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 meteorologists in our analysis. Monday, we announced the top 10 anchors and reporters. Tomorrow, we’ll close out with the top 10 stations in the country. Congratulations to all of our top performers!
Often, when the skies are peaceful, a meteorologist’s most important job on social media is just keeping the audience engaged and involved. However, meteorologists also provide a life-saving public service when severe weather strikes, and nowhere is that more apparent than on social.
THE TOP 10
#1: Paul Dellegatto – WTVT
#2: James Spann – WBMA
#3: Adam Joseph – WPVI
#4: Emily Sutton – KFOR
#5: Garrett Lewis – KFSM/KXNW
#6: Frank Scaglione – KCCI
#7: Jason Simpson – WHNT
#8: Denis Phillips – WFTS
#9: Daphne DeLoren – WSMV
#10: Eric Sorensen – WQAD
The U.S. saw 15 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion apiece in 2016, and in those scary moments, the local meteorologist is the person placed in charge of advising their audience on when to take precautions. Often in 2016, that audience was looking at their smartphone – not a TV. More and more that will be the case in the coming years, so a well-maintained social media presence is a necessity for any meteorologist.
However, audiences have to opt in to follow you on social – you can’t pre-empt people’s Facebook feeds like they’re General Hospital (which might be a good thing when you read viewers’ comments on social media after you cut in to General Hospital). So, just as anchors and reporters are tasked with maintaining an engaging and entertaining social media presence to attract an audience, meteorologists must do the same.
While generally there is less variation between the types of social posts you see from meteorologists, we’ve tried to identify original and creative ways those who made our top 10 for 2016 have grown their social media presence over the course of the year. After all, keeping that audience growing and engaging when the skies are clear means you’ll have a bigger audience when things become dangerous and getting your message out quickly to your followers could make the difference between life and death.
[For an explanation of the methodology used to create our 2016 Social Standouts 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.]
For meteorologists on social media, there is one go-to club every one of them should have in their metaphorical golf bag. One of the easiest ways to drive engagement is to solicit photos from your audience of both weather events and simply beautiful scenes in your area. Paul Dellegatto has the built-in advantage of gorgeous beaches and sunsets in his market of Tampa, Florida, but he not sitting on a sand dune at dawn waiting for the perfect shot. However, his followers — many of whom are talented photographers — are there. He has a community of people submitting their photos to him in the hopes that he’ll repost them and give them a shout out. That’s all it took to get many of his most engaging posts of 2016. But beyond photos, Dellegatto knows a little weather taunting can go a long way on social and that everyone loves a good pet post. However, all of the lighthearted posts helped build an audience used to sharing his content by the time Hurricane Hermine rolled through Florida and ended the state’s no-landfall streak. Dellegatto was ready with Facebook Live updates and projections as the storm approached, then informative updates, continued forecasts, and good viewer photos and video after it passed. It was an all-around solid performance, and a reminder to his followers that they don’t just follow Dellegatto for new desktop backgrounds (though his page is a good place to find them). He was the only meteorologist in the country to finish in the top 30 in all five key performance indicators in our analysis.
James Spann is a long-time figure in the Alabama weather community with fans that have been watching him do the weather report all their lives. His standard garb of suspenders and a red tie is well-known enough in the area to recognized as a Halloween costume or made into a cake. It takes a long time for a meteorologist to become that ingrained in a community and it’s not something that others can replicated on social media overnight. However, there are aspects to his online presence that others can learn from. Spann isn’t afraid to challenge his viewers and ask more from them. He doesn’t go out of his followers’ depth of knowledge on most social posts, but uses his Alabama Weather Blog to explore topics in greater detail for those interested. His coverage on TV during the tornado outbreak in Alabama at the end of November was critical, but his social media feeds didn’t stop while he was on the air. While Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a good distance away from his market, Spann still found quality coverage of the fire there from other sources and shared it with his audience to keep them informed even while covering the Alabama tornadoes and their aftermath. When he sees bogus information floating around on social media, he calls it out. He offers quick little reminders that keep his followers safe and get shared like crazy. Plus, like Dellegatto, is also big on sharing jaw-droppingly pretty weather photos from around the country. It all amounts to an all-around impressive social performance – he finished first in the country in Social Share and second in SEI, two of the five key performance indicators in our analysis.
Just like anchors and reporters, building a connection with your audience on social media is important for meteorologists. Trust plays a big role in who viewers and followers gravitate to when the weather takes a turn for the worst. Adam Joseph builds that trust by making his life an open book on social media. In a 2014 Facebook post, Joseph introduced the world to his son, his partner Karl, and publicly came out as gay. Since then, his followers have watched his family continue to grow, welcoming a new daughter this year and sharing precious moments with his son. That openness has forged a tight bond with many of his followers, as you can see in this moving post. But outside of the personal posts, Joseph is great at Facebook Live video, firing off quick, easy-to-understand forecasts from wherever he is, and providing concise, shareable text updates that also try to drum up viewers for his station’s newscasts. Whether it’s a peek behind the scenes at the station or in his home, Joseph knows how to share his personal life and his work life in a way that drive engagement. He finished 8th in the country in two of the five key performance indicators in our analysis.
