One of the hardest things to do as a news organization’s digital or social editor is to get the staff to accept and embrace the changes brought on by social media.
As new social platforms sprout up and gain a following, journalists have been asked to adapt their workflow, work within the restrictions of ever-changing mediums, and prioritize their effort to maximize the value of the content they gather and the audience it can reach. Every story becomes a balancing act of providing what is asked for TV or print, for the outlet’s website, and for social media (both for the individual and the station).
The Importance of Getting your Talent Involved on Social Media
Considering the sweeping changes of the last two decades, it’s no wonder some have fallen behind or are hesitant to change from what has worked up until now. The fact is, having voices in the room who have earned their stripes through years of fighting for good journalism and its virtues has value for every up-and-comer. But, at the same time, if a respected veteran in a newsroom dismisses or ignores these changes entirely, it can lead others to abandon their efforts at a time when social audiences are still rapidly expanding and the monetization of those efforts is right around the corner.
The social editor is tasked with guiding the majority of the room to success on social, often contending with factions who have no will to improve on social or no knowledge of how to do so (or in the worst-case scenario, both). While it’s not an easy task, like most big jobs, it’s easier when broken down into smaller, manageable pieces. We like to think of it as shifting a bell curve, one-third at a time.
Using Share Rocket, broadcasters or publishers can see how their talent rate among each other and against their competition. Take a look at your team ranked by their Social Equity Index (SEI) score. SEI is the individual’s 0-to-100 grade based on their total social performance over the last 90 days, weighed against the others in their peer group within the market. It usually creates a bell curve of the station’s talent in which there are a few strong individuals (think an SEI score around 70 or higher), the majority often somewhere in the middle (usually with an SEI between 45 to 70), and some who could definitely use improvement (with an SEI lower than 45).
When faced with trying to improve an entire staff, it’s often best to start at the top of your rankings and work your way down.
The two biggest factors in finding and maintaining social success are aptitude and attitude. The top third of your organization’s bell curve in terms of social ratings likely already has both: a pretty good idea of what they are doing and the desire to invest effort in it and try new things. They usually just need maintenance check-ins every now and then. Make sure they are getting what they need in terms of tools to do the job (extra batteries, light kits or microphones for their phones, WiFi hotspots, assistance getting their content to the main station social accounts). Keep them aware of major social trends and what types of content are most effective. Praise them for their social wins and use them as examples for the rest of the team in “social shout out” notes distributed to the newsroom. It’s a good idea to set up folders each month just to save screenshots of quality posts — take them early and often. Keep your top performers happy and invested, because you’ll need their help for everyone else to improve.
The middle group is sometimes the largest representation of your staff and is where you will typically find the individuals who are going to be able to move up into the top third in performance. Often, there is a handful in the middle who either have the aptitude or the attitude to improve, but need a push in the right direction on one or the other. Try to look into their numbers on their individual page to determine if they fit in one of those categories.
Do they go days without posting on social at all? How often are they using each platform and type of post? If they are active on social, but in areas that don’t generate very much engagement, talk to them about what kind of posts will maximize their return-on-effort. Make a seven-day plan where they focus on crafting more of their most engaging post type and get them to commit to creating a minimum two quality posts a day on Facebook or Instagram. Follow-up after two weeks to see what happened. Sometimes, just seeing how easy it can be to improve their scores (and their rank) by changing up their social priorities can inspire confidence and more activity.
If you find someone who is clearly striving for but not hitting the right notes, you can always work to improve aptitude. This is where the people in the top third are most important. Save screenshots of examples of their best posts and walk through their feeds with those who are posting often but not getting much traction. Facilitate conversations within the room about the process that led to the post by the top performers so that those in the middle can get in the mindset and see it is not beyond their capability. Keep an eye on the top and trending posts in your market through the day and make sure the leadership in the room has expressed the need to be on the lookout for social opportunities to the individual or crew assigned to it for the shift.
Attitude — and ultimately success — is going to be dependent on the individual. When more of the room is getting involved and competitive about their scores, it makes things much easier. That’s why the early focus on top performers and getting better results for those in the middle is so important. Help establish that culture with public pats on the back when someone has followed their goal and sees improvement. Share content on the main station accounts from those who are giving it their best effort (and if their best effort isn’t up to the quality you’re hoping for, offer help or guidance until it is). Use monitors in the newsroom and email or Slack notifications when your staff’s posts are trending to foster competition.
Finally, once you have picked out the staff members in the middle to improve and used their gains to bring the room’s attention to social, you can move your focus onto the bottom third. In a lot of cases, these folks are lacking both the attitude and aptitude for social success. Hopefully, your overtures to the rest of the staff have made a bit of an impact in getting this last group more interested in improving, but they may require a little more forceful push from their direct managers to get in the game.
Start by putting together a presentation on social basics with several examples of what a good post looks like for each type. After your efforts with the rest of the newsroom, this hopefully won’t be too hard. Ask management to set up a mandatory meeting for those in this bottom third to walk them through it and ask them questions to see if they really do understand when and how to use each platform. If there are any deficiencies, set them up with members of your digital or social team (or just your higher-performing individuals) to go through the posting process step by step on their phones. Once you’re confident they have the basic abilities down, get them on the same program as the middle group for two weeks — crafting a minimum of two social posts a day on platforms other than Twitter. After that, send out the numbers for the group in an email. It will show who put forth the effort and, most likely, those will show the beginning of the improvement you’re looking for. They don’t need to be compared to top performers. If they can improve and make it closer to the middle of the pack, you’ve both accomplished your goal.
Every employee at a broadcaster or publisher is not going to be adept at social media. It’s not the environment they were raised in or learned their craft in and some just aren’t comfortable with the communication style inherent to the platforms. That is okay and expected, and as long as everyone puts a little effort into it, the performance of the entire news organization will improve.
Being a social editor or leader includes trying to push the newsroom forward in its thinking and its approach. Social media represents the biggest change in how news content reaches its audience in a half-century and getting everyone up to speed is not always easy. But by going a step at a time from top to bottom, you can maximize your chances of success and help your staff learn to help themselves on social.