for The (Troy, N.Y.) Record and the Saratogian newspapers, which you can see in the way he writes even a post about a momentary passing thought with a style and flourish that keep the reader clicking that “See more” button on a long post. Here, Gray takes a tragic local news story and truly boils it down to its essence into a poignant and impactful post that can be as true in Albany, N.Y., as it is anywhere in the country. That alone takes a special talent in connecting with a huge social media audience, but he also has the good instincts to follow up that post with another – this one updating the thousands touched by the story with how the victim’s family reacted to the outpouring of support in the comment section. Gray knows how to make an impact with an image, whether it’s getting followers to share a dumb joke (that happens to contain useful storm safety information), getting them to stop and read a post that may be longer than what they’re typically up for (but has a life-affirming message in the face of tragedy), or even just breaking their hearts like a Sarah McLachlan ASPCA ad (without the Sarah McLachlan). Gray is in the top 10 individuals in the country in four out of the five key performance indicators we used for our analysis, and he set the pace for the rest of the country on social media in 2016.
Curt Autry is nothing if not opinionated. As you can see here and here, he’s not afraid to share his personal opinions about new events on social media. With his voice on the platform, there’s never any question who is posting and he is quick to make clear his page is his. Sometimes it’s hilarious, often it’s informative, and nearly every time it’s punctuated by unique, laugh-out-loud hashtags. Autry shares a lot of missing pets (and often their reunions with their owners), but he always errs on the side of caution, journalistically, when sharing posts. Say what you will about the content in some of his posts or the opinions he states publicly, but he clearly has forged a great connection with an audience that gets him. A fellow journalist who apparently doesn’t get it told a friend that Autry could “post a pic of a bear taking a dump in the woods and it would still get a thousand likes.” Autry got word of it and posted exactly that. The other journalist was wrong. Autry got 13,000 likes out of it.
In television news, good storytelling is the key to keeping an audience engaged. It’s no different on social media. And Frank Somerville is arguably the best storyteller in the social media world. However, not all of the stories are originally his. Somerville, as an anchor in a top-10 market, clearly gets a lot of story tips. But in today’s media landscape, story pitches often come in the form of shared Facebook photos and statuses. Somerville uses those tips in many of his #RealPeopleRealStoriesRealLife posts. He began hashtagging the posts in October, but he had been posting stories in the format long before then. The posts tagged with that hashtag are often someone else’s originally, but Somerville uses his knack for storytelling to completely change the presentation. He’ll bring the most intriguing portion of the story or quote to the top to grab the reader, then provides some context for where the story came from, then reposts the original text (along with a link to the original). Sometimes Somerville caps it with a message of his own. It’s a great way to share the human, touching stories you come across on social media (or tips that may not warrant a full story) in an engaging, highly-sharable format for an audience online that dwarfs the reach of any TV. One warning, though – keep tissues available when reading the #RealPeopleRealStoriesRealLife posts. Stories like this one tend to evoke tears from even the most hardened journalists.
You know those people whose families you see on social media in post after post that are so precious and perfectly captured that you begin to wonder if they have a full-time camera crew? That’s the Tuckers. In between news posts, Chad Tucker introduces his followers to his entire family on Facebook, and his followers can’t get enough – he had the fourth-highest engagement-to-audience ratio in the country last year. By letting viewers into his living room, he can better connect with them and encourage them to invite him into theirs when he’s on the anchor desk. He’s also open about his family’s Christian faith on his page, sometimes simply sharing scripture alongside photos, which are shared out and engaged with by an audience that may not normally spend time on a news anchor’s page. Then again, how could he not fit in with his audience? He was born in North Carolina, went to college in North Carolina, is now an anchor in North Carolina, and likes stock car racing. Tucker couldn’t be more authentically North Carolinian if he bled Cheerwine.
Shally Zomorodi is the West Coast’s answer to Chad Tucker, with a lovely growing family of her own that viewers have watched growing up on social media. Zomorodi is a high-energy personality who is a mother of three as well as co-anchor of the morning news, and her timeline will sound familiar to hard-working parents everywhere. She shares smiles and selfies with her family with followers almost every day, but also more personal moments that provide a glimpse of who she is away from work. Her fans and followers also spent much of the year following the updates on the newest addition to her family, from the gender reveal (live on TV) and a Facebook Live of a sonogram. She’s relatable in opening up about everything from her worries as a parent to little moments of domestic frustration, to what’s for lunch and pictures of her “exploded-rainbow” closet.
An enterprise reporter in Nashville, Nick Beres was one the must-follow journalists on social media in the deadly Gatlinburg wildfire in Tennessee at the end of November. He is also a tremendously useful local resource for developing news, going back and updating posts to provide the very latest information. He often shares suspect or victim photos in his posts, but usually goes a step beyond to add a little extra color or information you don’t get in a press release. Beres is a great example of how hard news can be just as effective on Facebook as it is on Twitter while reaching many more eyeballs virally. Also, he can really pull off a turkey-hat-and-tie-dye-apron combo.
A veteran New Orleans newsman with a penchant for taking gorgeous photos of southeastern Louisiana, his Facebook page may be less newsy than you might expect, but his creative photography and video draws in a lot of new fans. He’s very responsive to those wondering about the beautiful places and wildlife he finds in Louisiana as well as those wondering about the camera and editing set up he uses to capture them. Whether sharing tips and pictures others have posted in photography blogs or his own photos, he’s a useful source for ideas and techniques for other aspiring shutterbugs. As you might expect, Snell’s Instagram is also a treasure. He had the 9th-highest average Share on social media of any individual in the country, meaning he was almost always near the top of the overall rankings in the New Orleans market.
The top 10’s biggest cinephile, Jake Hamilton’s page is decked out with movie-of-the-year picks and Star Wars gags (lots of them) in addition to celebrity interviews and fun segments as a reporter for Good Day Chicago. He has a collection of selfies with celebrities that would make anyone green with envy, and frequently gets assignments that lead to fun social opportunities he takes advantage of, like this and this. His page is light-hearted with quality, shareable content that racks up engagements. In fact, he had the third-most total engagements of an individual in the analysis. In sort, Hamilton gets what people are often looking for on social media (Pro-tip: Cute animal stories never hurt). All in all, it’s been a winning year for Illinois’ Hairry Award winner.
He does TV, he does radio, he does the reporter cameo in summer blockbusters – Jay Towers is everywhere in the Motor City, including social media. He was 7th in the country in total engagements and maintained one of the 15 highest market Share scores in the country throughout the year. Towers has really harnessed the reach Facebook has given to video in the last year, sharing content acquired through a viral video hub to boost engagement, but he also racks up quite a bit of engagement on his impromptu Facebook Live videos, like this one of Towers playing with his dog (which amassed 46,000 views).
The only anchor or reporter from a Spanish-language station in the top 10, Gloria Ordaz is the nightly news anchor for Univision in Miami. Like a couple of other individuals on this list, Ordaz welcomed home a new child this year – it appears you also get a baby bump in social media engagements when you’re expecting or welcoming a new addition. But when Ordaz is not on maternity leave, she frequently shares behind-the-scene video from the set and breaking news and updates from the U.S., Mexico, Central America, and South America. Cuban-born, Ordaz’s page was also very active in the days after Fidel Castro’s death, with videos (both celebratory and controversial) that were seen by hundreds of thousands of people.