Emily Sutton is basically a best-practices guide for Facebook come to life. She shares viewer photos, gets her audience involved and responds to their comments, she has fun with different mediums in her posts (like gifs), she shares good content she finds elsewhere (but, importantly, from sources who want it shared with credit and a link to them), she maintains a sense of humor about herself, and she plays to the pet lovers in ways that are alternatively fun and serious. But there are a few others things Sutton does that not all other solid performers do. She takes advantage of what’s going on in her studio for social posts. She keeps her ears open for topics viewers want to know more about and then explains it to them. And showing her ability to get more on social out of even the little things, she ties the bland forecast post that most everyone does with something a little more fun to attract engagement. It feels like she is having fun anytime she goes live, and she uses it to take viewers to some unique places. When you put it all together, it makes for a solid social performer – one that finished in the top 40 in the country in four out of the five key performance indicators we used to make this list.
Rounding out the top five in the country is a meteorologist who broke through despite being in market No. 99. Despite working in the relatively smaller market, Garrett Lewis managed to have the 46th-most total engagement on his social media accounts in the entire country over the year, a truly impressive feat. How did he do it? A lot of good, old fashioned weather forecasting (both on his blog and directly on social), a lot of humor, and the occasional dose of heart and humility. Oh, and the occasional UFO-sighting debunking. In putting together this list, we even called the National Weather Service office in Tulsa (which includes Ft. Smith in its geographic footprint) to make sure we didn’t forget a severe weather event in the area last year that would account for such a high amount of engagement. They said it was a relatively normal year, weather-wise, for the area aside from some flooding in March and an unusually hot October. They also said Lewis was a really good guy, but you often get that feeling seeing posts about his friends, a beloved pet, and a slain law enforcement officer.
Hired at age 16 at De Moine’s KCCI, Frank Scaglione celebrated his 25th birthday in November and he’s still going strong at the station. This weather wunderkind who learned under the former KCCI chief meteorologist is a true local-kid-done-good story, and you can see it in the strong support he garners in engagement on Facebook, despite not having a huge audience compared to many on this list. But looking at Facebook alone doesn’t fully explain Scaglione’s appeal as this Des Moine Register story explains. He’s a huge hit with millennials on Twitter, where he speaks their language of gifs, emojis, and abbreviations. It’s no surprise then that Scaglione made the list in large part because of his engagement-to-audience ratio, which was the 18th-best in the country.
Jason Simpson is another meteorologist who lets viewers into his home and openly shares the struggles and triumphs of his family. The father of three’s youngest son, Brody, was born with a heart defect in 2015 that required surgery days after birth. He shared the story with his audience, who supported the family with hopes and prayers for the best. That’s why it’s a joy for the family and Simpson’s social audience to see pictures and video of the toddler home and walking. But the love for Simpson on social is about more than just his family. He was No. 1 in the country in average SEI in our analysis. He was also a critical resource for sharing information in his market on Nov. 29, the night deadly tornadoes touched down in far northeast Alabama. His potentially life-saving coverage continued through the night, along with updates on social media for those who weren’t in front of the TV. He even received (and acknowledged it as) one of the more touching and graceful messages a meteorologist could possibly get in the wake of the storms.
Tampa was the only market in the country to have two individuals make the cut for our 2016 Social Superstars, which is, in part, because the area saw a more active hurricane season than it had in the last several years. For example, leading up to Hurricane Hermine, Denis Phillips held a Facebook Live chat that began around midnight and lasted nearly two hours. However, it’s also likely because Paul Dellegatto and Denis Phillips’ approaches to social media are different enough to warrant following both. While Dellegatto is one of the best sources for weather and scenery photos on social, Denis Phillips is one of the best sources for hilarious weather memes. No matter the season, Phillips has a dad joke or meme ready to fire away that rack up shares and engagement — but any seasoned meteorologist in Florida knows winter is the time to lay it on thick. However, his experience shows in more than memes. He’s good at taking time to walk his audience through what he’s seeing in the forecast. The memes, questions, and fun content are nice, but more importantly, they guarantee his audience will also be following his page on the occasion when the severe weather isn’t a laughing matter.
Puppy power helped propel Daphne DeLoren to the top in 2016, as her adopted puppy Nash became a regular figure in her photos, forecasts, and Facebook Live videos. She even kept her followers coming back for updates when she got a DNA test to determine the rescue pup’s breed. But as cute as Nash is, he doesn’t get all the credit. DeLoren brings bright, cheery energy to social media despite working morning shows that have her starting her day in the middle of the night. She is an avid user of Facebook Live for both forecasts and simple fun videos like this one where she connects with fans and answers their questions. Her selfie game is strong, but she’s also prepared to deal with a side effect of that, the social media creepers. DeLoren’s uplifting personality is a reminder we could all be a little more positive on social media. One day or another, everyone needs a pick-me-up.
Eric Sorensen’s audience on social media isn’t as large as some others on this list, but he has clearly found out that the best way to leverage that audience into formidable Share and SEI scores in Market No. 101. Sorensen was in the top 10 in the country in both categories in our analysis, which pushed him into our 2016 Social Standouts. How did he manage it? For one, he posts as often on Facebook as many other meteorologists do on Twitter. He’s realized something that’s also become clear to us at Share Rocket – Facebook is beyond compare when it comes to driving engagement on social media. Among his many posts are highly-shareable videos and photos. But nearly as often, his posts are just plain, old text or a simple photo and caption. Sorensen is a great example of how journalists and meteorologists who are locked in on Twitter can get more out of Facebook without a whole lot more effort. Sure, most of his text posts are longer than a tweet, but they also give him a lot better return on his time investment. Not every Facebook post is a home run, but you can score just as much if you just keep stringing together solid singles. Sorensen has got that down.